There are many varieties and types of peas and each class has its own characteristics and target markets. Yellow and green cotyledon peas are the most widely grown and are suitable for human consumption and livestock feed markets. These varieties have white flowers and are semi-leafless. Historically yellow pea varieties outyield green varieties, but the gap has narrowed with development of new varieties.
Specialty varieties for use as forage or silage may be leafed or semi-leafless. Marrowfat types are blocky, very large-seeded green cotyledon peas used in specialty snack food markets in Asia. Purple flowered varieties with coloured seed coats (maple and dun pea) are also produced in Saskatchewan.
Varieties with improved tolerance to Mycosphaerella/ascochyta blight and fusarium wilt are being developed, and each variety is rated for level of resistance. All newer varieties developed have resistance to powdery mildew. Varieties also differ in their standability or lodging, height, seed size, level of seed coat breakage, and relative maturity. When choosing a variety consider all the factors. Varieties with good lodging resistance improve harvestability and reduce soil tag. Taller pea varieties do not necessarily have weaker straw strength; research at the Crop Development Centre (CDC) has shown that taller varieties are more competitive against weeds. Adding the semi-leafless characteristic to new varieties has improved lodging resistance.
Bleaching resistance is an important consideration when choosing green pea varieties. Rain and hot sunny days, especially if interspersed just prior to harvest, increases bleaching.