Why a move back to bean harvesting could save tillage sector from collapse
A move back to bean harvesting could save the tillage sector from looming collapse, an agri expert has said.
As calls for more variation in the sector rise, Dr Fiona Doohan, senior lecturer, UCD School of Biology, stresses that the sector should go back to its traditional roots.
"Beans are a very high-value product that used to be grown much more widespread in Ireland, and for various cultural reasons we have moved away from beans.
"I think there is a very big gain to be made by moving back to producing more beans - they are a high-protein product, especially if it's for animals, with very little harvesting," she said.
Major advantages of growing bean crops include: less fertiliser needed, beans leave soil more fertile and they have a very high protein level.
"The margins can be very good if you have the right market - it's a no-brainer for animal feed, especially for organic animals," she said.
Growing emphasis on physical fitness and diet and a rise in 'flexitarianism' - where a generally plant-based diet is supplemented with the occasional consumption of meat - also suggest that greater demand for plant protein is on the horizon.
John Spink, Head of Crop Science at Teagasc, says that we can't diversify crops without firstly developing new markets. "Developing markets that require a specific product, rather than just growing something and hoping at harvest that you'll get a decent price, is the best way for farmers to reduce exposure to variability in market price."