Forage peas offer feed quality and versatility as forage crops

John McCaw ( six foot in his slippers) stands in a paddock of Provider Peas. Only his head is visible.

John McCaw ( six foot in his slippers) stands in a paddock of Provider Peas at Sheffield.

Forage peas are versatile crops which can be grown on their own or partnered with a forage cereal to produce high yielding and high feed-quality cereal silage.

Sown on their own, forage peas can yield up to 18 tonnes of dry matter per hectare and when sown in a cereal combination, forage peas have the ability to enhance the protein content of the cereal silage by up to 33%. Peas will also enhance the soluble sugar and starch components of the cereal silage, which increases palatability by up to 10%. The nitrogen (N) fixed by peas enhances growth in the accompanying cereal and any soil N residues can be used by the subsequent crop.

Luisetti Seeds sell two varieties of forage peas; Provider and a new coded variety H3/2.

Provider peas are an earlier maturing forage pea variety that complement forage cereals by boosting the protein and energy components of the feed. High-yielding and taller growing Intimidator Oats are an ideal partner for Provider peas and in combination, they produce a highly palatable forage for silage or baleage.

H3/2 is a later-maturing fully-leafed pea variety. Slower to get started, it allows the cereal to get established before seasonal temperature increases drive growth rates in the peas.

Bolt triticale is a great companion crop to H3/2 and the combination generates a particularly high yielding cereal silage with high grain energy.

Vincent Luisetti says the key to growing cereal silage is planting a pea and cereal with syncronised maturity. Forage quality is maximised by not having one species harvested too early at the expense of the other.

When peas are at the flat pod stage and the cereal is at the ‘milky dough’ stage the crop may be cut for ‘green chop silage’.

Left for longer, when the peas reach full pod and the cereal grain is at the ‘cheesy-dough’ stage, the combination can be cut for a high-yielding whole crop cereal silage.

Sowing date will determine the extent to which peas contribute to the cereal mix. August sowing in cooler conditions will favour cereal growth, while September sowings allow the peas to be more competitive.

Most soil types are suitable for forage mixes, although soils must be free-draining and soil pH should be over 5.8.

Pea nodulation is maximised at a high pH resulting in a healthier forage pea plant and greater nitrogen fixation.

Luisetti Seeds supplies pea and forage cereal mixes along with advice about how to optimise yields and feed quality of forage crops.