15 September 1995

Winter peas given seal of approval by pioneer producers

First time winter pea growers were pleased with crops which, unlike spring varieties, escaped the drought. Andrew Blake reports

&#8226 Early July harvest.

&#8226 Outyielded drought-hit spring types, winters reaching 5t/ha (2t/acre) and springs 3t/ha (1.25t/acre).

&#8226 Less cracking than field beans.

&#8226 Oilseed rape drilling doubts boosting current demand.

&#8226 1995/96 area could double to 3200ha (8000 acres).

&#8226 Some contract hiccups.

ANDREW Hinch, of Home Farm, Tinwell, Lincs reckons his easily-harvested Froidure (Arable, May 5) gave "70-75tons off 35 acres". But until all is collected, he wont be sure whether it reached 5.3t/ha (2.1t/acre).

Despite going flatter than expected, the crop "just walked in" to the combine. But he had to cut one way only to offset lodging from a strong north wind. "It could have been different in a wet year," he comments.

At Home Farm, Pickworth, Lincs, Richard Lambs Froidure "picked up a treat" a week ahead of winter barley giving an estimated 5.4t/ha (2.2t/acre). "When we hear stories of spring peas doing only 1-1.5t/acre Im reasonably happy," he says.

With hindsight, the unnecessarily part-desiccated crop was taken quite early to preserve green seed colour. It also had a quick pass over the drier to tidy the sample.

Winter peas robustness and flexibility was highlighted in Essex. Chris Askew intended to sow them on Oct 20 at Blamsters Hall, Duton Hill. But as a grower of the spring variety Maro, known for its sensitivity to poor seed-beds, he was dissatisfied with conditions.

Drilling of 9ha (22 acres) of Froidure was delayed until the first week in March, when a spring tine pass left an "indifferent and cobbly" seed-bed. "A normal spring variety would have hated it," he comments.

Despite the unpromising start the rolled crop was up within a week "and never looked back", withstanding sharp frost in April and smothering weeds so well only a pre-emergence herbicide was needed.

Final yield, matching Maro at about 3.8t/ha (1.5t/acre), was "4-5cwt/acre" down on autumn sown expectations, he admits. A wetter summer would also have helped – the crop had only about 64mm (2.5in) of rain.

But he believes the exercise proved winter varieties can be successfully spring sown if need be – albeit with a yield penalty.

Prolonged dry weather sees Graham Hollingshead dropping winter rape in favour of Rafale winter peas on 40ha (100 acres) at Walton Thorns, Six Hills, Leics.

"Oilseed rape has to be in by the last week in August or its a waste of time." There is a much better chance of getting the peas in on time, he reasons. "And we can drill them up to March if necessary."

Already a grower of spring peas he is reasonably confident of success and his ability to keep pigeons at bay. "Besides I like a challenge," he comments.


WINTERPEAS

Winter-sown pea trials being gathered at PGROwhere Blizzard looks a "useful" new variety, according to director Geoffrey Gent.