Interest in fababeans growing across Prairies

Beans push out peas | Growers who have had problems with root rot in peas are looking to fababeans

Fababean acres will jump in Saskatchewan this year — it’s just a matter of how high.

Sherrilyn Phelps, a regional crops specialist with the province’s agriculture ministry, said grower interest in fababeans was robust over the winter, and most producers got the crop in the ground.

“I’m 100 percent positive they (acres) are going to be higher than what they were last year,” she said.

“You couldn’t find seed … and there’s a lot of new growers. I would suspect the acres are definitely up.”

Dale Risula, a Saskatchewan Agriculture special crops expert, said fababeans were planted on 10,000 acres in the province last year.

He doesn’t know what acres will be this year, but the likely direction is up.

“There seems to be an increasing interest in fababeans in Saskatchewan, as there is in Western Canada,” he said.

Robyne Bowness, an Alberta Agriculture pulse crop pathology technologist, said in a presentation that there were 15,500 insured fababean acres in Alberta last year. Assuming 75 percent of acres were insured, then total acres might have been 20,669.

Alberta acreage is expected to rise significantly this year because many growers had success with the crop last year.

Commercial yields in Alberta were variable, ranging from 40 to 70 bushels per acre. The 10 year average for fababeans in Alberta is 39 bu. per acre.

Phelps said farmers in Saskatchewan’s black soil zone are experimenting with fababeans as a replacement for peas.

“We’ve had a lot of problems with peas and root rot disease. Fababeans are more tolerant of wet soil,” she said.

“People have been dabbling in them in the northeast, (parts) of the northwest and a little bit in the southeast to east-central region.”

Fababean acres were also expected to rise in Manitoba, but the cool, wet spring in the province’s parkland region cut into production.

“As it turned out, it was so wet and late that very few (faba)beans went in (the ground) in Manitoba,” said Rod Fisher of Fisher Seeds in Dauphin.

“The (insurance) deadline is about the May 25…. Most guys, when it got to the end of May, decided not to plant.”

Fisher said there was a shortage of fababean seed in Manitoba over the winter because grower demand was much higher than previous years.

“We had more interest than we had seed,” he said, adding seed is available now because Manitoba producers backed away from the crop.

Fababeans should be seeded as early as possible because the crop doesn’t tolerate hot weather during flowering.

“In years past, we always wanted to have our beans in in April,” Fisher said.

“Not so much for the maturity. They’re basically a cool season crop, so you want to avoid the heat stress in July.”

Phelps said growers in northwestern Saskatchewan seeded fababeans early this spring.

“They’re up and looking good,” she said.

Phelps wasn’t sure about the eastern half of the province, but Risula said conditions were favourable for fababean seeding in the southeast.

Fababeans are grown for the human consumption and livestock market. The Middle East is the primary market for human consumption.

Risula said some processors are looking at breaking fababeans down into components because they contain 24 to 30 percent protein.

Fababean advocates have long touted the promise of feeding the crop to livestock, particularly pigs, but that concept has never taken off in Western Canada.

Fisher said it’s easier for hog producers to buy other more readily available feed.

“They want a constant supply. We can’t criticize them for not using them. It’s so much easier to pick up the phone and order a load of soybean meal than it is to locate some fababeans.”

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