Title: Vetch and Austrian peas for soil improvement
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00026378/00001
 Material Information
Title: Vetch and Austrian peas for soil improvement
Alternate Title: Bulletin 54 ; Florida Agricultural Extension Service
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Smith, J. Lee
Publisher: Agricultural Extension Division, University of Florida
Publication Date: June, 1929
Copyright Date: 1929
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00026378
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aab7781 - LTQF
amt6806 - LTUF
47284808 - OCLC
002570493 - AlephBibNum


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The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida

Bulletin 54

(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)






Courtesy Florlda Dept. of Agriculture
Fig. 1.-A good crop of Austrian peas growing on the Experiment Station
farm at Gainesville.

Bulletins will be sent free upon application to the Agricuitural Extension
Division, Gainesville, Florida

June, 1929

P. K. YONGE, Chairman, Pensacola
W. B. DAVIS, Perry
E. W. LANE, Jacksonville
FRANK J. WIDEMAN, West Palm Beach
J. T. DIAMOND, Secretary, Tallahassee


JOHN J. TIGERT, M.A., LL.D., President of the University
WILMON NEWELL, D.Sc., Director
A. P. SPENCER, M.S., Vice-Director and County Agent Leader
ERNEST G. MOORE, M.S., Assistant Editor
E. F. STANTON, Supervisor, Egg-Laying Contest

W. T. NETTLES, B.S., District Agent
H. G. CLAYTON, M.S.A., District Agent
J. LEE SMITH, District Agent
R. W. BLACKLOCK, A.B., Boys' Club Agent
HAMLIN L. BROWN, B.S., Dairy Specialist
E. F. DEBUSK, B.S., Citrus Pathologist and Entomologist
N. R. MEHRHOF, M. AGR., Poultryman

VIRGINIA P. MOORE, Assistant State Agent
LUCY BELLE SETTLE, B.S., District Agent
RUBY MCDAVID, District Agent
MARY E. KEOWN, M.S., District Agent
ISABELLE S. THURSBY,'Food and Marketing Agent
MARY A. STENNIS, M.A., Home Dairy and Nutrition Agent


Slowly but no less certainly is the plant food in much of our
cultivated land becoming exhausted. Much higher wages are
now being paid in the industries than can be paid by the farmers.
Economic pressure is becoming greater on the farmer as years
go by. The result is that the farmers are drawing in their
operations to their more fertile lands. The farms on the poorer
soils are being abandoned.
The soils now being cultivated are no longer virgin. Virgin
soils possessed characteristics that most of our long cultivated
soils do not have. Because the woods have been so consistently
burned each year for a generation, a virgin soil of today does not
mean what a virgin soil meant then. It is shallow and contains
very little vegetable matter. In two or three years of cultivation
it has lost its newness.
Then, there was a deeper soil well filled with vegetable matter.
Trees were "deadened" and allowed to die and drop their bark
and many small branches which were plowed into the land. The
result was that the soil became better and better for eight or
ten years. The soil did not bake and pack. After that, some land
was "cowpenned" or had leaves and leaf mold composted and
put on it. Fair crops were grown for many years without
But now yields are increased with commercial fertilizer. These
soils can be rejuvenated and made new by adding vegetable
matter to them. Probably the most economical way to add this
vegetable matter now is by growing cover crops and turning
them into the land.


A winter cover and green manure crop will do five things:
It will add much needed vegetable matter which serves as a home
for friendly bacteria and increases the water-holding capacity of

The author is indebted to W. E. Stokes and C. R. Enlow of the Agronomy
Department of the Florida Experiment Station for assistance in securing
the pictures used in this bulletin and for reading the manuscript; also to the
county agents of North and West Florida for cooperation and help.

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the soil; it will serve as a cover to the land and protect it from
the heavy rains which cause packing and washing; it will remove
water from the soil when there is an excess of it; it will act as
a trap to catch the plant food that is made available by the
effects of the rain, the sun, and the acids that are let loose in
the soil by the action of the bacteria; it will trap nitrogen from
the air and add it to the soil to be taken up and utilized by the
following crops.

It is often said that nothing has yet been found quite so good
as stable manure or compost for putting land in the best me-
chanical condition for growing crops. There are certain winter
and early spring legumes that are almost as good as stable or
lot manure. Because of the scarcity and high cost of handling
these manures, winter and spring green manure crops are more

Fig. 2.-Hairy vetch and Austrian peas, planted October 25 and photo-
graphed March 25, which yielded at the rate of 24,829 pounds green
top growth per acre. Grown from a mixture of 10 pounds vetch and
15 pounds pea seed.

