27 September 1996

Winter peas a risky line, says breeder

TREAD warily if you are thinking of growing winter peas. Thats the warning from Seed Innovations whose parent company, Cebeco, refuses to breed them, says SI technical manager Stephen Smith.

"Some years theyll be OK, sometimes not." Winter peas tend to get more disease than spring varieties, so the risk of crop failure is greater, says Mr Smith. Most growers in France, the EUs largest pea producer, choose spring types whose yield and quality is still increasing, he notes.

PGROviews mixed

At the Processors and Growers Research Organisation there are mixed views on the winter crop. Sowing date is critical, says Cathy Knott. "There were a lot of losses from October sowings last year because they were more prone to the winter cold and wind rock constricted the stems." Mid-November sowings suffered less, she says. But she describes pea bacterial blight, which could wipe out crops, as "an accident waiting to happen".

Director Geoffrey Gent admits winter pea yields on drought-prone land last harvest, where they should in theory have had an advantage over spring types, were less spectacular than in 1995.

"Its not that winter peas have been disappointing so much as that the spring varieties are really coming on and the premium for green samples is very substantial."

SIs managing director Paul Taylor believes the yield and quality of spring-sown large blues and semi-leafless marrowfats, which can make £20-60/t premiums, will ensure they dominate in future.

&#8226 NIABs Tim Green remains cautious about the winter crop. "Try it in a small way," is his advice to newcomers. "Its earliness is not such an advantage as it is with winter linseed." A wider range of trials this year should give growers a better feel for different varieties, he hopes.