20 June 1997

Peas look good as grain falls

GRAIN prices as low as £85/t make pea growing increasingly attractive, and new added value varieties coming on stream could boost the crops popularity.

Those are the views of Paul Taylor, outgoing manager of Norfolk-based Seed Innovations and his successor, Gerry Cook. "Two wet harvests in 1985 and 1986 put people off peas for a decade," says Mr Cook. But new better standing varieties are reviving their interest, he claims.

The firm has two new spring types for micronising – Astina and Espace – in recommended list trials as well as a novel better-shaped maple type, Racer, said to outyield Setchey by 10% and be particularly attractive to pigeons.

The shortfall in UK supplies of marrowfat, maple and other high quality peas has still not been fully recognised by growers, claims Mr Cook. With premiums of about £20 and £40/t for micronising and marrowfats, respectively, he sees little attraction in growing straight feed types.

Winter varieties are highly unlikely to figure among SI introductions, adds Mr Taylor. Cebeco, its parent and one of the worlds top 10 breeding organisations, sees little mileage in them, he explains. "It has no breeding programme and no intention of starting one. Our view is that winter peas have no merits which cant be matched by spring varieties."

The disease risks involved in growing winter types are much higher, adds Mr Cook. "They are fine in an open autumn. But I can remember a lot of autumns when one would not have wanted to be in them."