5 May 1995

Frosts dont stop motoring crop

DESPITE frosts of -3C (27F) in mid-April, 14ha (35 acres) of Froidure peas on Andrew Hinchs Home Farm, Tinwell, near Stamford, Lincs "really motored" over the next few days and will soon be flowering.

Main crops on the 210ha (520-acre) of thin brash soil are sugar beet and malting barley. Summer drought makes winter wheat a non-starter, he says. All the cereal straw goes to Wales. "I was looking for something to put a bit of body back into the land and to provide an early harvest."

Linseed has been tried but is too late to fit his system, which includes contract beet-lifting. "And our land dries out too early for beans.

"I have never grown peas before, but my initial feeling is good. They have been reasonably simple to grow." Pigeons, expected to be a real worry, have caused only minor problems, thinning a small patch which may need a further herbicide spray.

Overall the pre-emergence Opo-gard (terbuthylazine + terbut-ryn)/Parable (diquat + paraquat) treatment worked well on the Oct 25-sown crop grown from seed treated only with thiram.

Andrew Newby, for seed supplier Harlow Agricultural Merch-ants, says a good clean sample should provide up to £40/t premium. Main outlet is for small pro-cessed peas, nearly all of which are currently imported from the US.

When Richard Lamb was considering a fresh break on his all-arable 200ha (500-acre) Home Farm at Pickworth, Lincs winter oilseed rape for seed sprang to mind. But advice from local independent merchant Doug Balderson suggested winter peas instead, to avoid introducing volunteer rape as a weed in the sugar beet.

This seasons first-time Oct 25-sown crop after winter barley on limestone brash looks well, having largely escaped the attentions of pigeons on the exposed site. "Up by some woods, it might be a bit different," says Mr Lamb.

Interest in winter peas is not confined to thin land. Justin Blackwood of Grange Farm, Great Brington, Northants, is looking forward to seeing how far yields can be pushed on heavy clay. Although not sown until mid-December, his Froidure and Rafale "established extremely well" because of reasonable soil structure, and he hopes to exceed the "44.5cwt/acre" of last years drought-hit crops.

Winter peas have been given a cautious approach by Wherry & Sons, the Bourne, Lincs, pulse specialist and agent for Rafale, bred by French state breeder INRA. "It has been gently, gently," says the firms Peter Smith. "But now I think there is potential to expand to 10,000 acres." This years UK area is 1600ha (4000 acres). &#42