25 February 2000


REPLACING spring barley with peas has proved a wise move for Lincs grower Gerald Needham. Not only were financial returns better, but he also won top honours in a British Edible Pulse Association grower competition.

"We started growing peas again three years ago, as one of our four break crops," says Mr Needham, who farms 250ha (620 acres) in partnership with his parents at Manor Farm, Coleby, near Lincoln.

"We need a number of break crops with reliable and consistent performance because we only grow first wheats." The current breaks are winter oats, oilseed rape, peas and sugar beet. Spring malting barley was dropped because quality could not be guaranteed.

Peas have proven to be a very good entry for milling wheat. "Were growing them on limestone heath, following them with wheat. The system works well and ensures our autumn workload is well spread."

The sample of Elan which won the 1999 Cebeco Challenge Cup for large blue peas was drilled on Mar 22 at a seed rate of 250kg/ha. "The seed cost was £65/ha and the total spray bill came to £109.75/ha."

Land was ploughed the previous autumn, leaving a stale seed-bed for a long time. "We then spring tined, harrowed and crumbled before drilling and rolling," says Mr Needham. "The crop emerged well and got away without any problems."

Spraying started on May 12 with a simazine/Pulsar (bentazone + MCPB) mix for broad-leaved weeds, followed by Fusilade (fluazifop-P-butyl) at 0.4litres/ha for grass weeds at the end of May. Disease control was done with a split dose of Bravocarb (carbendazim+ chlorothalonil) applied on June 14 and 26.

"The only other inputs were two applications of manganese, which were applied in May and June," he adds. "Fertiliser wasnt required because the soil indices were high enough already."

The yield last year was a bit higher than usual at 4.9t/ha (2t/acre). "And they sold very well at £88/t. So the output was £431.20/ha before area aid."

A sample of the crop was selected by Saxon Agriculture and entered into the BEPA competition, where it was judged on size and colour. "The sample was very bold and even since we managed to harvest them before the rain. They grew well all season and matured evenly."

Mr Needham will be sticking with peas for the foreseeable future, despite the recent price falls.

"We have increased our planned area from 40 to 60 acres. With only first wheats in the rotation, we need good breaks." &#42


&#8226 Peas replaced spring barley.

&#8226 Elan won large blue award.

&#8226 Good first wheat entry.

&#8226 Yield 4.9t/ha, price £88/t, output £431/ha before aid.

&#8226 Larger area for 2000.

National champion

pea grower Gerald Needham of Coleby, Lincs (right)

seen here

with Saxon Agricultures Richard Burns, reckons peas

far outstrip spring barley.

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