Thinking about Growing Field Peas in 2013? Back »

There has been a lot of discussion this winter about field peas and other pulse crops such as chickpeas and lentils. Some of the talk has focused on the proposed construction of a processing plant near Harrold. Some focused on the use of this crop for livestock feeding, pet food manufacturing, or human consumption.

Pulse crops are not new to South Dakota. Field peas, chickpeas, and lentils have been grown with success in Central South Dakota for over twenty years.

Longtime pulse crop growers have found them to provide a reasonable and consistent rate of return to the investment. In addition, many of the growers have found that pulse crops also provide other benefits.

For instance, field peas work well in rotations that include winter wheat. Peas are planted in early spring and are harvested in time to allow sufficient moisture recharge to occur most years before planting winter wheat that fall. Peas act to break the cycle of weeds and diseases that can build with too many wheat or other grass crops in a sequence. Pulse crops are legumes, which means when they are inoculated properly, they fix most of their own nitrogen. Creating a significantly total reduced fertilizer bill as compared to other rotational crops? One of the biggest advantages of peas is they have more potential salvage value. For instance, if poor weather at harvest reduces the suitability of the peas for the high-end markets, the peas still provide an excellent high-protein livestock feed. In dry years, it is possible to use the peas as forage.

Unfortunately in the past, none of the growers in South Dakota have had easy access to the processing markets. The longtime growers have had to develop their own markets. But with the possibility of a processing plant in Central South Dakota, producers who have not grown pulse crops in the past may be considering this option now.

If you are considering trying field peas for the first time, here are some tips to consider:

  • Field peas offer the best (lowest risk) option to step into pulse production.
  • There are two types of field peas; yellow and green. Generally green peas are sold into the human edible market, and therefore quality can be a larger issue. Green peas are also used in premium dog food products. Yellow peas are popular in the feed markets and manufacturing sector. Some countries prefer yellow peas for human consumption. They have typically yielded better than green pea varieties in this area.
  • Lining up a good seed source is very important. South Dakota has been a large producer of pea seed. Go to the South Dakota Pulse Growers website for a list of seed producers and sellers.
  • Pea seed is susceptible to damage, especially if it is handled in cold weather. All seed should be handled with TLC, once the weather gets warmer. Use belts, not augers, and make sure towers have bumpers, etc.
  • If interested in this crop, it is essential to line up a seed source NOW.
  • Peas are a cool-season crop and are able to withstand relatively cool temperatures (19-23° F) at early growth (1-5 node stage) so it is important to plant them early in the growing season. Like wheat, very hot weather during flowering can limit their production.
  • Being a large seed, peas have a lot of push and are therefore well-adapted to no-till growing conditions.
  • The seed should be inoculated with the proper type of rhizobium inoculant. Peas, lentils, and chickpeas require a different strain than soybeans. Producers cannot afford to not inoculate or to have inoculant that does not work. We recommend using two sources of inoculant, especially with first time producers, using both a seed applied and a granular source of inoculant has worked well in the past.
  • Peas should be seeded at 350,000 pure live seeds/acre and planted deep enough to allow seed to absorb moisture (deeper than wheat). Proper depth helps peas withstand spring frosts.
  • Peas can be drilled in narrow rows (10 inches or less). Use the least amount of air velocity as possible and equip towers with rubber pads. The key is to be gentle. Small cracks in the seed coat can affect germination. Most growers using low-disturbance no-till techniques in South Dakota do not use rollers.
  • Grassy weeds are relatively easy to control with post emerge weed control, however broad leaf weeds should be controlled with a pre-emergent herbicide. It takes a while for peas to be competitive, so early germinating broadleaf weeds can be a problem. Early pre-plant (late fall or early spring) programs provide the best insurance.
  • Chickpeas and lentils have also been grown very successfully in South Dakota. Anyone considering either of these, should carefully research production practices, adaptability, and varieties beforehand.

For more information refer to the South Dakota Pulse Growers website or check out 2012 Field Pea Variety Trials article on iGrow for variety trial results from 2012 along with the latest weed control information.

A power point presentation on pea production with voice by Dr. Dwayne Beck is available upon request. Contact the SDSU Pierre Regional Center at (605) 773-8120.

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