With the installation of a new bean dehulling factory in commissioning, Frontier is turning to biostimulants to help add value to beans destined for the plant
Biostimulants are being used as part of an agronomy programme to boost bean yield and protein content, with a high end-market protein requirement in mind.
Frontier has built a bean dehulling plant at its site near Nottingham to produce a protein-rich binding agent which it says is attractive to the aquaculture (fish farming) industry and other feed buyers looking for a high protein replacement for imported soya.
In mid-February, the company was offering a bean base price of £40/tonne premium to LIFFE wheat with an additional £10/t premium for growers following its bean agronomy package and achieving 29 per cent protein.
Frontier crop production technical lead, Dr Paul Fogg says either winter or spring beans can be grown for this end market, with spring beans tending to have a higher inherent protein content.
He says: “While there are many factors that can influence protein levels, including soil type, climate, genetics, maturity date and organic matter, ensuring the basics are correct, while at the same time looking to minimise abiotic stress from sub-optimal nutrient levels, insects and disease during seed filling can impact on yield and protein levels.
“Variety choice is important. LG Cartouche, for example, typically has a 28-29 per cent protein content. Also important are seed rate, establishment, effective weed control and ensuring beans have all the macronutrients they require.”
Dr Fogg says biostimulants have a role to play, acting as genetic triggers, which can lead to a range of plant responses including increasing root biomass and improving efficiency of nitrogen assimilation. Laboratory work at the University of Nottingham showed that adding Odyssey (potassium phosphite) increased root biomass as well as root nodule development.
“Bigger root biomass means the crop can access a greater volume of soil and the associated soil nutrients.”
Another biostimulant, Maxxim PPE, is a co-formulation of micronutrients and pidolic acid, an important component of the nitrogen assimilation process, sitting in between the carbon and nitrogen cycles. When the plant is under stress, it favours respiration (carbon cycle) over growth (nitrogen cycle). Pidolic acid helps maintain an equilibrium within the nitrogen assimilation process, which is important in building yield and protein content, explains Dr Fogg.
Replicated small plot trials were carried out on Vertigo spring beans in the 2018 season by Eurofins on behalf of Intracrop/Frontier. Dr Fogg says untreated yield in this trial was 2.33t/ha and untreated protein content, 26 per cent.
Applying phosphite alone raised yield to 2.68t/ha and protein content to 26.7 per cent. Applying the full programme, which comprised 1 litre/ha of Odyssey and 3kg/ha Maxxim PPE at the four-leaf stage, topped up with 1 litre/ha of the former at early flowering resulted in a yield of 2.88t/ha and protein content of 27.25 per cent, says Dr Fogg.
“The full programme gives a boost of just over one per cent additional protein over untreated.”
Mr Fogg points out that 2018 was a difficult and low-yielding season for most bean growers due to extreme and prolonged dry weather.
He adds: “Trials are continuing but indications are that the programme will deliver yield and protein benefits. It will be interesting to see how they perform this season when we will hopefully experience more typical weather.”
The Frontier contract for high protein beans also gives an alternative market for growers troubled by bruchid beetle damage, says Dr Fogg. “If it has bruchid damage it can still go into a high protein market.”