Clemson’s webinar series promotes ‘Going Organic’ when selecting pulses


A team of researchers led by Professor Clemson Dil Thavarajah is studying the development of organic legume cultivars suitable for the Southern climate, particularly the organic production systems of South Carolina and North Carolina.

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The Clemson Organic Plant Breeding Institute is continuing its “Going Organic” webinar series to teach farmers how to grow nutritious legumes and save money.

A new series of webinars featuring presentations by world-renowned researchers who are experts in their field is set to begin on September 21 at 10 a.m., with a presentation by Shiv Kumar Agrawal of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Agrawal’s presentation is on “Pulse Breeding for Organic Agriculture: Progress and Prospects”. Additional speakers are scheduled to speak monthly through April 2023. This series is part of a grant project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

This series is free. Registration is requested. To register and receive a link to the first seminar, go to https://bit.ly/GoingOrganicFall2022. Updates and information for future webinars will be posted on the Clemson University Organic Plant Breeding Institute webpage: https://bit.ly/OrganicPlantBreedingInstitute.

Going Organic Webinar Series 2022-2023

The speakers and the title of their presentations for the Clemson Going Organic 2022-2023 webinar series are listed below. All sessions start at 10 a.m.

  • September 21 – Shiv Kumar Agrawallentil breeder, ICARDA, “Selection of legumes for organic farming: progress and prospects.
  • October 26 – Georges VandemarkResearch Geneticist, USDA, “Chickpea Breeding and Management”.
  • November 16 – Matthew Blair, molecular geneticist/plant breeder Tennessee State University, Bean/Mung Bean breeding and management.
  • December 7 – Diego RubialesInstitute for Sustainable Agriculture, CSIC, Córdoba, Spain, “Legume Breeding and Management”.
  • January 18, 2023 – Jeff SchoenauUniversity of Saskatchewan College of Agriculture and Bioresources, “Legume Crop Fertility Management and Guidance for Organic Soil Health.”
  • February 22, 2023 – Susan WhitingUniversity of Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, “‘Perceived’ Benefits and Risks of Pulse Consumption: Northern and Southern Examples.” »
  • March 29, 2023 – Hannah van ZantenCornell University Department of Global Development, “From Linear to Circular Food Systems.”
  • April 19, 2023 – Jeff RumneyUSA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, “Legume Crop Marketing and Opportunities.”

Benefits of Going Organic in South Carolina

Organic farming sometimes has the bad reputation of producing legumes of lower nutritional quality. But researchers at the Clemson Organic Plant Breeding Institute believe field peas and lentils can be grown organically and still have improved nutritional quality. The organic pulse breeding program is led by Dil Thavarajah and his team, including retired soybean breeder – Emerson Shipe, Shiv Kumar Agrawal and project manager Tristan Lawrence.

Their goal is to develop cultivars suitable for the southern climate, particularly the organic production systems of South Carolina and North Carolina.

Thavarajah, the project’s principal investigator and Clemson Professor of Organic Pulse Quality and Nutritional Selection, said the research is needed as consumer demand for organically grown plant protein increases. The team is in the final stages of developing organic dry pea cultivars suitable for South Carolina.

Dil Thavarajah
Dil Thavarajah

“These cultivars are not only suitable for the low-input organic system, but also rich in protein, prebiotic carbohydrates and micronutrients,” Thavarajah said.

These cultivars were developed based on on-farm selections by WP Rawl and Sons in Pelion, South Carolina and at the Calhoun Fields Laboratory and Cherry Farm at the Clemson Organic Research Center.

“Organic plant proteins are popular because they are a clean source of protein with no added chemicals,” Thavarajah said. “But organic pulses have a lower protein content and are more expensive. During this study, we want to determine how to develop protein biofortified organic legume cultivars that will lead to economically rewarding sustainable organic farms, especially in the Carolinas.

Field peas and lentils are legumes. Thavarajah and his team tested three new legume cultivars – lentils, dry peas and chickpeas – for organic production in South Carolina. The new dry pea cultivars will be commercialized within two years.

Pulses are called “the meat of the poor” because they are rich in nutrients, like protein, but they don’t cost as much as meat. Among the objectives of this project are the development of protein-enriched organic pea and lentil varieties and the provision of on-farm educational activities as part of the cooperative extension service.

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Clemson University Organic Plant Breeding Institute researchers are: (front row from left) Nathan Windsor, Jacob Johnson, Mark Dempsey, Sonia Salaria, Lindsey Moroney, Elizabeth Beane, and Dil Thavarajah. (Second row from left) Varun Kumar Red Cheruku, Adam Kay, Richard Baker, Nathan Johnson, Pushparajah Thavarajah, Craig Reda, Emerson Shipe and Tristan Lawrence.
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