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New blight-resistant chickpea


A new chickpea variety called Sierra has been released by scientists at the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Sierra's high yield combined with disease resistance to Ascochyta blight, patho-types 1 and 2, are expected to appeal to the economic tastes of commercial chickpea growers.

A derivative of crosses by ARS geneticist Frederick Muehlbauer made in 1992, Sierra is a kabuli-type chickpea - the kind served at salad bars and used in ethnic dishes.This spring will mark the new chickpea's first commercial plantings from 30,000-50,000 pounds of foundation seed.

The crosses were performed between Dwelley, an earlier release, and chickpea germplasm obtained from Mexico and central Asia via the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, located in Aleppo, Syria.

Walter Kaiser, a former ARS colleague, conducted plant pathology studies to ensure Sierra's resistance to Ascochyta rabiei, a top fungal foe of chickpeas worldwide. University co-operators in Washington, Idaho, North Dakota and California then conducted field trials evaluating Sierra's agronomic characteristics, says the ARS.

According to the scientists, their data indicate that, after planting, Sierra generally blooms in 65 days, grows to 21 inches high, and reaches peak crop maturity in 110 days. As such the ARS notes that farmers who rotate chickpeas with barley and wheat should find Sierra relatively easy to harvest by combine, since it grows upright and can be cut six inches off the ground.

In eight out of 10 field tests the scientists recorded higher seed yields for Sierra than for the two industry varieties, Dwelley and Sanford.During four years of tests at three Palouse sites, Sierra's average yearly seed yield was 1,348 pounds per acre, versus 1,274 for Dwelley.

ARS, which has filed for a plant variety protection certificate, is the US Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

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