Fava beans: A new multipurpose crop for New England

Final Report for GNE14-078

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,995.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Grant Recipient: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Masoud Hashemi
University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Project Information

Summary:

Fava beans is a cool season legume crop with high nutrition values and has the potential to be grown as a new cash crop in Northeastern U.S. It can be seeded as early as mid-March and harvested in time for growing another cash crop. Fava beans also can be grown after harvesting spring planted cash crop and be used as cover crop. Fava beans have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen under various environmental conditions, acts as a break crop in crop rotation, and provide feed to pollinators and beneficial insects. We proposed to demonstrate the feasibility of growing fava beans in Massachusetts and determine basic information suitable to Massachusetts condition including, varieties, time of planting, seeding rate and to demonstrate the feasibility of transplanting Fava Beans to ensure its early planting. Also, the nitrogen contribution of Fava Beans to subsequent each crop were being assessed.

Fava Beans is known to have high concentration of L-Dopa which is currently used for remediation of Parkinson disease. The concentration and accumulation trend of L-Dopa in various parts of Fava Beans including roots, stems, terminal buds and seeds determined. A guide for growers of Fava Beans that covers major agronomic practices were published. Also, a cost-income analysis to determine the profitability of double cropping fava beans with another cash crop performed. Educational and outreach include web-based factsheets and videos posted on the Center for Agriculture, Food, and Environment University of Massachusetts.

Introduction:

Fava beans is considered as an important dietary used by many ethnics especially Portuguese speaking citizens in U.S.A. Massachusetts has the largest population of Portuguese-speaking people in the United States. This population comprises people from Portugal, the Azores, Cape Verde, and a growing Brazilian population, estimated by the Brazilian Consulate in Boston to be at least 250,000 in 2013. Fava beans is also an important dietary used by other ethnics from China, Middle East, Africa and Southwest Asia. Portuguese markets in Massachusetts are selling fresh favas in spring and early summer when they are available and carry dried or frozen fava seeds year round.

Growers are always looking for new crops that fit into their cropping system and new market. Fresh fava bean pods and frozen seeds are commonly found in markets and grocery stores that cater to growing ethnic groups in the United States. Fava bean pods can be hand harvested (by growers or pick your own) for fresh market in the summer while the remaining smaller pods can be harvested for dry seeds. Basic information and management practices including varieties, time of planting, seeding rate and planting method suitable to New England condition are needed. Preliminary experiments conducted in UMass research Farm in 2012 and 2013 have shown that Fava Beans must be planted at earliest time after March 15th. This is mainly due to avoid chocolate bacteria disease which infects plants in high temperature of July and August. However, in many years, soil and weather conditions do not allow early planting of Fava Beans. We hypothesized the feasibility of transplanting seedlings as an alternative to direct seeding to ensure its early planting. The distance between seedlings for maximum yield must be determined. Early planting also provides the opportunity for double cropping of Fava Beans. After first and second pod harvests, the residue of the crop can be incorporated into soil as a legume cover crop before planting a vegetable crop such as sweet corn or a late season crop such as brassica/winter grains. This reduces the cost of nitrogen fertilizer purchase since fava bean has the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. It has been reported that Fava Beans can potentially fix up to 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre when complete crop is incorporated into soil. L-Dopa is a common remediation for Parkinson’s disease. Fava Beans is a valuable natural source of L-Dopa. Its distribution among different parts of the plant is important to report.

 

Project Objectives:

The main objective of this study is to collect and disseminate technical information to support growers in New England to include Fava Beans in their cropping system. This project evaluated and promoted the multiple benefits of growing fava beans as a new cash crop for New England.

