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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Published: 17 Aug 2018

Precision Peas

There is a hint of spring in the air, which means pea sowing is not too far away.  Research led by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) has shown just how important crop establishment is to a bumper pea crop.

TIA Associate Professor Alistair Gracie said the ‘precision peas’ research trial found the establishment phase was important for successful yields, with some key elements that can really make a difference.  

“Getting soil preparation, drilling machinery calibration and ground speed spot-on gives peas the best chance of emerging evenly at the target density for high yields,” Dr Gracie said.

“The earlier stage of our research showed that more than 90 per cent of pea yield comes from the first two plant nodes that flower. If plants emerge uniformly at an optimal spacing, this maximises the number that flower and pods that set on these first two nodes.  It also reduces unnecessary competition among the plants.”

Last season, TIA’s research team established pea trials on Tasmanian farms with different plant spacings and densities.  Dr Gracie said the results showed a staggering difference in the potential financial returns that are possible with ideal plant density and spacing.

“We found that the financial return from peas planted as close to a square arrangement as machinery permitted out-performed peas planted at the more conventional 20cm row spacing by an astonishing 23 per cent. This was at a target density of 110 plants per square metre,” Dr Gracie said.

The team looked at how to practically apply this method using common commercial drill settings.  

“By simply bringing in the row spacing from 20cm to 13cm, we achieved a 7 per cent increase in financial return, which is very encouraging,” Dr Gracie said.  

“This confirms the switch by industry to narrower row spacing is well founded.  In the future, we may see drilling equipment developed that delivers plant arrangement closer to the ideal”.  

The research also looked at what happens between plant emergence and flowering and how early plant health and vigour is a key factor to achieving high yields.  Peas are in the ground a relatively short time so it is logical that maximising plant growth during the establishment phase will follow through to harvest.  

“The establishment phase is the engine room of pea productivity which the plant then draws on during flowering and pod set.  Our results show that crops with the biggest, healthiest plants at flowering produce the highest yields.  This really confirms our concept that pea potential yields are set in this establishment phase and underpin productivity,” Dr Gracie said.

Research in the coming season will investigate the links between the crop establishment phase and the flowering-pod fill phase, with a focus on resource use and irrigation.  

Strategic use of irrigation has been highlighted by the Tasmanian Pea and Bean Productivity Group as a key focus for 2018.  The group is an alliance of growers and major processor Simplot with a shared vision to drive efficiency and productivity in the industry.  

The pea industry alone accounts for over 30 per cent of Simplot’s factory throughput in Tasmania and is strategic to its long term viability.  The group has set a target industry yield of 8 tonnes per hectare by 2020.

TIA is proud to be supporting the processing pea industry with this transformation. Further information on this project can be found in the resources section of the TIA webpage

The project, Precision Seeding Benefits for Processing Pea Production, is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable R&D Fund with in-kind support from Simplot Australia and TIA.

This article was published in Tasmanian Country on 17 August 2018.