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By Mark Watson
Panhandle No till Educator 

No Till Notes: 'Potential, Part 2'


Last week, I took a look at the amount of precipitation we have received to produce a winter wheat crop this year and a projected yield for this year’s crop assuming normal precipitation between now and winter wheat maturation. This week, I’d like to take a look at field peas and the potential yield for this year’s crop of field peas.

Each time I have written an article looking at the moisture and potential yield for these spring crops, it has rained. This past week another storm system moved through our region. On our farm we received .25 of an inch out of this last system. Local weather reports showed Sidney, in the southern Panhandle received 1.44 inches of rain from this system. I have heard reports of as much as 3 inches in the Southern Panhandle. Needless to say these have been very beneficial rains in our area the past few weeks.

Yellow field peas are a newer crop for this region. They have similar moisture requirements as winter wheat as far as the timing of the rain. Field peas require moisture in the April, May, and June months for their yield potential. Any moisture stored in the soil over the winter is also very beneficial to yield.

Yellow field peas are an excellent crop for efficient water utilization. Whereas winter wheat requires 6 inches of precipitation for vegetative growth, field peas require only .8 of an inch of precipitation for vegetative growth. I use the time frame of October through June to determine the amount of total precipitation available for a field pea crop. I figure my dry land corn crop which precedes the field pea crop is done using moisture by October. The yellow field pea crop is done using moisture by the end of June or early July as the crop begins to dry down for harvest.

So far we have received 5.5 inches of precipitation on our farm since last October. We may have additional moisture stored in the soil profile from the 4.1 inches of precipitation we had last September. I doubt my dry land corn crop used up all the September rainfall.

If we have normal precipitation between now and the end of June that would give us an additional 5.75 inches to add to the 5.5 inches we have received since October. This would give the yellow field pea crop a total of 11.25 inches of precipitation for potential yield.

Field peas add 3 bushels of yield for each additional inch of precipitation above the .8 of an inch required for vegetative growth. If we take our 11.25 inches of total precipitation and subtract the .8 of an inch required for vegetative growth that leaves us with 10.45 inches of precipitation for field pea yield. Multiplying the 10.45 times the 3 bushels per inch of precipitation would give us a potential yield of 31.35 bushels of field peas per acre.

Obviously there are other factors besides moisture that will determine final yield. Yield will also depend on stand establishment, temperature, disease, weed pressure, soil type, and possibly insect infestation. A yield of 30 bushels per acre is what I would consider an average field pea crop for our farm.

Over the last eight years our farm has averaged about 36 bushels per acre of yellow field peas. We have had some very high yields during that time and some dry years where the field peas averaged as low as 22 bushels per acre. We’ve also had some fields that were severely damaged by hail during this time.

Yellow field peas have proven to be a good alternative crop for this region. Yellow field peas are the best transitional crop to go back to winter wheat in a continuous no till crop production system that I have found. I’ve been very satisfied with our winter wheat yields following the yellow field pea crop. If you haven’t tried yellow field peas on your farm I would encourage you to take a look at them and see how they may fit into you operation and continuous no till crop production system.


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