The benefits of cover crops to soil health and environment is well understood. However, socio-economic limitations such as the costs of cover cropping and lack of general knowledge about its long-term benefits limit this sustainable farming practice. Especially in California where suitable weather allows year around cash crop production, cover cropping does not seem profitable for most growers. We have formed a team of agronomists and extension specialists, agriculture business and business information specialists, a food and nutrition specialist, a breeder, and three growers to identify short-term economic benefits of fababean cover crop that can promote its cultivation in intensive cropping systems of California. Specifically, we will quantify total fresh pod production of fababean cover crop and its potential values, plus the value of added nitrogen to soil from the fababean nitrogen fixation.
The research consist of two field trials at Chico and Lockeford, CA, and demonstration fields at three growers’ fields. In a split-plot trial in Chico, we will quantify 1) fababean fresh pod production from multiple harvests, and 2) potential economic benefits market values of the pods, and 3) nitrogen fixation and nitrogen benefits (added nitrogen to soil) of fababean in response to multiple pod removals. The results of this 3-years trial will determine the economic potentials of fababean as dual-purpose cash & cover crop. In the second field trial at the NRCS Lockeford Plant Material Centre, we will investigate the effects of termination time on nitrogen fixation and nitrogen benefits of the fababean cover crop. At three growers’ fields, we will estimate fresh pod production and potential economic values of pods in the large scale.
The experiments and the demonstration fields will be presented to growers and Chico community. We will perform at least one field day and present the trials to local growers at each location (Chico and Lockeford) every year. In addition, we will 1) prepare and present foods from fababean pods and immature seeds to the Chico community, 2) obtain consumers’ opinions in the form of survey, 3) publish the results in North State Agricultural Bulletin, 4) present the results in professional meetings, and 5) aim to publish at least one peer-reviewed paper in a high-ranked crop science journal.
It is anticipated to educates local farmers and encourage them to include fababean in their rotations. It is also expected to educates the Chico community about the potentials of fababean as a healthy food and increase its consumption in California. Considering the diversity of activities, the project will create substantial learning opportunities for undergraduate students at CSU, Chico to learn from different aspects of the research. The students will be involved in planting and field trials, sampling and data collection, food demonstrations and food surveys, presenting the results at local and national conferences. Contingent on the results, we will seek further funding opportunities to identify national and international markets for the fababean fresh pods.
- Quantifying fresh pod production potentials of fababean cover crop
- Quantifying N fixation and N benefits (added N to soil) of fababean in response to pod removal and termination time
- Quantify N fixation and N benefits of fababean in ricelands, orchards, and annual cropping systems of northern California;
- Quantifying the amounts of removed N in harvested biomass, fresh pods, and grain of fababean cover crop.
- Educating California growers about the economic benefits of the fababean cover crop.
- Presenting foods made of fababean fresh pods to the public to promote the consumption of fababean as a healthy diet.
1- Fresh pods of fababean cover crop can produce additional income for growers
2- Harvesting fababean fresh pods reduces nitrogen benefits of fababean cover crop
1- Fababean as dual-purpose crop: A field trial has been established at CSU Chico. Two fababean varieties (Windsor & Sweet Lorane) are grown in a split-plot design experiment. Regular cultural practices such as irrigation, and weed and pest management have been performed. Sampling will start when plants produce marketable pods. The project outcomes will include quantifying: a) Yield and estimated market values of fababean fresh pods, b) removed nitrogen in harvested pods
2- Fababean cover crop termination time: A field trial was conducted at NRCS’s Plant Material Center at Lockeford, CA. A fababean variety was planted in a Complete Randomized Block Design to determine the best termination time of fababean cover crop. Plants have been sampled for biomass and nitrogen. The results will include quantifying: a) fababean nitrogen fixation at various growth stages, b) nitrogen benefits of fababean as cover crop in response to termination time at different growth stages.
3- Nitrogen benefit of fababean cover crop in orchards: An experiment was conducted in a 5-years walnut to quantify the nitrogen benefits of fababean cover crop. The outcome will include total biomass and nitrogen of fababean in mixes and sole cropping in orchards.
