An Update on the Pulse Variety Testing Program with Steve Van Vleet


Subscribe on iTunes | Android | Stitcher | SoundCloud | SpotifyRSS feed

Show Notes & Resources Mentioned:

Contact Information:

For questions or comments, contact Steve via email at

What is a podcast?

For those of you who are newer to the medium, a podcast is like a pre-recorded radio show. In the same way that you turn on a talk radio show, you have to turn on a podcast. The major difference is that while our cars are equipped to find radio frequencies, they are not built to accommodate direct access to podcasts. On your smartphone or computer with internet access (since the files tend to be on the larger side), you can discover podcast shows of any kind, in any field, on any topic.

Listed above are some of the most used podcast hosts. iTunes and the iTunes Podcast app are preinstalled on your iPhone and are the simplest tools to use. You simply search for “WSU Wheat Beat Podcast” in the search bar, hit “subscribe” and the download arrow, and listen whenever it’s convenient for you.

If you use an Android or use another type of smartphone, you will need to find a different podcasting app because those devices don’t come with a preinstalled app like Apple. If you don’t know which podcast app you’d like, simply hit the “Android” link above and it will show you to several Android podcast apps for you to choose from.

After you download an episode, you can listen without using data any time of day. Our goal is to post a new podcast every other Monday. Your podcast app should automatically load our new episodes and download them for you (on WiFi), hands-free if you choose that in the app settings.

If you have further questions about what a podcast is, which app is best for you or need more assistance with getting started with podcasts, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Episode Transcription:

Drew Lyon: Hello. Welcome to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. I’m your host, Drew Lyon, and I want to thank you for joining me as we explore the world of small grains production and research at Washington State University. In each episode, I speak with researchers from WSU and the USDA-ARS to provide you with insights into the latest research on wheat and barley production. If you enjoy the WSU Wheat Beat podcast do us a favor and subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast app and leave us a review so others can find the show too.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: My guest today is Dr. Stephen Van Vleet. Steve is the WSU Regional Extension Specialist in Agriculture and Natural Resources based in Whitman County. Steve was raised in a small fruit farm in western Colorado. He received his masters in entomology studying the biological control of weeds and his doctorate in agronomy, studying weed management and winter wheat, both from the University of Wyoming. Steve has been with WSU for 17 years and currently is the lead on the state Legume Variety Testing Program. Steve’s primary focus areas are within soil health, rangeland grass management, invasive weed management, and legume production. Hello, Steve.

Steve Van Vleet: Morning, Drew.

Drew Lyon: So, what is the Legume Variety Testing Program?

Steve Van Vleet: So, the Legume Variety Testing Program is — it’s been going on a while. In the early 2000’s, there was a scientist here at WSU that was actually working on that, and then it died. He retired and things kind of quit working for a while. And so we were going to start it up again and we’re trying to find funding and this was primarily focusing on when we were looking at legumes, primarily focusing on spring pulse production or legume production, which was dealing with peas, spring peas, spring lentils, spring chickpeas. Now it’s ever evolved. So I took over this program in 22017/2018 timeframe and got some funding from the US Dry Pea & Lentil Council and it’s expanded ever since. And now we are doing a lot with winter pea production, and here within the next couple of years there will be lines released of winter lentils and in a few more years after that they’ll be winter chickpeas. So it’s really expanded, Drew. It used to be just a pretty much a rotational crop in our heavy wheat producing area, it was really just the sister child, the rotational crop for wheat, you know, and improved wheat yields when you’re planting winter wheat after you’re don’t at producing, period. But it’s really to improve that adoption by growers. It’s very similar to how the Small Grains Variety Testing Program grows. So you’re improving the adoption of these genetic varieties that are developed and also then increasing that production of the legumes throughout Washington state. And by improving those breeding programs, we’re supplying accurate field performance data, and that helps the breeders produce better, better genetic lines, like the Small Grains Variety Testing Program, that can be then incorporated out into the field and benefit the growers not only in marketing but production and marketing and economic value back to the farm.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So like the Cereal Variety Testing Program, you get varieties given to you by public and private breeders as set out–

Steve Van Vleet: Yeah, so I actually work in collaboration with public and private breeders. So I get varieties from the USDA-ARS, I get varieties from Meridian Seeds, I get varieties from Valesco — these are out in North Dakota and Montana — and varieties from North Dakota State. So definitely through these different cooperative partnerships and also ProGene LLC, which is based out of Othello. So all those cooperative partnerships are very key. And now they’re increasing the amount of production of not only the spring legumes but winter legumes as well.

Drew Lyon: So that’s that’s very interesting. So we’re getting these different classes of legumes, the winters and the springs, and the testing programs up and running. Does this mean there’s more interest in legumes than there has been in the past?

Steve Van Vleet: So there’s become a lot more interest in legumes than in the past because now we have the development of the winter varieties. And it’s not only that, but the the production that you’re getting prior to, well, back in the 1980s and all we had was feed grade peas, and that’s really all you had to use. And some people were using that but the market wasn’t as strong. Of course you couldn’t market that. Now we have so many food grade peas, not only in the spring side of things but in the winter. And so we can fit in different production zones. So it’s increasing in the different production zones and the interest is rising heavily because we’re not just having a wheat fallow system anymore, we’re having rotational crops going into those areas, such as winter peas. We’re using winter peas instead of winter wheat and fallow. We’re going winter wheat, we may go and fallow, then we could go into winter peas and go into fallow, or sometimes we get enough moisture that we’ll be putting in, you know, some spring crops depending on the year. Of course, this past year was not the time for any of our crops but yes, the interest is really increasing. And now that we have so many good varieties of food grade peas and lentils and chickpeas, that the interest is raising.

