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Beans: what are the producers' practices and their evolution?

29 Jul 2022

Since 2018, Terres Inovia has been interviewing faba bean farmers to find out how their cropping practices have evolved. Sowing, cover, varieties, weeding, disease control, harvesting... all the stages of the crop itinerary are reviewed in the different production basins.

In 2021, 738 farmers producing winter and spring beans responded to this survey via an online questionnaire. Comparisons could be made with the previous survey of 2018.

Marked differences between winter and spring species in different production areas

As in 2018, this survey revealed a very different geographical distribution between winter and spring beans. Winter bean is mainly present in the South-Western, Western and Central basins, whereas spring bean is grown in the Eastern, Normandy and Northern basins. Winter bean is much more present than spring bean: it represents ¾ of the surfaces.

Beans are mainly grown for agronomic reasons

The main motivation cited for growing faba beans is agronomic, as this crop is an excellent precedent for wheat or maize and allows for a reduction in nitrogen input to the following crop. 

A major outlet for animal feed and service plant seed production

Producers cite animal feed as the primary outlet in 60% of cases.

The "seed" outlet, in particular for the production of cover crop seeds for use on the farm, comes in second place with 36% of cases and the human food outlet concerns only 4% of situations (bearing in mind that some farmers may have multiple outlets).
Beans are increasingly used as a service plant in intercropping or in association with rapeseed, which explains the increase in the "seed" outlet in recent years.

Adapted technical itineraries

The type of bean determines the technical itinerary used in the different basins. Thus, producers use fewer herbicides and insecticides, but more fungicides on winter bean than on spring bean. On the whole, Terres Inovia's recommendations for both types of beans are fairly well followed.

However, in winter bean in particular, a quarter of the areas are overplanted, which greatly increases the risk of diseases. In addition, the sowing depth for winter bean on a significant part of the areas appears to be lower than recommended, which increases the risk of plant losses in case of severe frost at emergence.

Beans are often grown on intermediate to shallow soils

To obtain high yields of faba beans, they must be grown in deep soils with high reserves. However, its positioning, which is not necessarily a priority in crop rotation, leads to its frequent cultivation in soils with less agronomic potential.

It is also important to sow spring beans early (end of February-beginning of March) in well-drained soils to avoid the high heat of early summer and maximize yields, which was the case in 2021, where a dry sequence at the end of winter facilitated quality plantings.

Across all regions, the most common soil types are shallow, stony, non-hydromorphic clay-limestone soils and medium to deep, non-stony, non-hydromorphic clay loams.

A crop often grown on farms using conservation agriculture
Only one third of the faba bean area is ploughed. The high establishment of faba beans on farms under soil conservation agriculture is often associated with reduced tillage, crop diversification and the introduction of cover crops, in which they play an important role.

Find the summary of cultivation practices for faba beans in 2021 in the attachment.


Jérôme Regnault, farmer in Plaisir (78), reveals his itinerary, his difficulties and his technical levers




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