Richard Byass, Field Operations Manager
The harvest and processing of the 2022 crop is now all done, completed between 20th June and 29th August, and the factory staff are busy packing the ‘new crop’ for distribution to the various supermarket outlets. Interestingly, SBP Ltd are now the sole supplier of garden peas to Aldi (UK and Ireland) so if you buy a packet of garden peas from Aldi it will have come from one of our farms.
High temperatures affecting ripening
2022 has been another challenging season, not just for Scottish Borders Produce but also for many other pea groups up and down the East coast of the UK and also on the Continent.
Periods of extreme heat particularly disrupt the process of producing a consistent quantity of high-quality product. Temperatures experienced around 35 degrees Celsius caused rapid ripening with the potential issue of the crop very quickly becoming ‘out of spec’ for marketing. Some crops took just 75 days from drilling to harvest. It usually takes 85 – 110 days.
However, in the Scottish Borders, we did not experience the sustained extremes of heat that pea growers further south had and the final (financial) result will not be far from the budget figure.
Down on yield but up on quality
Due to weather factors, the overall average yield of the processed/packed product was down a bit against a typical budget yield, but up on quality and value.
Yields have varied more than usual across the growing area depending on cultivations, drilling date, variety, soil type (clay vs sand) and whether or not crops received adequate rainfall (which has been very localised this season). Another factor influencing yield is the stage at which the crop is harvested. Harvesting takes place over a range of maturity from tenderometer reading (TR) 90 to 135. As the crop ripens, the TR increases and so too does the yield quality and therefore value decreases. As with many products, the market demand is for high quality and this has been and will be our focus going forwards.
Despite the challenges of 2022 season 70% of the crop has met the high quality ‘A Grade’ as opposed to just 60% in 2021.
Only a small area was bypassed from our total hectarage
The risk of bypassing a significant area of crop was very high when the first heatwave struck on the 18th and 19th July. Fortunately, we managed to work through this with a relatively small loss of 61.39 ha from a total area of 3,034.72 ha. Also, from the 61.39 ha bypassed, 12.93 ha have been harvested (dry) for seed for the 2023 season, subject to seed test results. Overall this represents a loss of just 1.5%.
Going forwards, there is always room for improvement and particular attention will be given to primary and secondary cultivations, the choice of varieties and drilling dates.