Pulse School: Breeding for disease resistance and for protein


Creating new varieties of any crop type is never a speedy process. Over the years of development, the end goal can shift so much so that selection priorities must shift as well.

In the case of peas, root rot pressure, including from aphanomyces, has been an emerging concern. Ascochyta was the key disease focus for many years, but that’s shifting says pea breeder, Dr. Tom Warkentin, with the University of Saskatchewan Crop Development Centre.

“For over a decade now, we’ve been putting much more emphasis on the below-ground diseases, the root rots. Not that we’ve forgotten about ascochyta, but [it’s] just an emphasis shift,” he says.

The advent of increase use of pulses — pea protein, especially — in the plant-based food market has also influenced the direction of plant breeding, shifting the focus from outside quality to inside.

Because pulses are also purchased and used whole, visual characteristics have also been a major selection item. Warkentin says priority was put on smooth, round peas with nice colour.

“All those things are still important. But over time, we’ve emphasized more in recent years about protein, for example, having higher protein in peas; it really in response to the the fractionation industry that has been building in the last decade or so,” he says.

Warkentin adds that the focus is on increasing total protein, but that protein quality (in terms of the amino acid profile) is on the radar for researchers, in the five- and 10-year range.

Check out the full video, below:

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