Langdon Research Extension Center holds 2018 soil health seminar

On Friday, April 4, at the Langdon Research Extension Center (LREC), father-son team Cody and Richard Roland of Legume Logic gave an extensive seminar on the development and production of faba beans in the Cavalier County region.

Posted 4/12/18

By Lisa Nowatzki

Richard Roland began the seminar by explaining how he and a team of producers developed Legume Logic during the severe drought in the 1980’s. Because the drought years in the 80’s in Divide County was worse than the 30’s, the team began searching for cool weather crops that could help replace the fallow-cropping practice that left substantial portions of land unused each year. Fallow-cropping, over-use, and droughts left the area biomass down to one or one-and-a-half percent organic matter.

When he began working with legumes like faba beans, Roland noted that the first thing that happened was the return of earthworms, which was a significant development in building up the already depleted biomass.

Roland believes that soil health is the key to reducing various chemical inputs back into the soil, increasing harvest yields, and making farms profitable and sustainable. Legume crops help reduce the need for additional Nitrogen-based fertilizers for other rotational crops.

During the growing season, only 40 to 50 percent of the added nitrogen fertilizers are used by the crop with the unused portion remaining behind in the soil. However, when crops like faba beans are added into the growing rotation, the legumes give 40 to 50 percent of the materials, carbohydrates, and sugars that they produce during photosynthesis back into the soil, reducing the need for soil additives.

More added benefits of legume crops like faba beans include reduced cost through the elimination of chemical fertilizer for the first year. These types of crops also reduce the need the for expensive synthetic fertilizers throughout the following years.

These high protein beans offer increased crop yields and increased biomass/organic matter from the legume crops. According to Roland, the biomass can be increased to five to eight percent organic matter which is close to the native prairie and plain soil percentage.

Roland also covered an essential element in soil health and the production of many crops including faba beans-mycorrhizal fungi. According to Roland, the mycorrhizae form a symbiotic relationship with the root of the beans. The fungi colonize around and on the root structures which greatly expand the absorptive areas.

Besides absorbing more water, the fungi help retard disease and helps condition the soil. The presence of the mycorrhizae in the soil greatly improve the health of the soil and the crops planted in the soil. Roland goes on the say that mycorrhizae helps plants remain viable during times of stress like droughts.

As a note of importance, Roland said, “One of Cavalier County’s largest crops, canola, is a non-mycorrhizal crop, meaning canola does not support the growth of the fungi. The planting of non-mycorrhizal crops, summer fallow, and tillage has greatly reduced or eliminated the presence of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. Planting legumes like faba beans and adding mycorrhizal fungi to the soil helps improve soil health without artificial additives like fertilizer.”

Next up, Cody Roland explained why the Langdon area of Cavalier County was such a great area to grow faba beans: ample moisture and minimal 90-degree days. The plants have deep aggressive tap roots that will use an average of 15 inches of water. Faba beans will grow well in heavy, wet and compacted soil. The beans are the highest nitrogen-fixing annual legumes.

The crop is also frost tolerant allowing for early seeding without the worry of having to replant in the case of an early or unexpected frost. Faba beans are also more disease resistant than other legume crops like field peas. The plants are very insect friendly by helping maintain beneficial insects, especially bees.

Most of the faba bean varieties that can grow in the Cavalier County area, grow best in loamy or clay soil types with a pH between 6.5 to 9.0. The seed size varies from 800 to 2200 seeds per pound which can cause some concern during planting season. According to C. Roland, seeding depths between two to three inches insure that the seeds have enough moisture to germinate.

Ideal conditions equal four to five plants per square foot or 195,000 seeds per acre. From a harvest standpoint, the bean pods start around 10 to 15 inches from the ground, making harvesting easy. The high-yielding, self-pollinating plants contain large, strong taproots that penetrate and improve the soil for the next crop. The plants also fix nitrogen in the soil. The plants are the highest nitrogen fixing annual legume, fixing up to 30 percent more than peas and contribute 65 pounds of Nitrogen to follow-on crops.

Some concerns for growers about faba beans include: a large seed size which equates to a slow three to four bushels per acre seeding rate and for exported American faba beans in the European markets, a less-than-pristine appearance of some of the beans brings a lower price per pound. This market prefers a large, seeded tannin-type bean.

Faba beans come in two different types, zero tannin and tannin types. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds called polyphenols and are found in plants like faba beans, grapes, wines, teas, and other natural dark plant substances. These compounds affect taste and digestion in people and animals with single stomachs. Tannin beans have tannins in the seed coat and are the ones most often pegged for human consumption. Zero tannin beans have white seed coats and flowers and can be used in the feed market without removing the seed coat.

Of the four public trials conducted in 2016 in Carrington, Williston, Minot, and Langdon, Langdon had the highest yield at over 100 bushels per acre. As expected, the larger-seeded tannin varieties of Laura, Boxer, Vertigo, and Fanfare had the highest yields.

Marketing is also a concern for some producers. Egypt is the largest faba bean importer with the United Kingdom, France, and Australia being the largest exporters.  Researchers feel that the varieties tried in the public trials in 2016 are prime candidates for the European markets. The areas around Langdon and Cavalier County are prime areas for producing high quality large-seeded faba beans.

According to Cody Roland, as more growers plant faba beans, more and more markets open up. Also, more companies are adding faba beans to their insurable crop lists.

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