We will:

(1) Demonstrate the feasibility of growing fava beans and its use as multi-purpose crop

(2) Provide basic information and agronomic practices including varieties, time of planting, method of planting and seeding rate suitable to Massachusetts climate condition

(3) Feasibility of transplanting fava beans as an alternative method to direct seeding to ensure early planting

(4) Assess contribution of nitrogen from fava beans to succeeding cash crop

(5) Determining amount and distribution of L-dopa in plant parts during the growing season

(6) Perform cost-income analysis of growing multi-purpose fava beans.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Masoud Hashemi

Research

Materials and methods:

Experiment 1. Date and method of planting, plant spacing (objectives 1, 2, 3)

A two-year replicated research project conducted at the University of Massachusetts Crops and Animal Research and Education Center in South Deerfield in 2014 and 2015. The experiment laid out as a factorial design with 4 replications. Treatments include type of planting (direct seeding, transplanting), date and type of planting (March 30 Direct, April 10 and 25 transplant). Plots are consisted of 2 rows which are 2.5 feet wide and 25 feet long. Windsor variety were grown on April 1st and 15th in green house for transplanting on April 10th and 25th, respectively.

 Measurements:

Soil sampling:

Prior to planting fava beans, a soil sample were taken to determine selected chemical and physical characteristics of the soil.

Yield and yield components:

Since fava beans is an indeterminate crop, harvesting pods took place at three different times. Final harvest area consists of 10 feet taken from the middle section of the two rows (20 Sq ft). After each harvest pods fresh weight, number of pods/plant, number of seeds/pod and seed weight were determined.

Experiment 2. N contribution and decomposition trend of Fava Beans residue (objective 4)

 A 2-year randomized complete block design in 2014 and 2015 used to evaluate amount and trend of nutrient release from fava beans residues into the soil. For this experiment we used plants located outside of the final harvest area of April 1st date of planting. Fava beans were carefully digged out, washed, chopped and mixed thoroughly to provide a uniform residue mix.

The half of residues incorporated (for conventional planting systems) and the other half were left on the soil (for No-till planting systems). Sixty mesh bags filled with 200 g of fresh chopped residues. Thirty bags were left on soil surface and the other thirty bags will be placed at the depth of 15 cm.

Measurements:

Every 10 days, three samples from each system collected, washed, dried, weighed, grinded and analyzed with Lachat 8500 FIA spectrophotometer, Lachet Method Number 13-107-06-2-D (Zellweger Analytical, Milwaukee, WI, USA) for N content. For other nutrients including P, K, Ca, samples were dried, ashed at 500C for 5 hours, taken up in 10% HCL, and analyzed using microwave plasma spectroscopy, Agilent MP4100.

 Experiment 3. Evaluating fava beans genotypes (objectives 1, 2, 3, 6)

A complete randomized block design experiment with four replications conducted in the field in 2014 and 2015 to evaluate morphology, yield performance, and sensitivity to chocolate spot diseases of eight varieties; Aquadulce, CPE-6926 Bell Bean, Early Violetto, Delle Cascine, Early White, VBE-2210 D’Aquadulce, Sweet Lorane, and Windsor. Fava beans seeds planted in the field on April 16th. Some morphological characteristics including, time of first flowering, pod formation, height of plants, and height of first pod from ground, were determined.

Yield and yield components were also determined based on harvesting 20 Sq ft from center of the rows. Susceptibility to chocolate bacteria scouted at the flowering stage prior to pod formation.

Economic analysis, based on seed cost and pod fresh weight and N contribution of each variety to the next cash crop, were assessed.

Experiment 4. Amount and distribution of L-dopa in fava beans plants’ part and accumulation trend (objective 5)

 Fava beans were planted on April 16th in the field in 2016, were considered to measure L-Dopa content in different plant organs and its accumulation trend over time from vegetative stage to full maturity.

Measurements:

Plants harvested at the following stages of growth:

 

  1. 6-leaf stage
  2. First flower bud formation
  3. Three full flower formation
  4. First pod formation
  5. Three full pod formation (first harvest)
  6. Full physiological maturity

All samples were dried in a forced air oven at 800C for 36h. Dried samples were ground fine to pass through a 0.42 mm screen. The sieved material (25 g) were mixed with 200 ml of ethyl alcohol (40%) plus 3% glacial acetic acid and kept at 60-70º C for 1-2 h in a water bath. The mixture filtered and marked further refluxed three times with 150 ml ethyl alcohol (40%). All extracts were pooled together and concentrated to 40% of their original volume using a Roto-vap (Buchi, Switzerland). Ten ml of the concentrate were acidified with 80 µl of 12 M HCl and sonicated for 10 minutes in a sonicator bath. After settling down, the supernatant were passed through a 0.45 µm syringe filter and will be analyzed by HPLC.

