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Plan Early for Protein Crops

February 2, 2022

As the pilot Protein Crop Scheme enters its second year, many arable growers will be considering the option of including protein crops in their rotation.  Many growers grew these crops for the first time last year in response to the support from the scheme. Iain Johnston, CAFRE crops adviser, says that the “timing of drilling varies for the different protein crops and it is important to get it right”.

The most widely grown protein crop was spring beans which represented over 90% of scheme applications. Early drilling is important for success with this crop in local conditions. Growers planning to grow spring beans again or for the first time this year are advised to order seed as soon as possible to ensure the crop can be drilled early.  Spring beans drilled in March last year consistently harvested earlier and yielded better than those drilled later in April. Iain advises to “aim for a spring bean plant population of 30-35 plants/m2, assuming 90% germination and 5% field losses, plant 35-40 seeds/m2 to achieve this. Thousand Seed Weight can vary greatly between seed batches, so calculate your seed rate using these figures”.

The target drilling date for pea and lupin crops will be later, however with lower areas of these crops being grown, ordering seed early is still advised as merchants are less likely to carry stock of these and will require time to source supplies.  For peas, drill in late April to early May and aim for a plant population of 65-70 plants/m2. For lupins, the target plant population will vary depending on the variety being sown. Consult your seed supplier for this information when ordering seed.

Iain concludes that “all protein crops will benefit from being sown in soils which are in good condition, without compaction, with adequate soil indices for phosphate and potash and a pH of 6.5. You should also contact your local BASIS qualified agronomist to plan weed and disease programmes, as early intervention is essential to achieve the desired results”.