New, Winter-Hardy Pea Variety Now Available
Suszkiw May 27, 2005
A new, winter-hardy pea variety called Specter is being tested by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists for release as a high-protein livestock feed.
Muehlbauer developed Specter to provide Pacific Northwest growers with a
legume crop that tolerates harsh winter conditions and enables growers to avoid
the springtime challenges of starting plants in cold, wet soils. McPhee and
Muehlbauer are based at the ARS
Legume Genetics Physiology Research Unit in Pullman, Wash.
Using direct-seeding methods, growers can plant Specter in late
September to early October--typically in the midst of standing wheat stubble
serving as a natural windbreak--and expect a sizeable yield the following July,
according to the scientists.
Most peas grown in the Pacific Northwest are spring varieties sold for
human consumption, a market that generated nearly $33 million in 2004. But
field trials indicate Specter's winter hardiness can mean a 40 to 50 percent
seed-yield increase. Specter will be released for livestock rather than human
consumption because of its small seed size and faint mottling. Specter also has
potential as a so-called green manure that can enrich the soil by transforming
nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form that can help nourish plants.
Specter's winter hardiness comes from the breeding line D258-1-2 and
the Austrian Winter pea variety "Fenn." Both were crossed with other pea
germplasm sources by Muehlbauer starting in 1992. The "top pick" of a sixth
generation of offspring plants, Specter is the first winter-hardy pea to lack
seed pigmentation, according to McPhee.
Along with university cooperators, the ARS researchers field tested
the new variety in Washington State, northern Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and
Wyoming. Since there were no other nonpigmented winter varieties to use as
checks, the researchers compared Specter's seed yields to spring-sown peas.
Specter's yield was typically 40 percent higher than the spring peas' average
of 1,852 pounds per acre.
Through a cooperative agreement, the Washington State Crop Improvement Association
will handle seed requests following Specter's registration in the journal
Crop Science. ARS is the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief
scientific research agency.