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Ohio State University Extension


Field Pea/Winter Pea as a Cover Crop in Ohio

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Sarah Noggle; Educator; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County
Rachel Cochran; Extension Associate, Water Quality; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County

Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use field pea/winter pea as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: holding long stem with multiple stems growing pale-green leaves and tendrils along the complete length of the stem.


  • Pale green leaves made of multiple leaflets
  • Hollow stems
  • Tendrils
  • White, pink, or purple flowers

Cultural Traits

  • Winter annual
  • Minimum germination temperature: 41 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Reliable establishment window (state average): Mar. 29–Apr. 28; July 25–Sept. 28
  • Climbing or prostrate growth habit that can spread 2–4 feet
  • Preferred soil pH: 6.0–7.0
Table 1. Rating the traits of cover crop field pea/winter pea.
Drought tolerance Good
Low fertility tolerance Very good
Winter survival Varies based on specific variety


  • Drilled at 1–1½ inches
    • 50–80 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast with shallow incorporation
    • 55–88 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast without incorporation not recommended

Additional planting information:

  • 1,800 seeds per lb. (highly variable; adjust seeding rate accordingly)
  • Inoculation type: pea/vetch
  • When planting on slopes or using for forage/grazing, increase seeding rate.
  • Use lower end of drilled seeding rate when using narrow-row planters.
  • Field pea/winter pea requires more moisture to germinate well with broadcast seeding.

Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools:


  • Dry matter = 4,000–5,000 lb. per acre, per year
    • Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation.
    • Biomass breaks down quickly.
  • Total nitrogen = 90–150 lb. of N per acre (not fertilizer replacement).
    • Field pea/winter pea fixes nitrogen quickly.

Additional performance information:

  • Seed vigor is highly variable.
  • This cover crop mixes well with grains when grown for forage.
  • Bloat potential is easily managed.
  • Restricting to 30% of total rotation or mixing with a grass is recommended.
  • Some peas are bitter and not palatable to livestock by themselves.
  • Peas are poor hosts for soybean cyst nematode.
  • Field pea/winter pea does not tolerate flooding or ponding.
Table 2. Rating the attributes of cover crop field pea/winter pea.
Nitrogen source Excellent
Soil builder Very good
Erosion fighter Very good
Weed fighter Very good
Grazing Good
Quick growth Very good
Lasting residue Good
Mechanical forage harvest Very good
Grain seed harvest Good


  • Tillage
    • If terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
  • Roller crimper
    • Roller crimping is the most difficult/variable termination method.
    • Crimp during reproductive stage (full bloom).
  • Chemical

Additional termination information:

  • Winter snow cover and variety may affect winterkill.
  • Early planting reduces winter survival.
  • Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
Table 3. Potential advantages of cover crop field pea/winter pea.
Soil Impacts
Subsoiler Good
Frees phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) Good
Compaction fighter Very good
Disease Very good
Chokes weeds Very good
Attracts beneficials Very good
Short windows Very good

Potential Disadvantages

Increased insects/nematodes: could be a minor problem

Increased crop diseases: occasionally a minor problem

  • There may be an increase in sclerotinia and fusarium root rot presence.

Establishment challenges: occasionally a minor problem

  • Late planting increases heaving.

Mature incorporation challenges: occasionally a minor problem


This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool ( It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at

The Midwest Cover Crops Council ( aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.

Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Red rectangle with white lettering spelling McKnight Foundation.



Originally posted Apr 6, 2023.