Bullivant scoops top award for Sakura marrowfat peas

Many years of experience of edible pea production helped Lincolnshire grower James Bullivant to win the blue riband marrowfat class in the British Edible Pulse Association's (BEPA) annual competition.

Over the 30 years he has been growing marrowfats, Bullivant learned that timing harvesting exactly right makes the difference to pea quality. In 2010 he got it perfectly right and beat 36 entrants in the class to the top spot.

Bullivant had only grown Progreta but in 2009 he switched to the new variety Sakura, which followed winter wheat. After the stubbles were ploughed, a good seedbed was produced with a single pass of a germinator cultivator. The seed was drilled in mid March with a 4m KRM at 250kg/ha.

According to BEPA publicity officer Peter Smith from Wherry and Sons, Sakura is an improved version of the Kabuki variety that had won the marrowfat class for the previous eight years, taking over from Maro, which lasted as champion for more than 25 years.

The competition's four classes including those for large blues, other pea types and beans were judged by Processors & Growers Research Organisation technical director Anthony Biddle and independent pulse trader Peter Innes.

"Interest in marrowfats is greater than it was," Innes claimed. "This is thanks to their good price premiums and the reasonable yields of the new varieties. Sakura is the latest one and it's now being grown on a significant scale."

Some 20,000ha of marrowfat peas are grown in the UK and because really good samples are difficult to produce and they inherently yield less than edible types such as large blues, they command premium prices.

This season the best quality samples have sold for as much as £300 per tonne and estimates for next year are around £275. Marrowfats have numerous uses and some are exported to Japanese processors for bar snacks.

Biddle said the general quality of the 84 entries was good and judging was "pretty tight" because of the number of entries in the class.

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