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Rotating alfalfa with dry bean as an alternative to corn-soybean rotations in organic systems in the Upper Midwest

  • Nicole Tautges (a1), Claire Flavin (a2), Thomas Michaels (a2), Nancy Ehlke (a1), John Lamb (a3), Jacob Jungers (a1) and Craig Sheaffer (a1)...

Dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) can be grown as a local food source and as an alternative to soybean (Glycine max) to diversify organic crop rotations. To understand the benefits of diversification of organic cropping systems, the effects of preceding alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and corn (Zea mays) crops on yields of five dry bean types and one soybean type, and the effect of bean type on following spring wheat (Triticum aestivum) yields, were tested at four Minnesota locations. Dry bean and soybean yields following alfalfa were 25% greater than yields following corn at two of four locations, though bean yields following corn were greater at one location. A preceding alfalfa crop benefited bean yields at locations where hog manure or no manure was applied to corn, whereas bean yields following corn fertilized with cow manure were similar to or greater than bean yields following alfalfa. Among dry bean types, black bean yielded similarly to soybean at three of four locations, but dark red kidney bean consistently yielded 25–65% lower than soybean. Navy, pinto and heirloom dry bean types yielded similarly to soybean at two of four locations. Across locations, weed biomass was 3–15 times greater in dry bean than in soybean and dry bean yield response to weed competition varied among bean types. However, dry bean, regardless of the preceding crop, demonstrated the potential to produce yields comparable with soybean in organic systems and the substitution of dry bean for soybean did not affect subsequent wheat yields. More studies are needed to identify nitrogen fertility dynamics in organic systems as they relate to dry bean yield.

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