"As far as we know, this crop has never
been grown commercially in this part of Illinois, and there has been
no research to see how well or consistently it might perform," said
Emerson Nafziger, crop scientist with University of Illinois
Extension. "Some producers in northern Illinois did produce
relatively good yields in 2003, under unusually cool weather
conditions in May and June."
Field pea is a cool-season crop that is
grown for food and feed. Almost all of the U.S. production is in
North Dakota and the states west of it, bordering Canada. The U.S.
production area generally has annual rainfall less than 20 inches.
"Field pea is basically the same crop
as the peas that gardeners grow, but it stays in the field until
seeds are dry and hard, and it has a smooth instead of wrinkled seed
coat," Nafziger said. "Worldwide, yields of 30 to 35 bushels per
acre are considered good, partly because the crop tends to be grown
in areas with rainfall or temperatures too low to produce
Nafziger points out that cool weather
is especially important for dry pea production. The crop often grows
with very little seasonal rainfall, sometimes on residual soil
"It does respond to moderate rainfall,
as long as temperatures stay down, preferably below 75 F," he said.
"If it gets hot or warm and wet, the crop will deteriorate rapidly,
and yields can be very low."
To increase chances of getting
favorably cool weather during the growing season, field pea in
central and southern Illinois should be planted in March. The
varieties currently being promoted are from Canada and have not been
tested in central or southern Illinois.
"Maturity is said to range from 90 to
100 days, but it is not known what the actual duration will be if
the crop is planted in early March, especially if it turns cold
after planting," Nafziger said. "The seed needs to be inoculated
with the inoculant strain specific to pea."
He notes that, contrary to claims, pea
will not interrupt all important disease and pest cycles in the
corn-soybean rotation. Pea is a host for soybean cyst nematode and
is very susceptible to Sclerotinia white mold, which is present in
most fields and which also can affect soybean.
"As a new crop, pea may suffer less
from some diseases than other crops, simply because disease
inoculant may not have built up," Nafziger said. "On the other hand,
if there is warm, wet weather in May and June, diseases could well
become a serious problem."
According to the current promotion,
economic viability of field pea as a crop depends on a successful
double crop with soybeans or some other crop planted following pea
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"We expect the pea crop to be ready for
harvest at about the same time as winter wheat, unless wet weather
leads to serious crop deterioration and low yield," Nafziger said.
"In central Illinois, this means that double-cropping of soybean
after pea may have about the same success rate as soybean following
Nafziger points out that many producers
in central Illinois consider double-crop soybean after wheat to be
only marginally profitable, due to the frequency of low yields.
"Some growers attempt to double-crop
only if the wheat harvest is early and there is soil moisture to get
the next crop up," he said. "The nitrogen that field peas are said
to supply to the next crop would not raise yield of a following
soybean crop, and diseases that might carry over from pea to soybean
are a concern."
He adds that the current contract price
of $3.50 per bushel for pea will be realized only if the peas grade
U.S. No. 1.
"We do not know how likely it is that
Illinois-grown peas will meet those standards," Naziger said. "The
crop in northern Illinois, responding to unusually good weather in
2003, yielded about 50 bushels per acre, though some quality
problems were reported. Even if such yield levels are reached again,
it is not clear how peas can compete with soybean at average yield
levels, when soybean sells for more than twice the price of peas."
Nafziger points out that alternative
crops and markets for Illinois are worth pursuing, especially
because the state has the type of innovative producers and good
soils that can help make alternative crops work.
"Crops with good potential, though, are
ones that we know will yield well under typical weather conditions
and that have a high market price relative to existing crops, such
that risk of low yields is offset by high prices," he said. "Field
peas do not match these criteria very well; they are priced low
relative to soybean, and yield potential is similar to that of
soybean only if the weather cooperates unusually well."
He notes that the combination of low
price and yield risk, along with uncertainty regarding diseases,
double-crop yields, crop quality and other unknowns, tends to move
field pea down the list of economically promising alternative crops.
part of the reason that field pea has not been tested or grown in
central and southern Illinois is that Illinois does not have a clear
comparative advantage over other places in the world where the crop
now grows," Nafziger said. "As with other crops that carry some
risk, field pea should be tried with caution, by those who have both
curiosity and soils most likely to allow early planting. This should
be done on as small an acreage as possible, at least until we can
learn better what to expect from this crop."
of Illinois news release]