Field Peas (Pisum sativum subsp. arvense), an important grain legume or pulse crop, are one of the oldest domesticated crops, cultivated for at least 7,000 years. Field pea or “dry pea” is marketed as a dry, shelled product for either human consumption or stock feed. Peas, as with any legume species are ideal in sustainable agricultural production systems due to the fact that they evolved in conjunction with free-living soil bacteria from the genus Rhizobium. These bacteria are capable of using inert atmospheric nitrogen (78% of the atmosphere) for their nitrogen requirements. Nitrogen is a key component of protein metabolism in all forms of life. This symbiotic relationship is facilitated by field pea, which allows the bacteria to “infect” its root system in small surface sacs or nodules. The bacteria receive sugars and other nutrients from the pea plants while in return the peas receive nitrogen. Atmospheric nitrogen, molecular nitrogen (N2) is converted into ammonia (NH3) in the nodules. The ammonia is then converted into ammonium (NH4+), which feeds into protein biosynthesis for the peas. Free atmospheric nitrogen fixation is one of the key reasons peas and other legumes find a place in farmer’s rotations. Nitrogen residues from the pea crop are typically quantified use the rule of thumb of 1 lb of nitrogen per bushel (60 lbs) of peas harvested.
Field peas and other legume crops have not been genetically engineered and thus provide a valuable non-GM alternative of non-soy protein for livestock or poultry production in addition to excellent functionality in the food industry. A 2018 review of legume/pulse crops in the food processing industry by Assoc. Ed. Laura Cassiday is available to review in the American Oils Chemists Society periodical “Inform,” April 2018, Vol. 29 (4).7.