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What are peas?
The common cultivated field pea is botanically classified as Pisum sativum, white flowered. Another type, Austrian or maple pea (Pisum sativum spp. arvense), has purple flowers and is grown on a small acreage for special markets.
Alberta produces both long-vined indeterminate pea types (internodes 4 to 8 in. or 10 to 20 cm long) and short-vined determinate types (1 to 3 in. or 2.5 to 7.5 cm long).
- field pea is an annual herbaceous plant with slender succulent stems 1 to 6 ft. (.3 to 1.8 m) long
- the plant normally has a single stem, but has the ability to form tillers under certain stress conditions – stresses that could cause tiller growth include early-season frost, hail, cutworm damage or moist conditions following a mid-season drought (tillers that form later in the season seldom produce marketable seed)
- pea foliage colour is generally green to pale green
- two leaf structures characterize field pea leafed types produce a leaf consisting of one to three pairs of leaflets and simple branched terminal tendrils
- semi-leafless types have no leaflets on the leaf axil and compound tendrils that replace leaflets (semi-leafless types usually have large stipule leaves)
- reproductive (flower) nodes bear either one, two or multiple flowers on peduncles that originate from the stem axis – the flowers are highly self-pollinated (most varieties in Alberta produce two flowers)
- the number of reproductive nodes produced on indeterminate types corresponds with the length of the flowering period, which may be prolonged by cool, wet weather
- more determinate varieties tend to produce reproductive nodes in a shorter period, which results in earlier maturity – these types can be severely affected by drought and heat stress during the reproductive period
- pea pods are normally 2 to 3 in. (5 to 7 cm) long and contain four to nine seeds, depending on the variety and growing conditions – crop stress (such as drought, heat, disease and nutrient deficiencies) can affect pod size and seed development
- seed shape varies by cultivar from round to angular or blocky, with a smooth or dimpled seed coat (most cultivars are round or near round in shape)
- pea seed consists of the seed coat (testa), the seed leaves (cotyledons) and the embryo axis
- the seed coat encloses and protects the cotyledons and the embryo axis (the two cotyledons protect the embryo axis and provide nutrients during establishment)
- the embryo axis is comprised of a rudimentary root (radicle) and a shoot (plumule)
Where do peas grow?
The most widely grown pulse crop in Alberta, field peas are grown across the province and exported to areas like India, China, and Bangladesh. In 2011, Alberta’s pulse growers grew 764,800 metric tonnes of field peas on 724,723 acres – the second highest production of field peas in Canada. Lower input costs and steady demand for this crop makes field peas a good fit for most crop producers.
Will peas fit in my crop rotation?
Consider growing field peas if…
- You live in Southern Alberta, Central Alberta, or the Peace River Region.
- You’re looking for a hardy cool-season crop that can tolerate frost.
- You’re growing in the Black and Thin Black soil zones in Alberta (though successful production is also possible in the Dark Brown and Grey Wooded soil zones with proper management techniques).
- You want to spread out your workload with early seeding and harvest.
- You’re interested in marketing flexibility that includes markets for both human consumption and animal feed.
With several pea varieties to choose from, field peas are an important part of any sustainable crop rotation. For more information on the varieties of pulse crops in Alberta, please see Alberta Agriculture’s Varieties of Pulse Crops for Alberta.