May 27, 2005,
Agricultural Research Service: A new, winter-hardy
pea variety called Specter is being tested by Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) scientists for release as a high-protein
ARS scientists Kevin McPhee and Fred 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 Grain 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
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