Potential Economic and Nitrogen Benefits of Fababean as a Double Purpose Cash and Cover Crop in Northern California

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $348,772.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G119-20-W7500
Grant Recipient: California State University- Chico
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Hossein Zakeri
California State University- Chico

Information Products

Fava bean recipe book (Book/Handbook)


  • Agronomic: Faba bean


  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: demonstration
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures

    Proposal abstract:

    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.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Quantifying fresh pod production potentials of fababean cover crop
    2. Quantifying N fixation and N benefits (added N to soil) of fababean in response to pod removal and termination time
    3. Quantify N fixation and N benefits of fababean in ricelands, orchards, and annual cropping systems of northern California;
    4. Quantifying the amounts of removed N in harvested biomass, fresh pods, and grain of fababean cover crop.
    5. Educating California growers about the economic benefits of the fababean cover crop.
    6. Presenting foods made of fababean fresh pods to the public to promote the consumption of fababean as a healthy diet.
    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.