Panhandle Perspectives - June 28, 2017

Field pea crop condition, varieties get a good look at field days

The condition of the 2017 field pea crop and ways to capture the best yields were common topics of discussion at this year’s well-attended series of field pea plot tours sponsored by Nebraska Extension local elevators and seed companies.

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Dipak Santra

Dipak Santra, alternative crops breeding specialist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, who organized the plot tours, said there is a lot of interest in peas. He estimated that close to 100,000 acres are planted to peas in 2017, and the crop’s area has expanded eastward to the Lexington-Holdrege area in south-central Nebraska.

Santra said growers at the late-June tours in Cheyenne, Box Butte and Scotts Bluff and Perkins counties were eager to talk about how to capture the best yield by capitalizing in both genetics (choice of variety) and optimizing production practices.

Production practices that can affect yield, he said, include

  • Planting date, seeding rate, and depth of planting;
  • Seed handling (avoiding mechanical damage during planting);
  • Seed inoculant (bacteria to help the plant roots fix nitrogen);
  • Treated seed (to fight root diseases), especially for early planting;
  • Field preparation (including avoiding excessive crop residue) and weed management.

The plot tours included 20 to 25 varieties at each location. Santra said the varieties could be grouped into several categories. The first is older, robust varieties that produce consistent yields, but aren’t the highest-yielding lines. Several such varieties with a diverse genetic base are planted in Nebraska including DS-Admiral, SW Midas, Jetset, and Spider.

The next group includes newer varieties with a slightly higher yield. So far these varieties look good, but it’s too early to tell whether they will be robust. It takes four to five years to see whether they will be consistent, according to Santra. These varieties include AC Earlystar, Mystique, Nette, and Bridger.

Finally, several new lines that are not yet producing certified seed in Nebraska but look promising and for which seed should be available within several years, include Durwood, CDC Saffron, and Salamanca.

One discussion topic was how many different varieties an individual grower should plant, Santra said – one, two, or three – and the criteria for making that decision.

As far as the condition of the 2017 Nebraska field pea crop, Santra said no disease or insects have been observed in Panhandle variety plots. Peas are new enough to this region that pressure from insects, disease, and weeds have not caught up yet, he said, but it usually takes several years until pests and insects show up on a significant scale. “But we want to capture it early, to get ahead of it,” Santra said.

For this reason, he said growers should keep a watch for disease-like symptoms, such as a single dying plant in the middle of a patch of healthy plants. If any are found, he urged producers to contact the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. Santra can reply to variety-related questions, Plant Pathologist Bob Harveson responds to disease question, and Dryland Cropping Systems Specialist Cody Creech handles agronomic questions.

UNL specialists are keeping an eye on three potential diseases: bacterial blight complex, root rot complex, and fusarium wilt.

In western Nebraska, with drier soil, the possibility of fusarium root rot complex is lower. Bacterial blight, which is often caused by damage from hail and strong winds, is more likely, he said.

Root rot and fusarium wilt are both soil-borne disease complexes, so once they are introduced to a region they will stay for a long time, Santra said. One way to minimize root rot is to follow a longer crop rotation sequence – keeping a minimum interval of four years between pea crops in the same field.

Like disease, weeds are not yet causing problems in western Nebraska pea fields, but weed pressure is expected to increase as the crop gets older. Creech is conducting herbicide trials at the UNL High Plains Ag Lab near Sidney.

Results of the field pea variety trials will be available in fall. They will be posted at Nebraska Extension’s CropWatch website, at cropwatch.unl.edu/varietytest. Click on the “other crops” link for field peas. Anybody with questions about specific variety results can contact Santra.

Growers should also watch for winter production meetings, Santra said. He said UNL and local industry representatives from New Alliance are discussing jointly sponsoring meetings in early 2018.