Overview of the most important pea diseases and pests

Peas play a central role in Europe's agriculture. In this article, we present the most important pea diseases and pests, as well as damage patterns and possible measures against pea diseases and pests.

Successful pea cultivation with stable yields - without compromising on plant health

With their versatile use in both human nutrition and animal feed, table and fodder peas are an indispensable crop. Peas (pisum sativum), especially fodder peas, are also known for their ability to bind nitrogen from the air and store it in the soil.

This nitrogen fixation, a natural symbiosis with nodule bacteria, makes it possible to increase soil fertility and reduce the need for artificial nitrogen fertilizers.

This characteristic has made the pea a key component of sustainable agricultural practices. It helps to improve soil structure, extends crop rotation and promotes subsequent crops through its preceding crop effect. Its cultivation promotes biodiversity and supports environmentally friendly farming methods by reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The cultivation of peas can have a positive effect on weed control, in particular of foxtail and bromegrass.

With its high protein and starch content, forage peas are a reliable component in common feed rations.

Challenges in pea cultivation

The area under pea cultivation in Europe has increased significantly in recent years, which reflects, among other things, the increased awareness of its ecological and economic benefits, but has also been specifically promoted by agricultural policy measures.

In Germany, for example, the area under cultivation has been expanded to around 107,000 hectares by 2023, which is almost three times as much as in 2013.

In the following sections, we will highlight the challenges facing pea cultivation, in particular the various pea diseases, and present effective strategies to combat these challenges.

Ackerbohnen in der Blüte
Healthy, vigorous peas with pods (source: agrar-press)

Pea diseases and measures

Downy mildew (Peronospora pisi)

Symptoms: This fungal disease manifests as yellowish spots on the leaf surfaces, which can lead to the death of the leaf tissue in advanced stages.

Propagation: The fungus survives the winter on infected plant remains and spreads mainly through rain or irrigation.

Prevention and control: Using resistant varieties is an effective preventive measure. Suitable fungicides can also be used, but it is important to keep their use to a minimum to reduce environmental impact.

Downy mildew on peas, caused by the fungal pathogen Peronospora viciae, is characterized by yellowish to yellow-brown spots on the leaves, which lead to the death of the leaf tissue in advanced cases of infestation. The fungus overwinters on plant debris and spreads through rain or irrigation. The spores can persist in the soil for up to 15 years, making it difficult to control.

Preventive measures include the cultivation of resistant varieties, wide crop rotations and the use of dressed seed. Caution should be exercised with different variants of P. viciae, as not all varieties are universally resistant. Systemic fungicides can reduce primary infections, although recommended pesticides vary by region.

Powdery mildew, Erysiphe pisi, infestation, mycelium on pod of ripening grain peas, single plant, close-up (source: Landpixel)

Powdery mildew (Erysiphe pisi)

Symptoms: It is characterized by a white, mealy coating on the leaves, which can spread to the stems and pods and interfere with plant growth.

Propagation: The fungus thrives in dry conditions and is spread by wind

Prevention and control: Similar to downy mildew, resistant varieties and the use of fungicides are common control strategies.

Powdery mildew of peas, caused by Erysiphe pisi, is a worldwide pathogen that thrives in dry, windy, warm days and cool, damp nights. It is characterized by white to grey-brown, powdery coatings on leaves, stipules, stems and pods and can impair plant growth.

Erysiphe pisi not only attacks peas, but also other Fabaceae species such as beans, alfalfa and vetches. To prevent powdery mildew, regular spring sowing is recommended, whereas late sowing should be avoided. The cultivation of resistant varieties and the use of healthy seeds are effective measures to contain the disease and protect pea cultivation in the long term.

Rust (Uromyces pisi)

Symptoms: Orange-colored, rust-like spots on the leaves, which have a negative effect on photosynthesis.

Propagation: The fungus overwinters on plant debris and spreads by wind.

Prevention and control: Resistant varieties and the use of fungicides are effective. Good crop rotation and field hygiene can also help to prevent the spread of the fungus.

