Pea production for protein

There has been growth in consumer awareness of plant proteins – including pea protein. Dry peas, also known as field peas, are marketed for both animal feed and human consumption. You’ll find pea protein in everything from cereal, to protein bars, to health drinks. The demand is profitable for the farmers that grow field peas.

Human food use brings the highest price for producers, then next would be for livestock feed. North Dakota is the number one field pea producer in the United States thanks to its climate. These legumes are an arid crop and like dry weather although they will grow on many soil types, except those with high salt concentrations.

Greg Endres is an extension agronomist at North Dakota State University. He says while protein is the main reason for growing them, there isn’t much difference in the protein content between varieties. It ranges from 23%-26%.

"Yes, there’s opportunity to pick those that have a little bit higher protein, but it’s not a tool where we can bump our protein say, from an average of 25% to 28% or 30%. And so, at this point we’re saying that do your best in selecting a variety that has higher protein, and then just make sure the plant nutrition is taken care of," says Endres.

You could do everything right and have a fantastic crop. However, he says it’s not wise to plant a pea crop first and then figure out how to market it.

"Sometimes markets dictate a certain type of field pea variety just based on seed color or based on even the roundness of the seed," he says. "So, there are a fair number of aspects that are involved for a person to meet the markets that are out there."