14 March 1996

Pea crop lifts wheat yields – and keeps protein costs down

Growing and feeding peas could reduce bills for buying in protein, as well as giving a host of other benefits. Emma Penny reports

HOME-GROWN peas are an important part of both the arable and pig enterprises on one Devon farm.

John Burrow, who farms 87ha (215 acres) at Pennylands Farm, near Crediton grows 81ha (200 acres) of cereals each year, with 10ha (24 acres) earmarked for spring peas this year. The peas are fed to the 175 sows and their progeny which are finished at about 70kg deadweight.

"Peas are used as a break crop on the farm. A wheat crop following peas will usually yield at least 1t/ha more than it would after a cereal," says Mr Burrow.

The idea of home-grown feed also appeals. "Rations are formulated around what is grown on farm. I would like to be self-sufficient, growing all rations, but that is not practical or possible."

But growing peas means the bill for other proteins – soya and fishmeal – is cut. "Peas are currently trading at about £110/t ex-farm, much less than soya."

The peas are drilled in mid to late March. The heavy land at Pennylands would preclude cultivation earlier. Pre-drilling preparations include applying muck, ploughing and one pass with a cultivator combination followed by drilling with a conventional drill. Seed rate is about 250kg/ha (2cwt/acre), and this year Mr Burrow plans to sow the varieties Eiffel and Chorale. "After drilling we do not roll, as our soil caps easily, and the front and rear crumbler bars on the one-pass machine should be enough to bury stones."

No fertiliser is applied, but the crop receives a pre-emergence herbicide, followed in mid-June, at petal drop, by fungicide and insecticide. "If the crop is unevenly ripe before harvest it might be sprayed with a desiccant."

Typical yields are about 4.9t/ha (2t/acre), but that can vary. "I would not want to grow a vast acreage of peas because they are so dependent on the weather. They are drought susceptible and bad harvest weather can make combining difficult."

After harvest, peas are stored on the floor, with air blown through them. "We store peas until we need them. They are put through a hammer mill with wheat, barley and oats into a holding bin."

The finisher and sow rations comprise 80% cereals, of which half is barley, 23% wheat, 18% peas and 7% oats. Soya, fishmeal and minerals are also included. "The finishers are offered about 2kg a day and are wet fed. We hope for a conversion rate of 2.5 to 2.75."

Last year, pea gross margin at Pennylands was £879/ha (£355/ acre), based on a harvest price of £125/t, and including the IACS payment of £389/ha (£157/acre). Input costs ran to £146/ha (£59/ acre), with revenue at £1025/ha (£415/acre).

"Peas are not that profitable taken in isolation, but they do allow better following wheat yields. They also need looking after and you probably need an arable background to grow them successfully, and a bit of luck!" &#42


&#8226 Reduces protein bills.

&#8226 Fit well with farm system.

&#8226 Need care to grow well.

Maximum inclusion rate of peas in pig rations is 25%. Cattle can be fed up to 50% peas alongside cereals, and sheep perform well on a 100% pea ration.