Peas are one of the most strategic vegetables Zimbabweans can grow for export. Peas are a good pick if you want to grow crops that are not that hectic to deal with. Peas take on average at most, 5 months to mature (even a bit earlier). Varieties that mature faster can be ready for harvest at as early as 2 or 2 and a half months. Peas have two main types that you can pick from. Some varieties will require shelling when they have been harvested. Then some varieties do not require shelling – they are consumed as is. The scientific name for peas is Pisum sativum. In 2018, Zimbabwean pea exports stood at US$8 million – there is more that needs to and can be done.

Importance Of Peas

Peas have a lot of health benefits for human consumption. They can be eaten raw or added to a variety of dishes. Peas are laden with vitamins and antioxidants. They are good for overall heart performance. They are good for dealing with high blood pressure. They have a very high protein content – exceeding plenty of other crops in this regard. This makes them a hit with vegetarians as they can substitute meat. They are also good for regulating blood sugar levels. They promote good skin health; they are low in fat content and thus good for shedding weight. These are some of the health benefits of peas which augment their importance.

Production Considerations

Land Preparation

One of the issues to look at in land preparation is the site you choose. Peas are sensitive to the extent of sunlight exposure that they get. Essentially peas do well when they have complete exposure to the sun. It has been noted that their taste quality is diminished if they do not get full exposure to the sun. They can grow in partly shady areas but it is not wise. When preparing the soil there are two key operations to be done namely, ploughing and harrowing.

Favourable Climate

Peas prefer cold conditions to grow well. Temperatures of 21 degrees or below (starting at 13 degrees Celsius) are the best for peas farming. The best temperature is 22 degrees Celsius. Extremely hot temperatures will lead to lack of growth or hard pods. Thus here in Zimbabwe, it would be prudent to plant peas anytime in the first 5 months of the year.

Soil Requirements

Soil fertility is extremely important – the addition of organic material to the soil is most definitely indispensable. Roughly anything from 25 to 30 tonnes of organic material should be added to one hectare. Soil drainage is also central to good growth. If the soil does not have this attribute water logging becomes inevitable and that does not play out well for the growth of the peas. Soil pH must be in the range of 6 to 7.5. The best soil type is sandy loam – clay soils can also cut it.

Sowing And Planting

Seeds must be sown about 2 to 3 centimetres into the ground. Seed treatment (in Zimbabwe you can use Rhizobium) is highly recommended as it drives up the chances of germination. The germination process takes place within at most 1 week. When growing peas you just sow directly into the soil where they will ultimately grow. Around 70 kilograms of seed is what is needed for 1 hectare of peas.

Water Requirements

Watering is necessary but does not overdo it – water depending on the state of the pea plants. Lack of adequate moisture will show how firm or not the plants will be. Generally, peas do not require lots of water.

Pest, Disease and Weed Control

Aphids, beetles, leaf weevils, nematodes, and leaf miners are some of the common pests to look out for. Powdery and Downey mildew are some of the common diseases to look out for. As much as you can use chemical methods to deal with pests, diseases and weeds you can still do it otherwise. Most of the pests and diseases that affect peas can be dealt with by doing certain routine processes. For instance, getting rid of affected plants and plant debris can go a long way in pest and diseases control. Weeding should be done occasionally as informed by the state of the field.

Harvesting And Storage

Just like many other crops I have discussed, harvesting is best done early morning. Harvesting is typically done by hand and caution must be exercised to not harm the plant. The thing is, harvesting can be done progressively as and when pods mature. Thus, when harvesting, pull off the matured pods in such a way that does not harm the actual plant so that other pods get to mature unhindered. Storage is critically important because the freshness of peas is short-lived. After harvesting the peas must be put in plastics to preserve freshness. By refrigeration peas can stay fresh for almost a week – however, deep freezing lengthens the shelf life.

Important Factors To Consider

When sowing seeds, the in-row spacing should be 5 centimetres whereas the inter-row spacing should be 25 centimetres. One of the most important things to note in peas farming is the need for stacking. Just like tomatoes, they need to be supported given how they spread as they grow. Stacking can be done using any of the 3 approaches. One, you can stack using chicken wire mesh; two, you can use tree branches and three, you can use other crops. The third option would involve growing the peas along with other crops – a good example is maize. Stacking should be done as soon as significant growth begins to show.

Some of the common varieties to grow are Snowbird, Sabre, Serge, Alaska, and Recruit. Here in Zimbabwe, the most common variety is Sugar snap peas – this is a whole class of different varieties. Yields of anything from 3 to 4 tonnes can be realized per hectare. Some of the key export markets for peas grown in Zimbabwe are the UK, France, Netherlands, Ireland, South Africa and Canada.