Measuring intra-field variability in pea protein to understand influencing factors in Montana cropping systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2020: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/01/2022
Grant Recipient: Montana State University
Region: Western
State: Montana
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Clain Jones
Montana State University
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Perry Miller
Montana State University

On-farm sampling will be completed July-Aug. of 2021
Analysis of protein samples and statistical analysis of whole dataset will be completed throughout the 2021 Fall semester (Sept 1 - Dec 1, 2021), with overall results and recommendations completed by Dec. 31, 2021 and relevant publications such as a dissertation chapter completed by August 2022.
Note: outcomes from the on-farm protein project and other synergistic projects that address issues surrounding pea protein management will acknowledge WSARE as a supporting funding source.


  • Agronomic: peas (field, cowpeas)


  • Crop Production: application rate management, cropping systems, drought tolerance, fertilizers, food product quality/safety, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, water management, water storage

    Proposal abstract:

    As the state of Montana has grown to become the largest pulse crop producing state in the US, it is crucial to refine practices and management strategies that improve grain yield while maintaining or improving grain quality such as protein. While soil fertility and water management practices have been evaluated for field pea and other pulse crops to maximize grain yield, those practices do not always result in increasing protein content. Discovering the intra-field variables that control how and to what extent protein is formed in the grain is important to Montana pea producers as the plant-based protein market continues to grow, along with the possibility for price premiums for high protein pea. To untangle the many variables such as management, environment, and climate, producers in key pulse growing regions have been identified to establish intra-field experiments in order to determine what specific factors control both yield and protein in pea. Within a field, specific zones will be identified based on soil texture, topography, and NDVI measurements. Within each zone, spatially paired soil and whole plant sampling will be conducted to determine the relationship of different soil parameters to grain yield and protein. The outcomes and results of this study will allow producers to predict grain yield and protein based on current or expected field conditions and will give insight into the factors that determine variability and formation of protein and grain yield in pea.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Soil and Agronomic Objectives

    1. To investigate if and how much topography (slope and aspect), soil texture, and varying soil nutrient levels influence pea yield and protein variability within a field unit at the three locations in this study.


    1. To measure how varying soil fertility programs (specifically different historical N management programs), soil texture, and other environmental factors influence grain yield and protein content of pea at one location in this study.


    Educational Objectives

    1. Inform producers of the field-scale conditions and/or variables to adjust and manage to not only maximize grain yield, but also maintain or improve pea grain protein content.


    1. Provide producers and other members of the agronomic sector information on what field-scale variables influence pea grain protein through scientific publications, extension publications, social media, public presentations, and producer-friendly factsheets.


    The results of this study will assist in providing both the research community and producers a platform with which to study the intra-field factors that govern field yield variability and protein, as well as plant-scale protein formation characteristics and trends. This base knowledge will be valuable to researchers and producers by identifying specific factors that a cropping system should manage for to improve grain quality while maintaining grain yield.

    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.