Organic Beans and Peas: Nutritious and Gluten-free Local Foods
In the Upper Midwest, edible legumes provide an opportunity for year-around access to sustainably grown, nutritious local foods for families and institutions. Our objective is to promote diversification of organic cropping systems with grain legumes and to supply healthy local foods. As the first step in this process, we are studying cultural practices and grain legume marketing. Replicated field research is being conducted on cooperating organic farms and at Research and Outreach Centers. We are evaluating multiple market classes of field beans and peas and studying crop rotations and mulches for weed control. As the field experiments continue, we will measure yields of the legume grain crops, yield effects on subsequent crops, and conduct statistical and economic analyses of our findings. Our economic analysis will take into consideration variable costs and pricing. In conjunction with the agronomic research, we are evaluating markets for organic legumes through local food networks. We will increase understanding and application of the economics and rotation benefits of producing alternative protein crops; create publications on producing and marketing local organic beans and peas; generate crop enterprise budgets for organic edible legumes; provide local foods marketing approaches; write scientific and educational publications; and hold focus groups, summer field days, and winter workshops. Our primary audience of organic producers, extension educators, and consumers will gain knowledge of benefits of growing organic edible legumes and gain local markets and marketing channels.
Our project has five main objectives including an outreach plan:
Objective 1. Determine the performance of edible bean and pea varieties. Evaluate the performance of edible bean and pea varieties from 2012 to 2014 by conducting research on organic land at on-farm sites and field research stations.
Objective 2. Compare the agroecological value of edible beans and peas grown in rotation with corn, alfalfa, and wheat. Conduct a replicated 3-year rotational experiment on certified organic land at the Elwell Ecological Station at Lamberton and the Waseca Research and Outreach Center from 2012 to 2014.
Objective 3. Determine the effect of winter cover crops on yield and weed control in field beans and peas. Conduct an experiment on certified organic land at the Elwell Ecological Farm at Lamberton and at one on-farm location in 2012 and 2013. Winter cover treatments are oilseed radish, spring oats, berseem clover, and a bare ground control.
Objective 4: Develop crop enterprise budgets for organic edible beans and peas. Use input and output data generated from the field research (Objectives 1–3) to develop enterprise budgets. Budgets will explore the price and yield conditions under which edible beans and peas could compete with corn and soybean and organize yield, price, and cost information to compare profitability and make decisions such as which crop to grow. Enterprise budgets will to be tailored to the specifics of different growing regions and markets.
Objective 5. Identify local markets to describe the various marketing channels available to producers. Measure the size and scope of marketing channels for the organic dry edible bean and pea market in Minnesota to identify the opportunities for producers. Estimate the general size of the organic edible bean market, current sources for those edible legumes, and examine a mix of channels open to producers and growers looking to market edible legumes. Outreach. Disseminate our research and market survey results via field days, organic conferences, workshops throughout the project term and though extension and other publications to be completed near the end of this project.
1. The second year of the edible bean performance trials (Objective 1) were started in 2013. We established low input performance trials for 18 dry bean cultivars of various market classes, 1 cow pea variety (which failed), and four edible soybean cultivars. The trials were conducted at five Minnesota locations that had various soil types that ranged from irrigated sand at Becker to loam soils at Lamberton, Madison, and Clinton, and silt loam at Rosemount. Weed control was by cultivation and hand weeding. Our objective was to assess the yield stability of cultivars under low input conditions. See Figure 1 for the varietal performance across locations.
2. This year was the second phase of our 3-year experiment to compare the agroecological value of edible beans grown in rotation with corn, alfalfa, and wheat (Objective 2). Following either whole plots of corn or alfalfa, subplots were planted with 5 varieties of edible dry beans and one soybean, including Eclipse, Lariat, OAC Rex, Peregion, Red Hawk, and MN1505SP. Figures 2 and 3 show the rotation effect on edible bean yields at Lamberton and Clinton, MN.
3. Another experiment, conducted at Lamberton and Madison, MN, examined the response of soybean and dry bean varieties to alternative tillage practices, such as tine weeding or cultivation of 15 or 30 inch rows. Results of the tillage trials have indicated variety and tillage, and the interaction between the two significantly affect edible bean yield. Weed biomass was also significantly affected by tillage method and variety. We addressed the issue of weed control in our experiment, as organic producers have expressed this as one of the biggest challenges. We are working closely with producers to develop effective methods of weed control while still trying to maintain soil health.
4. Our research group partnered with the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships to conduct a market analysis for organic dry beans (Objective 5). Surveys were conducted with distributors, retail co-ops, and CSA owners in order to evaluate avenues for incorporating dry beans into the local food system. Results from distributors suggest that distributing companies are willing to deal with organic and heirloom varieties, will often provide agronomic services to the producer, but do require large quantities of beans that are high quality. Retail co-ops stressed the demand for local organic dry beans, and would even consider lowering the mark-up of local beans. Over 50% of the CSA owners had grown dry beans before for either personal consumption or commercial sale, but perceive certain barriers to growing the beans such as, quality issues, labor-intensive processing, and difficulty price setting. Future market analysis will be conducted with farmer’s markets, schools, and restaurants.
5. We are working with local chefs around the Twin Cities to evaluate the potential of heirloom dry beans in local restaurants. Culinary evaluations are currently underway at 5 local restaurants in order to examine nutritional and culinary components of organic dry beans. Participating chefs and restaurants were chosen with care, with an emphasis on high-quality, locally sourced food.
6. Crop enterprise budgets (Objective 4) will be developed after the field experiments are completed and the data analyzed.
– University of Minnesota Organic Field Day: The Basics – Soil, Fertility, Weeds, and Crop Rotations at Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, MN. Drs. Craig Sheaffer and Tom Michaels discussed organic bean research with attendees while touring plots.
– Dr. Craig Sheaffer and Dr. Tom Michaels led a field day on September 8, 2013 in Northfield, MN at the Gardens of Eagan. Topics included an in-the-field introduction to heirloom dry bean varieties that have been tested by University of Minnesota researchers for yield and viability and the basics of how to incorporate dry beans into your organic production plan.
– Research assistants Claire Flavin and Hannah Swegarden presented bean research to a group of 30 agri-tourists from Fargo, ND at the Jorgenson farm in Big Stone County, MN on September 28, 2013.
– Collaborated with a University of Minnesota surface design class to develop marketing strategies and designs for selling beans, October 12, 2013.
– Presented webinar titled “Organic Dry Bean Production Systems and Cultivar Choices” through eOrganic’s webinar series on November 12, 2013.
– Presented at the Minnesota Organic Conference in St. Cloud, MN, session titled “Dry Edible Beans” on January 11, 2014. 36 people were in attendance.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We are well on our way in achieving the short-term outcomes for this project. We have organized a team of researchers, educators, producers, and marketers devoted to increasing the production and consumption of organic edible legumes. Our field research will help us collaboratively develop recommendations that show benefits of organic edible legumes in cropping systems, including economic return, legume N contribution, and weed management. In addition to field research, our project will take the next step to identify markets for these locally-grown, organic legume grains. We have made many contacts with our primary audience of organic and sustainable producers at field day demonstrations and organic conferences. The primary audience also includes marketers, retailers and consumers, who will gain knowledge on the benefits of organic edible legume nutrition and the advantages of purchasing local foods. The information from this project will be incorporated into university publications and websites.
University of Minnesota
456 Alderman Hall
1970 Folwell Ave
St. Paul, MN 55108
Office Phone: 6126247711
University of Minnesota
411 Borlaug Hall
1991 Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul, MN 55108
Office Phone: 6126253148