Illinois, January 7, 2004 --CropChoice news-- (News-Gazette,
01/05/04): Corn and soybeans have been the customary
crops for Illinois farmers for decades, but a company
from Rochelle wants to introduce a new crop into the mix:
During January, representatives from the Risk Assurance
Programs Co. will be making the rounds throughout the
state recruiting farmers to grow green and yellow field
peas this spring.
Field peas are not like the sweet peas grown in backyard
gardens. These peas are dry, shelled legumes like those
found in split pea soup. The peas are crushed into flour
for human consumption, and the hulls are sold for cattle
In 2002, about 300,000 acres of field peas were grown
in the United States, according to a study conducted
by North Dakota State University. Most of the field
peas grown in the Unites States are found in the Upper
Plains and Upper Midwest states.
Last year, farmers affiliated with Risk Assurance Programs
Co. planted about 7,200 acres in the Midwest; about
3,000 of those were in Illinois.
Come 2004, the company hopes to have 120,000 acres
Field peas can be planted around the same time as oats
in late February or early March. The seeds germinate
when the soil temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
The plants mature in 85 to 90 days.
"We're advocating farmers to plant field peas
in addition to the common crops they are using, to add
the peas as part of a smart rotation," said the
company's president, Ron Hagemann.
Introducing peas into their rotation will benefit farmers
because "peas work well in lower yield environments,
they break up the disease cycle and they're a non-(genetically
modified) crop which, for food exporting, is a great
thing to have," Hagemann said.
After the peas are harvested in mid-June, farmers can
plant soybeans or silage corn, Hagemann said.
"You don't want to put all your soybean acres
into peas, but look at trying some this year if you
have on-farm storage of about 15,000- or 20,000-bushel
bins," said Russ Williams, an employee of the company
who farms in Ogle and Winnebago counties.
Of the 900 acres he normally plants with soybeans,
Williams planted 600 acres of field peas in spring 2003.
Because of severe weather conditions (lots of wind
and rain), he harvested the peas later than normal in
Still, his average yield was 52 bushels per acre.
After harvesting the peas, he planted 400 acres of
soybeans, which yielded a per bushel figure in the mid-30s.
"It's something producers should look at doing.
It can improve their bottom line because you're spreading
your equipment cost across more acres," Williams
As an agribusiness consultant, Hagemann said he has
spent many hours evaluating the financial situations
of Illinois farmers and found that most producers are
mired in fixed costs, such as equipment costs and land
"In order to provide profitability, we had to
cut into rising fixed costs somehow," Hagemann
said. By growing field peas followed by soybeans or
corn, farmers "are growing two crops on one property
in one growing season, but using the same equipment,"
Peas can be planted with the same drill farmers use
for soybeans, in 10-inch rows. And they can be harvested
with a conventional combine when the peas' moisture
levels reach 20 percent.
"What I like is the farmer doesn't have to change
anything," Hagemann said.
Cost for the seeds is about $16 per bag.
Each acre will need about three bags of seeds.
Peas can grow in no-till and conventional-till farming
systems and in a variety of soil types, from clay to
sandy. Based on average yields of 52.7 bushels per acre,
farmer can receive up to 60 pounds of nitrogen credit
"It's a cold-season crop. It can take cold weather
better than hot and can withstand freezing temperatures
for up to 24 hours," Williams said.
Producers apply a desiccant at harvest time to speed
up the drying process.
"A dry pea looks just like soybean at harvest
time. And you handle them just like soybeans,"
Once the peas are harvested, farmers will have to store
them on their farm or work with an elevator to store
the peas for them.
Eventually they will be loaded into rail cars and shipped
to countries like Cuba and Mexico.
More than 70 percent of the peas grown in the United
States were exported, according to the North Dakota
State University study.
Risk Assurance Programs Co. has secured a buyer for
the 2004 peas who will ship them to Mexico, said Tess
Morrison, director of the International Trade Center
at the University of Illinois, an organization that
helps Illinois companies evaluate and establish export
"They have a firm order in hand. They are not
asking farmers to grow this on speculation. The market
is there," said Morrison, who helped secure export
financing for the company.
Under the 2002 Farm Bill, field peas are classified
as a program crop, meaning farmers are eligible for
some federal crop insurance if they grow them, Williams
Informational meetings will be held at 10 a.m. Jan.
15 and 23 in Proud Mary's, 1003 E. Southline Road, Tuscola.
For more information, call (815) 751-1345.