Heavy rain during harvest has discolored about half of the Pacific Northwest pea crop, according to the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council.
“Color is very important,” said Todd Scholz, council director of information and research. “If there’s a lot of moisture or rainfall specifically as harvest progresses, the color of the pea changes.”
Rain causes some of the peas to become lighter-colored or white. This is known as bleaching and is a factor in grading the peas, where visual impressions are important.
The peas can be sorted out, but expenses are higher for processors.
This year, many peas have been poorer quality, graded No. 3 or lower primarily due to bleaching, Scholz said. No. 1-grade peas are the highest quality. Prices can range from 6 to 7 cents per pound for the lowest sample grade to 17 to 20 cents per pound for No. 1 peas.
More than 50 percent of the Pacific Northwest crop representing one-third of U.S. green pea production was affected, Scholz said. In the Northern Plains the crop rated an average quality of No. 2.
Pea acreage this year increased. Roughly 49,700 acres of green peas were planted in Idaho in 2013, up from 17,000 in 2012. In Washington 90,000 acres were planted in 2013, up from 60,000 in 2012. Oregon acreage decreased to 1,000 acres from 1,665 acres in 2012. California remained at zero acres.
“The yields were really good, but the quality was not,” Scholz said.
The peas being raised in the region are selected for resistance to bleach, but this year was a tough year, he said.
“This year, it seems like week to week there was a rain event,” he said. “The varieties are better now, so the bleach events aren’t as bad, but this year was pretty tough.”
Canada had a good quality crop this year, Scholz said.
Early harvest and variety selection are the best steps to avoid bleaching, Scholz said.
The problem seems to arise every 10 years, depending on variety, he said.
The industry continues to work on bleaching-resistant varieties, Scholz said.