Drew Lyon: So what’s driving the winter side of things? Better winter hardiness or just the need to get it into a different climatic zone than we’ve had before?

Steve Van Vleet: Really it’s important, on the winter side of things, it really fits best in all the different climatic zones. So like I was telling you, when it comes to the wheat fallow rotation, now we can put it in these areas that are much drier. So in our areas such as like Ritzville and Davenport and and some of these areas that have never even — Horse Heaven Hills — you know, these areas that have never produced anything except for some wheat, very, very low yielding and, and fallow then they’re putting in winter peas in production. And then we can they even can start going into the, you know, the winter brassicas, too. So that’s really helped. And also having those available with the food grade in there instead of having just a feed grade is helped.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So variety testing, picking the right variety for your area is an important component of production, but you have to fit these things and into the system. So are you doing any other work with legumes and how you get them into the system?

Steve Van Vleet: Yeah, and I’ll talk on that just a second. But it’s very important to if you’re going to grow winter peas or spring peas, lentils, chickpeas, that type of thing is know where your marketing is. You know, make sure you know, okay. I can, I can get a contract with Spokane Seed or with Pacific Northwest Cooperative or something like that, especially when it comes to the winter side of things. So marketing is very, very important. Yes. The interest is there and there’s so much interest that they want to produce more. But make sure that you have the value there for you on the farm. But when it comes to the different projects we’re doing, this has expanded so much. I have a master’s student that does this full time, and she will get her master’s very soon. And she’s working on organic systems and conventional systems with peas, pea production; this is winter and spring. Then I have a postdoc in collaboration with Lynn Carpenter-Boggs, and she we just got a large grant funded and she is doing lime applications and crossing that — crossing those lime applications with micronutrients and seeing not only looking at the soil health, but looking at how that’s influencing pea production itself, winters and springs, and seeing how is it affecting the soil health, but how is it affecting not only a plant health? And I think in time it’s going to be very, very important how it’s going to affect human health.

Drew Lyon: Okay. Yeah. I think you mentioned, or I read in your introduction that you work in the soil health area and soil acidifications the big issue and legumes are actually more susceptible to that than small grains. Aren’t they?

Steve Van Vleet: That’s correct. I’ve been doing a lot of research on this and and of course, over time people have known this, that the legumes are much more sensitive. So really, if we’re at pH’s lower than 5.4, it’s really critical. And if you look at a lot of the publications, it’s really, they say 6, pH of six. Well, 85 to 95% of the soils here in the Pacific Northwest, especially eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, northern Idaho are below even that 5.5 pH. So very acidic. And so our yields, yes. Are we going to get some pea production? Yes. And, you know, production of our lentils and chickpeas, yes. But the pH is influencing that yield. And you may not even have some yield in some of these areas where the is getting very, very low. So using some amendments is really helping correct that, not only improving it for the legumes, but it’s improving it for our small grains that, yes, are a little bit more resistant naturally to the pH.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So lots of besides just picking the right varieties and getting the variety data to figure out how to grow those legumes and put them into a system is important. And your program is looking at that as well.

Steve Van Vleet: Yes. And it’s very interesting. That’s what’s so nice about the Variety Testing Programs. You can do a lot more than such as things as the breeders can do. They’re breeding and they’re breeding for yield and breeding for specific traits or disease resistance, that sort of thing in their genetic lines. But then they hand that over to the Variety Testing Program and we can do different tests. We can start looking at biofortification, we can start looking at different nutrients. I actually work on a collaborative project now with MacGregor Company, too, In looking at that on more biofortification and nutrient accumulation within the legumes, because that is becoming also another increasing area of not only economic benefit but interest. And that’s going to be the protein side of things, the sugars and proteins when it comes to the legumes. And so we can we are the number one state for producing green peas. We don’t have bleaching problems and those sort of things, but the yellow peas are also becoming very popular in our area. So we test of the food grade, we test yellow and green and so we can then increase in nutrient content and those can be available throughout the, well, domestically and throughout the world.

Drew Lyon: All right. So lots of good information being developed in the Legume Variety Testing Program. Where can people go to find out your results and what you’re doing?

Steve Van Vleet: So, Drew, yeah, they can go to our wonderful Small Grains site. So if they go to small under the Variety Testing Program, they can either go into the Small Grains Variety Testing program or into the Pulse, which is our legumes, into the Pulse Variety Testing Program and find the data that’s been there for the last several years.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So several years data in the Small Grains Variety or website, and they can get wheat or legumes.

Steve Van Vleet: That’s right.

Drew Lyon: Thank you, Steve. Thanks for sharing a little bit about the Legume Variety Testing Program. Sounds like it’s going well and hope that continues and keep us up to date and how things evolve over time, please.

Steve Van Vleet: Okay. Thanks, Drew.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: Thanks for joining us and listening to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. If you like what you hear don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast app. If you have questions or topics, you’d like to hear on future episodes please email me at drew.lyon — that’s — ( You can find us online at and on Facebook and Twitter @WSUSmallGrains. The WSU Wheat Beat podcast is a production of CAHNRS Communications and the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. I’m Drew Lyon, we’ll see you next time.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by guests of this podcast are their own and does not imply Washington State University’s endorsement.