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New 'Mason' Lentil Promises High Yields, Easier Harvest

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
July 7, 1997

PULLMAN, Wash., July 7--Mason, a new lentil variety from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides greater yields, larger seeds and easier harvesting than other varieties now grown in the Pacific Northwest.

"In five years of field trials, Mason averaged 18 percent higher yields than Brewer, the most popular variety in Washington and Idaho," said geneticist Frederick Muehlbauer with USDA's Agricultural Research Service. "Mason seeds are light green and don't have any mottling. Mottling can make lentils look dirty and thus less appealing to consumers," he added.

Muehlbauer developed Mason, which was released in June by ARS in conjunction with Washington State University and the University of Idaho. He leads the ARS Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit in Pullman.

The new variety's tall, erect growth also benefits growers. "The pods are higher on the plant. This allows more room to cut the plants during combining, so less of the crop is lost during the harvesting operation," Muehlbauer said. He noted that as much as 20 percent of a lentil crop can be lost during harvest because pods shatter or fall through farming equipment. Losses from Mason variety should be much lower, according to Muehlbauer.

Lentils, most commonly used in soups and rice dishes, are high in protein, fiber and folic acid.

Most of the 126,000-acre U.S. lentil crop is exported to Spain and Italy. Washington and Idaho produce almost the entire U.S. lentil crop, worth $23 million to farmers in 1996. Mason should also grow well in Oregon, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Canada.

Plots of Mason plants will be on display July 10 at the Spillman Farm Field Day in Pullman.

Researchers can obtain small amounts of seed from Muehlbauer. Large amounts of seed should be available from the Washington and Idaho state crop improvement associations for commercial production in 1999.

Scientific contact: Frederick J. Muehlbauer, geneticist, Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Pullman, WA 99164-6421, phone (509) 335-9521, fax (509) 335-7692,