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Faba Bean Harvesting

Before harvesting your faba beans, ask yourself these questions.

  • What machinery is available for harvest?
  • Is the equipment ready, with any necessary modifications completed?
  • Is the storage space ready?
  • Should additional resources be secured?
  • How will the harvested grain be marketed?
  • How variable is the crop’s maturity?
  • Is there any other variability of crop readiness in the field?
  • What are the current weather patterns?

Pre-harvest Considerations

  • faba bean crops will mature in approximately 110 to 130 days, although this maturity time can vary greatly due to either drought or excess moisture conditions
  • late seeded fields will usually have increased days to maturity
  • faba bean is sensitive and responsive to moisture
  • time of maturity, crop height at maturity and pod ripening can vary greatly from year to year
  • as faba bean matures, the lower leaves darken and drop, and bottom pods turn black and dry progressively up the stem
  • the crop is ready for swathing when approximately 10 to 20 per cent of the pods have turned black – this corresponds to the bottom one to three pods turning black (by this time, the uppermost pods are fully developed and the middle pods are turning a lighter green)
  • a faba bean crop will shatter as more pods are allowed to mature to the black stage or left standing until complete drydown – this is especially true if the crop is affected by drought
  • seeds in the most mature pods will have a moisture content of over 40 per cent, while seeds found in the upper portion of the plant may exceed 60 per cent moisture content (moisture content of the whole plant will be 70 per cent or greater at this stage)
  • seed yield can be reduced by up to 50 per cent from harvesting too early or because of late seeded crops that don’t mature before frost
  • Seed loss (lb./ac.) = Number of seeds/ft.2 x 1000 seed weight (g) ÷ 10

Dessication

Faba bean crops will mature in approximately 110 to 130 days, although this maturity time can vary greatly due to either drought or excess moisture conditions. Late seeded fields tend to have increased days to maturity, decreased yield and slower pod ripening but this can vary greatly from year to year.

Swathing or baling is not recommended for faba beans. Closer to harvest, Alberta Agriculture suggests focusing on lower pods where the majority of production comes from instead of waiting too long for top pods to ripen. As faba bean plants mature, the lower leaves darken and drop, and bottom pods turn black and dry progressively up the stem. Colour change of the whole plant of 90 per cent or greater is considered physiologically mature and ready for harvest. A faba bean crop can shatter as more pods are allowed to mature to the black stage or left standing until complete drydown; this is especially true if the crop is affected by drought or wind.

The crop is ready for straight combining at 18-20% moisture if you have a clean sample and can aerate the seed. Dry for faba beans is 16%. The fact sheet put out by Alberta Agriculture recommends checking operator manual settings for your combine and starting with soybean settings, every second concave wire may have to be removed before starting due to large seed size and ease of cracking.

Early May seeding results in a crop that is ready to desiccate the first or second week of September. Alberta Agriculture recommended desiccating with Reglone (Diquat) between September 5–8. To ensure a harvestable crop, it is strongly recommended that faba bean crops be desiccated by September 10.This will ensure adequate time for drying prior to frost, which can significantly down-grade the harvested product. Use of glyphosate and natural dry down results in harvest 1-2 weeks later than Reglone but may offer fall control of weeds such as Canada Thistle. Talk to your input supplier about your alternatives for enhancing desiccation.

 

Combining

Faba bean has excellent standability and straight combining is the harvest method of choice.

Combining Your Faba Beans

  • faba bean is easily combined when the grain is at about 16 per cent moisture (dry)
  • an alternative is to harvest the windrowed faba bean at 18 to 20 per cent seed moisture followed by drying and aerating – in some cases, high seed moisture may require a two-stage drying process to prevent seed coat cracking
  • drying temperature should not exceed 32˚ C
  • due to large seed size and fragile dry faba bean pods, adjustments to the combine may be necessary, including the removal of concave wires to allow the seeds to pass through
  • shatter losses at the pick-up can be a problem; match the pick-up speed to the ground speed
  • combine cylinder speed should be in the 300 to 500 rpm range and the concaves opened wide enough to avoid seed cracking and chipping
  • since faba bean is relatively heavy, high air flow rates will be required for a clean sample
  • combine augers and grain loaders should be run slowly to avoid seed damage
  • minimize drop distances to reduce cracking because seed damages easily

Straight Combining Your Faba Beans

  • Faba bean can be straight combined, although seed shattering can be severe if the whole plant is not dry enough to pass through the combine properly.
  • Seed moisture content of straight cut samples is usually 22 to 26 per cent, and a two-stage drying process may be necessary.
  • Drought stressed crops have most often been straight cut. Even under these conditions, straight cutting is not recommended, as a crop swathed at the correct stage can dry down evenly without shattering.

Post-harvest Considerations

  • faba bean is a large kernel crop, so is difficult to condition and dry
  • faba bean is considered dry at 16 per cent moisture content, but safe long-term storage requires moisture contents below this figure
  • faba bean is often highly variable in maturity and moisture content – seeds from the lower pods are more mature and drier than those from the uppermost pods
  • drying and conditioning must be done carefully, as high heat air dryer temperatures damage and “case harden” the outer seed coat – dry and condition slowly to allow moisture to move from the inner portions of the seed to the surface
  • combination drying (heated air drying and natural air drying) works well for conditioning faba bean

Storage

Faba bean is a large kernel crop, so it is difficult to condition and dry. Faba bean is considered dry at 16 per cent moisture content, but safe long-term storage requires moisture contents below this figure.

Faba bean is often highly variable in maturity and moisture content; seeds from the lower pods are more mature and drier than those from the uppermost pods. Drying and conditioning must be done carefully, as high heat air dryer temperatures damage and “case harden” the outer seed coat.

Dry and condition slowly to allow moisture to move from the inner portions of the seed to the surface. Combination drying (heated air drying and natural air drying) works well for conditioning faba bean.

To reduce cracking, always minimize drop distances when moving faba bean into storage. Faba bean must be monitored closely in storage: the crop will be graded “sample” if more than one per cent of seeds are heated or rotted, or if there is a musty, moldy or unnatural odour. Faba bean will also darken over time, causing it to be downgraded, so storage over one year is not recommended.