Growing Futures

Processed peas for a growing market

Processed peas for a growing market

New cultivars contribute to increase in yield

New Zealand produces about 60,000 tonnes of peas each year, earning $50 million in domestic sales and $80 million in exports, primarily as frozen product. It is estimated that international demand for processed peas is growing at 12% every five years.

Plant & Food Research manages the only vining pea breeding programme in the southern hemisphere, and has a focus on resistance to pests and diseases not experienced in the northern hemisphere where traditional cultivars originate. Cultivars must also be high yielding and grow well in New Zealand conditions, with good colour and flavour.

Cultivars for commercial use

Ten cultivars have been commercialised in New Zealand since 2009, and seed is now exported to Australia, Europe, South Africa and Chile. It is estimated that the breeding programme has contributed to an increase in the average yield of peas grown for Heinz Wattie’s from five tonnes per hectare in the 1980s to more than 8.5 tonnes per hectare currently.

The most successful cultivar from the pea breeding programme is the high yielding, double-podded ‘Sonata’. Currently, ‘Sonata’ accounts for approximately one third of the seed supplied to growers by Heinz Wattie’s, the largest vegetable processor in New Zealand. The cultivar is particularly suited to the Canterbury climate, where the company operates its pea processing plant. A new cultivar, ‘Cawood’, is currently being trialled by Heinz Wattie’s in New Zealand with positive results. Both ‘Cawood’ and another new cultivar, ‘Acclaim’, scored highly on yield measures in the Vining Pea Growers Guide published by the Process Growers Research Organisation in the UK.

The pea breeding programme is funded by Plant & Food Research, PGG Wrightson and Heinz Wattie’s.

Created: September 2014

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