Some of these manure crops are hairy vetch, monantha vetch,
woolly-pod vetch, and Austrian gray winter peas. Neither these
nor any other herbaceous plants turned into the soil will per-
manently improve it. To permanently improve the soil where
there is as much rain and sunshine as there is in Florida is
almost impossible. However, these crops temporarily improve
the soil to such an extent that the yield of corn following them
will very often be doubled. If these cover crops are grown each
winter on the same soil for several years, the yields of summer
or main crops on the same land will be increased.

Vetch and Austrian Peas for Soil Improvement

Fig. 3.-Walton County growers hearing the story of Austrian peas from
one of their own number. The nitrogen in the top growth equals that
in 650 pounds nitrate of soda or calcium nitrate.

On soils in Northwest Florida where general farming is suc-
cessful vetch and peas have been successfully grown. During the
spring of 1929 W. E. Stokes, agronomist for the Experiment
Station, and the author made an inspection of 70 fields of North
Florida on which vetch or Austrian peas were growing. These
crops were found growing successfully on the following types of

C. blg

Fig. 4.-A successful Madison County grower of Austrian peas discussing
methods of growing with his county agent.

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soils: Orangeburg, Tifton, Greenville, and all the heavier phases
of the Norfolk series. All other heavy types of soils in North-
west Florida that are well drained apparently will grow these

Hairy vetch, the variety most commonly used, is more hardy
than woolly-pod and monantha. It does less growing during the
winter and is a little slower to get off in the spring. It is of a
hairy, somewhat silvery herbage. The flowers are blue violet,
borne in one-sided clusters of about 30 on a long stalk. The seed
are small, globular, and nearly black.

Fig. 5.-Hairy vetch in the foreground and woolly-pod vetch in the back-
ground, Santa Rosa County.
The woolly-pod vetch is closely related to hairy, is not quite
so hardy, but grows off better in winter and early spring. It has
finer stems, nearly smooth leaves, and reddish purple instead of
bluish purple flowers. When allowed to mature, it bears odorous
flowers in great abundance. It will attract bees. It usually is
of a dark green color. It has a more upright growth than hairy
vetch. The seed are very similar to hairy vetch seed in color
and size.
Monantha vetch is earlier than woolly-pod and is less hardy
than hairy. It has finer leaves and stems than woolly-pod. It has
a light green color. The seed, which are brown with black spots
and markings, are larger than the seed of either of the other
two varieties.

Vetch and Austrian Peas for Soil Improvement


These crops are used primarily as cover crops during the
winter to prevent washing away of soil and leaching of plant
food material and to trap the nitrogen of the air and fix it in the
soil to be used by succeeding crops. During the spring of 1929
cuttings from areas of 100 square feet each were made from 70
fields of Northwest Florida. In this way it was determined that
an average of 8,370 pounds of green top growth was grown per
acre on these fields. Neither vetch nor peas had been grown on
most of these fields before. The weight was at the rate of from
1,200 to 24,872 pounds per acre. Vetch analyzes approximately
.6 percent nitrogen and the Austrian peas .5 percent. The
nitrogen in the 8,370 pound average weight per acre equals the
amount of nitrogen in approximately 300 pounds of nitrate of
soda or calcium nitrate. In addition to the nitrogen, these crops
add vegetable matter to the soil.

Fig. 6.-These Austrian peas are serving two purposes for a Jefferson
County farmer-furnishing grazing for heifers and green manure for
the pecan trees.
The vetches and the Austrian peas make excellent grazing-
pigs, cows, and chickens relish them. If oats are in the same

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field, cows and hogs will take to them first, but when they begin
grazing the peas and vetch, they will graze them heavily. These
crops may act as a laxative and stock should be allowed to graze
them only a few hours at a time until the animals become used
to them, and should be fed a little grain.
The carrying capacity of vetch and peas, of course, is deter-
mined by the growth made. Its value has been attested by many.
A dairyman of Jefferson County grazed his crop during the spring
of 1929. He says, "my milk check before turning cows on peas
was $36 per week. I turned cows in for two or three hours per
day and cut feed at night one third. Second week after I began
grazing my check was $51.09. After taking cows off, I increased
feed to amount being fed before grazing. I put in a fresh cow
and took out a stripper and my milk check dropped back down
to $45.56."

Fig. 7.-Pigs making hogs of themselves on a Jefferson County field of
Austrian peas.

