The most important difference between the types of green pod pea (P. sativum) is the pod shape at harvest (De Ron et al., 2005). English pea (P. sativum var. sativum) has fibrous pods that are shelled before processing (Strang et al., 2011). Snow pea (thin walls) has flat pods that are harvested when the pods have reached full size but before seeds have developed. Sugar snap pea (thick pod walls) has round pods that are harvested after seed development (Gross et al., 2014). In terms of flavor, texture, growth, and yield, they are very similar. For this reason, we will discuss the snow and sugar snap pea cultivars tested as simply edible-pod peas.
Edible-pod peas are an alternative crop for small farmers due to the short cycle, high yield, and high value of produce (Kahn and Nelson, 1991). Fresh peas could enhance small farm revenue by providing increased produce diversity, higher profitability, and specialty crop interest to direct market consumers. The main limitation for extensive production areas is the intensive use of labor since the crop requires constant harvesting (Kahn and Nelson, 1991).
Most cultivars of edible-pod peas reach maturity around 60 d after planting (DAP). Edible-pod peas are an annual crop propagated from seed. They are typically grown in temperate states, such as California, Kentucky, Oregon, and New York, with optimum growing temperature between 55 and 65 °F (Gaskell, 1997). Edible-pod peas can be produced during cool growing seasons (De Ron et al., 2005) and could therefore become a specialty crop for tropical and subtropical regions during seasonally cool months.
There is no information regarding edible-pod pea cultivation in the U.S. territories, especially the U.S. Virgin Islands. The performance of different cultivars should be evaluated under various environmental conditions (De Ron et al., 2005) since cultural information is scarce and the crop has a potential as an alternative crop for small farmers (Kahn and Nelson, 1991). Vegetable performance trials are still essential to vegetable growers to maximize the return and increase farm crop diversity (Williams and Roberts, 2002). Data on fresh edible-pod peas wholesale prices and on the quantity of fresh peas consumed in the U.S. Virgin Islands are also unavailable. Wholesale prices in Miami, FL, which presents the most similar climate, range from $12 to $13 for a 10-lb carton (USDA, 2015a). Local food production is encouraged to reduce reliance on food imports and keep food dollars in the local economy. One current trend in the local food movement is community-supported agriculture and farmers’ market stands. Increased consumer awareness and demand could eventually lead to higher volume markets (e.g., grocery stores) and direct marketing to restaurants interested in serving high-quality, locally produced vegetables.
The optimal time to grow edible-pod peas in the U.S. Virgin Islands would be during the cool and dry months from November through March (Intellicast, 2015). Temperatures higher than 80 °F are tolerated during vegetative growth but will encourage rapid fruit development, which can reduce yield and fruit quality, especially if harvests are not performed every 2 or 3 d. Planting during the rainy season can reduce the need for irrigation, but high humidity and frequent rains increase disease and pest pressure in general (Gaskell, 1997).
The objective was to evaluate the performance of edible-pod peas in tropical climates, and to make cultivar recommendations to farmers in the U.S. Virgin Islands based upon fruit yield from two consecutive years.
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