Replacing Summer Fallow with Grain-type Field Peas in Semiarid Cropping Systems: Sustainability and Agronomic Evaluation

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2016: $29,999.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Strahinja Stepanovic
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: wheat


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, fallow, no-till, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health


    Grain-type field pea is short season legume crop that may be grown as a fallow alternative in wheat-fallow or wheat-corn-fallow rotations throughout the semiarid Great Plains. This project was designed to evaluate rotational costs and benefits of field pea and provide farmers with the ability and tools to make profitable decisions on whether to fallow or grow field peas.

    At Field Pea Production Workshop at Culbertson (11/04/2016), 85% of surveyed participants (92 attended) from NE, KS, WY, and CO reported likely to adopt field peas in their crop rotations and 92% reported to be likely to adopt field peas management strategies. These survey results largely correlate to the increase in total NE field pea planted acres from 34,000 ac to 55,000 ac over the past 3 years (2015-2017), especially in southwest and central NE where field pea research and extension programing was conducted. According to our research results, such changes in cropping systems of simiarid western NE (replacing fallow with field peas) will result in the enhanced cropping system water use efficiency, biodiversity, soil health and profitability.

    This project facilitated the expansion of federal crop insurance for field peas in five southwest NE counties and provided opportunities for new businesses, jobs and the overall improvement of NE state economy. Since 2014, number of certified seed dealers increased from two to seven and NE become home for three field pea processing facilities including New Alliance (Bridgeport, NE), Gavilon (Hastings, NE), and Redwood Group (Venango, NE). In addition, Farmer Business Network (FBN), Puris brand (Oskaloosa, IA), and Grain Place Foods (Marquette, NE) also provided direct field pea marketing opportunities for NE farmers.

    As a result of this project, field peas became an established crop in southwest NE and we built a foundation for successful and long-term field peas (and pulse) industry development across the state.


    Project objectives:

    Objective 1: To compare impact of field peas vs summer fallow on water use, soil infiltration rates, soil fertility, biodiversity, yield of succeeding wheat crop and profitability.

    Objective 2: To determine optimal seeding placement, inoculant types, seeding rates and herbicide programs to grow field peas

    Objective 3: To select highest yielding (grain and protein) grain-type field pea varieties across the semiarid environments of NC region

    Objective 4: To develop comprehensive simulation model with detailed economic analysis to help farmers make profitable decision on whether to summer fallow or grow field peas

    Objective 5: To disseminate research results through field days, extension and peer-reviewed publications.

    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.