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New Chickpea Varieties Should Double Acreage This Year

April 27, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ten years after a fungus wiped out half the Pacific Northwest’s chickpea crop, three new seed varieties are putting chickpea growers back in business.

The fungus _ Ascochyta blight _ appeared in 1985 and swept through chickpea fields in Washington and Idaho.

By 1987, yields had dropped on some farms from 2,200 pounds per acre to less than 400, costing growers several million dollars that year.

``The farmers were afraid of this disease,″ and many farmers quit planting chickpeas, which are grown in rotation with winter wheat, said Walter J. Kaiser, a plant pathologist at an Agricultural Research Service regional facility in Pullman, Wash.

Consequently, chickpea acreage dropped from 11,000 in 1987 to 4,000 last year.

At the height of the blight, Kaiser and ARS geneticist Fred J. Muehlbauer began developing new chickpea varieties that would be resistant to the fungus. An article in the April issue of the ARS publication Agricultural Research reported on their work.

Their endeavor resulted in three new varieties, which were tested successfully last year, were turned over to private industry and are being produced commercially for planting this spring.

Dwelley and Sanford are large-seeded, creamy-white kabuli chickpeas of the type often used in salad bars. The third variety, called Myles, is a smaller, darker type that is used in Indian, Pakistani and Ethiopian dishes.

``The acreage will probably double″ this year, Kaiser said in an interview. He anticipates a total of 10,000 to 15,000 acres planted this year.

If last year’s price of around 30 cents per pound holds for this year, the 1995 crop would be worth $4 million to $5 million, compared with about $2 million last year, he said.

Price depends less on crop yields in the Pacific Northwest and California, where most U.S. chickpeas are grown, than on growing conditions in Mexico, where many of the chickpeas consumed by Americans are grown, Kaiser said. Most of the chickpeas grown in the United States are for domestic use.


WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ten new members have been named and two members reappointed to the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board.

Appointed to new three-year terms were: Elizabeth I. Anderson, Onalaska, Wash., Region 1; George E. Gambonini, Petaluma, Calif., Region 2; Vernal J. Gomes, Tulare, Calif., Region 2; Beatrice Moons, Chino, Calif., Region 2; Gregory D. Blaska, Marshall, Wis., Region 6; John H. Christensen, Ringle, Wis., Region 6; Louis F. Smith, Fremont, Ohio, Region 9; Charles H. Deputy, Harrisonburg, Va., Region 10; David Weitzer, Poolesville, Md., Region 11; and Jane M. Gillette, Turin, N.Y., Region 12.

Reappointed to three-year terms were Myron D. Schmidt, Newton, Kan., Region 4; and Maynard J. Lang, Brooklyn, Iowa, Region 7.

The board, composed of 36 dairy farmers, designs programs to strengthen the industry’s position in domestic and international markets. Its operations are financed by a mandatory 15-cent-per-hundreweight assessment on milk produced and marketed by U.S. dairy farmers.

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