Every person has eaten beans in their life. This is because beans are considered the equaliser menu in every community.
In large institutions like schools, the security forces and prisons, beans constitute the sauce. During the recent COVID-19 relief food distribution, the country run out of beans.
Instead, beans for supplying were imported from neighbouring countries including Tanzania and Rwanda. The quality of the beans supplied was also worrying since most of them were very old.
It is believed that unless there is a massive production, the country will have no beans to nourish schools (biggest consumers) when schooling starts again.
Money in beans
And yet, beans make money. On average, a farmer spends sh1.5-sh2m on buying seeds and managing an acre of beans, including ploughing, planting and harvesting.
Depending on the variety planted, the expected yield is between 1800-2,500kgs per acre.
At a moderate sh3,000 per kilogram at farm gate price, that is sh5.4m to sh7.5m from an acre.
If a farmer planted 10 acres, for example, that is over sh50m-sh70m.
Unlike other crops, the number of seeds needed per acre differs from variety to variety. For example, if you are planting most of the NABE varieties, you need 25-30kg per acre.
For some varieties, you need just 20kgs per acre. NABE runs from NABE 1-NABE 23. The latest NABE varieties take 60-70days to mature while the earlier varieties take 80-90days.
Note that all varieties come in different colours and shapes. However, NARO recently released new varieties called NARO beans, which are mainly rich in iron.
These take 60-90days to mature. If you are planting the K132 variety, you need 32-36kg per acre.
The best practice is to plant two seeds per hole with a spacing of 25cms between rows and 10cms between plants.
To achieve this, you need to use a straight string. Planting in lines will also make weeding easier.
Weeds should not be allowed to compete with the crop. Weeding can be done 2-3 times per season depending on the initial land preparation, the aggressiveness of the weeds, especially during heavy rainy periods.
Weeding is discouraged during flowering to avoid flower drops which could lead to reduced yield.
Always earth up as you weed to help the crop become stronger and help secondary root systems to develop.
You must keep a regular eye on the crop to spot any pest attack early enough.
Pests like bean fly, aphids first appear small, then expand if the threat is not handled.
Soil management through rotation
This is an important management tactic. Because mixed cropping is common among smallholders in Africa, it is relatively easy for farmers to control the growth of fungi by ensuring that bean crops or other host crops are not planted in the same field in successive seasons.
Use green manure or farmyard manure to improve yields. In the first place, this increases the strength of the plant and thus its ability to offer resistance to fungi.
Also, by increasing soil health, fertilizers reduce the buildup of fungi in the soil.
However, while farmyard manure is the most effective and easy to come by, it is not clear what effect it has on the populations of fungi in the soil.
Bean variety mixing
This is done by many farmers to fight bean root rot by growing mixtures that include many varieties.
While some of the beans in these mixtures may be susceptible to the fungi that cause root rot disease, others will be tolerant or resistant.
As a result, farmers know that they will not lose an entire crop to bean root rot. At the same time, mixtures provide variety in families’ diets.
Planting on mounds or ridges can also help to control the spread of bean root rot. This is a traditional farmer practice in Africa, although many farmers do not associate its use with the control of the disease.
To minimise attacks from bean rot, plant early at the onset of rains. For example, since the next rains are expected in August, prepare the farm now so that as soon as rains come, you plant.
Flower thrips and aphids can be controlled using spraying for commercial farmers, while for domestic farmers, use a mixture of urine and red-pepper to chase them away.
A good thing, however, is that all recent varieties are resistant or tolerant to several common diseases and pests including anthracnose, angular leaf spot, common bacterial blight, rust, bean mosaic etc.
Beans are ready for harvesting between 70-90 days if you are eating them fresh or at 120days if you are selling them dry.
For dry beans, pull out the stems carefully to avoid breaking the pods. You can then carry them to a prepared shade for drying.
Put them under the sun during day time and in the shade at night until when they are dry. You can then shell them out of the pods and put them in sacks.
Tips got from NARO