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Which Lentil Varieties Fetch A Premium?

Who is the greatest hockey player of all time? Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe? Who makes the best half-ton, Ford, GMC or Dodge? You could make a sound argument for any of these answers depending on your preference of style, performance or what results you perceive to be the most beneficial.

Recently a farmer asked me this: “What can you tell me about CDC Imax CL lentils? I’m looking at multiplying some seed for the 2012 crop year. Will they be the new standard or are they no better than Maxim? The seed size is larger. Will that mean better movement or premium prices? How do they process?”

The answer to what variety to grow can be as varied as the answers to who was the greatest player of all time. It depends on a variety of factors. Some of these factors are scientific so I will leave that to the experts in those areas, but as the factors relate to the export market and what buyers want from Canada, I can offer some opinion and maybe some assistance.

A SPLITTING PREMIUM?

The majority of lentil growers now choose Clearfield varieties of lentils. There are now six CL varieties of lentils to choose from. The earliest of these were CDC Impact and CDC Imperial released in 2006. CDC Impact is similar in size to Blaze or the original Crimson variety and is well suited to splitting. CDC Imperial is what we call extra-small reds similar in size to CDC Robin and well suited for the preferences of certain markets in the Indian subcontinent, specifically Bangladesh. Since 2006 several other CL varieties have been added to the list of options.

CDC Maxim was introduced in 2007, and is similar in size to the conventional CDC Redberry and is well suited for splitting. CDC Imax became available in 2009 with similar properties to the CDC Red Rider; it’s more plump and some have considered these the red lentil most suited to splitting grown in Canada. Another option is CDC Impala, considered an extra-small variety similar to the conventional CDC Rosetown (and slightly larger than Robin).

From a marketing point of view of what lentils to grow, first look if premiums are available. The key factor for premiums is the ability for either Canadian or the overseas factories to efficiently and cost effectively produce finished split lentils. Varieties such as CDC Impact, Maxim and Imax have been thoughtfully bred by the Crop Development Centre for splitting purposes and have been well accepted. In fact some companies and customers specifically request these varieties by name. This pertains to extra-small Imperials, as well. Growing any of these varieties leaves the grower with little risk, keeping in mind the extra-small market is a smaller volume market, so be cautious not to over-produce.

Will farmers see a premium for any of these varieties? While there is always the possibility of premiums, I find it unlikely. Premiums have generally been paid on niche crops, as soon as any variety of lentils becomes popular and thought of as “premium,” the advantage all but vanishes. It is positive to note, however, that growing varieties that are well suited to the market will allow Canada a good share of the market and allow growers to more readily move product.

GREEN LENTIL CONSIDERATIONS

The situation with green lentils is somewhat different than reds. We all know there are small, medium and large greens. The market seems less sensitive to the variances within these groups. Additionally, with large greens, the variability in size can be augmented by culling out the smaller seeds; rarely do buyers request specific varieties of green lentils.

While breeders have been trying to create red lentils suited for splitting, in greens they have tried to create larger seeds in diameter with brighter-green colour. There are now two varieties of CL large green lentils — CDC Improve (first available in 2006) and CDC Impower (first available in 2009). CDC Improve is most similar in seed size and properties to the conventional CDC Sedley; Impower is similar with improved seed colour. Additionally there is another option — the conventional CDC Greenland — which has the best seed coat colour retention of any large green lentil and worth consideration even without the CL trait.

Also now available are the two CL offerings in the medium-green category CDC Impress and CDC Imigreen. These are both similar to the conventional CDC Meteor, and of note the Imigreen has the best seed coat colour of any green lentils of any size.

Small greens have yet to see a CL cousin, while the CDC Peridot CL released in 2008 may provide some interest to the French lentil growers looking for a CL option in that market segment.

With greens, achieving any premium, maximum quality and pricing, colour is the most important factor. Varieties listed that have a brighter-green seed coat and retain their green colour longer should be of interest to any green lentil grower. Essentially, all varieties are acceptable to the marketplace, so choose one that you believe will give you the best chance to succeed.

Like the debate over Orr, Gretzky or Howe, everyone has an opinion — some more educated than others. In the case of lentil varieties, ask your buyer or processor what they recommend for the program they focus on. It also doesn’t hurt to ask your neighbours what has worked well for them. Too much of this information was taken from the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers website, where they have a table showing comparisons of all lentil varieties ( www.saskpulse.com). Educate yourself and choose what works best for you. And since you asked, my answers to the great debates are Bobby Orr and GMC! (Editor’s note: But he drives a Toyota. Go figure!)

JeffJacksonisexportmarketingmanager withWigmoreFarms( www.wigmorefarms.com) basedatRegina,Sask.Haveyougota marketingstrategyorhockeyhistoryquestion? Sendthemto [email protected] orcall306-757-3005

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