Heres a birds eye view of some of the latest spring and winter pea varieties.
THE pigeon feed trade traditionally offers premiums for good samples of small, brown, round-seeded peas. And theres quite a big gap before UK grown peas fill the potential in both home and export markets, says the PGROs Cathy Knott.
But Minerva, the quality standard for these coloured flowered maples, has been around for more than 20 years and cant begin to match the white flowered animal feed peas for yield.
In PGROs pigeon feed pea variety trial last year, Minerva yielded just 73% of the control white flowered animal feed variety Baccara.
However, after a dearth of new varieties, several are coming along together. The aptly named Racer from the Dutch Cebeco/Seed Innovations stable yielded 92% in the same trial and, being semi-leafless, has much better standing ability, says Ms Knott.
At a PGRO Members Day, the very tall Minerva was already starting to lodge.
However, samples from the trial are evaluated for quality by pigeon feed suppliers and Racer was judged to be not quite as good as Minerva, with its round, undimpled shape and slightly mottled colouring.
Racer seed is available only on seed contract at this time, says Seed Innovations, but further multiplication in the southern hemisphere should mean that commercial quantities are available for drilling in spring 1999.
Dalgety claims that its New Zealand bred variety, coded CRFP6 and also semi-leafless, is very similar to Racer, other than being slightly earlier flowering and darker-flowered.
At its Open Day at Throws Farm near Dunmow, Dalgety was also showcasing Aravis, Danisco Seeds new winter pea. Conventionally leaved, Aravis is a small-seeded round white pea with a black hilum, making it also suitable for inclusion in pigeon feed. However, it should replace imported black-eyed beans rather than substitute for other types of peas.
Although only entered in official UK trials for the first time this year, French trials data suggests that Aravis outrates Froidure and Rafale for winter hardiness, and Froidure and Victor for yield. It represents the first special use premium market opportunity for a winter pea.
Dalgetys arable technical development manager, Mike Jeffes, says that, on heavy land, he has yet to be totally convinced whether winter peas are worth all the potential problems of bird damage, winter kill, flooding and bacterial blight. However, on lighter land, he does see a place for them.
Seed Innovations, who claims that its Cebeco varieties account for half to two-thirds of the UK pea seed market, chooses not to pursue the winter sown option. Managing director Paul Taylor states: "The Cebeco breeders have no winter pea programme and no intention of starting one.
"Winter peas have no merits that cant be matched by progress in the spring breeding programme. Meanwhile, though the potential rewards from winter peas may be higher, so is the failure rate, and so is the disease risk."