Double Cropping Field Peas May Offer Economic S...

Double Cropping Field Peas May Offer Economic Sustainability for Midwest Swine Producers

Double Cropping Field Peas May Offer Economic Sustainability for Midwest Swine Producers


Research at Iowa State University (ISU) may be good news for swine producers who have been facing high grain prices. Coordinated by Jim Fawcett, the team’s recent research at ISU has demonstrated that field peas can be utilized as a partial substitute for soybean meal or corn in swine diets. Shaun Greiner, a local swine producer, and Tom Miller, an ISU Extension Swine Specialist, approached Fawcett because they were interested in using field peas for swine diets. Greiner was looking for a more affordable source of feed and had heard that some farmers were having success raising field peas in Illinois.

“Shaun’s excitement about the prospect of raising peas for swine rations was infectious,” said Fawcett. “I have always been interested in searching for that magic third crop to include in Iowa crop rotations, and thought that this might be a possibility since it already had a market in Iowa.”

Located in the Johnson County Extension office in Iowa City, Jim Fawcett has been a Field Agronomist for 25 years, specializing in pest management. Throughout his career, weed control has been a challenge with various crop rotations. Most of Fawcett’s experience had been with corn and soybeans, although he did have some experience working with field peas in Wisconsin when he was completing his Ph.D. in weed science.

After some preliminary research, Fawcett and a team of producers, farmers, and Extension Specialists submitted a proposal to the NCR-SARE Research and Education Grant Program in 2005 and were awarded a grant for $109,651 to study whether double cropping field peas could offer economic sustainability for Midwest swine producers.

“The typical Iowa swine farmer raises about 5000 head of hogs as well as corn and soybeans,” said Fawcett. “In order to use soybeans as a protein source for the swine it is necessary to process the soybeans. Field peas have been grown successfully by farmers in other states and countries and used as a substitute for soybean meal. Inputs which require no processing, grown and used on the farm have generally improved farm profits.”

Small scale ISU replicated research plots and field scale cooperator plots were set up to evaluate variety selection, time of planting, harvesting techniques, and pest management of field peas. Feeding trials were conducted to evaluate the economical inclusion rates of field peas into swine rations.

“In each of the feed trials we saw no change in average daily gain or feed efficiency in the diets containing field peas,” said Tom Miller. “One thing that was interesting is that in almost all the feed trials although not statistically significant was an improvement in feed per pound of gain (feed efficiency).”

The feeding trials conducted as a part of this project indicated that swine producers could increase their profits by utilizing field peas in the ration, especially when considering the current price of corn and soybean meal (SBM). According to Fawcett, a simple financial formula which producers can use when determining whether field peas should be used in their rations is: (corn price $/ bu X 420 lbs/56 + SBM price $/ton X 180 lbs/2000)/10 = price which can be paid for field peas. This is a 30% inclusion rate of field peas replacing corn and soybean meal in the ration. Inclusion rates this high showed no performance difference in any of the trials. It is likely that until adequate access to field peas is available, Iowa’s swine producers will not be able to fully adopt field peas as a source for feed.

“Although the practice of double-cropping field peas has not been adapted by Iowa farmers because of not being competitive with existing crop rotations, farmers are continuing to investigate the use of field peas in other cropping systems,” said Fawcett.

Fawcett explained swine producers who are closer to areas where field peas are already raised, such as NW Iowa, can increase their profitability by utilizing field peas in their rations.

“Organic farmers also see some advantage in using field peas as a nurse crop for establishing forages in their rotation,” said Fawcett. “The project has also increased the interest in farmers in the region of searching for other cropping systems that are more sustainable.”

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) LNC05-257, Cover Crop Water Usage and Affect on Yield in No-Till Dryland Cropping Systems .

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Location: Iowa | North Central
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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.