ARS Licenses Hairy Vetch Varieties
November 14, 2008
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has
entered into licensing agreements with four seed distributors interested in
marketing varieties of a new hairy vetch developed by an ARS scientist and
Hairy vetch is a common cover crop planted in the fall that lies dormant
throughout the winter and flowers in the spring. It can be tilled into the soil
or rolled onto the soil surface, leaving a mat of protective stems that hold in
moisture, prevent weed growth and curb erosion.
The two new varieties, Purple Bounty and Purple Prosperity, were developed
Devine with the
Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and
cooperators. The two new hairy vetches are hardier and flower earlier than
traditional varieties, adding up to two weeks to the growing season for corn,
tomato, pumpkin and other summer crops.
ARS has licensed Purple Prosperity to Ted Weydert of DeKalb, Ill., and has
licensed both Purple Prosperity and Purple Bounty to the
Albert Lea Seed Co. of Albert Lea, Minn.,
Kings AgriSeeds LLC of Ronks, Pa., and Allied Seed LLC of Nampa, Idaho.
Organic farmers have been using hairy vetch for decades because it adds
nitrogen to the soil without the use of synthetic or manufactured fertilizers.
But previous earlier flowering varieties had limited use north of Maryland
because they cope poorly with northern winters. The new varieties allow farmers
to grow earlier-flowering vetch as far north as Ithaca, N.Y. The plants, named
for their striking purple blooms, may also be attractive to conventional
farmers because they cut in half the need for synthetic fertilizers, which are
made using expensive natural gas.
Devine spent the past decade breeding the varieties at ARS fields in
Beltsville and at the University of Maryland
farm in Keedysville, Md., using traditional breeding techniques with seed kept
in the U.S. National Plant Germplasm
ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.