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Peas and Beans

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This practical book provides an accessible overview of all aspects of pea and bean production, including botany and physiology, breeding, agronomy, weed management, pests and diseases, harvesting, nutritional value and uses. It also reflects on the constraints and opportunities in the future for peas and beans, exploring their role in food sustainability and crop rotation, and various factors affecting supply and demand such as climate change and breeding technologies. Peas and beans are crops of economic, social and agronomic importance and this volume provides the specialist knowledge needed to ensure good quality standards are met. Authored by a recognized authority with extensive experience in applied research, this book is an ideal resource for practical agronomists, advisors and producers, extension workers, horticulture students and all those involved in the production of peas and beans.

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1 INTRODUCTION TO PEAS AND BEANS

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INTRODUCTION TO PEAS AND BEANS

Amongst the world’s most important non-cereal food crops, peas and beans are probably the most versatile. They provide a source of protein, are easily stored for long periods and can be consumed as processed or whole food by both humans and livestock. Commonly known as pulse crops or grain legumes, they are widely grown in temperate, subtropical and arid climates all over the world. They can be consumed as fresh vegetables or frozen, canned or dehydrated and also can be harvested as dry seed or pulses, which can be milled for use as a flour, or rehydrated and cooked whole. It seems likely that the adoption of legumes as agricultural crops in part reflects the nutritional balance between legumes and cereal seeds as well as the ability of legumes to break cereal rotations. Because of their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen through their symbiotic relationship with soil-borne bacteria providing them with sufficient nitrogen for growth, the residue enriches the soil nitrogen supply for the following crop. The diversity of locations where peas and beans have been developed in agriculture is reflected in the diversity of species and varieties currently grown. They are found in agricultural systems throughout the world and have been domesticated in South and Central America, the Middle East, China, India and Africa. More recently they have been introduced to Europe and North

 

2 BOTANY AND PHYSIOLOGY

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BOTANY AND PHYSIOLOGY

LEGUMES AND NITROGEN

Nitrogen is a major element in crop nutrition and in the absence of nitrogen, crop growth is severely affected as a result of a general chlorosis and reduction in photosynthetic ability. In most agricultural systems, nitrogen (N) is applied in a readily available form, either as nitrate in a chemical fertilizer or as manure or compost, where microbial breakdown can release soluble forms of nitrate that are then taken up by the growing crop. In large-scale commercial agriculture, most nitrogen is applied as a fertilizer produced by a chemical process (the

Haber–Bosch process) that converts nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia using high quantities of energy, or from non-renewable mined sources of minerals. In whichever production method is used, there is a high economic cost involved. An additional problem occurs with the use of applied fertilizers when excess chemical is leached out of the soil by rainfall or irrigation and is then able to enter water courses and catchments.

 

3 PEA AND BEAN BREEDING

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PEA AND BEAN BREEDING

BACKGROUND TO THE CURRENT TYPES

There is a significant number of similarities in the genetic, physiological and adaptational characteristics of leguminous food crop species that allows them to be considered together as well as genus by genus. The most significant historical work on peas (Pisum sativum) was carried out by Mendel (1866).

Although his work was overlooked by most applied botanists until its rediscovery at about the same time by Correns (1900), de Vries and Tshermack in

Germany and William Bateson in Cambridge (Bateson, 1901; Druery and

Bateson, 1901), it remains fundamental to genetic understanding of all studied plant species and animals. Peas are a largely self-pollinated and hence inbreeding species, as is the common bean species Phaseolus vulgaris (but notably not Phaseolus multiflorus syn. P. coccineus). Wild landraces (now regarded as locally adapted ecotypes) of such largely inbreeding species comprise mixtures mainly of homozygous plants and of heterozygotes from crosses that have occurred naturally as a result of insect pollination, which is facilitated by the form of the flowers and availability of nectar. Dry beans were studied by W.L.

 

4 AGRONOMY OF PEAS AND BEANS

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AGRONOMY OF PEAS AND BEANS

Peas and beans have specific requirements for successful crop establishment, growth and yield of high-quality produce. Whilst there are many similarities in agronomy, particularly between peas and Vicia faba, the requirements for

Phaseolus beans are not too dissimilar. The successful management of crops is dependent on a number of factors, including the use of high-quality seed, providing a suitable location and soil conditions for sowing and the supply of adequate nutrients and moisture to maintain growth. In addition, crops must be protected from weed competition and pests and diseases; these subjects are discussed in Chapters 5 and 6.

CROP ROTATION

There are a number of traditional reasons put forward for the necessity of crop rotation when including peas or beans. Weed control may be improved by the use of spring-sown crops and there is the value of residual nitrogen (see Chapter 2) to improve fertility of the soil for the following crop. Large-seeded legumes fit in well with a rotation with cereals and they can generally be grown using the same machinery and stored with existing equipment. The vegetable crops are more demanding on machinery, labour and harvesting equipment but nevertheless their value as a break crop and general soil improver is still the same.

