For farming to be a profitable business you need to grow the appropriate crop in the right regions, at the right time, under the right conditions and using the correct inputs. I know that this is a mouthful, but this is the only way you can efficiently run a farming business and make it reliable. Sugar beans is one of the very few crops in Zimbabwe that you can grow which have a four-figure producer price. I took this opportunity to prepare an article for a step-by-step guide for an ambitious farmer who doesn’t know where to start with growing sugar beans. This is a step-by-step guide on how to grow sugar beans.
Table of Contents
What are sugar beans?
In Zimbabwe what we call sugar beans commonly refers to the SeedCo SC Bounty variety. This bean seed has a pale cream testa or seed coat with red speckles around it. The bushy sugar beans plant will have white flowers only. It’s always a good idea to start with a traceable seed so that you get the best yield. Most farmers who are starting to opt for cheaper seeds from their peers but the yield can be affected. The producers of the sugar beans seed claim that it is a high yield variety.
One of the producers claims that under good management and correct conditions you can get up to 2 tons per hectare. Also, sugar beans have been proven to have a good tolerance to most important diseases. Remember, you need a crop that both gives you both financial and nutritional returns for your family. So, the question is, how do you do it?
This is a pdf from SeedCo.
How do you grow sugar beans step by step?
General conditions for growing sugar beans
- Sugar beans are best grown in the summer season due to disease pressure and flower abortion due to excessive temperatures. If temperatures are too high or too low .i.e outside the range 18-24 your yield is reduced.
- They can grow in a wide variety of soils but make sure the soil is correct. The most ideal soil pH is between 5.3 and 6.5.
- Be sure to prepare your soil properly, sugar beans require a soil depth of 60 to 90 cm.
- The best way to produce sugar beans is by growing them in heavier and sandy loamy soils with clay content greater than 20%.
- This is a crop that you can grow throughout the year unless there is frosty, too much rainfall, and lack of water or excessively high or low temperatures.
- Grow sugar beans where the rainfall is 450 to 600 mm or you can irrigate with the same water quantities.
- Temperatures above 30o at flowering stage will cause floral sterility whilst those below 15o will cause floral and pod sterility. This massively reduces your overall yield per hectare.
- Ensure that you time the planting date so that there is no rain expected at flowering or do not irrigate during flowering. This may all result in your flowers dropping.
What to do when you go the irrigation way
These steps will help you with irrigation management if you don’t depend on rainfall.
- Remember the three critical stages of irrigation management.
- For the best germination and emergency, you need 30-40 mm of irrigation before or soon after you plant.
- Before you plant your sugar beans, first irrigate to field capacity of greater than 60 cm depth.
- On the second or third day after planting, do some lighter irrigation to help germinated seedlings to break the crust.
- Remember that there should be no irrigation during flowering so ensure sufficient irrigation before flowering to avoid this. Irrigation during flowering will cause the flowers to fall.
- Then soon after flowering you must irrigate to promote good setting of pods.
- Stop the irrigation when pods turn yellow to prevent your harvest from rotting
So, with irrigation it seems like it’s easier to properly control your growing conditions, something that is hard to do with the natural rains. To be frank, I believe that most farmers have no time to check these conditions before planting. It all looks like guess work to me.
The steps to follow when growing sugar beans
Step 1: Land preparation
So, how do you prepare you land
- Make sure that your land is fertile or moderately fertile and it has no water logging. This means the land should have a functional drainage system that prevents waterlogging.
- Sugar beans are not a friend of acidic soils, so you must lime your soils until your pH is around 5.3-6.5.
- NB. This means that you need to do a soil survey first before embarking on your farming endeavor that is if you need meaningful financial returns.
- Clear all vegetation and prepare the land. This can be done manually on small portions, or you can use animal and mechanical power.
- The best way to prepare land is to deep plough. Deep ploughing will aid your drainage as well as your plant root development.
- After deep ploughing, you need to disc as well as roll in order to produce a fine tilthe of soil.
- For planting the sugar beans, you can plant on ridges, or you can plant on flat seeds beds. Some use shallow furrows to plant their sugar bean plants.
- If you plant on ridges, you prevent waterlogging which damages the sugar bean plant whilst flat seed beds or furrows will promote waterlogging.
- If you prepare your land well and ensure a fine tilthe, your seeds will germinate well because it will be easier for them to break the crust.
