Edible Bean School: Finding a fit for adzuki beans

Every year, adzuki beans grown in Ontario fields find their way to markets in southeast Asia where they are synonymous with sweet treats — everything from pastries to candy bars and even adzuki-flavoured Pepsi.

On this episode of the RealAgriculture Edible Bean School, host Bernard Tobin discussed adzuki end uses, market opportunities and agronomics with Hensall Co-op’s origination manager Wade Bickell and field marketer Barry Cavanagh.

Hensall started in the adzuki business in the mid 1990s. At that time, an agronomic exchange between C0-op and Japanese agronomists helped developed a strategy for growing the bean in Ontario. Bickell notes that adzuki beans have one big distinction when compared to other edible bean classes. Adzuki beans actually emerge out of ground and leave their cotyledons in the ground, similar to pea emergence.

Heading into 2023, Bickell says high prices for adzuki beans present “a great opportunity for Ontario farmers,” but growers need to ensure the crop is managed effectively.

Where do adzuki beans fit in Ontario? Cavanagh says they are not suitable for every acre. He recommends growers plant the high-value crop on their best ground and avoid planting the beans into heavy clay — well-drained fields with pH ranging from 6 to 7.5 is ideal. A good rotation is recommended to avoid white mould and root rot diseases. A minimum three-year rotation with wheat and corn is a solid approach and having a forage crop in your rotation is an added bonus. Good weed control in the rest of rotation is important for keeping hard-to-control weeds in check in an adzuki crop. (Story continues after the video.)

Adzuki beans can be grown in a heat unit range of 2600 to 3000. Cavanagh notes that best results are always achieved with fields that have good background fertility, including 30 ppm of phosphorus and more than 100 ppm for potassium.

It’s also important to keep an eye out for soybean cyst nematode (SCN). “If you have levels of SCN that would cause yield reduction in soybeans, do not plant adzuki beans into that field,” advises Cavanagh. Proper SCN management including a good rotation will minimize crop damage.  In all areas of Ontario, it is advised to have a soil sample analyzed by an accredited lab to assess SCN levels.

In the video, Cavanagh also shares planting, weed control, fungicides and harvest strategies. When it comes to planting, a corn planter is recommended to achieve more uniform planting depth. At harvest, new draper heads do a very good job of cutting these beans.

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