Dry beans are an important niche field crop grown in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario. Canada is ranked 25th in the world for dry bean production, but it is ranked 5th in the world for exports of the crop in 2012, with an estimated value of $161M. This is a high value field crop, with over 80% exported to highly developed countries including the U.S., Japan and western Europe.
Dry bean producers believe there is an economic advantage in applying nitrogen fertilizer, to manage root rot diseases which are caused by poor soil health and short crop rotations. Past studies in Ontario and Manitoba have shown that dry beans respond to nitrogen fertilizer at rates up to 70 kg N ha-1. Poor soil health is typically the result of soil compaction, short crop rotations with minimal use of forage or cereal crops, and a lack of organic amendments (cover crops, manure) supplied to the soil. The Cornell Soil Health Assessment will be used to measure soil biological, chemical and physical parameters, to estimate the relative soil health of each site.
From 2012-2015, a total of 34 on-farm sites were chosen and replicated small plot studies were set up to measure dry bean cultivar response to nitrogen fertilizer. Replicated field length strip plots were also set up, in part to measure the response to nitrogen fertilizer on a larger scale, and in part as a tech transfer tool. Sites were selected that ranged in soil type (sandy loam to clay loam), tillage systems (conventional to zero tillage), crop rotations (+/- forages), and amendments (+/- manure). Differences in soil health have been measured between sites, and some sites have had a good response to nitrogen fertilizer. Growing Forward II funding provided the resources needed to expand this research, in order to better understand the relationship between nitrogen fertilizer and soil health in dry beans.
The current Ontario dry bean nitrogen fertilizer recommendations are to apply up to 100 kg N ha-1 before planting. It gives no specific recommendations based on existing soil N or differences in soil type, previous crop, or manure use. This research should provide better nitrogen recommendations to growers, which in turn can be used for on-farm nutrient management plans. A key aspect is that the studies are in-field, will increases knowledge and technology transfer to leading edge growers, and will allow for the trickle-down of information to others.
Project lead: Chris Gillard (519) 674-1500 Ext 63632 Cgillard@uoguelph.ca