Diversifying your farm is an essential aspect of keeping your land (and your books) healthy. Specialty farmers now have a wide range of crops that they can choose from when wanting to add something new to their overall crops.
Peas have seen a significant boost of growth in recent years, with 900,000 acres planted within the United States in 2018. Dry peas have continued to grow as more consumers want a plant-based protein. While peas do require more management and a careful hand at harvest, they offer many positive attributes to help boost your soil composition as well as your bottom line. Learn more about how to diversify your farm with dry peas this next year.
Dry Peas Plant History
Dry peas, or field peas, are those peas grown on fields that are meant to be added to food for either human or animal consumption. Dry peas are edible and are primarily used as an ingredient to products sold on store shelves. Fresh peas are those that are
sold either fresh or frozen for direct human consumption.
Peas are just one of the twelve pulse crops that feature seeds within a pod. Other pulse crops include pinto, black, and kidney beans, as well as faba beans. Both peas and faba beans are unique as a pulse crop and a legume, which is a plant that captures nitrogen. This helps those farmers who want to plant something other than soybeans to add nitrogen to the soil.
Plenty of Pros for Dry Peas
There are many reasons to plant dry peas in the field. These positive attributes have attracted plenty of specialty farmers to consider dry peas for their farm.
Nitrogen Rich Plant
Planting dry peas in the field is another option for those farmers looking for a legume to add nitrogen back into the ground for future corn crops. Growing dry peas reduces the amount of nitrogen needed to add to corn, which can lower the cost of overall farm expenses.
Some farmers use a combination of soybeans and dry peas to help add nitrogen back into the soil. While ditching soybeans for dry peas entirely may not be the best idea, farmers are supplementing their overall crop health by adding in dry peas into the mix to assist soybeans.
Reduced Problems in the Field
Using dry peas as a cover crop can also reduce the number of weeds and diseases in the field For many specialty farmers who grow organics, planting a field or two of dry peas can help alleviate weed growth in the area. Keeping weeds guessing and using crop rotation has many benefits when growing multiple types of crops each year.
As a cool weather plant, it is safe to plant dry peas relatively early in the season. Some specialty farmers plant dry pea seeds as early as mid-March when much of the corn and soybean fields are waiting to thaw out. The plant will mature quicker than other crops, spreading the work involved in the planting and harvesting.
Another reason farmers choose to grow dry peas is the amount of weather risk involved over a growing season. Dry peas require rain at the beginning of the summer while soybeans need rain in August. This difference in weather needs can help spread out the overall risk of a nitrogen-heavy crop no matter what Mother Nature has in store.
Growing Dry Peas
While all reports look positive for the dry pea market, there are some things to consider when wanting to add this crop to your farm profile.
Certain Climate Conditions
Dry peas require a particular climate and do best on farms that have semi-arid or dry conditions. For years, dry peas were primarily grown in the unique Palouse region of Eastern Washington and Western Idaho. Montana and North Dakota farmers started growing dry peas back in the 1990s. Now, many farmers in Montana or North Dakota have moved to dry peas thanks to their climate that is best suited for this crop. In fact, of the 900,000 acres planted in 2018, only 150,000 acres weren’t located in Montana or North Dakota.
Growing Under Contract
Many farmers new to the dry peas market enter into it through a contract with a pulse producer.
As a highly specialized crop, dry peas go through some strict standards for the consumer market. There are quality provisions and some extra requirements for farmers looking to turn a big profit with dry peas.
Those crops that run into quality problems, like earth-tagged or split seed, have end products that usually go to the livestock industry at a lower price. Processors also have different requirements for different farmers, so it is vital to make sure that you work with a processor that you trust, and that will be honest in what is expected.
Harvesting Dry Peas
The pea plant matures from the bottom up, resulting in a plant in different stages of maturity. This means that some dry pea fields are harvested when the top part of the plant is still green with leaves. Many farmers harvest dry peas when wheat fields are harvested in July.
Plant Moisture Is Key
Moisture is always a factor when it comes to harvesting crops, but it is even more critical for farmers to grow dry peas. The plants should be harvested as soon as the seed is hard to keep the seed from shattering. Moisture levels between 8%-18% are vital to the quality of the end product. However, moisture content of less than 15% is best for storage. Most farmers use the morning or late night dew to help them when harvesting to fight against the possibility of shattered peas.
Experience in the Field
Those new to farming may have a harder time harvesting dry peas for premium profit. Experienced farmers will do better when it comes to handling this delicate crop in the field. Sending out a young helper to harvest can damage the dry peas in the field and greatly reduce the crop value. Dry peas are a better fit for those farmers with years of experience under their belts.
Careful Storage Needed
Dry peas need a light hand when it comes to handling after harvesting. Split or cracked seed coats can be the difference between your crop sold at a premium for human consumption or livestock. Using the IGSE VeyWay Grain PowerSweep helps ensure that every last pea is carefully swept from the storage bin. The gentle movement and unique features allow the VeyWay to clear peas from storage with little to no damage.
Dry Peas Market
Specialty farmers choose to select dry peas for many reasons. Adding dry peas helps the overall farm profile, but it also acts as a substitute for nitrogen-rich crops.
Growing World Population
Another reason farmers are choosing dry peas is due to the rapid growth of the overall world population. In 2010, there were 6.9 billion hungry mouths to feed, and estimates sit at an astounding 9.3 billion by 2050. With so many people, the ability to grow plant-based proteins should continue to rise.
More and more consumers want to add plant-based proteins to their diet instead of animal proteins. This meat-free protein trend continues to grow as consumers become savvier with their nutrition. There is a shortage of plant-based protein, which creates a high demand for any farmer looking to sell crops.
Pets & Livestock
Dry peas are also grown to help with animal growth for both livestock and pets at home. Damaged or low-quality dry peas are used for livestock feed and can be grown as a forage crop for silage or hay. Pet food companies are also on the lookout for dry peas as more owners want pet food with high-quality protein for grain-free diets. Peas are often the choice of protein pet companies use to boost protein levels in pet food.
Grocery Store Shelves
Dry peas are often added to cereal grains that are low in protein content. As the importance of protein-packed snacks and drinks increases, dry peas are often added to these items to increase protein levels. Sports drinks and energy bars often include dried peas to boost overall protein nutrition.
Snack food is a huge market within the United States and the world. In 2018, the North American snack food market was $13.8 Billion, and experts see a continuing increase trend for the future. The combination of convenience and consumption makes snack foods a natural market for dry peas. Manufacturers know the importance of protein and use dry peas and other high protein crops to give consumers what they want in snack food.
Adding dry peas to your crop profile is a great way to diversify the farm. When done correctly, dry peas can fetch a high price with a market expected to only grow in the future. Overall, the advantages of growing a plant-based protein that doubles as a nitrogen-rich crop can greatly help overall yields. Choosing to grow dry peas on the farm is a great way to give your farm an advantage in the years to come.
Are you considering growing dry peas next year? Talk with our farming professionals at Illinois Grain and Seed Equipment about how the VeyWay system can help clear your storage bins with little to no damage to crops. Call us today!