BASF Agricultural Solutions UK

April Pulse Check

Back in April 2021 we caught up with Norfolk pea grower, Chris Eglington. He’d brought peas back into his rotation in order to spread the rotation of his other break crop, OSR.

Chris gave us a thorough overview of why and how he grows peas. This year, he delves a little deeper into the detail, as he starts his second year of growing the variety Mankato.

How are you getting on with drilling your pea crop, this year?

“We use quite a lot technology on the farm so my tractor is full of iPads, which in theory are supposed to talk with each other. On Thursday last week – the day I went to drill - that wasn’t the case so I spent five hours trying to get the variable rate application working, only to find that the drill wouldn’t go down because a cable had been damaged!

“We got going in the end, and drilled into very good conditions. Despite the dust on top, there was plenty of moisture below. I’m hoping that the crop is getting off to a good start.”

Can you tell us more about your approach to establishing your peas?

“Our peas follow winter barley followed by stubble turnips which are grazed by sheep over the winter.

“Last year we’d two passes with the Vaderstad Carrier to break the surface and help dry the land, this year we’ve only needed one. That’s followed with a Vaderstad Top-Down. This alleviates compaction caused by the sheep in that upper 6” of soil.

“We drill 4” deep and use variable seed rates. We’re aiming to average 250kg/ha and rates range from 208kg/ha on the kinder land, to 267kg/ha on what we call in Norfolk, ‘snotty’ land.

“Knowing how much peas dislike compacted soils, our controlled traffic farming system comes into its own here, as do the variable tyre pressures. We were drilled yesterday at 9psi.

“Soon after drilling we get our herbicide, Nirvana, on. This year that was four or five days after the crop went in the ground. While it was sunny, it was a still day so I know I’ve hit the target before the weather closes in next week.”

How about meeting your crop’s nutrient requirements?

“Although the fattening pigs, sheep and cattle on the farm aren’t mine, the muck is incredibly useful. Shortly after harvesting the barley, we apply biosolids which is effectively the start of the nutrient programme.

“Once in the ground, the peas get polysulphate – that delivers most of the nutrition without supplying any nitrogen. Potash is applied at a variable rate. We don’t apply phosphate as that is delivered through the biosolids.

“Through the Pulse YEN we’ve been doing tissue tests. As a result, we applied a fair amount of trace elements last year.

“The crop will also get two fungicide treatments. Signum has done a good job in the past. Essentially, we’re looking for an effective product that controls a broad spectrum of weeds.”

Have you found the pulse YEN useful?

“Yes! I’ve always kept detailed crop records. I take dated photos in order to have comparisons year-on-year. I’ve yield maps and do plant counts with a quadrant.

“YEN do plant counts slightly differently. They ask you to submit pictures containing an A4 piece of paper. The advantage of YEN is that you get comparisons with the other entrants on everything including those plant counts and tissue tests.

“Perhaps one of the most useful aspects of the Pulse YEN is having access to Keith Costello. If I’ve ever got a problem, he’s the man to call. He also keeps an eye on what’s going on.”

What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to growing peas?

“Harvesting them! We certainly grow more than we harvest – it’s picking them up which is tricky. Over the last six years, we’ve had two harvests where we’ve sailed through the crop and barely lost a pea. Four have proven difficult, taking up to five days to bring in just a couple of acres.

“Even though we use a Claas Convio Flex header with knives and fingers designed for the crop, harvesting peas puts a lot of pressure on the combine. We’re able to change the angle of the header and get right in amongst the crop. The whole bed is flexible and follows the contours of the ground. It all helps and it does do a reasonable job, but you can still feel that the combine working hard.”