Faba beans and other new crops on the Horizon

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Faba Beans look very exciting on the right soil types. Thinking back to the UK, I was always struck at how Peas and Fabas thrived on alternate soil types, and that may be the case here in Kenya too; where peas are inconsistent, we perhaps need to give fabas a serious go. 

PeasFaba Beans
Yield2.0 t/ha3.5 t/ha
Price (ksh/kilo)6030
Output (ksh/ha)120,000105,000
Variable costs58,00020,000
Gross margin 62,00085,000
Average sprayer passes114.5
Table. Economic comparison of Peas and Faba Beans.


Yields are commonly over 3 t/ha, and where plant populations and establishment is good, it has been higher still. The market is developing, but as the figures show a gross margin over 80,000 Ksh per hectare is realistic at just 30 Ksh per kilo. To achieve this margin with peas at 60 Ksh/kilo you would have to yield over 2.3 t/ha. 

Fabas need to be planted early, but far fewer inputs are required than peas and they are much easier to harvest, standing up well in most cases (the variety Sami does tend to lodge). 

Be aware that faba beans produce a long tap root which can be very sensitive to subsoil constraints such as acidity or compacted layers, more so than peas.

Other new crops we looked at

Nakuru Soybean variety trial in 2017, which failed to provide a breakthrough.

Soya beans still remain a long way from being a serious commercial crop. While we have several varieties in trial, we have been here before in 2017 and I do not consider soyas to be realistic until there is a specific breeding program within Kenya. 

2020 was also the year that we tried out linseed as an alternative oilseed crop on a significant scale. This will probably always be a niche crop, for those who have the patience to harvest it.

However the sheer range of herbicide options available in the crop, and the fact that it reduces nematodes and can thrive in relatively harsh, dry conditions means that the eventual reward is felt just as much in the following cereal crop. 

Linseed is also significantly easier to establish than canola given the volume and number of seeds planted, so for farms where canola establishment has historically been a challenge, this may be a valuable break crop alternative.

Another option which reduces nematodes and is extremely tough in dry conditions is Sunflowers. Two new varieties will be entered into National trials in 2021, from German breeders KWS. These are faster maturity, shorter and easier to harvest, significantly higher yielding and much improved grain quality compared to KS Fedha. 

Sunflowers enter trials in 2021 with improved varieties showing promise.

Sorghum is very close to becoming a sensible crop, with KWS developing new cold tolerant varieties with brewing quality, that could thrive around Nakuru especially.

About David

David Jones is the Broad Acre Specialist at Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd. (CROPNUTS). David has a keen interest in soils and no till farming systems where he has undertaken work looking into weed levels and changes in soil structure, and has extensive experience in field trials and in the development of precision farming techniques. In his spare time he enjoys playing rugby. Follow David on Twitter @Cropnuts_agron

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