Interest in growing pulses should return with increased margins and better prospects for the crop, despite a 25-30% drop in areas this spring, according to I’Ansons’ Howard Jackson, president of the British Edible Pea Association.

Market prices for peas and beans had increased in the past year, he said. “For example, green peas that last year were at £110/t are kicking this season off at £135/t. Where growers were saying there was no point in growing the crops because there was no end return, there is interest again now.”

Low potential margins at the beginning of the current season compared with oilseed rape, coupled with a very open autumn allowing a high proportion of land to be autumn cropped, had contributed to a 25-305% decline in pea and bean areas this spring.

But margins were much more positive than they were a year ago, Nickerson’s Joss Vincent said. “There is no reason not to choose pulses. Markets look strong for the foreseeable future.”

That was being helped by a number of factors including a decline in the US soyabean market, new markets at home – for example, beans being used on Scottish fish farms, and a likely decision by supermarkets to remove colouring agents from their own brands. “That will increase demand for large and small blue peas,” Mr Jackson suggested.

Advances in varietal characteristics could also help, he said. For example, a Nickerson small blue pea variety, coded 04, which was 12-14 days earlier than most varieties, could help with wheat harvest clashes. “It was our highest yielding variety last year in trials.”

That wasn’t replicated in PGRO trials, the organisation’s Steve Belcher said, partly because it should have been drilled at a higher seed rate. “But there seems to be interest from growers. It could be of benefit further north where earliness will be an advantage.”

mike.abram@rbi.co.uk