Peas can make you money. That’s the conclusion from the BEPA/PGRO 2005 Pea Crop Challenge.

The winners, from Syngenta, achieved a gross margin of 430/ha (174/acre) from a crop of Princess marrowfats.

Its 1000 prize goes to the RNIB and Cancer Research.

Winners of the non-marrowfat category, with 422/ha (171/acre) from a mystery maple variety, were seedsman Peter Busfield from Dunns of Long Sutton partnered by Adrian Howell, farm manager for Proctor Brothers.

Their 500 cheque goes to The Earthquake Disaster Fund.

The aim of the competition, sponsored by BEPA, Cebeco Seeds, Daltons Seeds, BASF and Syngenta Crop Protection, is to produce the most profitable crops at the PGRO’s HQ in Lincolnshire.

Ten teams, of growers, seedsmen, crop protection specialists, agronomists and others, took part.

Each was responsible for all agronomic inputs including choosing variety, seed treatment, target population, herbicides and pesticides.

Each could sell on the open market in October or accept a pre-drilling contract price. For marrowfats this was 160/t, with 140 for maples, 115 for small blues and 95/t for large blue and white types.

The teams selected four marrowfat varieties (Princess, Samson, Kahuna and Kabuki), three large blues (Nitouche, Cooper and Venture), two maples (Rose plus the mystery one), one small blue (Catania) and one white (Bilbo).

In all, 21 plots, including one grown by PGRO for reference, were drilled on 18 March.

Despite dry seed-beds most teams applied pre-emergence herbicides, mostly at reduced rates.

“Weed control was generally poor,” noted competition co-ordinator Jim Scrimshaw of the PGRO.

“Participants who decided against a pre-emergence treatment and relied on a post-emergence to do the job fared no worse than those who chose the belt-and-braces approach.”

At harvest in early August yields ranged from 1.86t/ha (0.75t/acre) to the 5.16t/ha (2.08t/acre) achieved by the Syngenta team with Venture.

Brian Patman and Will Holmes, who used Waxil-treated seed and based weed control around Skirmish and Basagran, grew 4.32t/ha (1.75t/acre) worth 160/t, spending 101/ha (41/acre) on chemicals.

The Busfield/Howell partnership shunned seed treatment, applying Opogard followed by Pulsar + Fortrol against weeds.

With a chemical cost of 114/ha (46/acre) and a yield of 4.49t/ha (1.82t/acre), their mystery crop proved the most economic of the non-marrowfats.

“Once again marrowfats have produced some of the best gross margins, where effective inputs were applied at the appropriate time,” said Mr Scrimshaw.

“The competition demonstrates year after year that there is money to be made growing combining peas, and that timely use of appropriate amounts of cost-effective inputs combined with market awareness is a large factor affecting profitability.”

fwarable@rbi.co.uk