So you want to grow Southern peas

Carol Sanders | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

pInformation on marketing and growing Southern peas is often not known or readily available, Dr. Henry English, director, Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. Statistics are not gathered because the acreage is too low.

“Southern peas are a good alternative crop, however, particularly for small and limited resource producers,” Dr. English said.

The first step in successful commercial Southern pea production is marketing, according to Dr. English. “Identifying markets before planting is critical,” he said.

Farmers markets are an ideal place to sell fresh vegetables. Farmers receive a retail price without a middleman, but some small producers prefer not to sell at farmers markets. They want to sell their vegetables with no waiting time, said Dr. English. To do this, growers need a wholesale market; the price received will be lower, but the volume purchased greater.

After growers choose a market for their peas, Dr. English said they should become familiar with the production aspect of Southern peas.

“Growers should know what type of yields to expect especially if they are applying for a loan. A yield of 100 bushels per acre (25 pounds of pods per bushel) is an average yield for hand-harvested fresh southern peas and 75 bushels per acre, for machine harvested”, Dr. English said. “The 25 pounds of pods per bushel should shell out to approximately 13 pounds of fresh peas if good production practices were followed.”

For good yields, producers should begin with a soil test for fertility or lime. If lime is needed, it should be spread several months before planting, advises Dr. English.

A variety should be selected based on customer preference, pest resistance, yield and harvest method. If selling at a farmers market, two or more varieties may be desired, however, if a buyer wants a specific variety, plant it, advises Dr. English. Both vining and bush (non-vining) types are suitable as most peas are hand harvested on small farms. If peas will be machine harvested, plant only bush types.

“The Pinkeye Purple Hull is probably the most popular pea variety grown in southeastern Arkansas as southerners traditionally prefer this variety,” said Dr. English. “Recommended Pinkeye varieties include Quick Pic, Top Pick Pinkeye, Texas Pinkeye, Pinkeye Purple Hull, Mississippi Pinkeye and Pinkeye Purple Hull BVR.”

Seeding rates for bush types are 20 to 25 pounds per acre and 15 to 20 pounds per acre for vining types. Row spacing is two to three plants per foot for hand harvest varieties and four to six plants per acre for mechanically harvested varieties. Dr. English suggests planting seeds one half inch to 1 and a half inches deep. With cool wet weather, a seed treatment (Ridomil Gold) is recommended at planting. Planting dates range from May to August 1. Peas mature in 55 to 70 days depending upon variety and weather conditions.

One of the biggest concerns in eastern Arkansas is the control of resistant pigweed, therefore, starting with a clean field (tillage or a burn down herbicide) and using a residual or soil applied herbicide such as Treflan or Dual is critical, Dr. English said. Both herbicides provide some early season control of resistant pigweed.

“Pursuit is another residual herbicide used to control broadleaf weeds, but it is an ALS herbicide, and many pigweeds are resistant to ALS herbicides,” he said.

To control emerged pigweed and other broadleaf weeds, apply Basagran to weeds less than one inch and shallow cultivate early and often.

For emerged grasses, use Poast, a grass herbicide. Consult the Cooperative Extension Service publication MP44 “Recommended Chemicals for Weed and Brush Control” for herbicides and rates.

For more info about Southern pea production or marketing, call Dr. English at 870-575-7246.

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