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Faba Bean: Overview

Figure 1 - Faba bean seed.
Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture

The faba bean (Vicia faba minor) is an ancient small-seeded relative of the Chinese broadbean (V. faba major). The oldest seeds of Vicia faba were found in Jericho and dated at 6250 BC.

The crop is grown in the Mediterranean region where it is a common food. In Europe, the faba bean is grown primarily as a livestock feed. Britain grows both winter and spring types are grown and is the largest European producer of faba bean. 

Commercial production of faba bean in Western Canada first occurred in 1972, and since then, the area under production has fluctuated.

Faba bean grows upright, ranging from one to 1.5 meters tall. It is an annual legume with one or more strong, hollow, erect stems. Faba bean has a strong tap root, compound leaves and large, white flowers with dark purple markings producing one to four pods. The pods are large (up to 10 cm long and one to two cm wide) and green, turning from brown to black at maturity. Three to four oblong/oval seeds (Figure 1) are contained within each pod. 

Flowering occurs in 45-60 days, and faba bean requires 110-130 days to mature.

The bushel weight of faba bean is 60 pounds.

Chinese Broad bean

Figure 2 - Chinese Broad bean seedlings.
Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture

Chinese broad bean (Vicia faba major) is produced in: 

  • China 
  • Europe
  • the Middle East 
  • North Africa
  • South America

It can also be found growing in many vegetable gardens in Canada (Figure 2). It has a 1000 seed weight of 850 grams and is rarely contracted for growing in Saskatchewan. Chinese broadbean is significantly earlier maturing than most current faba bean varieties.

A major cost of production for Chinese broadbean is seed. The seeding rate required is 325 kg/ha (289 lb./ac.) and a specialized seed drill is required to accommodate the large irregular-shaped seed.

Next: Faba Bean Markets

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