You may wonder why you need to ensure a fine tilthe before planting? The reason is that sugar beans is a poor germinator, so if your soil is not fine, the germination rate will be low.
Step 2: Planting
How to plant sugar beans after land preparation
Planting sugar beans may also affect your germination rates and yields if not done properly.
- According to one manual, dressing your seeds with either Captan, Gaucho or Thiram is a must to prevent early disease development. These are fungicides that act against leaf miners.
- Always plant your sugar bean seeds in moist soils after receiving more than 35 mm of rain or irrigation to ensure good germination.
- Your planting furrows must be between 5 and 7 cm deep.
- The interrow spacing should be 35-60 cm and plant spacing should be 4-10 cm.
- After making the furrows, you must then band basal fertilizer in the furrows using the string method.
- You must then cover the fertilisers with a 2 cm layer of fine soil before planting to prevent direct contact between fertilizer and the seed.
- Cover your seeds at a depth of 4.5 cm in lighter soils and about 3.5 cm in heavier soils.
- After covering, gently press soil to ensure good soil contact. This enables easier water absorption, germination and emergence.
- You must have a seed rate of 80 to 100 kg/ha for a healthy plant population.
- The spacings mentioned above will produce between 200 000 to 300 000 plants per hectare.
- And for irrigation start around mid-February in the low veld
Step 3: Fertilisation
How much fertilizer do you need for your sugar beans plant?
So like many other crops, sugar beans do need adequate nutrition to produce a good yield. This section of the guide gives knowledge on how to adequately fertilise your sugar bean plants.
- You must not just use fertilizer based on a hunch or blindly. Fertilizer should be applied based on the recommendation of soil analysis results.
- General fertiliser recommendation for basal dressing is compound D 200-300 kg/ha, for real blends at 150-250 kg/ha, double D 100-150 kg/ha, SSP at 225 kg/ha.
- Cup number 5 should be used to band about 30-40 cm stretch of the furrow assuming that you have 50 cm interrow spacing. This will give you 200 kg of fertiliser per hectare.
- For your top dressing, apply it about 2 weeks after emergency but before flowering. The fertilizer should be applied after rainfall or before irrigation when your soil is adequately moist.
- About 150 to 200 kg/ha ammonium nitrate fertiliser is enough to avoid rank growth in your sugar bean plants.
Step 4: Pre-emergence pest and weed control
If you don’t like herbicides and insecticides, then this step is not for you. For weed control, you may have to do it manually.
- After planting always spray preemergence pesticicides (for pests such as cutworms) and herbicides about 2 days after planting when your soil is still moist.
- The moisture is a very important part of this process because it will help activate the herbicide and create an herbicide layer that can suppress the growth of weeds and give your sugar beans a good growth head start.
- Avoid fields which had atrazine the previous growing season as it interferes with sugar beans growth, retards their growth and reduce your overall health (Sorry to say that I have never seen many small-scale farmers worrying about this).
The best pre-emergence herbicides include Frontier, Optima, Metaalachlor, Alachlor, Basagran and Beterleur gold. Some of the post emergence herbicides you can use include Agil, Imazamax, Afalon, Pursuit, Fusilad amd Basagran.
Step 5: Important pest control measures
There are several pests that can affect the sugar bean crop.
- Bean stem maggot- to control this pest you need to spray Diazinon at day 3, 6, 13 and 20 after emergence as a preventative as well as combative measure against this pest.
- Aphids and white flies will suck the sap out of your bean crops. You need to properly control these pests to maintain good plant health.
- Leaf minor- leaf minor manifestations in your crop will predispose the crops to secondary bacterial infections that may harm the health of your crops. Controlling the leaf minor chemically can be expensive and ineffective so it’s better to treat your seeds with Gaucho or Cruizer before planting.
The pests that mainly affect the sugar beans plants include bean stem maggots, cutworms, aphids, semi loopers, white flies blister beetles, chafer beetles, stink bugs as well as ball worms. All these pests can be control by foliar spraying of the correct pesticides. Some of the pesticides you can use include Thionex, Karate Zeon 5CS, lambda, blast super, Carbaryl and Dimethioate.
Step 6. Disease control and management
Scout your plants for rust, angular leaf spot, anthracnose, common and halo blight as well as bean mosaic virus. So, you must lookout for these diseases, some of them are prohibited in plants. these are some of the most troublesome diseases when growing sugar beans:
Bean Common Mosaic symptoms
- The bean plants have curled or malformed leaves.
