Growers’ help needed for trials on beans and field edges

Two seperate reseach projects are asking farmers for their help this summer, as scientists look to solve the problems of reduced crop yields at field margins and inconsistent bean yields.

It is well known that yields on field headlands are lower than in the middle, however, it has been suggested that farmers can help minimise this effect by growing flower-rich margins, or planting trees at field edges. 

Another key challenge farmers face is the wide variation in bean yields, especially as farmers look for alternative break crops to oilseed rape. By better understanding the causes, researchers hope to produce more consistent bean yields.  

See also: Tips on using foliar sprays to control virus yellows in beet

Here is how farmers can get involved in both projects. 

Field margins

Scientists at Rothamsted are asking farmers to send GPS data collected at harvest and in return for their help, the Institute will provide farmers with an easy to interpret summary of the findings, with tips on how they might increase production.

The data will be integral to a study linking the biodiversity found just beyond the field with variations in yield within it

Helen Metcalfe, who is collating the data, said different types of field boundaries could help to reduce the yield decline at field edges. “Have you ever wondered what the true benefit of hedgerows, treelines or flower rich margins are on your crop yield?”

“By linking the yield monitor data collected by GPS-enabled combine harvesters with the presence of different landscape features, the team will try to determine whether yield decline towards the edge of fields is associated with certain types of boundaries.

“Likewise, we will also identify whether features known to support pollinators and other beneficial wildlife are having a positive effect on yield in the nearest parts of the crop.”

More information on how to take part, including simple instructions on how to download combine data, can be obtained from the project’s dedicated web page or by emailing

Bean variability

Researchers from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have joined scientists across Europe to study factors affecting the yield of beans. 

As part of a new project called Legume Gap, they will look at the climatic, genetic and management factors affecting yield variability before designing novel cultivars and management strategies to reduce this variability in the future. 

Grain legume yields are more variable than those of cereals – particularly winter cereals – and this is a major factor influencing decisions to grow beans. 

As part of the project in the UK, which is funded by Defra, scientists are calling on farmers who grow beans in both England and Scotland to help them understand the factors influencing yields by completing a short survey. 

Christine Watson, professor of Agricultural Systems at SRUC, highlighted that because yield variability directly affects income, it has been identified as a major factor in farmers deciding to grow grain legumes.

The UK data will be analysed alongside results from the other eight European partners in Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden.  

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