Published on Mon, 03/19/2018 by BASF Canada

Peas offer agronomic benefits and economic opportunities for Alberta growers

Peas are a hardy crop that can provide many agronomic benefits for Alberta growers; they can help growers establish a longer and more varied crop rotation, and in doing so, have the potential to provide a “break” in weed and disease pressures.

“Field peas would make a good addition to many operations, as they help lengthen the cereal-canola rotation that is common in Alberta.”

Although 2017 was a challenging year for peas in the province, with India declaring a 50 percent tax on pea imports, the crop still holds economic opportunity.

 

“About 45 percent of our peas go to the Indian market, so India’s tariffs carry a large impact,” said D’Arcy Hilgartner, Chair of Alberta Pulse Growers. “However, consumers are increasingly looking for plant-based proteins, and peas—and other pulses—are emerging as ingredients in a variety of products.”

Why peas?

Peas perform well in cool weather and can tolerate frost—making them a good fit for Alberta fields. They can also help growers spread out their workload, as the pea growing season typically lasts for 90 to 105 days, and they do well with early seeding and early harvest.

“Field peas would make a good addition to many operations, as they help lengthen the cereal-canola rotation that is common in Alberta,” said Andrew Reid, Technical Marketing Specialist at BASF Canada. “They are also non-hosts for a lot of cereal and canola diseases, so they can provide some disease management benefits.”

Pea crop management

Peas fix their own nitrogen by using their relationship with beneficial bacteria in the soil to convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen they can use to provide nutrients.

“This is why an inoculant is one of the most important inputs for peas, especially for growers who have never grown peas before,” said Reid. “Peas fix their own nitrogen, but they need an inoculant to do that, particularly on first-time fields. If that inoculant is not there, the peas will not fix nitrogen, and they will not have the nutrients they need.”

Using an inoculant with a strain of rhizobia, or beneficial bacteria, formulated specifically for peas will help meet the crop’s nitrogen requirements. Nodulator Duo SCG from BASF contains rhizobium strain 1435 and was produced under a thorough development process that included more than a decade of research and hundreds of studies and trials to ensure it is effective for peas and lentils.

As for other inputs, Reid said that peas are not as competitive with weeds or diseases in comparison to canola or cereal crops. “Peas have a specific set of herbicides they are tolerant to, so it is important to understand your weed history and make sure you can manage your weeds with the herbicides available.” As for diseases, he said, “Mycosphaerella is a disease concern for peas, so using a good Mycosphaerella fungicide later on in the growing season is something to keep in mind.”

Harvest and marketing

When harvesting peas, swathing or desiccating can start when seed moisture content reaches 25 to 30 percent. Because pea plants mature from bottom to top, peas reach ideal moisture when the bottom 30 percent of pods are ripe and the remaining pods are yellow or are starting to turn yellow.

Growers may choose to apply a pre-harvest herbicide, such as Heat LQ with glyphosate to provide both a faster drydown and control of broadleaf and perennial weeds before straight cutting. Peas may also be left to straight cut without desiccation. In this case, harvest should take place when the seeds in the bottom pods are detached and loose in the pods, and when the upper pods are turning yellow.

After harvest, pea growers have flexibility for direct marketing and contracting their crop to export markets around the world. “India’s tariffs certainly quieted that market, but there are opportunities for producers to grab the export markets that are out there, with China picking up some of India’s imports. Those are in addition to the value-added markets growing here in Canada,” said Hilgartner.

For growers looking to add immediate benefits to their canola-cereal rotation, peas are a good option—especially over the long term. “There are still lots of opportunities for peas, and the future looks bright,” said Hilgartner.

 

© 2018 BASF Canada Inc.