21 November 1997

Top peas grew below sea level

AN ESSEX grower on land below sea level has produced the winning sample in the 1997 BEPA Pulse Competition organised by the British Edible Pulse Associa-tion.

Alan Ponder manages 780ha (1930 acres) of silty clay at Deal Hall Farm, Burnham-on-Crouch, owned by Strutt & Parker (Farms).

Drilled on Mar 7-12, the Maro marrowfat spring peas had only 19mm (0.75in) of rain up to June. But then the heavens opened, recalls Mr Ponder. "Four inches fell during the month followed by another 1in in July."

The dry start meant pre-emergence herbicide was omitted, on the advice of crop adviser Kevin Hayes. But a full programme, with the emphasis on blackgrass control, went onlater.

Harvested on July 28/29 the crop, sold on contract to Suffolk-based seed supplier W A Church (Bures), yielded 5.8t/ha (2.3t/ acre).

BEPA members are said to handle over 75% of the UK human consumption crop.