California agriculture is characterized by being extremely diverse and dynamic. This necessitates expertise and resources to be focused on the evolution of existing cropping systems and evaluation of new crops and legumes (both grain and cover crops) to ensure the long-term sustainability of California production systems and support the ‘farm to fork' food system concept.
This CE Specialist position will focus on developing innovative new cropping systems for California farmers, based on improved grain legumes, cover crops, and newly introduced crops, and integrating these crops into sustainable new cropping systems. It will also be linked to the existing $70 million/yr grain legume industry.
This position will create new business opportunities for California agricultural enterprises, maximize net farm income, develop new grain legume, cover crop, and recently introduced crop opportunities that provide prospects for new foods, improved health, water conservation, crop rotation benefits, boosting soil organic matter and nitrogen in rotations, reduced pesticide use, environmental protection, and adaptation to global climate change.
- Author: Rachael Long
Pulses are leguminous crops harvested solely for the dry seed. They include dried beans, lentils, and peas – those staple, nutritious and humble foods that our ancestors began cultivating more than 10,000 years ago.
The United Nations strives to raise awareness about pulses through its slogan, “Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future.” The goals: to draw attention to the protein power and health benefits of pulses, to encourage global food-chain connections to better utilize pulses, to boost the global production of pulses, to better utilize crop rotations, and to address the challenges in the trade of pulses.
In California, farmers, the dry bean industry, and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers are doing their part with research and outreach programs that focus on dry bean production. Our state produces four classes of dry beans, including garbanzos (chickpeas), limas (baby and large), blackeyes (cowpeas), and common beans (such as kidney and cranberry) planted on a total of 50,000 acres and valued at about $70 million.
While not a big economic force like some crops, beans are nonetheless very important to our farming industry. They are needed in crop rotations to help control weeds and they improve soil health by adding biomass back into the soil after harvest and by fixing nitrogen. As such, pulses can contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing dependence on synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Beans also are an important part of our food security. For example, California lima growers produce virtually all of our nation's dry limas, as well as 60 to 80 percent of the world's market.
Current UC ANR research focuses on improving integrated pest management of dry beans with minimal impacts to the environment. This includes collaborative studies with UC Davis and UC Riverside scientists to breed pest and disease resistant dry bean varieties that have both high yields and quality. Two new releases of garbanzo beans are expected this year. Additional projects focus on drought and heat tolerance in our warming world.
The new UC ANR Agronomy Research and Information Center website features the many agronomic crops grown in California, including beans. Resources available include current research work, cost of production studies, crop production guidelines, and a database of research supported by the California Dry Bean Advisory Board that goes back more than three decades. Stay tuned for additional resources, including online fertilization guidelines for dry beans, to help develop Farm Nutrient Management Plans, as well as the 2016 Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) Guidelines for Dry Beans. (Click here for the current IPM guidelines)
Meanwhile, let us all join forces with the United Nations, UC ANR, and our state's Dry Bean Industry to raise the awareness of the benefits of pulses for a more sustainable world. This starts with adding more beans to our diet. Beans are packed with nutrients. They are high in protein, low in fat, and rich in fiber. They can lower cholesterol and help in the control of blood sugar and in managing diseases like diabetes, heart conditions and obesity.
Experiment. Prepare bean burritos often, use a variety of beans in your favorite chili recipe, try humus as a delicious vegetable dip, and garnish your salad with beans. The California Dry Bean Advisory Board website provides terrific bean recipes at http://www.calbeans.org. This we know: beans are pulses vital to our diets, just as our pulse rate is vital to monitoring our health.
Fall 2015 harvest is in full gear!
- Author: Rachael Long
It is not cost effective to spray the aphids for virus control; instead, planting date is important to avoid aphid flights. The best time to plant garbanzos in California is November 15 to January 15 to take advantage of winter rainfall for irrigation. Garbanzos can also be planted in the spring from April 20 through May.
These later plantings (for both winter and spring seeding times) are needed to help avoid the seed corn maggot, a serious pest of beans, and aphid flights that can vector a number of devastating viral diseases. In addition, avoid planting garbanzo beans adjacent to alfalfa fields, a significant host and source of alfalfa mosaic virus.
- Author: Rachael Long
Dry beans are a big business in California. In 2011, growers harvested 45,000 acres of dry beans valued at $58 million. Lima beans accounted for about 40 percent of this total acreage, with California producing nearly 99 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of dry lima beans.
Why should we be so interested in beans? From a nutritional standpoint, dry beans are a healthy food choice - an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, plus they're very low in fat. Organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the USDA's My Plate all recommend including beans in one's diet to reduce cholesterol, maintain normal blood sugar and to maintain a healthy weight. The California Dry Bean Advisory Board posts many bean recipes on their website at http://calbeans.org/.
From a production standpoint, beans are a crucial crop for farmers. California growers produce four main classes of dry beans, including limas (large and baby), common beans (such as kidneys, pinks, whites, cranberries and blacks), garbanzos (chickpeas), and cowpeas (blackeye beans). Garbanzo beans are grown as a winter crop, while the others are produced in the summer. California's dry beans are marketed throughout the world, including Japan, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom. California also grows dry bean seed stock for export to other states and international markets.
In rotation with other crops beans help control weeds, add biomass to the soil via plant matter disked into the ground after harvest, and require relatively few pesticides. In addition, beans, as legumes, fix nitrogen from the air via nitrogen-fixing bacteria that colonize the roots, forming nodules. Cowpeas, for example, fix about 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre, providing most of the nitrogen needs for this crop. Likewise, garbanzo beans require minimal nitrogen inputs for crop production. Economically, beans can enhance the annual farm profitability because common beans and cowpeas can be double-cropped with grains or forage crops, producing two crops in one year.
The participants learned about UC research trials, led by Paul Gepts, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, focus on dry bean breeding programs for pest and disease resistance, drought tolerance, organic production, and yield and quality increases. “Dry” refers to allowing the beans to fully mature and dry on the plants, as opposed to picking the beans green as a fresh market vegetable.
Many of today's commercially grown dry beans come from University of California varieties, such as those shown at the UC Field Day. Seed germplasm for different genetic traits are selected from all over the world. The lima bean trial at UC Davis included 56 seed selection entries, the heirloom beans included 25 entries, and cranberries and pink beans had 134 entries. Earlier this year eight advanced line garbanzo entries were tested. UC Davis researchers work with hybrids produced by hand crosses to increase seed yield, quality, pest and disease resistance and plant vigor. They receive funding from a variety of sources including the California Dry Bean Advisory Board and USDA.
As shown from this field day, UC research is leading the way to ensuring that the future of California's dry bean industry remains strong. These efforts will continue to enhance sustainable farming practices in our state and provide nutritional benefits to consumers.
So, the next time you're in the produce section of your favorite grocery store, enjoy some California-grown beans. From the field to fork, these beans are the best of the best.
Blackeye bean production in California, UC ANR publication number 21518.
Common bean production in California, UC ANR publication 8402.