Having been put through their paces in the Processors & Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) trials, two promising new vining pea varieties — Biktop and Boogie — look set to catch the eye of growers and processors, having out-performed the yield standard Bikini.
Although not all commercially available, the updated PGRO list features 67 standard vining and petits pois varieties. Oasis is one of the more widely-grown. However, according to principal technical officer Steve Belcher, each pea growing group tends to favour six to 12 varieties to formulate sophisticated planting programmes to deliver exacting continuity at harvest.
Promising newcomer Biktop is bred by Syngenta Seeds, while Boogie is from the breeding programme of German-based van Waveren. Like Bikini, both newcomers are semi-leafless. Producing prolific tendrils, plants cling together for support, preventing lodging and aiding harvest, explains Belcher. Biktop is semi-fasciated so initiates an umbrella of pods at the top of the plant rather than producing pods from the stem base upwards.
Drilling for the 2009 vining pea trials began in early March. "Having got off to a good start, field losses were few despite the exceptionally dry April," says Belcher. "May proved warmer and drier than usual, while June gave some extremely warm days and cold nights. By the close of the month temperatures had exceeded 30 degsC, while rainfall had fallen well below the norm."
The generally dry conditions stunted stem growth and brought maturity forward. Harvesting got underway a week earlier than 2008, on 18 June, and was completed by 11 July.
The main vining pea trial held in Thornhaugh, near Peterborough, was replicated in Horticultural Development Company (HDC)-funded trials at Holbeach in south Lincolnshire. As in previous years, seed was treated to controlled damping off, downy mildew and Ascochyta diseases.
In all, five varieties — Salinero, Recital, Biktop, Boogie and Yoda — completed three years' evaluation. Maturing at the same time as the early standard Avola, Salinero succeeded in out-yielding it. The newcomer, bred by Asgrow in the US, stood shorter in the field although both were similarly lodged at harvest — scoring three out of a possible nine for erectness. Overall, the American-bred pea size was smaller.
Five days later than Avola, Syngenta's Recital significantly out yielded the early standard, although unsurprisingly for an early fell some way short of Bikini, the yield standard. Pea size for Recital was much smaller than either standard.
Belcher believes Biktop is one to watch out for in the future. "Exhibiting similar performance characteristics to Bikini, in its first two years in trials Biktop yielded significantly higher," he says. Over the three years of trials, Bikini yielded an average of 6.92t/ha at TR100 — scored at 100%.
In comparison, Biktop averaged 116% and consistently demonstrated good standing ability at harvest, scoring seven out of a possible nine. Tenderometer readings ranged from an impressive 100 to 106.5, while maturity was slightly variable, ranging from two days either side of Bikini.
Maturing on average one day later than Bikini, the other promising newcomer, Boogie, yielded particularly well in the first two years but dipped in the third, averaging out at 102 per cent compared to Bikini. Pea size was slightly larger, in the large-medium grade, while standing ability scored six, just one point below Bikini. Tenderometer readings ranged from 95 to 109.
Also maturing a day after Bikini, semi-leafless variety Yoda, bred by Danisco, produced similar yields (93%) and pea size. Although stems were longer, it scored six for standing ability.
Looking to the future, Belcher says there is plenty of promising new material in the pipeline. "Last year's preliminary vining pea trials featured 16 varieties, all at national list stage of testing in an EU member country. Ten performed well enough to earn a place in this year's main trial. Normally we'd expect between one and five varieties to be promoted." But he attributes this in part to the fact that some breeders appear to be entering very similar selections.
In the recent prelims a new Danisco selection, maturing just a day later than Avola, delivered a promising yield, slightly higher than Bikini. Maturing four days after Avola, in the secondary early slot, an erect semi-leafless Crites Seeds selection delivered a significantly higher yield to Bikini.
Further down the pipeline, nine selections featured in the 2009 PGRO screening trials. Containing breeders' material at an early stage of development, these plots were assessed against the standards — Avola, Bikini and Ambassador.
Although more lucrative, the petits pois sector remains a small part of the overall UK pea market. The 2009 main Holbeach trial saw just two varieties, Noroit and CMG 409 AF, complete three years' evaluation. Compared to yield and maturity standard Waverex, neither recorded a significant yield improvement.
Maturing two days earlier than Waverex, Noriot's shorter haulm exhibited better standing ability. Meanwhile, CMG 409 AF has been withdrawn from the UK market.
This year's main petits pois trial is set to feature three out of five varieties promoted from the 2009 preliminary plots.
As in previous years, observation trials using untreated seeds were carried out to evaluate downy mildew (Peronospora viciae) and powdery mildew (Erysiphe pisi) susceptibility.
Seven varieties, sown in a Lincolnshire field with a history of pea growing, were scored for downy mildew infection. Relative susceptibility was scored on a one-to-nine scale of increasing field resistance. Misty proved highly susceptible, scoring one; 00S64813 scored five, indicating slightly susceptibility; while CMG409 AF and D 85051 demonstrated good field resistance.
In a separate observation trial at Thornhaugh, 98S76314, Boogie, Mudial, Recital and Yoda demonstrated resistance to powdery mildew, while Biktop, Noroit, Span and Tiffany were among those found to be susceptible.
Co-operating with other large-scale pea and bean projects, the PGRO has successfully extended the reach of its R&D projects. Four are currently running with research partners funded by Defra through the sustainable arable LINK scheme or through joint funding with the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA).
"By supplementing the PGRO levy from other sources, for every £1 of levy income we are carrying out at least £2 worth of research," explains Dr Anthony Biddle. "This represents excellent value for money in the field of translational research."
To help breed quality pea varieties for the future, a LINK project with the John Innes Centre is exploring the genetic basis of pea seed quality. By identifying compounds associated with parameters such as taste, colour, size and texture, scientists aim to unravel how these factors change as seeds mature and under different growing conditions.
Forecasting Sclerotinia infections, in a bid to improve fungicide application timing, is the focus of a second LINK project. Working with ADAS, Warwick HRI and the Scottish Agricultural College, researchers are determining airborne inoculum detection and weather data, while quantifying the effect of soil management and crop rotation on the disease. Harnessing data from similar trials in oilseed rape, carrots and lettuce, the project is testing models on vegetables including peas and green beans.
Other research is exploring nitrous oxide emissions. Legumes have strong environmental credentials compared to crops dependent on nitrogen fertiliser. With partners including ADAS, British Sugar, the HGCA and Yara, research is underway to determine emissions for a number of crops including wheat, sugar beats, peas and beans.
The nitrogen-fixing benefits of legumes are well known. However, the precise amount of residual nitrogen available to the subsequent crop is unclear and is being investigated in a two-year HGCA-funded project with ADAS.
Finally, as an aid to sowing, HDC funding has been secured to access the optimum planting time for new vining pea varieties.