Spring beans warrant place in rotation

Spring beans have earned their place on Edrington Mains Farm near Berwick-on- Tweed, having produced consistent yields across a range of seasons.

The need for a good spring break crop which helps to maximise first wheats and decrease the amount of oilseed rape in the rotation are two key reasons for Jim Macfarlane’s loyalty to the crop.

“We want to keep oilseed rape out of the rotation as much as possible to avoid infection such as club root taking hold. We are farming for the long-term here and having rape in the rotation any closer than one year in five is not desirable, ideally we would only want to include rape one in every seven years,” he says.

“The heavy soils on the farm suit beans and having a crop which fixes its own nitrogen and leaves a legacy for the following wheat crop can only be a good thing, as this is our priority crop.”

Mr Macfarlane is farm manager for Michael Thornhill at Edrington Mains Farm, near Foulden and has been growing seed bean crops for McCreath, Simpson & Prentice (MSP) Agriculture for several years now.

His spring bean variety choice is Babylon- one of the beans with the highest yield potential. “This has proved to be a really consistent yielder across several very different seasons, and although on paper it is not the highest yielder we have seen the variety yield on a par with Fuego over the last few seasons, yielding on average about 5t/ha.”

“Despite having had some challenging weather patterns in recent seasons, with last year’s very wet spring and very dry summers being particularly testing, the variety appeared to compensate for this and our average for the 2013 harvest was 5.4t/ha,” he reveals

“Growing the right variety is critical to the whole farm management and this is where Babylon fits the bill with its early ripening – earlier ripening than Fuego.”

Vigour in the spring is also important as conditions can be pretty harsh, and agronomically the variety has to stack up. “Babylon has proved itself to be a good all round variety; it has robust disease resistance particularly to downy mildew, and Babylon’s short and stiff straw is what we are after. In the field, Babylon holds the pods off the ground well – certainly better than Fuego – and this makes harvesting easier and more efficient.”

This year Mr Macfarlane will include the crop once again in his spring cropping – he plans to drill around 20ha’s which will go as seed to MSP Agriculture. For seed merchant Paul Huntley, this is good news. “It is important for us to have the confidence to supply varieties that we know will perform consistently in the local conditions and we have seen this time and again with Babylon.”

“As well as this the product has to have a viable market and beans have held their value in the market, and the sample quality from Babylon is every bit as marketable as larger bean varieties such as Fuego; the pale hilum types still tick the boxes for the human consumption markets.”

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