Standard solution:  

Standard solution of pure L-dopa were prepared by dissolving 2.0 mg in 20 ml of 0.1N HCl in a volumetric flask (stock solution). For preparing standard solutions, 2 ml of the stock solution were diluted to 10 ml (20 ppm), 4 ml of the same stock solution diluted to 10 ml (40 ppm), 6 ml of the same stock solution diluted to 10 ml (60 ppm).

High Performance Liquid Chromatography:

L-dopa were analyzed by High Performance Liquid Chromatography system (HPLC, Shimadzu, LC 2010A, Japan) equipped with Autosampler and Diode Array Detector. The data were acquired and processed by LC Solution Data System (Shimadzu, Japan). Chromatographic separation was done on a Phenomenex C18 column (250 mm x 4.6 mm, 5 μm) (California, USA) with an isocratic flow of 1 ml/min. Mobile phase is 0.1% acetic acid (98%) and methanol (2%). The mobile phase was filtered through 0.2 μm filter and degassed by sonication for 30 min. Injection volume was 20 μl and L-dopa detection was made at 283 nm.

 

Research results and discussion:

Table-2017-2

As 100% of the experiments were done, the results are described as below;

1- Row spacing and Plant Population:

Prior to this project, in a preliminary experiment we concluded that population of 28,000-30,000 plants per acre was the optimum/economical number of plants for growing fava bean in Massachusetts condition. In this project while we kept the population constant (28,000) we compared traditional wide rows versus narrow rows spacing.

The results indicated that narrower rows (15”) yielded 15% higher than wider rows spacing (30”). This could partly be attributed to the fewer lateral branches produced in 15” rows. Plants grown in 30” row spacing produced more lateral branches with fewer pods compared with main stem (Table 1).  

           

2-Date of Planting and seed size:

In general, the earlier the planting fava beans, the better performance and higher pod yield. Our preliminary on-farm demonstrations showed that mid-March was the best time for direct seeding fava bean into the field. However, in all two years during grant period, the land was covered by snow in March and was not workable.

Results from this project clearly indicated that fava beans must be planted as early as soil is workable in spring. As table 2 shows, average two years, two weeks delay in planting reduced pod fresh yield by approximately 40%. The yield reduction was mainly attributed to 35% fewer pods and 30% lighter seeds in later planting time.

Traditionally, growers buy fava bean seeds as mixed. We hypothesized that if farmers harvest the lower pods that produce larger seeds and then save the upper pods which often produce smaller seeds for their next growing season it will save them a significant amount of money in seed purchase. The results of this project indicated that crop yield was reduced significantly as seed size reduced (table 2). We concluded only second harvest pods which have medium size seeds can be saved for the next season.

3-Variety Trial and Seed Size:

 

Traditionally recommended population is estimated as weight not as a count. We found a significant difference between fava beans varieties in regard to seed size. Currently, Windsor is the main variety available to the growers in New England. However, Windsor is considered large-seeded variety and on average there are 275 seeds per pound. Considering a population density of 30,000 plants per acre and the current seed cost ($3.25/pound), growers must spend roughly $350 per acre to purchase seeds which seems not reasonable.

We evaluated seven varieties of fava beans with various seed size in addition to Windsor variety in a two-year trial to find whether smaller seed size varieties perform as good as or better than Windsor. We concluded that small seeds such as Bell bean or Sweet Lorane yield less than larger seeds. However, some varieties such as Early white, Aquadulce which have considerably smaller seeds than Windsor performed much better and out yielded Windsor which is the only variety available for growers in New England (Table 3).

 

4-Methods of Planting:

 

Fava bean traditionally is planted directly into the field. However, in many years, early direct seeding may not be possible due to soil and weather conditions. We hypothesized that growing fava bean in the greenhouse and transplant them into the main field may be used as an alternative method of planting to guarantee early planting of fava bean.

