August Pulse Check
Will Edwards is a fourth-generation farmer. The home farm of 300 acres is a mixed enterprise, with a turkey breeding layer unit of 10,000 laying hens sitting alongside the arable production. Will and his family farm a further 700 acres on contract and tenancy.
Winter beans were added to the rotation four years ago with the aim of spreading the rotation.
Can you tell us more about why you chose to incorporate pulses into your rotation?
“Generally, we’ve been growing OSR one year in four. On the bulk of the farm, we tend to grow two wheats, winter barley and then OSR. We got into growing winter beans about four years ago on one of the contract farms nearby. There were two reasons: to spread the rotation of the OSR to one year in six and to improve soil health with a nitrogen-fixing legume ahead of the wheat.
“In recent years we've continued with that rotation - the price of beans has increased and the margin has improved. This year I'm planning to grow another small plot of beans on another farm which has had a one-in-three-year OSR rotation. Again, the aim is spread the OSR out further to one-in-six years.
“Longer term I’d like to grow even more pulses. I’ve put one of our latest contracts, based on 100 acres, onto a cropping license to enable the farmer to grow vining peas. They got a good crop off it. It’s making me wonder whether I should add some more parcels in but one of the restrictions I've got is storage. While I’ve a reasonable amount for the acreage, with a number of different crops, it can get tricky. At the moment we’re pressed to get our barley and OSR out the door quickly to make room for other crops.”
How do you establish your winter bean crop?
“We normally plough early and allow time for the soil to dry and use our 4m Vaderstad Rapide system disc to drill. This year the weather closed in and I used a tine drill to finish off the rest of the acreage. It'll be a really interesting to see what the conditions are like this year.
“Beans need to be planted at a reasonable depth. Usually, we’re aiming to plant to them at 4” – 6”. Ploughing helps us achieve a good tilth around the seed and give the crops the conditions they need to get off to a good start, hopefully, with minimal compaction.”
Which varieties do you grow?
“In the past we’ve grown Wizard but we’ve been growing Tundra for a couple of years now. Tundra is supposed to be a higher yielding variety but that’s not been our experience. Although this may be due to the adverse weather over the last two establishment and growing seasons.
How are you protecting crops from weeds, pests and diseases?
“Fortunately, we don’t have one troublesome weed. We tend to get a little of everything. This year disease pressure has been high. We’ve had small beans, some of which have been stained. It was a shame because in early spring the crops were looking good with lots of podding potential. As a result, the beans haven’t done quite as well as we had hoped.
“We’ve not got a weighbridge here, but the trailer weighers and combine readings suggest we averaged about 4t/ha. We will know for sure when the crops leave the farm. In recent years we’ve average between 4.5t – 5t/ha so yield is down significantly.”
What are your top tips for harvesting beans?
“Best practice says not to combine in the heat of the day, to keep your speed up and manage your concave settings.
“You want your concave nice and open so you’re not cracking the beans too badly. You need to keep your speed up so they're not bouncing out of the header. Last Friday night I started at about 6.30pm and was finished by 1am which worked well. The shell of the pod tends to protect them from taking on any immediate dampness like the early evening dew.”
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