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Faba beans are growing at about a foot and a half tall near Crosby, N.D. They ultimately grow to three to six feet tall. Photo taken in June 30, 2015 at Carrington, N.D. (COURTESY LEGUME LOGIC)

Faba beans drawing more attention

MINOT, N.D. — Faba beans aren’t new to the Upper Midwest. But the benefits of growing them are increasingly apparent, boosters says.

“We’re seeing a lot more interest in them,” said Kyle Abrahamson, with Plaza, N.D.-based Great Northern Ag. He talked with Agweek at the recent KMOT AG Expo in Minot, N.D.

At the time, faba bean contracts for the 2017 crop season weren’t available, which has limited farmers’ interest, he said.

But contract information is expected to be available at two upcoming seminars hosted by North Dakota State University and Legume Logic. Both will examine the potential of faba bean production in North Dakota, markets and contracting, insurance alternatives, research results and initiatives, and a producer panel presentation and questions.

The first session will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Langdon (N.D.) Research Extension Center, the second from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 9 at the North Central Research Extension Center in Minot.

More information: Richard Roland at 701-570-0598 or Cody Roland at 701-641-0214.

Many names

Faba beans go by many names, including fava bean, broad bean, field bean, bell bean and pigeon bean. They also come in two basic types: zero-tannin and low-tannin. The former can be used in feed markets, while low-tannen usually have higher yields and are exported to Mideast markets. Tannins are compounds that can affect taste and nutrition.

Faba beans, which are well established in parts of Canada, aren’t particularly new in northern North Dakota and eastern Montana, Richard Roland of Legume Logic said in a phone interview. He’s a longtime leader in promoting faba beans and other pulse crops in the area.

Like other pulses, which include lentils and dry peas, faba beans are drawing increased attention from consumers as being both healthy and affordable. That’s led to big increases in pulse crop acreage in western North Dakota and eastern Montana, where the semi-arid climate traditionally is well suited to growing them.

But a long spate of unusually wet weather in that area has led to crop disease and other problems with lentils and peas. That, in turn, increases the appeal of faba beans, which handle water better and aren’t as susceptible to crop disease, Roland said.

Two decades ago, when the weather was consistently drier, “Lentils, chickpeas and peas actually performed best,” Roland said. “But now in the wetter conditions, the fabas have an advantage.”

Another advantage is that faba beans don’t fall in the field as often as some other pulses, he said.

Faba beans require essentially the same equipment as other equipment, further increasing their appeal, he said.