BASF Agricultural Solutions UK

Pea and bean YEN 2021 starts to reveal insights

By Iain Ford

Why is the length of time between pea and bean growth stages seemingly associated with yield? Is it bruchid beetle damage or the higher temperatures in June and July that supressed bean yields this year?

These are just a couple of the questions raised at the recent Yield Enhancement Network’s (YEN) bean and pea webinars.

Though only in their fifth and second years, the Yield Enhancement Network’s (YEN) pea and bean projects are already revealing insights that, long-term, could help growers achieve yield potentials. And those yield potentials are huge.

“Taking into account factors such as light interception, radiation use efficiency, rooting depth and water use efficiency, we’re looking at UK yield potential ranges of 9-16t/ha for beans and 6-10t/ha for peas,” explained Pulse YEN’S project manager, Thomas Wilkinson.

As current yields range from 1-5t/ha for peas and 1-7t/ha for beans, there is plenty of scope for improvement. This, it is hoped, will come from YEN’S unique approach which sees the industry working together.

At BASF we’re proud to be a part of that. We sponsor the pea and bean YENs and are actively looking for, and hope to support, more YEN farmers.

Last year both pea and bean acreages grew significantly (28% and 38% respectively). While there’s no doubt the wet autumnal weather in 2019 played its part, difficulties with establishing OSR alongside increased demand mean higher pulse acreages could be a longer-term trend.

In my opinion, pulses often don’t get the attention they deserve. With a wide range of potential uses due to their protein content, and their contribution to the rotation - in terms of nutrition and soil structure – they could have an important role to play in improving sustainability within the sector.

But inconsistent yields can detract farmers from growing these crops. Which is why we’re supporting growers participating in these YENs. Together with ADAS and PGRO we can pool our insights, develop a deeper understanding of the crops’ physiology and start getting closer to those potentials each and every year.

PGRO’s Becky Howard agrees. “It’s also why, together with ADAS we’ve decided not to run the pulse YENs as competitions. For now our focus is on improving and stabilising yields, and, as this year proved, we can learn just as much from lower yielding crops as higher ones.”

In total the YEN analysed 52 bean yields, including 32 yields from this season. Experts compared the metrics of the top 50% of yield entrants with those of the bottom 50%. They found statistically significant relationships between yield and: potassium in leaf tissues; boron levels in seeds; and, bruchid damage of seeds.

Becky theorises that the relationship between bruchid damage and yield is more likely to be associated with environmental conditions with high temperature, leading to increased bruchid levels, and also potentially causing yield suppression.

“Yield components such as higher seeds/m2, thousand seed weight, total dry matter per shoot, bean dry matter per shoot and harvest index were also associated with higher yields,” explained Tom. “But it’s important to note, it is early days and these relationships aren’t necessarily cause and effect.”

Bean crops with canopies that were greener for longer were also associated with higher yields. A finding that was mirrored in further research by PGRO and Hummingbird which used NDVI as an indicator.

This is where products like Signum® can help. Not only does it protect beans and peas from the major diseases but our research shows how it can provide physiological benefits from both boscalid and pyraclostrobin across a wide range of crops, resulting in increased green leaf retention throughout the season and stress reduction. The work by YEN takes this concept that step further, indicating that this could be an important factor in optimising yields.

Where possible, historical Pea YEN data was added to the 40 pea data sets from the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Taken together, it was higher numbers of plants, not larger plants that tended to produce higher yields.

Statistically significant relationships were found through leaf tissue analysis which revealed higher levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc were all associated with higher yields. While all the experts agree that it’s too early to start pulling advice from the pea and bean YENs, they also agree on the take-home messages.

“ADAS are uncovering associations but they are very much preliminary and while they are helping us to better crop physiology, we don’t yet know which of these factors are most important. To find that out, we need more crop data and we’re very happy to provide technical support to any growers interested in taking part - including those with lower yielding crops,” says Becky.

“What these YENs do show is that growers who invest in their crops and pay attention to the details, are the ones who consistently achieve higher yields.”