Pea rust, caused by Uromyces pisi, is a globally widespread pathogen that occasionally leads to significant yield losses, particularly in Germany. The disease manifests itself in the form of orange-coloured, rust-like spots on leaves and stems, which have a strong negative impact on plant growth by impairing photosynthesis.

Severe infestation can lead to yellowing and drying out of the plant. Although no specific fungicides against pea rust have been approved in Germany, the preventative use of products to combat burnt spot disease can also be effective against rust. Preventive measures such as careful crop rotation and the cultivation of resistant varieties are also important to prevent the spread of the fungus.

Gray mould (Botrytis cinerea)

Symptoms: Gray to brown, watery spots on leaves, stems and pods, often followed by a furry coating of mould.

Propagation: The fungus mainly attacks flowers and pods and is boosted by moisture.

Prevention and control: Good aeration of the cultivation area and the removal of infected plant residues are essential. Chemical fungicides can be used in severe cases.

Gray mould, caused by Botrytis cinerea, is a global plant pathogen that affects a wide range of plants. The fungus feeds on dead plant debris, which allows it to survive for long periods in the field. Typically, gray mould occurs under humid conditions, especially during and after flowering in dense stands.

Preventive measures such as avoiding dense plant populations and the use of microbial plant-strengthening agents are effective. These increase the resistance of the plants and help the leaves to dry quickly. In biological plant protection, herbal and microbial preparations can be used to strengthen the plant. For conventional plant protection, approved plant protection products are available to effectively combat gray mould.

White stem blight (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum)

Symptoms: White, cotton-like spots on the stems, which can lead to the death of the plant.

Propagation: The fungus survives the winter in the soil and infects plants through wind or irrigation.

Prevention and control: Careful crop rotation and the selection of resistant varieties are crucial. The use of fungicides can also be considered.

White stem blight, caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, is a serious problem in pea cultivation. This fungus mainly infects the stems and produces wet, irregular spots with a characteristic white, cotton-like mycelium. The fungus overwinters in the soil and spreads by wind and irrigation, making it difficult to control.

Careful, wide crop rotation (cultivation breaks of at least 5 years) and the cultivation of resistant varieties are essential for prevention. In severe cases, the use of fungicides may be necessary. The control of white stem blight is crucial to ensure the vitality and productivity of pea plants.

Ascochyta (Ascochyta pisi)

Symptoms: Sunken spots with a black border on leaves, stems and pods.

Propagation: The fungus overwinters on infected plant remains and spreads through rain or irrigation.

Prevention and control: Resistant varieties and the removal of infected plant residues are important preventive measures. The use of fungicides may be necessary for control.

The pathogen Ascochyta pisi, known for the blight spot disease, presents itself in pea cultivation as sunken, light brown spots on leaves, stems and pods, surrounded by a reddish-brown border and black pycnidia in the center.

This fungus, which is mainly transmitted by seed and cannot survive in the soil, causes infections in damp weather through conidia that adhere to the seed coat. These conidia spread and infect young plants and seeds.

To prevent the disease, the use of healthy, certified seed and the cultivation of resistant varieties is essential. Optimal cultivation conditions and starting conditions are a key measure to prevent focal spot disease in pea cultivation. In the event of an infestation, suitable fungicides may also be required to control the disease in order to prevent it from spreading and to protect the pea crops.

Overview of the most important pea pests

Pea moth (Cydia nigricana)

Symptoms: The pea moth, a dangerous pest of peas, causes damage to pea seeds in the pods through larval feeding. This leads to inferior harvests for all types of use.

Propagation: The moths appear in spring and lay eggs on flowering peas. The caterpillars penetrate the pods and overwinter in the soil after feeding.

Prevention and control: Important measures include wide crop rotation, planting new pea fields away from previous years' fields, early sowing with early maturing varieties and deep ploughing. Pheromone traps for monitoring and insecticides that are harmless to bees if the threshold is exceeded are also effective.

