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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genus of annual and perennial herbaceous plants of the family Leguminosae. The four-angled main stalks are trailing, clinging, climbing, or—less commonly—erect. Their height is 15–20 cm (to 1.5 m). The lateral branches rapidly overtake the main stem in length. The leaves are uniparipinnate or, less commonly, bijugate to quadrijugate; they are oblong-lanceolate or lanceolate. The inflorescence contains one or, less often, two white, purple-violet, yellow, orange, lilac-blue, or pink flowers. The plants generally are self-pollinating. The fruit is a two-winged pod. Three groups are distinguished according to the color of the seeds and flowers (white, light, and dark) and according to the size of the seeds (large, small, and medium—lengths from 4 to 16 mm).

There are more than 100 species, distributed in Europe, Asia, and Northwest Africa. The USSR has 50 species. Most species are forage plants. Lathyrus is cultivated in many countries. In the USSR small areas are planted with the perennial meadow pea (L. pratensis)and the annual field pea (L. sativus), flat podder (L. cicera), and Tangier pea (L. tangitanus). Most widely distributed is the field pea, which is cultivated as a grain crop in the Northern Caucasus, Transcaucasia, the forest-steppe regions of the Ukrainian SSR, the central regions of the RSFSR, Western Siberia, and Middle Asia. The field pea is also grown for green feed and hay in more northern areas. The plant grows well in various soils; it is drought resistant and can withstand temperatures to –8°C. The vegetative period lasts 100 to 115 days in the temperate zone. The seeds are sown at the same time as early spring crops, using the wide-row (for grain) or broadcast (for green feed or hay) method. The sowing rate for pure plantings is 130–160 kg per hectare (ha); the sowing depth is 4–8 cm. The field pea is harvested for grain when 75 percent of the beans turn yellow, for green feed when the plants are in early bloom, and for hay when the beans first develop. In humid years it may yield a good aftercrop and, in a mixture with Sudan grass, a second cutting. The harvest from 1 ha is 220–230 quintals of green feed in pure plantings, 30–35 quintals of hay, and 15–20 quintals of grain.

There are 108.2 feed units and 20.5 kg of digestible protein in 100 kg of the grain and 15.8 feed units and 3.6 kg of digestible protein in 100 kg of green matter. Green feed is readily eaten by cattle and swine, and the hay by cattle and sheep. The meadow pea is particularly leafy. It is cultivated as green feed and hay in the forest, forest-steppe, and steppe zones and the mountain regions of the Caucasus and Middle Asia. The yield of hay is 25–35 quintals per ha. The plant is eaten readily by sheep and horses but not as well by cattle.


Kormovye rasteniia senokosov i paslbishch SSSR, vol. 2. Edited by I. V. Larin, Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
Spravochnik po kormoproizvodstvu. Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.