Another man from Taylor County reports, "I had my vetch
close to the house and don't care if I get no other value from
it. I have sold more high priced eggs this winter than ever be-
fore, all because the vetch afforded good picking for the chickens.
Yes sir, I got all it cost and then some from the grazing alone."
The grazing, the fertilizing, and the cover crop values of these
crops are such that nearly all growers interviewed in the spring
of 1929 intend to plant again next season and most of them plan
to increase their acreage.

Vetch and Austrian Peas for Soil Improvement


Certain bacteria, too small to be seen by the unaided eye,
called nitrogen-fixing bacteria, take the free nitrogen from the
air into the soil and fix it in the plant. When these bacteria
come into contact with a legume root, they enter it and multiply
rapidly. In young thrifty plants, it takes only a few hours for
the organisms to enter the fine root hairs. Here the bacteria
find a suitable home, multiply rapidly, and soon push out the
covering of the root and form what are known as tubercles or

Fig. 8.-Nodules on the roots of vetch (left) and peas. These nodules
contain bacteria which take up nitrogen from the air and fix it for
the use of the plants.
nodules. Each nodule contains millions of these nitrogen-fixing
bacteria. Here in the nodule the bacteria feed upon the plant
juice, and in return, furnish the plant with more nitrogen. As
the plant grows, the bacteria multiply, and the nodules increase
in size and number. The nitrogen of the air is taken by the
bacteria and is combined in such a form that the plant is able
to use it as food. It is seen that these bacteria are cooperative

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bacteria; that is, the plant and bacteria live together, each work-
ing to help the other. The nitrogen trapped from the air is stored
not only in the roots but throughout all parts of the plant. This
makes these plants valuable for feed and fertilizer.

Fig. 9.-These Calhoun County farmers gathered on one of their farms
to hear W. E. Stokes tell how he grows vetch on the Experiment
Station farm.

When the plants begin to form seed or break down from any
cause, these nodules or "homes of the bacteria" cease to .grow,
lose their plump appearance, begin to shrink and eventually
decay and return the bacteria to the soil.


The distribution of the legume bacteria so that they may come
in contact with the roots of the legume, enter the roots and
form nodules, is commonly called inoculation. The bacteria for
inoculating all legumes are not the same. For instance, the bac-
teria that inoculate common legumes, like cowpeas, peanuts,
velvet beans, etc., are usually present in abundance in the soil.
These bacteria will not inoculate vetches and Austrian winter
peas. The proper bacteria for inoculating these crops are not
naturally present. Therefore, these crops must be inoculated
when planted in a field the first time if good growth is to be
expected. More failures are probably attributable to the lack of
inoculation than all other causes known. Rich soil will grow

Vetch and Austrian Peas for Soil Improvement

vetch or peas without inoculation, but growing the crop there
will not introduce these bacteria and the crop must draw its
nitrogen from the soil instead of from the air. The succeeding
crop of vetch will do no better.

Fig. 10.-Vetch grown in Bay County. Foreground, not inoculated; back-
ground, inoculated.
The surest method of inoculation is by scattering soil from
a field which has recently grown a well inoculated crop of vetch
or peas. Such soil used for inoculating should be broadcast at
the rate of 500 pounds per acre and harrowed or plowed in at
Another method that will give good results is to cover each seed
with a coating of soil from a well-inoculated field. If the seeds
are first moistened with a mixture of 2 parts syrup and 1 of
water then mixed well with the soil, each seed will become
thoroughly coated. Such seed should be well dried again in the
shade or sown at once.
When suitable soil for inoculating is not obtainable commercial
culture may be used. Some manufacturers of pure cultures for
inoculating legumes are not as successful as others; therefore,
one who desires to use pure culture should consult his county
agent. When such culture is used, directions always come with
it and these directions should be followed.
Regardless of method used in inoculating, the seed should be

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covered immediately after sowing. Drying out in sun or on top
of the soil apparently kills the inoculating bacteria.


The last two weeks of September and the month of October
apparently is the best time to sow vetch and Austrian peas in

r, .


Fig. 11.-These peas were planted too late (Dec. 20) for maximum growth,
yet they are healthy and vigorous. Photographed March 28.
North Florida. Regardless of date of planting, seeding should be
done when plenty of moisture is in the ground for germinating
seed. Good crops have been made by later planting but usually
only where planted on fertile soils.


