Legume Logic promotes faba bean as potential rotational crop

Legume Logic, a developmental seed company from Crosby, has been working with the Langdon Research Extension Center on discovering what varieties of a new cool season legume crop would work well in Cavalier County. 

Faba bean guy

Posted on 7/25/15

By Melissa Anderson

Richard and Cody Roland started Legume Logic based on farmers needing a legume in their crop rotation with the idea of creating a better rotation in general. The Rolands have been developing legume varieties for the past 25 years throughout the midwest. They have worked in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, and Kansas and works with international plant breeding companies in Europe and Australia.

“From our stand point, it was more of a crop that we could bring to the table that would benefit the grower/farmer,” Cody Roland said.

In Cavalier County, Legume Logic saw ideal growing conditions and an area that was lacking a cool season legume in their rotation. As such, it was a great opportunity to introduce the crop.

“We think it would benefit the farmer greatly as faba beans are an awesome rotation crop,” Roland stated

In Divide County, specifically the Crosby area where Legume Logic headquarters are, peas were being drowned out and destroyed by root disease.

“Faba beans will tolerate these situations much better. As such, we wanted to bring them a crop, specifically a legume, they could plant on their heavier/wetter soils,” Roland explained.

The biggest potential area for faba bean production is in the northern tier counties of North Dakota as this area presents the most ideal growing conditions for faba beans.  As far as a comparison to other crops, Legume Logic believes faba beans, once established, could make up one fourth of the acres in the northern tier counties.

At the LREC, Legume Logic is currently testing six varieties for the purpose of discovering what varieties will do the best in the soil of Cavalier County. There are three zero tannin varieties and three low tannin varieties. The most promising variety being tested is called Tabasco. The other five varieties have limited seed available as such will most likely not be released to the public for another year.

“Tabasco is the only variety we are increasing at this point,” Roland said.

Tannin refers to a coloring in the seed coat of the Faba Bean. As such the seed color of a low tannin compared to a zero tannin will be different. The other main difference is the low tannins have a colored flower, whereas a zero tannin has a pure white flower. In the human edible export market the larger low tannin faba beans have historically been desired.

“Faba beans are a great rotation crop for all types of crop,” Roland stated.

As they fix the most nitrogen out of any legume crop and they promote biological activity in the soil, the biological activity helps increase water and nutrition efficiency and promotes soil health.

These items all help for a better yield on the following years’ crops as well. Roland suggested a good rotational option for the area would be wheat, faba beans, canola or plant faba beans wherever soybeans are currently being planted.

The Rolands believe that once producers are acclimated with the crop, it will be a relatively low-maintenance crop. They do note that with any crop grown for the first time, there is a learning curve. If a farmer were to grow it for the first time, there would be some hiccups along the way.

“We have new growers growing faba beans this year and up until this point, it has been a smooth transition,” Roland said.

Another factor would be what crops the farmer has experience in raising. Farmers who have raised peas before will likely make the transition easily  versus a producer who has never raised a legume. Those who have not raised a legume before could face a bigger struggle than those with experience.

“Through it all though, we are definitely here as a resource and to support the farmer/grower,” Roland stated.

“If they have questions or concerns, we, combined with the researchers at NDSU, will try to help them the best we can,” Roland continued.

Another factor that producers need to know about is that the commonly used equipment for crops grown in Cavalier County should work for the growing of the faba bean as well.

“No special equipment is needed. They will likely use an air seeder and straight header combine,” Roland said.

Seeding dates are usually in early May, as this high frost tolerant crop needs approximately 100 to 130 days to mature. The seed size is 200 to 800  (1000KWT gram) and is planted at a depth of 2.5 inches to 3 inches. The faba bean plant then grows to between 39 inches to 55 inches tall with an excellent standability

As faba bean plants mature, the lower leaves darken and drop, and bottom pods turn black and dry progressively up the stem. The crop is ready for straight combining at 18-20 percent moisture. Dry for faba beans is 16 percent.

Legume Logic is also testing the faba bean at two other locations in North Dakota. At the North Central Research Extension Center in Minot, weed scientist Brian Jenks is conducting herbicide screening trials on faba beans. At the Carrington Research Extension Center, plant pathologist Michael Wunsch is conducting fungicide experiments.

Diseases of note for the faba bean include Chocolate Spot or Botrytis, which mainly affects the leaves but can also infect flowers and pods. Symptoms are chocolate-brown spots which give a “peppered” appearance on foliage.

Faba beans also need to be planted with care as the Lygus bug can move in from surrounding canola or alfalfa fields causing havoc with the seed.  The bugs create injury to the seed that turns it black, downgrading the quality in the commercial market. The primary method of prevention for this is to select appropriate fields as well as scouting fields regularly.

As far as the market or use for faba beans there are multiple options. The first, and likely the most prominent market, will be the fractionation market. This is a complex process where they will extract protein, starch, and fiber from the faba beans. These ingredients are now in powder form and can be used in multiple markets but primarily the pet food market.

The major lure for the fractionation market is the fact faba beans have high protein which, on average, can be 4-6 percent higher than peas. Companies located in Minot and Devils Lake that currently fractionate peas are considering fractionating faba beans.

“The Minot facility has already run faba beans through their facility,” Roland said.

Other possible markets include an export market where the faba bean is exported to the middle east for human consumption or the faba beans could be used in the livestock feed market.

“The crop is being introduced to benefit the grower/farmer.  As far as it being a money-maker,  we don’t know how the acreage will look. A lot of factors will go into the overall success of the crop,” Roland said.

To contact Richard or Cody Roland at Legume Logic, please call 701-965-6058 or send them an email at legumes@nccray.com.

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