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 livestock feed.
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 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
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.