Montana State Lentil Research Published In Crop Science

Bozeman - Research conducted at Montana State University's Eastern Agricultural Research Center on how genetic and environmental factors affect lentil crops grown in different parts of the state was recently published in a national journal.

"Evaluation of Environment and Cultivar Impact on Lentil Protein, Starch, Mineral Nutrients and Yield" was published in Crop Science, a publication of the Crop Science Society of America, in early May. Chengci Chen is the lead researcher of the study and superintendent of the Eastern Agricultural Research Center near Sidney.

Chen and colleagues conducted the study at five test sites across Montana, including four MSU research centers/farms in Bozeman, Conrad, Havre and Moccasin. The locations had different soil and weather conditions, and the researchers evaluated four varieties of lentils at each study site.

Although the study was conducted in Montana, the results have worldwide implications, Chen said. According to the article, more than 60% of global lentil exports originated in the northern Great Plains in the United States and Canada.

The study showed that environmental factors had large effects on lentil yield and starch content. However, lentil genetics had more influence on protein concentration and some of the macro- and micro-nutrients, such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and sulfur. The results suggest lentil nutrition can be biofortified - a technique to enrich the certain nutrients in food grains and deliver to a population that has limited access to diverse diets - by combining breeding efforts and judicious selection of varieties and farming locations.

"Growers can select specific varieties of lentils to match conditions in different geographical regions," Chen writes. "This can help them produce lentil crops with high nutrient values."

Chen added that developing lentil varieties adapted to diverse environments to produce stable yield is also important "because environmental conditions can vary not only in different locations, but also from year to year in the same location."

Chen also published an article about the Eastern Agricultural Research Center's work in the spring issue of Growing Montana, a publication from the Montana Agricultural Business Association. In the five-page article, "Eastern Agricultural Research Center Conducts Research to Address Stakeholder's Needs," Chen highlights the facilities and equipment at the center, explains its research programs and its stakeholder engagement and student training efforts.

The research center, established in 1948, has two research farms, 40 acres dedicated to dryland crop research and 140 acres dedicated to irrigated crop research. The research center has lab and field equipment to conduct greenhouse and field studies to develop new varieties and solve agronomic and disease management issues.

The center conducts research to support the agricultural producers and stakeholders in the eastern portion of the state, though, Chen said, the center's research also applies to other parts of Montana and beyond. Crop research at the Eastern Agricultural Research Center includes sugar beets, pulse crops – such as peas, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans and adzuki beans – cereal crops and oilseed crops.

Chen said the center's scientists work closely with growers, grower associations, agricultural industries, federal and state agencies, and the community. Each year, MSU's seven agricultural research centers host field days to discuss crop variety testing and breeding, livestock production, water and pesticide use, fruit production and more. The Eastern Agricultural Research Center's field day will take place Tuesday, July 12.

More information on MSU's research centers can be found at


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