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Yuma Area Ag Council Mission Statement: To promote the value of local agriculture with a united voice by fostering relationships with government and school officials, the media and general public through education and awareness programs.

Crop Information

Black-Eyed Peas

Black-Eyed Peas, or Cowpea, is one of the most ancient crops known to man. Its origin and subsequent domestication is associated with pearl millet and sorghum in Africa. It is now a broadly adapted and highly variable crop, cultivated around the world primarily for seed, but also as a vegetable (for leafy greens, green pods, fresh shelled green peas, and shelled dried peas), a cover crop and for fodder. Cowpea has a number of common names, including crowder pea, black-eyed pea and southern pea. The largest production is in Africa, with Nigeria and Niger predominating, but Brazil, Haiti, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Australia, the U.S., Bosnia and Herzegovina all have significant production. Worldwide production of cowpeas is approximately 20 million acres.

In the U.S., the largest market class of cowpea harvested as dried seed is black-eyed pea and pink-eyed/purple hull southern pea. They are often cooked with water and canned or frozen. However, some cowpeas are harvested while the seed are high in moisture, and sold fresh, typically referred to as southern peas. Southern peas are shelled green and the peas can be cooked fresh or frozen for later use, but there is also some consumption of the whole 'pea pod' as a fresh vegetable. In Yuma, the focus is on production of the dried black-eyed pea, which can be harvested with conventional grain combines.

Black-eyed peas are considered very tolerant to drought and better adapted to sandy soils. Total production for dry seed harvest in the U.S. is estimated at 60,000 to 80,000 acres. Black-Eyed peas are another alternative rotation crop grown after produce or wheat, depending on the crop rotation for the land. On some farms in the southeast, they are double cropped after wheat. All cultivated black-eyed pea varieties are considered warm season and quite adapted to heat and drought conditions. They typically reach a canopy height of 30 to 36 inches, although the more determinate bush types may reach only 24 inches. The seed pods are borne above the leaf axil, making the pods very visible. The seed pod is typically 3 to 6 inches long and has 6 to 13 seeds per pod. The seed weight per bushel is 60 pounds with about 3,000 to 4,000 seeds per pound.

The germination of the seed is rapid at soil temperatures above 65 F. The preferred varieties will set pods in about 60 days and mature in 90 to 100 days. Leaves will dry down but may not drop off completely. The relatively fast maturity and heat adaptation of black-eyed peas makes it a viable crop in Yuma County.

Dried black-eyed peas are used for food products. The dried beans are frequently sold directly to the consumer after cleaning and bagging. Various soups and bean mixes will incorporate this product as well. Black-eyed peas is considered nutritious with a protein content of about 23%, fat content of 1.3%, fiber content of 1.8%, carbohydrate content of 67% and water content of 8-9%. As in most legumes, the amino acid profile complements cereal grains.

With alternative crops such as dried black-eyed peas, it is generally preferable to have a contract for growing the crop before planting. However, this market is fairly well established throughout the South and in California, so it may be possible to sell the crop successfully without having a production contract. Growers are advised to identify their markets as early as possible, rather than waiting until after harvest.

Price for dried black-eyed peas fluctuates due to normal production and demand factors, but ranges from $0.25-0.40/lb. for the dry seed market. Yields in the U.S. are reported at 900 to 1,350 pounds per acre. In some areas yields of 1,400 to 1,800 pounds per acre could be expected with normal growing conditions and selection of an improved seed variety. Optimizing crop management on good soils would lead to higher yields. Overall, dried black-eyed peas can be looked at as another crop to diversify the crop base on a farm. The fact that they are a food crop rather than a feed crop can buffer a farmer's economic risk from variability in weather or commodity crop prices.

Growing black-eyed peas is fairly straight forward, with general crop management practices; however, proper site selection is most important. This crop is well adapted to sandy soils, and will perform well on rich, well-drained soils. There are several seed varieties for selection. Choice of market class, and approach to narrow or wide rows can affect which variety to choose. A seed-planting rate of 50 pounds per acre is recommended and the field type seed cost is typically $0.35/pound. As a legume, black-eyed peas fix its own nitrogen, and does not usually need nitrogen fertilizer. Of course the plant is susceptible to various weeds, diseases and insects, and the chemical use will vary each season. For the black-eyed pea market, quality of seed is important, so care in harvest and post-harvest handling is important to avoid cracked or split seed. Black-eyed peas can be direct combined using a platform head or a row crop head.

Ranch Budget - Black-Eyed Peas Est. Cost
Land Cost** $100.00
Water 40.00
Land Preparation (Tractor Work) 115.00
Seed (Est. 50# per acre) 18.00
Fertilizer 10.00
Chemicals 20.00
Irrigation 15.00
Harvest 35.00
Cleaning and Bagging 12.00
Administration 5.00
      Total Cost (Per Acre) $370.00
Expected Yield
      1,100.00 pounds per acre
Market
      $0.35.00 per pound
      Total Income (Per Acre) $385.00
      Net Crop Income (Per Acre) $15.00

**The actual land cost is dependent upon the farmers economic position in the land, whether or not there is any debt to be serviced and/or if the land is owned or leased.

The actual cost of fertilizer and chemicals is dependent on the conditions of the field at the time of planting. The previous crop's ground nutrients may be sufficient to lower the fertilizer cost, and the herbicides and insecticides are determined by the current conditions each year.



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Yuma Area Ag Council
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phone: (928) 581-2256
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