By Dipak Santra - Alternative Crops Breeding Specialist
Results of University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s 2020 variety trials for field peas have been compiled and posted in the variety trials section of the CropWatch website.
Pea variety trials were conducted at three sites in the Panhandle and southwest Nebraska: Box Butte County near Alliance (28 varieties), Cheyenne County near Sidney (28 varieties), and Perkins County near Venango (33 varieties). Each site was dryland.
The 2020 report lists data for each variety at all three sites: yield (in order of rank); test weight; seed protein percentage; flowering; maturity; and height at harvest (only Cheyenne County). Each site report also has notes about the growing season and production practices at that location. Reports from previous years’ trials are also available.
Field pea varieties were provided by six commercial seed companies: Meridian Seeds (six varieties), Legume Logic (three), Pulse USA (nine), ProGene Plant Research (six), Valesco Genetics (seven) and ND Crop Improvement (two). All but three, which were green, were yellow field peas.
Yield, Protein Levels and Other Data
Planting was completed within the normal planting range in early spring. In all three locations, the moisture stress caused by extreme heat and dry weather during the growing season resulted in lower yields, plant height, seed weight and seed size. It also caused both flowering and maturing to occur five to seven days earlier than average.
However, seed protein levels were higher (more discussion on that below). The best yields were recorded in Box Butte County. Yields were significantly lower in Cheyenne and Perkins counties, primarily due to moisture stress.
In Box Butte County the average yield was 1,550 pounds per acre with highest yield of 1871 pounds produced by CDC Inca (Meridian Seeds). The top-yielding group also included Jetset, CDC Saffron, CDC Sprectrum, AAC Carver (all from Meridian Seeds), and Majestic, Durwood and Nette 2010. (all from Pulse USA). Experimental lines from ProGene Plant Research and ND Crop Improvement were also in the high-yielding group. Two commonly grown varieties in Nebraska, including Salamanca (Valesco Genetics) and SW Midas (Pulse USA), had lower yields.
In Cheyenne County yields were poor due to severe moisture stress. The 386-pound-per-acre average of all lines was about 25 percent of the 1,000 to 1,500 pounds per acre produced most years. The 2020 Cheyenne County trial was not an average predictive trial. Test weight was unacceptable at 30 pounds per bushel, average seed weight was low (60 is normal), and average plant height was 12 inches, compared to 24 to 28 inches in normal years.
Because of the severe moisture stress, and possible other compounding factors, the 2020 data from Cheyenne County has no direct value for farmers.
Yields ranged from 242 pounds per acre to 535 pounds (AAC Profit of Valesco Genetics). Other common varieties in the high-yielding group included Durwood, CDC Inca, Salamanca, AAC Carver, and CDC Saffron. In normal years, these varieties are also in the high-yielding group.
In Perkins County severe moisture stress also produced yields similar to Cheyenne County. The overall average was 750 pounds per acre, compared to normal of 1,500 to 1,800 pounds. The range was 400 pounds to 1,050 pounds (SW Midas of Pulse USA). Again, common varieties that have shown high-yielding potential in more normal conditions were in the high group in this dry year, such as SW Midas, Durwood, CDC Inca, DS-Admiral, and Nette 2010.
Seed Protein Levels
Although heat and moisture stress reduced yield, test weight and seed size. These conditions resulted in higher seed protein levels than recent years. High protein is normally associated with low yields, and vice versa, but the relationship is not understood well and more research is needed.
In Box Butte County the average was 27.16 percent (range of 24.88 to 29.37); Cheyenne, 26.95 percent (range of 25.66 to 29.01); and Perkins County, 29.06 percent (range 27.13 to 32.80). Multi-year average of seed protein content in Nebraska ranged from 22 percent to 26 percent.
Seed protein is expected to gain importance as a value-added trait, especially with the food industry focusing on fractionated pea protein in their products. Unlike wheat, high-protein peas do not fetch a higher price yet at elevators, but a few buyers are willing to negotiate higher prices for higher protein in individual cases. U.S. pea producers should expect to see standard levels for protein in the future.
The Canadian ag agency currently has set 24 percent as the minimum acceptable protein level. One of the research needs for the U.S. field pea industry is identifying and adopting production practices favorable to high protein levels.
Seven varieties of certified field pea seed will be available in Nebraska for 2021, including DS Admiral and AAC Carver from Meridian Seeds, SW Midas and Nette 2010 from Pulse USA, and AAC Chrome, AAC Profit and Spider from Valesco Genetics. Most of those will be available in the Panhandle. For details refer to page 22 of the Nebraska Certified Seed Association (NCSA) Seed Guide 2020-21.
Several varieties popular in 2020 will not be available in Nebraska, including Salamanca from Valesco Genetics, AAC Early Star from Meridian Seeds, and Durwood from Pulse USA. However, comparable or better-performing varieties will be available in Nebraska, such as Chrome, AAC Carver, AAC Profit, DS-Admiral, SW Midas, and Spider.
The latter three have yields that are moderate but steady from year to year and have been grown in Nebraska fields for seven to eight years. The Nebraska Crop Improvement Seed Book has complete list and contact information for certified seed dealers.
Pea and Lentil Checkoff
The Nebraska Legislature approved a bill in July creating a checkoff program for Nebraska dry pea and lentil growers.
As reported by Unicameral Update, the Nebraska Legislature’s official news source, LB803, introduced by Venango Sen. Dan Hughes, creates the five-member Dry Pea and Lentil Commission, which may establish policies and programs related to the discovery, promotion and development of markets and industries for the utilization of dry peas, lentils, chickpeas or garbanzo beans, faba beans or lupins grown in Nebraska.
It also may adopt an education and publicity program, make grants and enter into research contracts.
The checkoff is expected to generate revenue that can be used to address Nebraska-specific production issues, such as ways to increase protein levels.
Faculty and administration from UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) have worked with the industry on passage of the checkoff, and following state approval met with several pea industry leaders to discuss how the university and pea growers can work together to benefit the pea industry.
The checkoff will provide some revenue, but not at the same level as the state’s other existing commodity checkoffs in corn, soybeans and dry edible beans.
Several field pea growers who worked on passage of the pea and lentil checkoff were Rol Rushman of Dalton, farmer and pea certified seed producer; Steve Tucker of Venango, farmer and certified pea seed producer; and Brian Jelinek of Alliance, a farmer and chickpea processor.
Commission members will be appointed by the governor. Beginning July 1, 2021, a 1 percent excise tax will be imposed on the net market value of dry peas and lentils sold through commercial channels in the state.
In Nebraska 34,000 acres of field peas were harvested in 2020, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Total production was 680,000 hundredweight. Harvested acres in 2016-19 were 52,000, 56,000, 49,000 and 29,000, respectively. USDA estimated the value of peas produced in Nebraska at $7.8 million in 2017, $9.4 million in 2018, and $7.3 million in 2019.
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