Cover Crops: Field Peas

Table of Contents

  1. Description: Family
  2. Growth Habits
  3. Control Options
  4. Sensitivity to Herbicides
  5. Weed Control
  6. Benefits and Cautions
  7. Getting Started
  8. Related Links


Figure 1. Cover Crop of Field Peas

Figure 1. Cover Crop of Field Peas


  • Winter annual legume
  • Pisum sativum L.

Growth Habits


  • Large, spheroidal-shaped seeds
  • Germinates best in cool(4.5°C) moist - yet well-drained conditions
  • Germination is higher at warmer(24°C) temperatures - but seeds are at a higher risk of infection from soil-borne diseases

Top Growth

  • Viney, growth with weak stems - may reach a height (or length) of 1 m
  • Growth is rapid under cool conditions
  • Requires a supporting crop (like oats or rye) to stand
  • Flowers in pairs - white, pink or purple

Root System

  • Shallow root system
  • Susceptible to drought


  • Can withstand freezing temperatures (-12°C) but do not overwinter consistently - particularly in areas of low snowfall and extended temperatures

Site suitability

  • Grows best on well-drained loamy and clayey soils
  • Does not do well on poorly drained soils and droughty, sandy and gravelly soils
  • Has a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5
  • Prefers fertile soils

Control Options

  • Mow and incorporate after flowering
  • Chemical control

Sensitivity to Herbicides

  • Certain varieties tolerant of MCPA and metribuzin

Weed Control

  • Peas are generally not as effective as grass cover crops for weed suppression, particularly under warm conditions.
  • Use narrow rows and appropriate agronomic practices to establish a vigorous crop canopy as soon as possible.
  • Registered herbicides for Austrian winter peas include Basagran and Tropotox Plus.
  • Registered broadleaf herbicides include Treflan, Tropotox Plus and Basagran as well as Poast for grasses.

Benefits and Cautions

Nutrient Management

  • Fixes nitrogen - adding up to 100 lbs/ac

Pest Management

  • Can release an allelopathic compound as a root exudate (Beta alanine) which has been documented to cause reduced growth in some grass seedlings and germinating lettuce
  • Peas are an attractive host crop for nematodes.
  • Peas often have high aphid populations, but can also provide cover for a number of beneficial insects, including predatory mites and lady beetles
  • Bees are attracted to fields of flowering peas
  • Can reduce incidence of wheat-disease - take-all

Organic Matter

  • Adds considerable biomass to soil - from the seed and stubble
  • Crop residue readily breaks down
  • Can be used as feed - either as forage or as dried seed supplement

Getting Started


  • Seeding rates vary with seed size, 100 to 150 kg/ha
  • Ensure good soil moisture and seed to soil contact
  • Create fine seedbed with smooth surface to ensure uniform planting depth

Cost & Availability

  • Expensive seed and requires high seeding rates widely available

Related Links

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300