 

Our results indicated that early transplanting (April 15) produced higher yield than direct seeding only in years that soil condition is not workable and planting is delayed(such as in 2014). However, when soil condition was workable (such as in 2015), direct seeding out-yielded transplanting method by roughly 15%. Moreover, as transplanting delayed, pod yield reduced dramatically (Table 4).

5-Nitrogen Contribution of Fava bean to Succeeding Sweet corn:

As a legume crop, fava bean residues are rich in nitrogen which is gradually released into soil through microbial activity and will be available to the next crop.

In this project we planted fava bean in three dates in August. We hypothesized that growers can harvest some of the pods in October and the residues will serve as a legume cover crop until it winter kills. We also assumed that the earlier fava bean is planted in August the larger plants will be and therefore more nitrogen will be produced. Results showed that (Table 5):

  1. a) Fava bean did not produce harvestable pod in none of the August planting dates.
  2. b) Fava bean residues contributed significant amount of N to the succeeding crop (sweet corn). We found that nitrogen contribution to sweet corn was as much as 50 lbs per acre. Sweet corn planted into fava bean residues plus 50 pound nitrogen produced as much as sweet corns that received 100 pounds of nitrogen.

 

6- Determining amount and distribution of L-dopa in plant parts during the growing season

Concentration of L-Dopa is often measured in seeds while other parts of plants may accumulate significant amounts of this chemical. The accumulation of L-Dopa in different plant organs of fava beans was studied in the field and controlled environment. In field condition, fava beans were harvested at six-leaf stage and when pods were fully grown. Plant parts were digested separately and analyzed for L-Dopa concentration using HPLC. The contents of L-Dopa in plant parts were in the following order;

seedlings> leaves > terminal buds > seeds > roots > stems with 13.3, 10.5, 9.5, 7.2, 6.5, 3.5 mg g-1, respectively (Table 6). Accumulation of L-Dopa from germination until 10-leaf stage in eight varieties of fava beans was studied in greenhouse. All varieties had their peak concentration of L-Dopa between 2-4 leaf stages followed by a declining trend. Delle Cascine and Bell bean varieties had the most and the least concentrations of L-Dopa by 10.89 and 7.56 mg g-1 respectively (Table 7).

 7- Evaluation among eight varieties for their morphology and susceptibility to the chocolate bacteria

Considering the final step of experiment, “evaluation among eight varieties for their morphology and susceptibility to the chocolate bacteria” is presented here . Seeds were germinated on May 1st. As can be seen in table 8, Windsor, Delle cascine and Aquadulce achieved six leaf stage by May13th and sooner than others. While, Sweet lorane and Bell bean achieved this stage later than others and on May 20th and 21st.in this respect Sweet lorane produces flowers later than others as well as pod ripening. So, among all varieties, Sweet lorane was the late maturity one and Windsor, Delle cascine, Aquadulce and D’Aquadulce ranked early maturity ones. The variety Bell bean is the tallest with 29.5 inches and Early white with 16 inches is the shortest one.

Chocolate bacteria is a disease which happened by increasing temperature during flowering. It is distinguished by black spots on some leaves which could be due to the late planting in spring. Ranking based on the susceptibility to this disease, could be helpful to choose a variety with less susceptibility. In this case, the percentage of those that had black spots was mentioned in the table 8. By increasing the percent, the susceptibility is increased. Early violletto had the lowest susceptibility by 50% and Windsor, Sweet lorane and Bell bean by 80%, had the highest susceptibility.

8- Performing cost-income analysis of growing multi-purpose fava beans

The results of cost analysis is describing in “Economic analysis” section.

Most of accomplishments were in line with the initial goals and expectations of the proposed project. However there were some exceptions summarized follow:

 

  1. Based on our initial conversation with 5 growers, we planned to have some research on farmers’ land. However, because of soil condition in spring during the period of project and some uncertainties including the threat of chocolate bacteria disease, all interested growers decided to wait until the outcome of the project becomes available to them.
  2.  We hypothesized that fava bean can be planted in August as dual purpose (cash crop/cover crop). In other words growers who plant fava bean in August will be able to harvest some fresh pods for market and the residues can serve as late fall legume cover crop. However, although fava bean plants that were sowed in August grew very well and produced high biomass, for some unknown reasons flowers did not converted into enough harvestable pods.

