8 March 2002

Dinner table peas could be in for a boost this season

By Andrew Blake

PEAS for human consumption could prove extra rewarding this season, according to Dalton Seeds. But seed treatment is essential to ensure premium-earning quality, says the firms Peter Fox.

Despite premiums of up to £50/t the marrowfat crop does not seem to be attracting many growers this spring, comments Mr Fox. "If processors have to go abroad for supplies premiums could go up to £70/t."

But to avoid deductions samples of recommended varieties like Maro, Princess, Supra and newcomer Samson must be of good colour and free of stains and splitting, he warns. "Some growers may feel they have had their fingers burnt in the past with the £3/t discount for 1% staining.

"But with good samples they could be much better off than growing peas for compounding. Generally marrowfats should be grown on contract, but this season they could even be worth a bet on the open market."

Early protection against downy mildew is the vital first step in achieving good quality, he says. Samson has relatively good resistance but the older recommended trio are all very susceptible.

That means a proven treatment with no resistance problems, such as Triple Pea (fosetyl + thiabendazole + thiram), is essential. "Id even suggest its worthwhile on Samson. The chances are you wont get the premium if you rely on thiram alone."

Marrowfats have proved a valuable cereal break for six years at Vine Farm, Royston, says Velcourt manager Tim Whitehead, who plans 68ha (168 acres) this spring. "We grow them because they are a value-added crop.

"We have Bunting, which yields 5-10% less than compounding peas, on contract to Campbells ."

The older non-recommended variety is still preferred by some buyers, he notes. "But it is very susceptible to mildew and seed treatment is a must. If we didnt use it we wouldnt get the quality and could be severely penalised on yield." &#42