Precision peas yield results

Researchers at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) have found a way to significantly increase the yield of green pea crops through precision planting techniques, with the potential for tangible benefits for growers and long-term sustainability for the Australian vegetable processing industry.

In 2016, TIA embarked on a three-year $300,000 research project commonly known as ‘Precision Peas’. The project is a collaboration with Simplot Australia and received funding from Hort Innovation using vegetable industry levies and funds from the Australian Government.

The research team has been working closely with growers and key industry stakeholders with the goal of increasing the yield of green peas from 6 tonnes per hectare to 8 tonnes per hectare by 2020 – and they have made some promising progress.

TIA Senior Lecturer in Horticultural Science and project lead, Dr Alistair Gracie, said initial on-farm experiments had identified a way to boost yield by up to 15 per cent.

“What we have found is that green pea crops planted exactly 10 centimetres apart have a much greater yield than those with different spatial arrangements,” Dr Gracie said.

“The optimal spacing of 10 centimetres allows each plant to equally access light, water and nutrients. Green pea crops planted in this precision arrangement can result in yields of up to 15 per cent more and an increase in margins by up to $750 per hectare.”

On-farm experiments were conducted at several Tasmanian locations including TIA’s Vegetable Research Facility at Forthside in the State’s North-West. The experiments compared the impact of density and spatial arrangements on yield and included plants spaced in a square arrangement at exactly 10 centimetres part, plants with a 13 centimetre row spacing and a 20 centimetre row spacing.

Dr Gracie said field trials would continue this year and then the next step would be determining how growers could effectively implement this knowledge into practice.

“At the end of the project, we will use the research results to inform the development of best practice guidelines for precision planting of peas. These guidelines will be distributed through Simplot to its pea grower base and made available online,” Dr Gracie said.

Each year Tasmanian vegetable growers produce approximately 24,000 tonnes of green peas from about 4,000 hectares for processing, with a farm gate value of $10 million. The volume of green peas produced in Tasmania accounts for around 95 per cent of the total production of green peas for processing in Australia.

TIA is a joint venture between the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania. Its mission is to support productive, profitable and sustainable agriculture and food industries with direct benefit for Tasmania.

This article appeared in Tasmanian Country on 4 August, 2017.

Published on: 04 Aug 2017 1:11pm