4 – Fababean nitrogen benefit in organic ricelands: In collaboration with Lundberg Family Farm, we study the nitrogen benefits of fababean cover crop in an organic rice farm. We will quantify biomass and nitrogen of cover crops from fields with different rotations and fababean density. The outcomes will include quantifying: a) nitrogen benefits of cover crop in ricelands, 2) nitrogen fixation of fababean in sole cropping system similar to riceland (clay soil)
5- Response of fababean cover crop to soil nitrogen: In collaboration with Chico Flax, a field trial has been conducted at the grower’s site to quantify the response of fababean to soil nitrogen. In a completely randomized design experimenter, a Windsor variety has been planted under 4 rates of nitrogen fertilizers/ The outcomes will include: biomass and nitrogen benefits of fababean in response to soil nitrogen, and b) nitrogen fixation of fababean in response to soil nitrogen
6- Fresh pod yield of fababean on large scale: In Collaboration with Maciel Fields, a Windsor variety has been grown in one acre land of their field. The pods will be harvested and will be sold to local markets at multiple times. The project outcomes will include: a) fresh pod yield of fababean on large scale, 2) economic benefits of fababean on large scale farms.
No results are available at this time
No conclusion is available at this time
1- Field day demonstration: The Lockeford trial (termination study) was presented to growers on March 5, 2020. 70 people attended the field day from 9:30 to noon, our plots were demonstrated at the end (11:30 to noon). In the presentation, the potentials of winter fava bean to build soils and support vegetable production and the importance of cultivar choice and management strategies (e.g. termination time/method, harvest scheme, planting time) was presented to the audiences which included farmers, NPOs, and private businesses.
Two other field days were planned to demonstrate the field trials at CSU- Chico and at Chico Flax locations, but both events were canceled due to the Stay-Home order in California.
2- Undergraduate students training: The project has trained seven students, who were involved with field management, data collection, analysis, and presentation. Each student work along the PI and Research Manager to help managing the experiments, collecting data and presenting the results in conferences. Students meet every week to discuss their experiments, learn basic data analysis methods and practice presentations. Details of undergraduate research activities can be found on our web page –> Link
Details of undergraduate research projects are :
- Two students studied the potentials pod production of fababean from an existing project and presented their results at the Western Crop Science Meeting, ASA-CSA-SSSA (abstract), and the California Plant & Soil Conference (abstract, P58). The students won presentation awards at the WSCS (link) and ASA (link) meetings.
- Two students are involved with the field trial that aims to quantify the effects of N on fababean yield and N fixation at Chico Flax farm. Preliminary results were presented at the 2020 Plant and Soil Conference in Fresno (Link, P.52). We have managed to continue collecting data and terminating the experiment. The data will be shared with the students in the fall to analyze and present it at the 2020 ASA meeting.
- One student has been involved with the Termination Study at Lockeford. The experiment was concluded before the school closure. The data will be given to the student to analyze and present in a conference.
- One student is involved with the cover crop study in walnuts. She collected data and presented it at the California Plant and Soil Meeting (Link, P.53).
3- Conference presentations: Kyle Brasier, Building Better Legumes for Regenerative Cropping Systems, This Way to Sustainability Conference. March 26-27, 2020, Chico, CA https://www.csuchico.edu/twts/session-descriptions.shtml#legumes. Although the conference was administrated online, he had about 40 audiences. Due to the online nature of the conference, the audiences were not surveyed.
Educational & Outreach Activities
1 – On farm demonstration & field day: The Lockeford trials (termination study) was presented to growers on March 5, 2020.
2- Farmers:Three farmers are growing fababean as cover crop, and a forth grower has planted about an acre fababean for fresh pod production. The objectives of each of these demonstrations are: 1) quantifying nitrogen fixation of fababean in orchard as cover crop, 2) performance of fababean in fields with high residual nitrogen, 3) feasibility of growing fababean in riceland as cover crop, and 4) fresh-pod yield potentials of fababean in growers fields. The fields have been monitored and sampled throughout the season to share the results with growers.
3- Undergraduate students training: seven undergraduate students have been recruited to work on small research projects within the scope of the main projects. The students will present their research results in different conferences.
4- Webinars, talks and presentations: Kyle Brasier, Building Better Legumes for Regenerative Cropping Systems, This Way to Sustainability Conference. March 26-27, 2020, Chico, CA https://www.csuchico.edu/twts/session-descriptions.shtml#legumes
A chef has been recruited to make dishes from fababean pods and flour. She has developed recipes and made a few dishes from fababean grain. The preliminary products were very satisfactory. The goal was to present the products at Chico’s Farmers Market, but the event has been postponed due to the Stay-Home order in California.