A minimum of 20 pounds of vetch or 30 pounds of Austrian
peas should be sown per acre. A little heavier seeding of each
will pay. A safer and apparently better practice in seeding
would be a mixture of a minimum of 10 pounds vetch and 15
pounds of peas per acre. If one should get bad seed of one kind
it is not likely that he would get bad seed of the other. If some
disease should affect one, probably it would not affect the other.
And a mixed planting is not so easily grazed too closely as a
planting of peas alone.

Vetch and Austrian Peas for Soil Improvement

Fig. 12.-Austrian peas and a sprinkling of oats which were planted in
November; 28 pounds of peas were planted per acre.

Austrian peas and vetch can be grown without a direct appli-
cation of fertilizer. However, on land that has not been heavily
fertilized for the preceding crop, an application of 400 pounds of
super-phosphate per acre will usually give a better growth. With-
out an application of super-phosphate or basic slag, sometimes a
complete failure is registered.
No nitrogenous fertilizer need be applied because these crops
gather nitrogen from the air. Usually there is enough potash
in the soil to grow a crop of peas or vetch.


No special breaking or preparation of the soil is necessary for
Austrian peas or vetch. They may be drilled or sown broadcast.

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If drilled they may be put in with grain drill. There are two
dangers encountered when the seed are drilled. Too often they
are not put deep enough when planted. And when drilled ap-
parently the winter and spring rains injure them more by water
standing in the drill furrow. If sown broadcast, they can be sown
and disked in or turned under with a plow or other implement.
They may be sown broadcast in cotton or corn fields and cov-
ered by barring off the cotton and corn stalks.
The most important thing to be considered in the operation of
planting is not whether one drills the seed, broadcasts them,
disks them in or plows them in, but regardless of method used,
the seed should be put three or more inches under the soil. Three
to five inches is a good depth on any North Florida soil. The.
sandier and lighter the soil, the deeper seed should be covered.
October and particularly November are often dry months in
North Florida. The inoculating bacteria need moisture to live,
grow and multiply. The seed need moisture to germinate and
the young seedlings need moisture to grow. Covering three to
five inches deep practically assures this moisture during these
It is not wise to sow oats or rye with vetch and peas unless
on soils that hold moisture well, like most flatwoods soils do. On
high, dry, pine lands usually the oats or rye will exhaust the
land of soil moisture in time of drouth and the peas and vetch
will die.

Vetch and Austrian peas should be plowed in 10 days to three
weeks before the succeeding crop is to be planted. Some inexperi-
enced growers desire to let them grow till they make seed, be-
lieving they will reseed themselves. Very poor seed crops will be
produced under most favorable conditions. Aphids and corn ear
worms are likely to attack these crops if left standing too long.
If corn ear worm attacks vetch it is likely to attack the crops
following and other crops nearby. Therefore, the vetch should
be turned under before it attempts to make seed.
Succeeding crops should be planted at regular planting time.
It is usually better to plow in a small crop of peas or vetch at the
proper time than to sacrifice the regular planting date of the
succeeding crop for a heavier tonnage of vetch or Austrian peas.
Eight to ten thousand pounds of green top growth will furnish
all the nitrogen that a succeeding crop of corn or a similar crop

Vetch and Austrian Peas for Soil Improvement 15

can use profitably; therefore, there is no need waiting for heav-
ier growth if it interferes with the regular date of planting suc-
ceeding crops.

Fig. 13.-Austrian peas, plowed under, increase yields of succeeding crops.
Corn, following the peas being plowed under in the Walton County field
shown above, yielded 65 bushels to the acre.

Fig. 14.-Turning under peas in Jackson County. A chain attached to the
plow for dragging down the vines would help in turning under the peas.

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Fig. 15.-A good job of turning Austrian peas with a sulky plow is being
done in this Jefferson County field.
Crops of vetch and Austrian peas when turned under should be
allowed to rot before the succeeding crop is planted, because de-
caying vegetable matter in the soil may cause the seed to rot and
result in a poor stand. If there is a good amount of moisture
in the soil, only a few days is needed for this green matter to
Implements commonly used in breaking land can be used in
turning in peas and vetch. They may be turned under with a
tractor disk where soil is light enough for such operation to make
a good seedbed. Some farmers disk and then plow in with
tractor drawn implements; others use a light disk and then a
small moldboard plow with chain attached for dragging it down
in the furrow under the soil; others use the moldboard plow with
rolling colter attached. No benefit will be derived from plowing
up subsoil in turning under these crops.

Vetch and Austrian peas deserve special mention as winter
cover crops for pecan groves and grape vineyards of North
Florida. They may also be used as a cover crop on satsuma and
blueberry groves.

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