- These leaves of the bean plants have alternate dark green and light green areas giving the plant a mottled or mosaic effect.
- This disease is spread by aphids so it’s good to get rid of aphids in your sugar bean plants in a timely manner.
- There is no prevention or treatment available for this disease, and you can avoid it by using fresh seeds.
- Can be identified by the large necrotic lesions surrounded by large yellow chlorotic areas. This disease causes the leaves of your plants to fall down prematurely.
- Avoid excessive irrigation.
- This disease is also known as the pale yellow hallow.
- To prevent this disease use disease free seed which is very difficult if you use the sugar been seeds you brought from the previous season or bought from friends.
- You can also prevent the disease by making use of copper-based chemicals such as copper oxychloride.
- Sclerotinias clerotiorum, powdery mildew, rust and cercospora leaf spot are the most common fungal diseases in sugar beans.
- Prevent the disease by avoiding overhead irrigation as well as using fungicide on first signs of infection.
Angular fungal leaf spot
- Early symptoms affect the leaves, but they will develop to affect pods.
- Apply the fungicide early after detection and also use treated seeds.
Use the agricultural chemicals safely when growing sugar beans
- The best way to avoid damaging your plant and reducing your yield is to only use those chemicals that are recommended for sugar beans at each and every stage.
- Chemicals are harmful to both human, animal, plant as well as soil health so always follow instructions on the package or from the agrodealer correctly.
- For your safety, also correctly follow instructions about safe consumption of the pods after spraying.
- It is recommended to always wear safety clothing when dealing with agrochemicals.
- Even if your storage facilities are limited, don’t store the chemicals, where you store your food also.
- And also, when dealing with chemicals, never mix the utensils you use with chemicals with those you use for food. This is because even if you clean them, the chemical residues still remain, and this may be harmful.
Step 7: So, how do you use your sprayer for both pests, diseases and weed control
Growing sugar beans successfuly requires you to correctly control weeds and pests correctly especially when using herbicides and pesticides.
- Use the correct nozzle type for each function. There are different nozzles for weed control and pest control. And they are depicted by different features.
- A spray volume of 200 litres per hectare is recommended.
- For the recommended walking speed, you need to walk at 0.9 m/s minimum and 1.25 m/s maximum, with an average speed of 1 m/s.
- The lance height should be around 75 to 85 cm above ground.
- For the chemical application rate always refer to the label of the chemical to prevent over or under application.
You can calculate the quantity of chemicals you require for the size your field using the spray volume above. Some farmers like to mix all their chemicals at once before transferring it to the knapsacks as they use. This is good but just remember to stir the master mixture each time you need to refill the knapsacks.
Also, check How to grow sweet potatoes organically
Step 8: Harvesting your sugar beans crop
The harvesting process is also essential to growing sugar beans successfully and profitably.
- You can start harvesting the sugar beans when the leaves and pods are dry and brown.
- Sugar beans will reach physiological maturity when the moisture is 50%.
- Harvest when the moisture is 16% and dry to 9 percent before storage. Harvesting when the moisture is still high will resulting in the browning of your seeds.
- You can harvest by handpicking the dry pods or cutting the plants above the ground. Leaves the roots in the fields as they will help to improve soil fertility.
- Dry the pods for one day on the sun on a clean surface such as a plastic or tent but not on the soil.
- After sufficient drying you must then gently thrush the sugar bean pods to separate the pods and the seeds. Gentlenes in thrush will help prevent the splitting of the seeds which will damage them.
- Dry the seeds on 2 sunny days on a clean surface and protect them from rain and animals.
- Taste for adequate dryness of the seeds by biting or pinching them between the nails. Adequately dried seeds should break not bend.
- The acceptable marketing moisture content for sugar beans is 9%.
- After drying winnow to remove chaff as well as grade the seeds by removing damage, immature, rotten or cracked seeds before selling.
With this, you are done growing sugar beans, many thanks to the SeedCo manual I utilised in creating this article.
Also, check: Organic Pumpkin Patch: How to setup
The reason I wrote this article was because I noticed that many farmers, especially subsistence farmers lacked knowledge on how to profitably grow sugar beans. To be frank I was amazed with the level of information available on this subject since it demystifies what I thought I knew on how to grow sugar beans. It turned out most poor yields are caused by poor application of this information and lack of knowledge. Therefore, I hope you have been armed and can now grow sugar beans profitably for financial and nutritional gains.