Field peas, pulse crops work their way east

Down in the Weeds: After replacing fallow on farms in western Nebraska, field peas are finding a home in south-central and southeast Nebraska.

Note: You can listen to my conversation with Strahinja Stepanovic by clicking on the Soundcloud link above.

Pulse crops, particularly yellow field peas have enjoyed an increase in popularity in Nebraska in the last few years. What spurred this initial interest in western Nebraska was replacing fallow acres with field peas. Field peas use more water than fallow, but they use less than other crops, being an earlier-season crop. Plus, they bring more monetary value to the rotation compared to fallow.

However, that interest has rapidly spread eastward, to south-central and even to southeast Nebraska. In the latest Down in the Weeds podcast, we visit with Strahinja Stepanovic, Nebraska Extension educator, on recent research on field peas and other pulse crops in eastern and western Nebraska.

For example, at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead, Stepanovic and other researchers planted 25 varieties of yellow field peas, six varieties of green peas, as well as several lentil and chickpea varieties.

“Our objective in Mead was specifically targeted to double cropping,” Stepanovic says. “What we are trying to do there is plant field peas in mid-March, harvest them in early July, and behind field peas we want to plant different crops — either short-season grain crops, forage crops or cover crops.”

“Field peas are probably the most suitable crop for double cropping,” he adds. “We’re finding out that [field pea] yields range from 20 to 45 bushels this year in Mead.”

Behind peas, they’re planting short-season corn, sunflowers, soybean, grain sorghum, forage sorghum and proso millet, as well as single-species cover crops, or mixes of either winter-hardy, winter-sensitive cover crops, or both.

Learn more about this research, and how some growers in Nebraska are working field peas into their rotations by clicking on the link.

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