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Growing Beans: A How-To Guide

Staple and comfort food icon, the bean has been playing an essential role in the survival of people and animals since ancient times. Evidence has been unearthed that old-world legumes (len­tils, peas, broad beans, chick peas and soybeans) have been used as food for more than 10,000 years in eastern Asia. Caches of lentils have been found in Egyptian tombs, signifying the reverence paid to this plant. Jason Ladock in “His­tory of Legumes: Man’s Use of Legumes” on healthguidance.org writes that today “Legumes are second only to the cereal grasses as sources of human food and ani­mal forage.”

Lima bean vine.

Why are legumes so popular? Le­gumes, members of the bean or Fabaceae plant family have many significant at­tributes. An important source of protein and fiber, beans also are high in iron, potassium and magnesium. They are easy to grow, and when dry, many beans can be stored for long periods of time without losing viability if they are kept in a cool, dry, dark environment. Besides the food nutrient benefits, the USDA Soil Quality Institute reports that beans have an ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, with the help of symbiotic Rhizobia bacteria living in their roots, and supply up to 90 percent of their own nitrogen.

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Smart Sowing for Natural Weed Control

weedy-wheatNew research results from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences report that weeds would have a tough time competing against crops such as corn, grains and beans if farmers were to alter their sowing patterns.

“Our results demonstrate that weed control in fields is aided by abandoning traditional seed sowing techniques. Farmers around the world generally sow their crops in rows. Our studies with wheat and corn show that tighter sowing in grid patterns suppresses weed growth. This provides increased crop yields in fields prone to heavy amounts of weeds,” said Professor Jacob Weiner, a University of Copenhagen plant ecologist.

Research studies performed in Danish wheat fields, together with recent studies in Colombian cornfields, demonstrate that modified sowing patterns and the nearer spacing of crops results in a reduction of total weed biomass. The amount of weeds was heavily reduced — by up to 72 percent — while grain yields increased by more than 45 percent in heavily weed-infested fields. The trick is to increase crop-weed competition and utilize the crop’s head start, so that it gains a large competitive advantage over the neighboring weeds. The research results from Colombia have been published in Weed Research. This encapsulation of the research is from the March 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.