Viability of integrating field peas into organic cereal grain rotations in Maine

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2015: $11,365.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Jake Dyer
Benedicta Grain Co.

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: peas (field, cowpeas)


  • Crop Production: crop rotation

    Proposal summary:

    It is an exciting time to be a Maine organic grain producer. Demand for local and organically produced cereal grains has been very strong for the past few years. Common crop rotations used in organic grain systems rely on legume cover crops such as clover to provide fertility, break pest cycles, and reduce soil erosion. Clover has many benefits, but it also requires a full growing season to capitalize on them.

    Dry field peas have the potential to reap many of same benefits that clover offers, plus they could reduce input costs and generate revenue. Are field peas able to be grown successfully in the Northeast? There is limited information available to growers to answer this question. Research efforts by the University of Maine have shown yield potential in small plot trials, but have also raised concerns over disease, weed pressure and difficulty in harvesting. Growers need field scale evidence to determine if field peas will work on their farms. They also need access to this information and an opportunity to hear and see it firsthand.

    Our project will utilize on farm research managed by experienced growers to trial 4 promising varieties over 20 acres, evaluating yield, disease and weed pressure, and harvesting challenges.  This could give Northeast growers the information they need and as soon as 2015.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    I propose to trial 4 varieties of yellow cotyledon, determinate pea varieties over 20 acres. The objective of this proposal is to monitor yield, disease susceptibility, weed pressure, and ease of harvest to attempt to determine if any one variety or varieties are better suited than others for successful production of field peas in Maine.

    Pea varieties will be sourced from 2 North Dakota seed companies, Pulse USA Inc. and Meridian Seeds, LLC. All varieties have similar disease resistance characteristics and all exhibit resistance to powdery mildew, susceptibility to mycosphaerella, and moderate susceptibility to fusarium wilt. The selected varieties; SW Midas, Nette 2010, AC Thunderbird, and Jetset are the shortest varieties noted in the 2014 Field Pea Variety Trial planted at the University of Maine’s Rogers Farm. Short varieties should theoretically be less susceptible to lodging therefore making harvesting easier. Direct combining is the preferred harvest method however a windrower will be used in the event of severe lodging to reduce risk of stone damage to the combine.

    This project will be configured as a strip trial using a complete randomized block design with 3 replications of each of the 4 varieties. The history of the field being used for this experiment has been the following: 2012/2013 – winter rye, 2013 – late planted/frost killed buckwheat, 2014 – spring barley/winter killed tillage radish. The current pH level of the field is 6.2.

    As the pea varieties being used vary in seeds per pound and germination, a target planting rate of 9 plants per square foot will be used. Peas will be planted at 6 inch row spacing with a 15 foot wide Great Plains grain drill. Peas will be planted in 75 foot wide strips (5 passes) that will travel the length of the field in each block. Pre-plant tillage will consist of multiple passes using a disk harrow to mix residue and to destroy white thread and emerged weeds. A rotary hoe will be used pre-emergence and again when peas are approximately 4 inches tall.
    Harvesting operations will utilize a John Deere 9600 combine with 20 foot wide flex head. In the event that the peas are severely lodged and cannot be direct combined, a Case IH windrower with 20 foot head will be used to windrow the peas prior to harvest. A pick-up head will be used on the combine to harvest the peas. Yields will be measured by weighing the combine using portable truck scales. The combine will be weighed empty and again at the end of each strip in each block for each variety. Harvested peas will be measured for moisture and test weight using a handheld Dickey-John Mini Gac moisture meter. One sample from each variety will be sent to Dairy One Cooperative and tested using wet chemistry methods for crude protein.

    Dr. Jay Hao, University of Maine Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology, concluded that white mold, Sclerotinia, will be a disease of major concern. In an effort to minimize the risk of white mold, Dr. Hao recommended a pre-emergence/early post emergence application of the OMRI approved fungicide Contans (Coniothyrium minitans) at a rate of 2 pounds per acre to attack sclerotia in the soil. To determine if an application of Contans would be beneficial, baseline populations of sclerotia will be measured. If it is recommended that Contans be applied, slerotia populations will be measured again post application to measure efficacy. Dr. Hao has graciously agreed to assist with measuring sclerotia populations, disease identification, and ranking of disease severity.

    Measurements of plant heights will be taken at random from each strip of the experiment in June and again in July prior to risk of lodging. This information will be used to determine whether shorter plants are less likely to lodge versus taller plants. All plots will be observed and visually ranked for disease incidence and severity, weed pressure, and lodging at or near harvest. Photographs will be taken throughout the growing season and incorporated into slide presentations.
    Andrew Plant, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Associate Professor and Technical Advisor, will assist with flagging out and mapping plots as well as with statistical analysis of yield data.

    A proposed schedule for the project is as follows:
    May 05 – disk harrow to incorporate residue
    May 11 – baseline populations for sclerotia
    May 12 – disk harrow to destroy white thread and weed seedlings/seedbed preparation
    May 13 – calibrate grain drill to varieties
    May 15 – flag and map plots and field layout
    May 16 – plant variety trial
    May 18 – apply 2#/A Contans
    May 19-23 – scout field for white thread weed seedlings and rotary hoe
    June 01 – rotary hoe
    June 10 – observe and document disease and weed symptoms/pressure
    June 25-30 – measure plant heights and observe if plants are flowering
    June 25-30 – scout field and measure population of visible sclerotia
    July 1 – speak at University of Maine Rogers Farm Field Day
    July 25 – measure and document plant heights prior to lodging
    July 28 – prepare for farm tour and discussion
    August 01 – host farm tour and discussion
    August 10 – observe and document disease and weed symptoms/pressures/make lodging observations
    August 15 – rank plots for disease incidence/severity, weed pressure, and lodging
    August 18 – take moisture readings of peas across all plots
    August 19 – windrow peas
    August 21 - harvest peas and measure yields
    August 22 – send pea samples to Dairy One Cooperative
    August 28 – compile yield, disease, weed pressure, and lodging data
    September 15 – complete report
    September 30 – prepare slide presentation for Maine Grain Conference
    March 15, 2015 – speak/slide presentation at Maine Grain Conference

    The University of Maine Rogers Farm hosts an annual mid-summer field day to highlight current research. As more research on field peas is slated for the upcoming 2015 season, this will be a great opportunity to give an overview of the field pea project. I will be able to give attendees information and brief them on observations I have made up to this point. The Rogers Farm field day usually hosts between 60 and 75 attendees.
    In addition to an invitation extended to attendees at the Rogers Farm field day, individual invitations will be used to contact local grain producers, University of Maine personnel, and other interested members of the public to attend a discussion and project viewing at the farm in Benedicta. This will be a good opportunity for other growers to view the peas and ask questions.

    The annual Maine Grain Conference is usually held in Bangor, Maine during March of the calendar year following the growing season. Attendance at this conference usually numbers 125-150 and is a mix of conventional and organic growers, processors, University of Maine faculty and extension personnel, members of local organic certification service providers, and interested members of the public. I will request to give a presentation during the conference. By this time, all data will be compiled and results will be available. In conjunction with a written description of the project I will use photographs and field notes taken throughout the season and integrate them into a slide presentation.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.