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Features Desiccants Seed & Chemical
Herbicide tolerant lentils hotly anticipated

Reds have greatest potential.


November 19, 2007
By Bruce Barker

Topics

12aIf ever there was a crop that needed weed control help, lentil is the one.
Ever since the crop was commercialized, weed control has been a constant challenge.
"Weed control is an issue in lentils. It always has been," says Bert
Vandenberg, a pulse breeder at the University of Saskatchewan's Crop Development
Centre (CDC) at Saskatoon.

Good choices in post-emergence grass herbicides, such as Poast Ultra, Select,
and Venture L, exist but post-emergence broadleaf weed control has been found
lacking. Sencor, as the only post-emergence herbicide, does provide some control
of broadleaf weeds, but crop safety can be an issue under the wrong environmental
circumstances. As well, Sencor control can be weak on some broadleaf weeds,
and its weed spectrum is not large.

Pre-emergence herbicides containing trifluralin are also registered, but growers
in direct seeding systems are hesitant to use them.

New breeding partnership at the University of Saskatchewan
In January 2004, the CDC and BASF announced a partnership to develop Clearfield
lentil varieties for western Canada. At the time, Rick Holm, director of the
CDC, announced that "For the first time, western Canadian growers will
be able to access a lentil production system that will provide growers with
greatly improved, broad spectrum weed control and crop safety that will result
in enhanced grade, yield, quality and net returns."

Recognizing the need for better weed control, the CDC put Clearfield lentil
development on the fast track. Vandenberg says they had been working previously
on the breeding program but the new agreement allowed them to increase their
efforts. "We set up a program that allowed us to breed four cycles per
year in the greenhouse. That allowed us to play catch-up on this side of the
breeding program," says Vandenberg. "We know the technology will be
popular with growers and want to get it out to the field as quickly as possible."

The first commercialized Clearfield lentil will be of the red type. Vandenberg
says red lentils were chosen because there is a belief in the industry that
they have the greatest potential for market growth in the western Canadian market.
Plus, the technology will likely have the most impact on red lentil agronomics.

Red lentils have not been attractive to some growers since they are difficult
to grow due to their short stature if growing conditions are hot. However, Vandenberg
says the Clearfield technology may help to overcome that problem. "You
have to look at the management practices. With lentil, herbicides can stunt
the growth somewhat, and that makes an already short lentil plant even shorter.
Clearfield lentils shouldn't have that problem because the tolerance to the
herbicide is very high."

During the winter of 2004/05, the CDC program put the first of two Clearfield
red lentil cultivars in seed production in New Zealand. With any luck, a good
harvest will get the lentil seed back to Saskatchewan in time for spring planting.
The first commercial seed of Clearfield lentil could be available to Select
seed growers for the spring of 2005. Widespread availability is anticipated
for commercial lentil growers by 2007.

"We took a chance and were very aggressive, which should allow us to advance
the Clearfield lentil release by one year," says Vandenberg. "A few
events have to happen between now and then… the boat can't sink… but we
hope to see it come together."

The CDC has a distribution agreement with the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers to
provide Clearfield lentils to growers. The first two varieties will be similar
to CDC Robin, a smaller seeded red lentil, and CDC Blaze, a larger seeded red
lentil. "Other market classes will follow in subsequent years," says
Vandenberg.

Not just better weed control
The herbicide used in Clearfield lentil is BASF's Odyssey, the same herbicide
used in peas and Clearfield canola. Scott Chapman, Clearfield business manager
with BASF at Winnipeg, says that the Clearfield Production System brings many
benefits to growers. It is a one pass, post-emergence system that controls a
broad spectrum of annual grassy and broadleaf weeds. The crop safety is very
high. Small-seeded flushing weeds such as chickweed and cleavers are also controlled
by residual soil activity. He says Odyssey provides excellent stinkweed and
wild mustard control, which are key weeds in the lentil growing areas.

"The development of Clearfield lentils is a global first, and western
growers will be the first to utilize this non-GMO technology," says Chapman.
"The genetics for Clearfield lentils are developed through traditional
plant breeding methods, which allows growers continued access to world markets."

Vandenberg says he expects the benefits to go beyond better weed control. He
says that the summers of 2002 and 2004 were good examples of how environmental
conditions and herbicide stress combined to cause stunted plants and delayed
maturity. "It's all the little stresses caused by application that we hope
to avoid. My prediction with Clearfield lentil is that we'll see better than
average yield and better than average quality."

The CDC program is not discarding its regular lentil breeding program, though.
Varieties will continue to be released with and without the Clearfield trait,
to give farmers choice. Chapman says there will not be a Technology Use Agreement
with Clearfield lentil. "Any returns we see will come from the herbicide
only," he explains.

Growers will have to figure out how to manage herbicide rotations with the
Clearfield Production System since Odyssey, a Group 2 herbicide, will be registered
for use in peas, Clearfield lentils and Clearfield canola. Plus, Group 2 herbicides
used in other crops will also have to be considered. Chapman says BASF is developing
guidelines to help manage Group 2 herbicide resistance to ensure that the technology
is around to benefit farmers into the future.

Given the highly anticipated release of the first variety, there is little
doubt that growers will figure out how to utilize the Clearfield Production
System for the most beneficial applications – and Clearfield lentil is
sure to be one of them. -30-