The field pea, classified as Pisum sativum, is a winter crop. It is profitable in its own right but also makes an excellent alternate crop in a cereal-based farming system. Being a legume, field peas add nitrogen to the soil and provide a disease break between cereal crops.
Field peas are grown in most cropping regions of Southern Australia, with production averaging 300,000 tonnes annually. Most field peas are grown for the grain, to be eaten by humans or stock. However, some types are used for green manure, forage or hay. Over 95 per cent of Australian production is for human consumption, with the majority exported.
There are many varieties of field pea grown in Australia. The most common are the ‘dun types’ which represent over 95 per cent of Australian production. These are grown for human consumption and stock feed. The ‘white types’ are also grown in Australia. They have white flowers, yellow cotyledons and a white-creamy seed coat, and are grown for human consumption. Other types include blue peas, marrowfat and maple peas, although these are not commonly grown in Australia.
Field peas grow in different ways, from trailing types to those which are erect at maturity. The way they are grown impacts on how easily they can be harvested.
The peak body for the pulse industry of Australia, including field pea growers, is Pulse Australia.
Facts and figures
- Canada is the world’s largest exporter of field peas
- Around 50% of Australian field pea production is exported, with India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Malaysia as the main markets
- Export demand for Australian field pea increases when prices for chickpea are high in the Indian market
- The price of soybean meal in Australia affects the domestic feed price of field pea
Production in Australia has averaged around 300,000 tonnes per year over the past five years. The five year average for export, according to Pulse Australia is 198,000 tonnes. Production is across the cropping regions of southern Australia.