 

 

Research conclusions:

The major outcome of this project can be summarized as following:

  1. Fava bean can be planted successfully in Massachusetts weather condition.
  2. Successful growing fava bean requires an early planting, as soon as soil is workable in spring.
  3. Fava bean can easily contribute approximately 50 pounds of nitrogen to the succeeding crop (sweet corn).
  4. We recommend a population density of 30,000 plants per acre with 15 inch row spacing.
  5. Windsor variety which is currently the only available variety to growers in Massachusetts is not the highest profitable variety and should be replaced by smaller seed size and higher yielding varieties such as Aquadulce or Delle cascine.
  6. Although transplanting can be considered as an alternative method to grow fava bean, direct seeding from mid-March through mid-April is more economical and therefore recommended.
  7. When an appropriate variety is used and planted as early as possible in spring, one acre of fava bean can generate roughly $7,000 per acre.

We used the data collected in this project as well as other existing references to publish a guideline entitled “A Guide for; Growing Fava beans in Massachusetts.” (A copy of the guide is attached to this report). Through this project, we also generated a video entitled “Fava beans – A new dual purpose crop for New England” which is uploaded on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6W4EoQD2Q4.

 

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

fava_bean_guide_2

aj-2016-10-0617-Proofs

We used the data collected in this project as well as other existing references to publish a guideline entitled “A Guide for; Growing Fava beans in Massachusetts.” (A copy of the guide is attached to this report). Through this project, we also generated a video entitled “Fava beans – A new dual purpose crop for New England” which is uploaded on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6W4EoQD2Q4.

Part of the results of this project presented in international conferences in American Society of Agronomy annual meetings 2016;

“Fava beans; a dual-purpose legume cover crop for sweet corn production”.

Also, varieties evaluated based on its pod and L-Dopa yield by mathematical method “DEA” and published in Agronomy Journal:

Etemadi, F., M. Hashemi, R. A. Shureshjani, and W. R. Autio. 2017. Application of Data Envelopment Analysis to assess performance efficiency of eight faba bean varieties. Agronomy Journal. 109: 1-7. doi:10.2134/agronj2016.10.0617

 

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Table-2017-2

Our marketing study indicated that there is a good market for fava beans in New England. Wilson Farms, Whole Foods, and Russos are among the wholesales that are willing to purchase fava beans between $1:00 and $1:10 per pound. However, the quality of harvested fava beans was not as perfect as some of these wholesale purchaser required. This was partly due to black spots on some pods which could be due to the late planting in spring. Also, vegetable growers, especially those who are involved in farmers markets and CSAs, are always looking for new markets. Fresh fava beans pods are commonly found in markets that cater to growing ethnic groups. Pods of fava bean can be harvested for fresh market in the spring while the remaining plant material can be incorporated into soil and serve as a leguminous cover crop. Growers have expressed their willingness to grow alternative cover crops to winter rye to boost their income and improve their soil quality. The marketability and cost/income analysis performed through this project is attractive enough to many vegetable growers as we concluded that when an appropriate variety is used and planted as early as possible in spring, one acre of fava bean can generate roughly $7,000 per acre (Table 9).

Farmer Adoption

Based on our initial conversation with 5 growers, we planned to have some research on farmers’ land. However, because of soil condition in spring during the period of project and some uncertainties including the threat of chocolate bacteria disease, all interested growers decided to wait until the outcome of the project becomes available to them like reading the growing fava bean guideline (which is now available) and watch video (which is now uploaded on YouTube).

 

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

  • A combination of different crops with various C: N ratios might result in a better synchrony between fava bean decomposition and providing nutrients for growth of the succeeding crop.
  • Further investigation with fava bean planted;
  1. Different date
  2. Under different sets of environment conditions
  3. Different management methods
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.