NC Cooperative Extension Resources

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Extension Horticultural Specialist
Horticultural Science

Introduction

Southern peas originated in India in prehistoric times, then brought to Africa, and finally America. In India, Southern peas are known by 50 common names and in the United States are called "field peas," "crowder peas," "cowpeas," and "blackeyes" but "Southern peas" is the preferred name.

Varieties - Recommended Varieties for North Carolina

Table 1. Recommended varieties of Southern peas for North Carolina.

Variety

Usage1

Type2

Pod Color

Seed Color

Maturity Days

Plant Type3

Disease Resistance4

Comments

Mississippi Silver

SC

Silvery

Tan

70

NV

F, N

Good yields, easy shelling, erect plants

Colossus

CR

Silver green

Brown

75

SV

F, N

Large seed, good flavor

Mississippi Purple

HC

S, C

Purple

Brown

65

NV

F, N

Easy shelling, bunched pods, erect, good yield

Mississippi Cream

HC

C

Green-white

Green-cream

-

NV

N, V

High yield, hard to shell

Clemson Purple

HC

CR

Purple

Brown

66

NV

N, V

Pod easy to shell

Pinkeye Purple Hull

HC

SP

Purple

Cream

80

SV

-

Small seed, good flavor

Texas Cream

CP, HC

-

-

Cream

-

NV

F, N

Queen Anne

CP, HC

B

-

White

68

SV

-

High yield, concentrated

Princess Anne

CP, HC

B

-

White

-

SV

-

Large seed

Dixie Lee

CP

NC

Green

Brown

65

SV

N

Erect pods

1 Usage -- CP = suited for commercial production for processing; HC = suited for home canning

2 Type -- CR = Crowder type -- seeds crowd closely in the pod; B = Blackeye -- named for the black spot at seed attachment to the pod; SC = Semi-crowder; SP = Small pea; NC = Non-crowder; C = Creamer.

3 Plant Type -- NV = Non-vine or bush, pods usually bunched above the foliage; SV = Semi-vine, plants tend to spread to vine slightly.

4 Disease Resistance -- F = Fusarium wilt resistant; N = Nematode resistant; V = Virus resistant.

Soils

Most soils will produce a good crop, but medium fertility with pH of 5.8 to 6.5 is desirable. High fertility produces excessive vine growth and poor yields. Inoculants of N-fixing bacteria may increase yield, especially in soils where Southern peas have not been grown. Crop rotation or fumigation is important for nematode control.

Commercial Fertilization

Test your soil for lime and fertilizer needs. If you don't have a soil test see the table below:

Soil Fertility

Lb/A

Coastal Plain

Piedmont

Low

400

4-24-24

4-24-24

Medium

200

5-15-30

4-24-24

High

None

None

None


Apply fertilizer 7 to 10 days before planting; broadcast or in bands 3 to 4 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches from the seeds.

Garden Fertilization

Fertilization - Test your soil for lime and fertilizer needs. Process samples/boxes through Cooperative Extension and N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. If you don't have a soil test, apply 3 lbs of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet.

Apply fertilizer 7 to 10 days before planting; broadcast or in bands 3 to 4 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches from the seeds.

Seeding

Begin seeding when soil temperature reaches 60°F, at a 4 inch depth, and continue until 80 days before fall frost. Seeding too early causes poor stands and you may need to replant. Bush types should be seeded 4 to 6 per foot or 30 to 50 pounds of seed per acre for large seed. Vining types should be seeded 1 to 2 per foot or 20 to 30 pounds of seed per acre. Plant seeds 34 to 114 inch deep (gardens 12 to 1 inch deep) in rows spaced 20 to 42 inches apart, depending on cultivation requirements.

Weed Control

Early weed control is important for good growth. Weeds can be controlled with shallow cultivation or by using herbicides. Consult the current North Carolina Commercial Vegetable Recommendations (AG-586) or the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual for current rates of all pesticides for southern peas.

Insect Control

Cowpea curculio is an insect which is a very serious pest of Southern peas. The insect looks like a boll weevil. It punctures the pod, leaving a small scar that looks like a blister on the pod and leaves a speck on the peas. The curculio is especially bad in late plantings. This insect is controlled by making 3 insecticide applications at 5-day intervals of 12 to 1 lb active Thiodan when pods are 12 inch long. Southern peas may also be attacked by aphids, stink bugs, wireworm, lesser cornstalk borer, and seed corn maggot. Consult the current North Carolina Commercial Vegetable Recommendations (AG-586) or the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual for current rates and related information.

Diseases

Southern peas are often infected by root rots caused by fusarium, rhizoctonia, and pythium. Downey and powdery mildew and some leaf blights also affect them.

Harvesting

Depending on variety and weather, harvest will begin 65 to 80 days after seeding and continue for 3 to 5 weeks. Begin harvest when a few pods are beginning to turn yellow and harvest only pods with well formed peas. This is the best stage for shelling and eating.

Southern peas are sold in bushel hampers or mesh bags. Do not use burlap sacks because they are not properly ventilated. Southern peas weigh 30 pounds per bushel. One person can harvest 12 to 20 bushels per day if yields are average. Average production is 125 to 300 bushels per acre.

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Last modified: Dec. 16, 2014, 1:54 p.m.