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New chickpea variety registered

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Agricultural Research Division has registered a new chickpea cultivar, New Hope, with disease resistance that provides new hope for a revival of chickpea acreage in western Nebraska dry bean fields.

"New Hope has the potential to revive the chickpea industry in western Nebraska," Carlos Urrea, dry edible bean breeding specialist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, wrote in an article published in February in the Journal of Plant Registrations.

The next step is to apply for cultivar protection under the U.S. Plant Variety Protection Act. A small quantity of breeder seed is being maintained by UNL's Husker Genetics Foundation Seed program. The seed could be available to the public by 2019, according to Urrea

Chickpea acreage was on the rise in western Nebraska 10 to 15 years ago, but that trend was dashed by Ascochyta blight, a fungal disease that causes reduced yields and crop quality. New Hope has enhanced resistance to Ascochyta blight, the most limiting factor affecting chickpea production, according to Urrea.

New Hope is a large, cream-colored kabuli chickpea. Its registration follows years of work to identify sources of resistance to Ascochyta blight from various breeding populations such as the Western Regional Chickpea Trial.

Chickpea, also called garbanzo bean, is not as widely grown in Nebraska as some other market classes of dry edible bean, such as pinto, great northern and light red kidney beans. But it is the third most important food legume in the world, according to the journal article authored by Urrea; Bob Harveson, plant pathologist at the Panhandle Center; and Fred J. Muehlbauer of Washington State University. The top chickpea producing countries are India, Pakistan, Turkey and Myanmar.

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Historically, chickpea has been used in the U.S. in salad bars, but in the past several decades has become very popular here as a main ingredient of hummus.

According to Urrea, chickpea has potential as an alternative crop in western Nebraska because it fits well with growers' existing equipment, dry bean processors and regional infrastructure. Chickpea acreage in western Nebraska grew rapidly from 2000 to 2006, but since then it has declined and virtually disappeared because of damage from Ascochyta blight.

Ascochyta blight is transmitted by seed or infected crop debris. Its development and spread are favored by cool, moist and windy conditions. Damage can be minimized by planting moderately resistant cultivars and strategic use of agronomic practices, such as disease-free seed, seed treatment, crop rotation, tillage and fungicides.

New Hope comes from a chickpea nursery established at the Panhandle Center at Scottsbluff in 2006, from a nursery from the USDA Agricultural Research Service at Washington State University. Urrea and his staff began selecting plants based on Ascochyta blight resistance that year. The New Hope line was bulked beginning in 2010, given its name in 2012, and was tested in yield trials from 2012-15 against several commercial brands.

New Hope exhibits an upright indeterminate growth habit, Urrea said. It is suitable for direct harvest. Plants averaged 43 centimeters in height during 2015 and had excellent lodging resistance.

Support to develop New Hope came from the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission, which provided funding from 2006-10, and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Initiative from 2011-13, and the Hatch Project. ❖