With pea-processing giant Roquette planning to begin operations at its new plant in Portage la Prairie, Man., in mid-2020, growers may be thinking about increasing pea acreage year this. Peas offer several benefits, but the crop does present some challenges as well. Manitoba Agriculture provincial pulse specialist Dennis Lange explains.
If the summer is hot and dry, peas could have an advantage. “Soybeans don’t like extreme heat and dry conditions,” said Lange. “But pea yields maintain themselves. We’re averaging probably in that mid-40 range, which is pretty respectable for growing peas. Growers can make money, so there’s definitely some renewed interest.”
Those interested in adding peas to the rotation need to be wary of where they put them and how they’ll fit into the rotation, warned Lange.
“We’re not growing peas every second year,” he said. “With disease issues, we need to make sure that we’re at least that one-in-three or one-in-four.”
In some situations, especially where aphanomyces is a concern, Lange suggests stretching rotations out even more.
There are plenty of advantages to growing peas, though. Farmers like peas, said Lange, pointing to advantages like being able to plant early and frost tolerance. And since they’re off the field early, growers can spread their workload around a bit more. Finally, since peas are inoculated and then fix their own nitrogen, they really require little-to-no additional nitrogen fertilizer.
The newer semi-leafless varieties are also nicer to grow since they stand up better than older varieties, said Lange.
Obstacles to uptake include disease, low prices and the need for special equipment to lift the crop off the ground.
To give your peas the best start, Lange says it’s important to start with high quality, certified seed that has been tested.
“Field selection is really important as well,” he said, recommending that growers choose well-drained fields. “We say that about a lot of crops, but peas in particular, they don’t like that excess moisture,” he said.
Lange also cautions growers to pay attention to seeding rates, recommending growers plant three bushels per acre. Proper plant populations ensure that the tendrils of the semi-leafless varieties interlock.
“With the old varieties, this wasn’t an issue,” he said.
Roquette’s arrival in Manitoba is good news for farmers, especially those who are tired of marketing their peas to end users abroad.
“The reason I get excited by companies like Roquette coming to Manitoba is that for years and years the industry relied solely on end users that were in the U.K. or in the U.S.,” said Lange. “We’re always relying on other people to market or to work with our final product.”
“Now we have a company in our own province that’s willing to work with producers and build relationships, and they are the end user,” he continued. “They’re making something out of the product that we’re growing.”