Protein Stakeholders Group
Commenting on the news of additional supports by the Department for producing indigenous protein crops by 2030, Tim O'Donovan, Technical Director, Seedtech, and a member of the Irish Protein Stakeholders Group, said "the first area to be addressed to reach this target would be to improve farmer profitability from protein crops, and the DAFM are supporting this with this initiative.
“The benefits of beans are well known but have never been more needed than now on Irish tillage farms.
"With nitrogen fertiliser costs doubling recently, a crop that makes its own nitrogen (and leaves a bag for next year's crop) is a gift.
"Added to this, the fact that beans can be easily fed instead of imported soya and are an excellent food source for pollinating insects makes you wonder why more beans are not grown", said Tim.
"Bean yields on farms have been variable, but this DAFM Protein Subsidy should balance that out and help profitability.
"Farmers can include beans in their rotation with the added assurance that the Protein Subsidy will be available for a number of years.
This reassurance allows farmers to plan for the best utilisation of beans on tillage farms. For example, farmers can plan to follow beans with a nitrogen hungry crop like winter wheat, a seed crop or even a high margin crop like gluten-free oats (if contracts permit)".
"Having a Protein Subsidy Scheme gives assurances to the whole industry, so end-users and feed merchants can plan to include beans in animal rations and even develop higher value markets for human use.
Bean trials in Ireland
Seedtech has been involved in beans since the 1970s when they brought the first modern varieties to Ireland.
Field Beans are an excellent break-crop, as it is an N-fixing legume, which benefits the next cereal crop in rotations.
Since then, Seedtech has been trialling bean varieties on their research farm at Faithlegg, Waterford, looking at variety development to achieve yield stability through better drought tolerance, disease resistance, and selection for desirable traits for premium markets.
Tim said that their research is focused on delivering varieties with a consistent yield at farm level - not too easy considering LYNX yielded 8.8 t/ha across the 5 DAFM trial sites in 2021!
LYNX is the leading bean variety, topping the DAFM trials since 2017 and is grown in 4 out of 5 bean fields in Ireland.
Research continues to quantify the positive effects of incorporating beans into long-term crop rotations in terms of nitrogen reduction in succeeding crop, soil fertility, and yield improvement across the rotation and lower pest pressure.
Seedtech has introduced novel genetics in recent years like VICTUS, a low vicine convicine bean variety and TAIFUN, a zero-tannin variety. These specialist varieties offer the end-user better utilisation of beans in animal diets and human diets.
Seedtech also supported Teagasc Feed Research of faba beans as part of our participation in the EU funded project Legumes Translated.eu .
The key finding from this trial was that beans could fully replace soya in finished pig diets and other work with Adesco looking at commercial feeding of pigs found that inclusion of faba beans would half the carbon footprint in the pig diet.
"This DAFM Protein Subsidy is a very good use of public funds as the Protein Subsidy will tip the balance in favour of the bean and increase the production of protein crops here in Ireland", concluded Tim.
To learn more about protein crops, including beans, peas, lupins, and arable silage, email firstname.lastname@example.org
European Legumes project
Tim O'Donovan is a participant in the European Legumes project.
The Legumes Project aim was to connect disparate groups across Europe, producing or using Protein Crops such as in Ireland for animal feeds, Greece for fish food, and Finland for human nutrition.
By connecting these groups and highlighting their practices, the project developed a repository of reference information for future work on Protein Crops.
The project also fostered connections between group members. Seedtech applied research evaluated its faba beans as fish food which will hopefully lead to further collaboration.
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