 

5 MANAGEMENT OF WEEDS

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MANAGEMENT OF WEEDS

Large-seeded legumes such as peas and beans, compared with many other agricultural crops, do not offer very great competition to weeds and consequently infestations can cause yield depression. Weed control has become more efficient in recent years, with the introduction of new pesticides, but this situation is becoming more difficult with the increasing emphasis on reducing pesticide usage and reducing the number of active ingredients believed to be detrimental to the environment (Grundy et al., 2011).

In many countries where the crops are grown on a small scale, access to pesticides is very limited because of availability or economics, therefore reliance on the use of such materials may not be possible or indeed sustainable.

There are a number of cultural aids to weed control that can be utilized, increasingly so in large-scale commercial production, which can eliminate the need for chemical weed control or at least reduce its frequency of use. Weeds have a long-term effect on crop rotation, such as the return of seeds of the grass weeds Avena fatua and Alopecurus myosuroides and the spread of perennial weeds in succeeding crops. Weed flora is dependent on climate, soil type, crop rotation and time of sowing and no weeds are specific to food legumes, with the exception of the parasite Orobanche spp. (especially O. crenata).

 

6 MANAGEMENT OF PESTS AND DISEASES

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MANAGEMENT OF PESTS AND DISEASES

Pests and diseases of peas and beans are capable of reducing yields, spoiling quality, jeopardizing the reliability of production and disrupting throughput at the packing and processing facilities. Very occasionally there are dramatic losses, due to infections of disease at epidemic proportions, or due to unusually heavy infestations of a particular pest. Both are often linked with climatic conditions. There are less serious losses, such as where patches of diseased plants appear, or when pest infestation is not heavy and there are subtle and often unnoticed losses that may result from a gradual build-up of a soil-borne pest or pathogen, but gradually reducing vitality and profitability.

Control methods are now becoming more reliant on management and measures of prevention rather than a direct approach of treating when symptoms or pests appear. The reliance on synthetic pesticides is being discouraged and more emphasis is being made on prediction, forecasting and monitoring as a means of providing an avoidance strategy or a managed approach, by identifying the optimum timing for the application of pesticides and justification for their use. In many countries that produce processed crop products, there is a strong emphasis on the need for crop traceability from the field to the factory, where every input – agronomic, crop nutrition and pesticide application – is recorded by the producer and the records remain available for inspection for some time after harvest. The UK Assured Produce Scheme known as Red Tractor has been in operation for several years as a voluntary standard set up by the food industry and a similar scheme is used in Europe (GLOBALG.A.P.). Both schemes include crop protocols that are standardized in agreement with retailers, food processors and merchants to provide a means of transparency and food safety for the consumer.

 

7 HARVESTING, NUTRITIONAL VALUE AND USES

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HARVESTING, NUTRITIONAL VALUE AND USES

As described in Chapter 1, peas and beans are used in a wide variety of ways, either fresh, where the immature pods or seeds are harvested and used as a vegetable, or processed, either by freezing or by canning, and as dried pulses as food ingredients or flour, or rehydrated and cooked. Cooked pulses may also be canned on their own or in mixtures, or processed in some other form. Dried pulses are also used in animal feed manufacture, either milled or heat processed with or without the seed coat, and fed to most types of livestock and in aquaculture. In all instances, the requirements for high-quality produce is important from a human health aspect but also economically in the processing: produce that is of poor quality is either unusable or will require cleaning and this will invoke payment penalties to the producer.

Each crop has its own particular set of operations to ensure an acceptable product, whether the product is consumed or marketed in a fresh state or processed at home or at a factory. In the case of dried pulses, the product must be harvested and stored in a safe environment before marketing.

 

8 THE FUTURE FOR PEAS AND BEANS

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THE FUTURE FOR PEAS AND BEANS

INTRODUCTION

In the earlier chapters, aspects of current development in pea and bean breeding and production have been discussed, albeit mainly concentrating on largescale developed commercial agriculture in the developed countries of the world. However, on a general note, it has been established that of all the largeseeded legume crops, peas and beans are the most versatile and are able to grow in a wide variety of geographical areas and soil types. Some species are more adaptable to conditions than others but within species there are many commercial varieties and types that perform well in most situations. These facts alone make the future of these crops much more certain.

As a food source, peas and beans are well accepted for animal nutrition and for human food with relatively little processing of the raw ingredient necessary in a wide variety of cases. In human nutrition, pulses have been shown to have an important role in preventing illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes (Pulse Canada, 2008). The dry edible seeds of large-seeded legumes, known as pulses, contain a higher level of protein than cereals and high levels of both soluble and non-soluble fibre with a low glycaemic index. In developing countries, pulses are an important source of vegetable proteins and constitute the main source of protein for most populations.

 

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