Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Growing Yellow Peas in Central Alberta #Plant16

  I thought I would write down some of what I've learned growing yellow peas over the last decade or so. This is one Alberta producers experience and may not reflect everyone's so please do your own research as well, these are just starting points. And if you have anything to add please comment below and I can edit as we go and hopefully learn from one another. I hope this can start a discussion to share grower experiences concerning peas.

   With record high prices for yellows and the ability to lock in new crop at all time highs as well, more and more farmers are considering growing peas for the first time or returning to them after a bit of a hiatus. Input costs can be lower with peas because you apply little or no fertilizer but seed costs this spring will eat into profits, but it's important to buy good seed. Seeding rates can be upwards of 3-4 bu/acre depending on seed counts (aim for 75-90 plants/M2) and you do not want to buy seed with low germ or vigor. Vigor tests are important as peas are seeded into less than ideal conditions most years. Make sure to source inoculant and book your in crop chemical early this year as supplies may be short with all the added acres in our area.

   Inoculant is a very important ingredient in this whole process and should never be under applied. In fact I always use the highest rates. Handle it with care once you pick it up as it needs to be kept cool and inside till you use it. Treat it like it's alive cause it basically is! It is a Rhyzobia which is a live soil bacteria that helps the plant fix nitrogen and it will die over time. Granular inoculant needs to be placed close to the seed in the ground to promote good nodulation. Other forms of inoculant are available but I have always used Granular. Some farmers double inoculate but the jury is still out on that one.  Oh yeah and innoculant cannot be carried over so try to use it all up. Most retailers will take returns if early enough in the season.

   Seeding depth is dependent on available moisture but most say 1.5-2.5 inches. I aim for 2" most years and try to seed as soon as the weather allows (4-5 degrees C soil temp)  which usually means that there is lots of available moisture. My time frame is usually around April 25th. I single shoot peas and granular innoculant this helps to keep the rhyzobium close, and have never added fertilizer but many do. A starter fertilizer can help the soil as peas use lots of Phos. Do your soil tests and check for available phosphorus. If you are low in P adding a small amount can help yield. Adding nitrogen is rarely needed unless soil tests come in severely low as they fix up to 80% of their own N. If you add fertilizer be careful of placement as inoculants are very sensitive and fertilizer can kill them. Keep some separation and never mix fertilizer and inoculants!

   There are some very good seed treatments out there. Some help control pea leaf weevil but only use it if you know thresholds have been met the previous year. Forecasts in our local area aren't bad and last year there was only some evidence of damage in the form of small amounts of leaf notching. But some areas of Alberta had issues last year so know your area. Thanks to Alberta Ag for all the work they do and the chart below(Scott Meers and Shelley Barkley)

  In crop herbicides are very effective in controlling weeds but accompanying that with a later app of Basagran can help to keep your field clean through to harvest so it's worth a look. Annual sow thistle will grow later and mess your field up along with a few other weeds so I am going to use Basagran this year as it has worked for neighbors quite well. Always follow label directions when it comes to water volumes and spray timing. Peas are very easily burnt and this almost always leads to yield loss or shortened plants. This can be avoided by limiting overlap and following labels. I always check plants for nodules during the growing season. This is a good sign of healthy plants and that you have done everything right so far.

   Fungicide can be used and some claim it helps the crop stand better and also yield better. I have seen little evidence of that but many others have. Some years no matter what you do if you get a rain on a mature pea field it will go down. That's just the way it is, and it is manageable it just takes some patience and hopefully you will be going early on them and nothing else is ready to harvest and you won't feel so bad.
  Horror stories abound when it comes to harvesting peas. The best place to seed peas is where there is good drainage and as flat a field as possible. They do not like wet roots and will go backwards quickly if saturated. Peas can go flat so a land roller is a must, not just for rocks but for dirt piles that will cause dragging under your header. You most likely will straight cut them and most headers work quite well but it is good to have at least some flex. They can be grown in hills but just remember you need to harvest them and sharp hills can be tough to straight cut on if the crop goes down. Desiccating peas prior to harvest can help with dry down and spraying Glyphosate or a combination of Heat and Glyphosate can help to clean up a field as well but you will not be able to keep as seed. I usually let them mature naturally and have had good luck in the past but in a year with lots of weeds I spray them and buy new seed. Peas are dry at 16% moisture but I like to start a little higher than that as they can get too dry quite quickly. When peas get below 14% they tend to get brittle and this can effect germ and quality. As harvesting moisture gets dryer this will cause larger amounts of split peas so watch your combine settings closely as conditions change. Aeration works quite well as air travels through them easily in the bin so they are easily stored so taking them off at 16% is not an issue.

   Peas could have great returns this year for farmers if prices stay high and decent yields are achieved. But the benefits do not stop there as better rotations and soil health will help in the years following a pulse. Nitrogen fixing and just having a more rounded rotation contribute to higher protein in wheat and higher yields in canola even 2 years later. So if you are a first time grower do your homework and try to do all the little things right and don't be afraid to ask for advice along the way. Good Luck with #Plant16

  For more good info on Pea production go to                                                     http://pulsepod.ca/index.php?title=Field_Peas

                                  2016 is the United Nations International year of Pulses #IYOP

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