See if fababeans fit on your farm

Greg Stamp shares his per acre costs to help you decide if fabas might work for you

As you crunch the numbers on the net returns on each of your crops brought to your farm this season take a look at the benefits of growing fababeans on your farm.

For the past 10 years we have been growing fababeans on irrigation in Southern Alberta and have found them to be an asset to our rotation and crop diversity. We have also grown fababeans on dry land but they are more of a medium to high rainfall crop or suitable for an area with soils that have good water holding capacity.

The main fababean variety we grow is called FB 9-4. The buyer is AGT Foods, who exports them. FB 9-4 are a large seeded tannin variety with excellent yield potential and good disease package.

Yields can range between the 70 to100 bushels per acre on irrigation which is similar to spring wheat yields in our area. No nitrogen is required, but inoculant and 11-52 fertilizer is used in the seed row. Fababeans can be seeded early, as they are frost tolerant early in the season — we have planted as early as April 5. Weed control for fababeans is similar to peas.

Fababeans fill out this pod.

Fababeans fill out this pod.
photo: Greg Stamp

Fababeans can follow cereals in rotation, and sometimes canola. After fababeans we have grown cereals, canola, and flax crops.

Grey mold (Botrytis) can be a disease issue for fababeans but fungicides can be used to control it.

Pea Leaf Weevils are a problem in some areas as they eat the leaves of young plants and their larvae eat the nitrogen nodules. We can use a seed treatment to control/limit this problem.

Lygus bugs can be a problem mid to late in the season. They bite through the pods and leave a black spot on the seed. An insecticide may be used to control lygus bugs in fababeans.

The numbers

I have put together some crop comparisons showing actual costs and returns of fababeans, on irrigated land, compared to other crops in the fall of 2015. When you include the value of the residual N left in the soil after a year of growing fababeans, the estimated net return shown in the chart is $542.43 for fababeans. This is 169 per cent of the estimated return for wheat ($321.81).

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This chart shows southern Alberta costs with an insecticide seed treatment for Pea Leaf Weevil. Keep in mind, the insecticide seed treatment may not be needed. Without the treatment, the per acre seed treatment costs for fababeans would fall from $39.38 per acre to $21.78 per acre, increasing net returns to $560.03. The seed treatment costs for peas would also fall, in my case from $31.33 as shown in the table to $17.33 per acre.

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