When I google the word “essex” all I find is a reference to a county in Northern England that just happens to be one of the most populous ones in the area. However, that wasn’t what I had been searching for. I had been searching for the Essex that is a new breed of lentil developed by George Vandemark in Pullman, Washington.
Vandemark is the lead plant geneticist at the ARS Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit and for the past two years he has been conducting yield trials of Essex specifically in the states of Washington, Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota. In these trials, researchers compared the yields of Essex to that of Eston and Athen; the two most prominent commercial lentils currently produced. Essex’s yield was considerably higher than both these lentils’ yields, and Essex seems to have a variety of other benefits as well.
Not only did Essex yield 1,220 pounds of seeds per acre on average (21% higher than Eston and 22% higher than Athena), it also proved to have a higher percent of protein, fiber, mineral, and vitamin content than either of the other two lentils. Another benefit of Essex is the fact that it grows symbiotically with the Rhizobium bacteria, which converts nitrogen from air molecules to a form plants can use for food. This allows plants grown in the soil after Essex to thrive in the nitrogen rich soil and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. The Essex variety saw better weed control, reduced soil erosion, and much lower instances of diseases than the other two varieties.
Although the research has not been published yet, farmers are expected to be able to buy Essex seeds in 2011.
Discussion Question: What potential problems could developing new breeds/varieties have?
News Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100316112454.htm
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