Be prepared to market beans before the end of the year to take advantage of demand from Egypt and the expanding fish food market, growers were being advised at PGRO’s pulse day.
Although the total UK bean area is down by 17%, there will still be a production excess of 35,000t this year, warned Andy Bury of Frontier Agriculture.
“That oversupply situation will put pressure on the market,” he said. “And we have competition from both French and Australian beans, despite the quality advantage we have over them.”
The bulk of the beans produced in Australia go to Egypt for human consumption, he pointed out. “Seeing as the Australian harvest takes place in December and January, it would be wise to market UK beans before then. Prices are good, so UK growers should take advantage of them.”
UK bean yields were expected to be higher than last year, despite the dry spring, noted Mr Bury. “Last year we achieved yields of around 3t/ha. This year, crops have responded to recent rainfall, and they are expected to be 20% higher, at 3.8t/ha.
“It’s only the crops being grown in the far east of England, where it has been very dry, which might not yield as well.”
Aquaculture is a growing market for de-hulled beans, he reported, with 10% growth per annum for the last three years. “Fish food is 50% protein and 30% oil and fat. Beans are high in protein, but also high in fibre, so removing the hull is essential for this market.”
De-hulled beans act as a binder in fish food and were preferred to wheat, he added. “When the price differential gets above £55/t, that can change and the buyers will switch to wheat. But the market is paying for them at the moment.”
Peas were also in demand, he stressed. “The area has fallen to 30,000ha, so demand is strong. There are good markets, especially for a quality product, with a bright green coloured pea preferred.”
Large blues were selling for £250/t with marrowfats at £270/t. “And for 2012, marrowfat contracts at £300/t are already available.”
Crops had come through the drought very well, he reported. “They had the rain at the right time.”
The market dominance of spring bean Fuego looked set to be challenged in the future, as Fury and Pyramid began to make their mark, said PGRO technical officer Steven Belcher.
“It’s been a long time, but now we have two provisionally recommended varieties which exceed Fuego for yield,” he revealed.
Of the two, Pyramid had a slight downy mildew resistance weakness compared with Fuego, he continued. “But the new ones are both pale hilum types.”
Likewise, dominant winter bean Wizard was now being challenged by Husky, which is also provisionally recommended. Higher yielding than Wizard, it is a very different agronomic type, advised Mr Belcher.
“Husky has longer straw and is not as stiff, but it is the highest yielding winter bean at 104. Interestingly, its longer straw has been a benefit in this dry year.”
Four new pea varieties had progressed from P1 to P2 recommendation, with all of them having a good chance of achieving full recommendation, he said.
“They’re a good bunch. There are three large blues, Madras, Bluestar and Daytona, all of which yield a little below Crackerjack, and one maple pea, Mantara.”
Mantara is a significant step forward, he noted. “It has maintained its high yield potential. The grain is smaller, rounder and a different colour to that of Rose.”
A web-based forecasting system using temperature, trap data and crop growth stage was the eventual aim of the current TSB-funded research project on the management of bruchid beetle, said PGRO senior technical officer Becky Ward.
PGRO’s involvement was in the development of a monitoring trap which could be used to forecast pest activity, by attracting the pest as it moves into crops, she noted.
“Up until now, we’ve been using plant volatile lures in the traps, in the same proportion as found in bean flowers,” she reported. “And they have worked well, but only up until the crop starts flowering.”
Next season, she planned to trial an insect pheromone, to see whether it improved the information from the traps. “We know much more about spray timing and application for bruchid beetle control than we used to. Now we want to provide the same detail on pest activity.”