Pulse School: Pea Research Spotlight on Drought, Yield and Nutrition

Peas, and pulses in general, are getting a lot of attention even as we gear up for the United Nations’ International Year of the Pulses. Global food trends seem to be favouring the commodity, with expectations that demand will continue to rise. For western Canadian pulse growers, this might mean developing an understanding of their varietal choices, and knowing what current and future research can offer their farm.

“There’s a lot of varieties that farmers can choose from in the seed guide. There are certainly favourites that seem to be grown a bit more than others,” says the University of Saskatchewan’s Tom Warkentin. “One of the varieties, called CDC Meadow is grown the most of the yellow pea types and CDC Striker would probably be grown most of the greens.”

In this Pulse School episode, filmed at the 2015 Scott Field Day, Warkentin walks us through some of the latest research into how peas respond to environmental conditions like extreme heat, which ones appear to do best in wet soils and what’s next for pea yields and consumer offering.

“We have to have higher yielding varieties in any crop that we’re researching, but that’s kind of a complicated issue,” says Warkentin. “That could be due to better disease resistance or easier to harvest, or more tolerant to the stresses.”

Continues below video.

Tom Warkentin talks about varietal choices in the prairies, those that stand out in extreme dry/wet conditions and what research is chasing now.

For much of western Canada, these stresses have largely been due to drought. Warkentin says, when evaluating peas in these conditions, he looks for varieties that tend to flower longer despite the conditions. And this year, new varieties like CDC Amarillo and CDC Inca are standing out.

But research doesn’t just look at how farmers can benefit from pulse breeding. Scientists are also determining whether or not they can select varieties that fit consumer demands.

“We certainly like to see what we can do, at least in the medium-term, the long-term, on nutrition. We know that pulses are really nutritious as they are,” says Warkentin in the above video. “We’re dabbling a bit in, can we improve them even further in terms of some of the micronutrients. So, for example, can we select types that have a little bit more iron or zinc in the seeds?”

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