The long winter is finally coming to a close as the snow melt is well underway. Producers in the area are preparing equipment to get to the fields as soon as possible, and while many will already have made decisions on crops, Custom Grain Cleaning wants to offer another crop option – faba beans.
By Melissa Anderson
“I do think there is potential, otherwise we wouldn’t’ get behind it. We have watched it for a few years now and I definitely think it’s a crop that we can grow and the counties surrounding [can grow],” Custom Grain– Langdon owner Jim Johnson said.
Faba beans have been talked about as a alternative to soybeans in the favored three crop rotation used in Cavalier County for awhile now. With its preference for cool, wet weather, contracted acres for the crop are still being sought north of ND Highway 2 by notable companies like Valesco Genetics, a division of Great Northern Ag.
“We want to get behind faba beans just because it’s kind of a new crop for the area. The crop has demonstrated it can be grown well in Cavalier County- kind of likes the cool area, and so we think it’s a crop for the future that might help extend the rotation outside of wheat and canola, “ Johnson said.
Langdon Research Extension Center (LREC) director Randy Mehlhoff presented the research data that has been done at the LREC over the past several years on the faba bean variety trials to a small group of interested producers. Research included data on seeding rates; disease, pest and weed control; inoculation and fertilization; best times to plant and the process for successful harvest.
“Very important with faba beans is to plant it early, as early as you can. It will be the first crop that you put in. It’s very frost tolerant,” Mehlhoff said.
In Langdon, faba beans are best planted in late April to mid-May, typically within that first week of May showing the highest yield rates for the area with its cooler climate. The benefit of planting faba beans in the crop rotation can be achieved by planting in fields with low nitrogen levels and high moisture.
According the LREC Faba Bean Production Guide for 2017, the crop uses 15 inches of water on average during a growing season. They grow best on loam or clay soils with pH of 6.5 to 9.0. Faba beans are also more tolerant of saturated soils and saline soils than other pulse crops.
LREC Plant Pathologist Dr. Venkat Chapara discussed the disease and pest concerns for growing faba beans in this area. Dr. Chapara explained that as a broad leaf, the faba bean plants are susceptible to foliar diseases, with Chocolate Brown Spot and white mold the predominant concern.
“Plant early May, spray early July,” Dr. Chapara advised.
Pre-emergent weed control is also recommended. One producer in attendance that is already growing faba beans stated that he finds Paraquat and Spartan Charge to work very well.
LREC notes that there are five insects considered to be pests for faba beans ,but the Lygus bug is the largest danger to the faba crop. One insect that is beneficial to the faba bean is the honeybee. Research notes that even though the faba bean is a self- pollinating crop, bees can potentially increase yield, and an added bonus is the honey is sweet.
“Honey bees are very beneficial. They affect spraying times so that no harm is done. Spray before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. when bees are less active,” Dr. Chapara said.
When it’s time to harvest, the faba bean pods should be 3/4 black or roughly 80 percent of the pods brown or black before desiccating. The crop does not require special equipment to plant or harvest and should be harvested when seeds have 18 to 20 percent moisture.
“Harvested seeds should be aerated to 16 percent safe storage. 14 percent is considered dry,” Mehlhoff said.
Representatives Kyle Abrahamson and Shannah Plehal from Great Northern Ag and Valesco Genetics were present to offer those present options and advice on varieties. The companies currently offer Boxer and Fanfare as commercial varieties. Both have been tested at the LREC and show great yields even during years more on the dry side, averaging over 100 bushels an acre for the past three years.
“The volume that we get is going into a market and not sitting out on farms. We are in the very early market, the infant stage,” the representatives from Great Northern Ag said.
Johnson also explained the market prospects for the crop and what producers can expect on returns. The average is $7 per bushel so on a good yield, the faba bean is a money maker. Johnson said that faba beans globally are starting to take more of a role in the younger generation’s diet.
“Millenials, GenZer’s – they would really just rather have more plant-based protein in their diet,” Johnson said.
“The faba bean, I absolutely think this is the right time to grow it. There will be some stumbles, but it’s a great opportunity,” Johnson said.
At the Northern Pulse Growers meeting in January, ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) announced that they had completed a fractionating plant in Enderlin, with plans to invest an additional $100 million building two more plants in the next five years. ADM predicted that within that time frame, they expect a total of $400 million being invested in the industry – a total of eight plants – in that same time frame.
“This must be something more than just a fad or whatever you want to call it,” Johnson said.
Faba beans typically are three points higher in protein than peas and also have a more neutral or bland flavor making it easier to incorporate into foods. For this reason, faba beans as a plant-based protein are going to be huge as a lot of fractionaters are looking to fill their bins with high protein as that is how they get paid.
“I see definitely, years to come, that protein percentage in that bin is going to be huge,” Abrahamson said.
Pelah was in agreement sharing that not only is the domestic market going to be open but also globally as contractors are looking to the United States to provide the better quality product that the U.S. is known for. With such a small region being able to grow faba beans with success, the opportunity to prosper when the demand picks up is there.
Domestically, the faba bean with its high protein is marked as being a good substitute for the pet food market. As for human consumption, Egypt and India are prime markets for the exporting of faba beans. The pulse industry has also been busy working on incorporating the pulse protein into numerous food products which now number into the hundreds of potential uses.
“The reason we are interested in faba beans is this area is because it needs a third crop. We think it’s soybeans at times; we think it’s other things. I think faba beans, if we can get this thing going, could provide a nice niche for when we think about wheat and canola,” Johnson said.
For more information on faba beans, please contact Jim Johnson at 701-361-8958. For more information on contracts, please contact Kyle Abrahamson or Shannah Plehal at 701-497-3082.