Farming sugar beans is a common practice among farmers globally. This is because of their unending market demand, hence generation of substantial profits. Despite its popularity, most farmers experience low to average yields which is attributed to lack of specific skills and know how about sugar beans farming. It is therefore very important for farmers to acquire the necessary crop management practises in order to achieve maximum yields.
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Farming sugar beans is best practised during the summer when temperatures are warm. Sugar beans basically thrive in warm weather temperatures of about 18oC to 20oC. Very high temperatures of approximately 30oC are detrimental to the development of sugar beans. This is because high temperatures cause floral and pod sterility. The same applies when temperatures drop below 15oC. Sugar beans farming requires rainfall of approximately 450mm to 650mm. They can however still flourish in slightly low temperatures of about 400mm. One of the most important points to note is that sugar beans is highly susceptible to frost. Also, under watering is as bad as over watering, the plant’s growth is negatively affected.
There are a variety of seeds available in market. The selection of an appropriate variety versus weather patterns, farming technology as well as pests and diseases infestation is one of the most important decisions farmers have to make. Seed varieties range from white broad seeds to speckled sugar beans; the latter being the most famed amongst most farmers. Sugar beans farming is often threatened by pests and diseases. Therefore, it is important to opt for a variety that is more resistant to ensure a successful harvest. Also, some varieties mature faster than others. There are short season varieties that take about 85 to 94 days to mature; some take approximately 95 to 104 days whereas long season varieties mature in roughly 105 to 115days. The following must be considered when selecting an ideal variety for specific environmental conditions:
- market preference
- growth habit
- soil properties
- climatic conditions
- disease tolerance/resistance
Sugar beans farming thrives in a range of soils. However, sugar beans grow best in well drained loamy soils. Compact soils are easily waterlogged and so are not advisable. Farming sugar beans on heavier soils is possible, provided the clay content of the soil is very low. The soil should be fertile and water provision adequate. Organic manure such as mulch is ideal for improving the soil health and providing sugar beans with the ability to retain water. Sugar beans farming is sensitive to highly acidic soils. Soils ought to have a pH level of about 5 to 6.5. Adding lime to the soil helps to lessen the acidity of the soil.
Fertiliser should be applied based on the soil analysis recommendations. None the less, there are basic fertilisation techniques that are recommended to improve the health of the soil. These include the application of organic fertiliser such as compost, manure and mulching. It is also advisable to add lime 4 weeks prior to planting in soils with pH below 5. Note that it must be added in furrows, 5cm to 7cm deep before adding any fertiliser. Sugar beans respond well to compound fertiliser, though in limited amounts. The suggested amount is 200kg to 350kg/ha. A light top dressing before flowering with 100kg/ha and 28% to 34% N fertiliser for example Ammonium Nitrate, may also be required if the leaves are pale in colour. Too much nitrate increases vegetative growth at the expense of fruiting. Fertiliser has to be covered with 2cm layer of soil to prevent it from harming the seeds.
Preparation of the land in an important part of farming sugar beans. The land should be cleared and well ploughed to aid drainage and good root development. A well prepared land also helps in seed germination and controlling weed infestation. Sugar beans are considered to be poor germinators, hence the need for a well prepared land. Take note that the ideal time to prepare the land is before rainy season begins. It is advisable to adopt crop rotation in which sugar beans are rotated with cereal. Care should be taken that sugar beans farming is not practised in areas where atrazine has been once used as it retards growth and reduces yields.
Planting Sugar Beans
Planting is done under frost-free, cool soil temperatures with adequate moisture. Sugar beans are either planted in ridges, farrows or on a flat seed bed. The aim of planting in ridges is to prevent waterlogging. Planting in farrows under minimal tillage conserves moisture and the soil. When using the farrow method, make sure there are 5cm to 7cm deep with row spacing of 35cm to 65cm. Row spacing however depends on seed variety. Taller varieties will require slightly increased row spacing. The generally recommended spacing should allow roughly 220 000 seeds/ha. Planting depth should be 3cm to 5cm. Before planting, make sure to cover the seeds with a 2cm layer of soil to avoid direct contact with fertiliser.
Weed and Pest Control
Farming sugar beans calls for effective weed and pest control. Sugar beans need fertile soils to thrive. For this reason, weed must be removed as it absorbs nutrients meant for plant growth. Registered herbicides should therefore be used according to the specified amounts. Suitable weed control can be applied prior to or soon after planting. Mulch helps to supress the growth of weed, at the same time providing plants with nutrients. Sugar beans is prone to attack by diseases such as rust, angular leaf spot and anthracnose among others. Make sure to also use registered pesticides to protect the plant from attack.
Harvesting Sugar Beans
The harvesting period is crucial in sugar beans farming. Depending on the variety, sugar beans can mature from 90 to 120 days after farming. Harvesting should be done when the leaves and pods are dry and yellow brown. Sugar beans reach physiological maturity when moisture is 50%. They are however ready for harvesting when moisture drops to 16%. The ideal time to harvest is when moisture reaches 15%. After harvesting, sugar beans have to be dried, staked in grain bags and stored on a raised platform further from the wall. The bags should be inspected regularly to check for and remove infested grains. A successful sugar beans farming venture will produce approximately 1.5 to 2.5tonnes/ha. Unfortunately most farmers usually reap half this amount due to mistakes during the production period all the way to harvesting.
Although sugar beans farming is considered to be fairly easy, it requires sound knowledge as well as skill to achieve success. Currently farmers lose close to, if not much more than half the harvest to mismanagement and improper sugar farming practises. As such, it is highly advisable for to invest in the skillset and know how in order to excel in their agricultural venture.