2013 UK vining pea crop gets underway

by Tim Mudge

Great British Peas – Back on the Menu

The vining pea campaign gets underway this week, as Britain’s growers bring home freshly-harvested peas ready for freezing within 150 minutes of leaving the field.

After last year’s washout summer hit UK pea production by 45%, this season’s campaign is forecast to mark a return to more ‘normal’ yields for this great British staple.

Growing conditions have certainly been different this year. Although the late spring has delayed crop development, the cooler, windier weather has reduced disease incidence, and growers are looking forward to a more straightforward harvest than last year when harvesting machines struggled to cope with swamp-like conditions.

The UK is the largest producer of peas for freezing in Europe, growing around 35,000 hectares of vining peas each year – the equivalent of 70,000 football pitches.

Indeed the UK is 90% self-sufficient in peas thanks to a unique East-facing seaboard which is ideally suited to pea production.

As the giant pea viners start rolling, growers up and down the east coast of England and Scotland are working hard to gather the crop during the short 10-week harvest season. With each harvester weighing in at over 26 tonnes, these gigantic machines are often mounted on tracks to reduce soil compaction.

Every year British consumers enjoy 150 million kgs of frozen peas, providing year-round health benefits as an important source of vitamins, protein, fibre and essential nutrients.

Pea production also offers significant environmental benefits. As a key part of the farming rotation, the pea break crop helps return Nitrogen to the soil and allows growers to reduce their fertiliser use for future cropping patterns. Planting peas as a break crop also enables growers to cut back on weed control chemicals in following crops.

“Over the next couple of months, Britain’s vining pea growers will harvest the equivalent of 2 billion individual portions of peas,” explains James Hallett, chief executive of the British Growers Association. “Home-grown peas remain the gold standard for quality, taste and flavour, a key source of healthy nutrients and a ‘green’ option for Britain’s growers.

“After last year’s devastating harvest, it is great to see the 2013 vining pea campaign get under way with a return to more normal conditions.”