23 August 2002

Peas slow going…

By FWreporters

SPRING pea combining appears to be taking a back seat as growers concentrate on gathering milling wheats and malting barleys before any further quality losses, according to southern merchants.

In Chichester, Sussex, merchant Bartholomews had seen only four samples by the start of the week. "They are quite nice quality, but I think some people have prioritised other crops," says the firms Richard Wright.

"There are some pretty flat pea crops out there and combining them is a slow old job," says Jonathan Arnold of Hants-based Robin Appel. After local showers many crops badly need a return to the hot sunny weather of last week, he comments.

Yields of crops cut so far vary from "desperately poor" to "better than expected".

In Somerset Keith Harris is particularly disappointed with the output of Nitouche which suffered badly from waterlogging after sowing and was hammered all season by birds. "We got just 25t off 40 acres. Weve another 15ha of the same variety which were sown three weeks later and I am hoping they may do better."

Near Stamford, Lincs Robert Naylor says his 18ha (45 acres) of Nitouche looked wonderful all season, but went flat in recent rain, yielding a disappointing 3.9t/ha (1.6t/acre).

"This is the third year we have grown peas, and each year there has been something wrong. We had everything right this year but the weather ruined it."

Peterborough grower David Fountains 24ha (60 acres) of Nitouche also suffered two weeks of heavy rain but still managed 4.9t/ha (2t/acre) at 14% moisture. "Although this is well down on previous years, it is not as bad as I had first feared."

Former farmers weekly barometer Philip Chamberlains combines moved into 81ha (200 acres) of Arrow on Saturday and had finished by Monday night with a final yield of 4.35t/ha (1.76t/acre). "We always like to get 2t/acre, but this isnt too bad.

"Combining wasnt too bad either. Once we found the direction to travel in and kept going that way we were able to get on at a good pace."

More than usual lodging caused by wet weather in May and June means spring peas, which normally come to harvest before winter wheat, are clashing directly this season, notes the PGROs Geoffrey Gent.

The decision to cut other crops ahead of peas is clearly down to individual commercial judgement, says Mr Gent. But he questions whether giving sprouted wheat priority, as some growers are said to be doing, is correct.

"Its worth remembering that on a good combining day you can usually get through peas twice as fast as wheat. But if the conditions arent right and you are pulling up soil it can be a devil of a job."

This season highlights the advantage of winter peas earliness, he adds. "I know of one crop taken at the end of July giving 5t/ha." &#42

Heavy rain and hail has badly hit the 73ha (180 acre) pea crop at Burnt Fen Farm near Ely, Cambs, where manager Mark Bowyer reports massive shedding, and yield 25% down on the 5t/ha (2t/acre) average. Elsewhere the clash with cereal harvest is leaving growers with a conundrum.