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Cornell University

Cover Crop Guide for NY Growers

Dr. Thomas Björkman, Cornell AgriTech

Field Peas

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Field Peas_2
Field peas are used in spring plantings as a source of organic matter and nitrogen, which improve overall soil health. Peas are a modest nitrogen-fixer on vegetable ground, but are the only choice in spring. In late summer, peas can be interseeded with oats to provide ground cover over the winter.

Land preparation

Prepare a level seedbed free of weeds and clods. Avoid wet spots.
Additional fertilizer typically is not required, especially on vegetable land.

Seeding rate

140 lb/ac or
120 lb/ac plus 20 lb/ac oats or
50 lb/ac plus 100 lb/ac oats plus 30 lb/ac vetch.
A combination of peas, hairy vetch, and oats provides ground cover and suppresses weeds throughout the growing season. The peas use the oats as trellises. Vetch grows until frost and provides winter cover.

Seeding date

March-April. Plant as early as possible with a nurse crop, such as oats.
Possibly plant with oats in late summer for winter cover. Nitrogen from the peas will aid the growth of the oats, which will frost kill and give ground cover over the winter.

Seed Sources

Local farm seed dealers. Trapper is a common field pea variety.




Mow and incorporate to improve organic matter. Wait 1-2 weeks between incorporation and replanting to prevent nutrient tie-up that results in inhibition of the following crop.


Peas are susceptible to a wide range of root-rot organisms. Avoid a close rotation with another legume crop. An option is to harvest for haylage when the nurse crop is in the boot stage, but most of the nitrogen will be removed.