Pulse School: Lessons Learned from Record Faba Bean Acres in '15

There were plenty of lessons to be learned about growing faba beans in 2015, as the number of acres covered by crop insurance in Saskatchewan tripled from just under 20 thousand in 2014 to around 60 thousand last year.

“When you increase acres, there are definitely things we gain more information on,” notes Sherrilyn Phelps, agronomy and seed program manager for Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, in this episode of the Pulse School.

Crop insurance data from Alberta showed acres increased from around 80 thousand in ’14 to 110 thousand in ’15, while some growers in Manitoba also tried fabas for the first time last year.

Since faba beans are a moisture-loving crop, the dry start to the year resulted in shorter plants in many areas. Dry conditions and high temperatures later in the season also caused flower and pod abortion.

“We saw reduced yields compared to last year,” explains Phelps, noting faba beans will typically outyield peas in wetter conditions, while pea yields will be higher than fabas in a dry year. “Peas have been more consistently out-yielding fabas, which shows the effect of some of the drier conditions.”

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Typically fabas pod well off the ground, but Phelps says spring frost and cutworm damage resulted in regrowth and lower pods in some fields, making harvest more difficult. So does that mean growers should roll faba bean fields?

“It’s not a recommendation we thought we’d be making because typically they stay upright and their pods are off the ground,” she says. “Until we have a better understanding of what’s really impacting that and how consistently that’s happening, rolling will have to be a decision made by the grower.”

Phelps also notes one of the main observations from 2015 was how disease pressure was higher than expected in the dry conditions. Northeast Saskatchewan, specifically, saw chocolate spot (botrytis) reduce yields.

“There was some benefit from fungicide applications in some cases and definitely an impact on yields and quality,” she says.

The slides from Sherrilyn’s faba bean agronomy presentation at CropSphere ’16 can be viewed here.

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