Washington farmer reports record winter pea yield

Howard Nelson, manager of member and special services for HighLine Grain Growers, speaks to farmers about the potential for winter peas as a crop for their farms June 14 during a field day at Washington State University's dryland research station in Lind, Wash. A Ritzville farmer has reported a record pea yield.

When Ritzville, Wash., farmer Brad Gering planted winter peas in one of his better fields, he hoped for a yield of about 4,000 pounds per acre.

His yield ended up being 6,876 pounds per acre.

“We had very timely rains on this field, right about the end of May,” Gering recalled, estimating about 1.5 inches of rain fell. “It just yielded exceptional.”

Another field of winter peas yielded 3,400 pounds per acre.

This was Gering’s second year raising fall-planted winter peas. The first year, the yields were about 3,000 pounds per acre on some of his poorer ground.

Gering likes the crop because it helps control weeds in his wheat, breaks up disease cycles and returns nitrogen to the soil. After planting winter peas last year, he only needed to add half the normal amount of nitrogen for his wheat crop, he said.

“If I keep it in my rotation, I think that will be a benefit for me down the road,” he said.

Gering planted 200 acres of winter peas last year and 160 acres this year. He’s trying to see how the crop fares in different fields, he said.

Typical yield is roughly 3,600 pounds per acre, said Howard Nelson, manager of member and special services for HighLine Grain Growers in Reardan, Wash.

“To come in with a yield that high in a dry zone is really amazing,” Nelson said. “It just shows we have a crop that’s very adapted to the area. We can plant it deep and it yields well.”

Nelson cautions farmers new to the crop not to expect exceptionally high yields. The previous record was 4,575 pounds per acre.

“This is a yield that’s probably going to stand for quite a while,” he said.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Todd Scholz, vice president of research and member services for USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, of Gering’s yield.

Scholz said the dry pea and lentil harvest in Idaho and Washington is 90 percent complete, and chickpea harvest is about 20 percent complete. Yields and quality are up, but prices are down, with peas at 11-12 cents per pound, lentils at 19-22 cents per pound and large chickpeas at 20-25 cents per pound, Scholz said.

Tariffs in India and China — the biggest markets for U.S. pulses — have had an impact on prices, he said.

“International markets are kind of tenuous right now; that makes domestic markets more important,” Scholz said.

The industry hopes the crops will be part of the USDA’s aid package, Scholz said.

The low prices don’t take away from Gering’s enthusiasm. He believes his pea income is comparable to his regular wheat income.

Gering plans to continue raising the crop. He encourages curious farmers to try winter peas on a small scale. He plants the crop in areas where he’s having weed problems, and when he fills his split-packer drill tries to layer pea seeds and an innoculant to help nitrogen fixation.

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