The pea moth (Cydia nigricana) is a major enemy of the pea, which can cause massive damage during the egg-laying period, especially in dry, warm weather. Monitoring the moth's flight with pheromone traps and targeted insecticide application are key to successful control. A wide crop rotation and the selection of earlier pea varieties can also help to minimize infestation.

Pea aphid (Acyrthosiphum pisum)

Symptoms: These pests suck on shoot tips and cause growth disorders that can lead to the death of plant parts. They can also transmit viruses in cases of massive infestation.

Propagation: Pea aphids are mainly found on legumes and shepherd's purse.

Prevention and control: Important measures include wide crop rotation and planting new pea fields as far away as possible from previous years' fields. Early sowing with early maturing varieties is recommended. Strict louse control is required for seed propagation.

Pea aphids (Acyrthosiphum pisum), an important pest in pea cultivation, damage plants through sucking activity and virus transmission. They prefer legumes and certain wild plants as breeding sites. Pea aphids leave a sticky layer, the honeydew, on the leaves of the pea. Preventive measures such as crop rotation and targeted cultivation planning are crucial. If necessary, insecticides can be used, taking into account damage and control thresholds, to contain massive infestations. Encouraging beneficial insects can also help to naturally limit the aphid population.

Leaf edge beetle (Sitona spp.)

Symptoms: Leaf edge beetles cause arched feeding spots on the leaf edges of legumes. Larvae feed on nitrogen-critical root nodules, impairing the nitrogen supply and weakening the plants.

Propagation: Common in legume fields. First beetles appear in March/April and fly to the plants. Propagation until July.

Prevention and control: Important measures: Crop rotation, early sowing, and insecticides in case of heavy infestation from 5-10 beetles per m², especially in cool spring weather.

Leaf edge beetles (Sitona spp.) are widespread pests in legume fields that feed on both the leaves and the vital root nodules. This can lead to considerable crop losses as the nitrogen supply to the plants is impaired. Control requires careful monitoring and the targeted application of insecticides in the event of a significant infestation. Preventative measures such as choosing early maturing varieties and a wide crop rotation are also crucial to contain the spread of these pests.

Ackerbohnenkäfer (Bruchus rufimanus)
Blattrandkäfer und Fraßschaden (Quelle: Landpixel)

Conclusion and summary

A combination of preventive measures and targeted control strategies is effective in combating common pea diseases and pea pests. The cultivation of resistant varieties, the use of healthy seeds and careful crop rotation are key elements in preventing these pea diseases. In severe cases, the targeted use of fungicides may be necessary to control the spread of the diseases.

Preventive measures:

  • Cultivation of resistant pea varieties
  • Use of healthy and certified seed
  • Careful crop rotation to avoid soil diseases
  • Ensure optimal growing conditions and starting conditions for the pea plants

Control measures:

  • Use of fungicides in the event of an imminent epidemic
  • Good field hygiene and removal of infected plant residues

Ideal start for peas with LEGUGUARD

LEGUGUARD is a specially developed treatment for pea seeds that aims to strengthen the vitality and resistance of the plants. By combining over 20 natural active ingredients and nutrients, LEGUGUARD supports the pea plants in several ways:

  1. Strengthening plant health: LEGUGUARD promotes robust plant development, which is crucial to counteract infestation by various pathogens. The increased vitality helps the plants to defend themselves against fungal infestation and other pathogens.
  2. Yield increase: By improving the health and vitality of the plants, LEGUGUARD helps to maximize the yield potential of peas. Healthy plants are more productive, which is directly reflected in crop yields (+5% increase in yield).
  3. Increased root performance: Increased root development and root surface area (+20%) enable plants to develop resources more efficiently. This ensures an optimal start to the crop and stable crop performance over the growing season.
  4. Focus on sustainability: LEGUGUARD stands for sustainable agricultural practices. The use of natural ingredients ensures environmentally friendly treatment that is in line with the principles of regenerative and organic farming.

All values on average based on 16 field trials in the period 2020 - 2022, 3 of which were carried out by GEP-certified trial facilities, compared to the control without LEGUGUARD, depending on seed, soil and environmental factors. Status: 04/2023


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