Seed breeders hope to see mung beans on the farmer’s order list one day.
That’s the aim of Deng-Jin Bing at the Morden Research Station, who thinks that the high-value beans, which prosper under good heat and moisture conditions, might just find a home here in the south.
“There is a market for the crop if you can grow them,” said Bing, who is in charge of the pea-breeding program at both Lacombe Research Centre in Alberta, and at the Morden station.
Bing was one of the scientists who participated in the recent Manitoba Pulse Growers Association Edible Bean Tour, held at the Morden Research Station on Aug. 4. The mung beans interest him in particular because they might have the potential to create a new line of bean for Canadian producers to grow, provided they have the right climatic conditions.
“They look like soybeans, but they are shorter, two to three feet tall. They are a warm-season crop, so they may be suitable for places like the Morden area,” Bing told the two wagon-loads of visitors who attended the event.
The team of researchers is looking for early maturity, said Bing, and is currently trying six lines of mung beans, with two seeding dates. Each slim pod holds about 15 seeds, and already the small beans of the first sowing were beginning to fill the long, tight pods. Several visitors who attended the tour enjoyed a taste of the immature beans, which were like sweet young peas, with a little starch lingering on the palate.
“The plants we are using are from China, and we have been growing them here for the past three or four years,” said Bing.
Sown on May 17, and again 10 days later, the pods on the earlier crop were about half matured, while the second sowing was in the flowering phase. Mung beans are a small green bean which can be sprouted to make commercial bean sprouts, a variety often seen in supermarkets, and used extensively in Asian cooking.
“This is a really new item, and a learning process for me as well,” Bing told the crowd of farmers, ag reps, and students.
Al Sloan, a technician in the bean and pea program at AAFC Morden, added the maturity date for mung beans is similar to soybeans, in early to mid-October. The researchers did not use inoculant in the trials, but noted the plants didn’t seem to miss it.
“Mung beans will sell for 20 to 30 cents per pound in the U. S., wholesale,” said Sloan.
Bing’s work with pea varieties was also shown during the tour. In 10 to 12 locations across Western Canada, some 64 pea lines are being tested for a number of qualities, including yields, maturity dates, standability, and seed quality (seed size, seed integrity, protein, content, and bleaching). The pea lines being trialled have been supplied jointly by the CFIA, CDC Saskatchewan, Reston, and two breeding companies from the Netherlands, Bing said.
Quality assessments will take place at harvest time this fall, and some peas in the last stage of the breeding program (in its second year) will be registered in Canada with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Another unusual bean on the radar at Morden is a “yellow bean,” said Dr. Anfou Hou, research scientist and bean breeder at the Morden Research Station. It too, may one day find a high-value niche position on the Prairies.
“It’s a new bean type that has a unique market in Mexico,” said Hou. “People sell it with a premium. Mexico is the main market, but there is also a market in the U. S. They look like a regular bean, and are round, like a soybean. This year we are looking at yield potential, disease, disease resistance, lodging, and maturity in the trials, and hopefully next year some of these lines will be trialled at other locations.”
“Mung beans will sell for 20 to 30 cents per pound in the U. S., wholesale.”
– AL SLOAN