Making your peas really count

Every pea and bean grown in Britain should find a home in a premium market from the coming harvest, arable farmers have been told.Anthony Biddle, of the Peterborough-based Pea Growers Research Organisation, said that only crops failing to make the quality grade would end up as animal feed.

Every pea and bean grown in Britain should find a home in a premium market from the coming harvest, arable farmers have been told.

Anthony Biddle, of the Peterborough-based Pea Growers Research Organisation, said that only crops failing to make the quality grade would end up as animal feed.

They would miss out on contract prices of up to £170/tonne for marrowfats and more than £120 per tonne for blue and white peas.

He said clean, smooth skin quality, good colour and tidy appearance were crucial if growers were to achieve the quality demanded by fickle buyers for products for human consumption.


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Since every pulse crop should be able to find a premium slot to fill rising demand, there was real potential for growers to take advantage of a profitable option, he said.

Dr Biddle, speaking at a Syngenta Growing Profitable Pulses meeting, urged producers to pay extra attention to achieving the higher yield potential of modern varieties and assuring crop quality.

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His advice: "Hold off sowing peas until soil conditions are warm enough for establishment and rapid growth without any check. The end of March or into April can still achieve very good results.

"Beans however, really need to go in as soon as possible, ideally by the end of February. They are far more susceptible to the effects of dry weather during flowering, so deep rooting and keeping them free of disease stress is crucial."

Dr Biddle highlighted the importance of keeping peas and beans healthy to improve rooting and the level of nitrogen fixation that would benefit the following crop.

And he calculated that taking advantage of the spring-sown pulse crop to control blackgrass could significantly reduce the cost of herbicides in the wheat rotation - which currently costs up to £90 per ha on the million hectares of cereals treated for blackgrass, with increasing problems of herbicide resistance.

Bruce McKenzie, Syngenta's speciality crops manager, urged growers to anticipate problems of weed control in pulse crops.

A disease risk assessment would pay a crucial role in targeting fungicide timing and product choice for profitable pea programmes this season, he added.

"With the premiums available, you can't afford to risk disease hitting either yield or crop quality.

"But, with risk assessment and an eye to the weather, it may be possible to refine what's applied and when, to maximise returns," he said.

Downy mildew remained the most noxious pathogen for establishing pea crops. So if there was any history of the disease or growing a susceptible variety, Mr McKenzie said, seed treatment would be imperative.

Pea crops should be protected against leaf and pod spot diseases. The incidence and severity of sclerotinia is increasingly reported in pulse crops for both fresh vining and combining.

A history of disease, or where there are other susceptible crops in the rotation, including oilseed rape, potatoes and carrots, significantly increases risk.

Dr Biddle reminded bean growers not to forget downy mildew infection, which, although not a problem for the past couple of seasons, could quickly re-establish in a cool, humid season.

And farmers growing pea seed on contract, or looking to reduce costs with farm saved stocks, must take extra care to keep out aascochyta and keep infection levels below tight standards.

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