24 November 1995

Dried pea winner puts it down to good seed-bed preparation

PEAS which received just 50mm (2in) of rain during their entire four-month growing season have won Essex farmer Robert Speakman top honours in the National Dried Pea and Bean Competition organised by the British Edible Pulse Association.

"They never stopped growing from the time they came through the ground," enthuses Mr Speakman, who farms 263ha (650 acres) at Perry Green Farm, Bradwell near Braintree.

"I dont know where they got their moisture from or why they didnt bleach in the sunlight – and the pigeons wouldnt leave them alone either. I can only put it down to the well-prepared seed-bed to which we gave a lot of attention."

The "fairly heavy" land is mainly down to feed wheat, with some winter beans and industrial oilseed rape on set-aside. Peas have grown for over 30 years.

The prize-winning crop of Maro took 32ha (80 acres) last year. Seed treated with metalaxyl, thiabendazole + thiram (Apron Combi) for mildew control was sown at 340kg/ha (2.75cwt/acre) on March 20/21 using a spring tine drill "to get them well into the ground". No fertiliser or lime was applied.

Two herbicide sprays were followed by a fungicide/insecticide/ manganese tank mix at first flowering, which was repeated 10 days later.

Harvesting started on July 27, a little earlier than usual. Losses were low and a yield of 3.8t/ha (31cwt/acre) was recorded, with 14% moisture avoiding the need for drying.

"They were really lovely peas considering the growing conditions and the very hot summer," comments Anton Church of merchant W A Church (Bures), Suffolk, who entered the sample.

&#8226 Judging was based on trueness to type, uniformity of colour and size and freedom from stains and defects. Top scorers went forward to cooking and canning tests at the Processors and Growers Research Organisation, with points awarded for colour, texture and taste. &#42

&#8226 Maro grown on heavyish land.

&#8226 Seed-bed key to success.

&#8226 Apron Combi treated seed drilled deep Mar 20/21.

&#8226 Just 50mm of rain.

&#8226 Harvested Jul 27/28 at 3.8t/ha and 14% moisture.

This years national dried pea growing champion is Essex farmer Robert Speakman. He reckons a good seed-bed was his key to success with Maro.