Bill Davey rocked by worst ever vining pea yields

I have grown vining peas for as long as I can remember, and one thing I’ve learned is that if they’re not put into a perfect seed-bed, they won’t let you forget it. This year’s first early sowing was no exception. It was drilled when the soil temperature was barely warm enough – yet in line with the harvesting programme – into a seed-bed that appeared better than it actually was.

The following day, the sun shone and the wind blew and Cambridge rolling seemed appropriate. Two days later 5cm of rain sealed their fate, resulting in the poorest-yielding crop of peas I’ve ever grown.

Traditional dry land farming here on the Plains, in years gone by would have seen most farmers growing dried peas as a break crop. Consequently, Aphanomyces root rot levels are often found to be too high to continue growing peas within a farm’s rotation. This fungal disease can hang around in the soil for up to 10 years, so in future we will test fields before sowing.

To drop peas from our farm’s rotation would be detrimental in some respects, as their early harvesting allows us to establish big crops of brassicas for store lambs later on.

The old saying “one man’s loss is another man’s gain” is so often true. Sadly, for many farmers affected by the recent flooding in vast areas of Australia, it means perennial grass seed will be required on a big scale to re-seed in due course. Until this recent event, contracts here for any type of grass seed were hard to come by, but now things have turned full circle. We have been offered three times the area of seed which we grew last year, which is great news. However, it makes me somewhat nervous given our limited drying facilities.

Farmer Focus Arable: Bill Davey

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