For the past few seasons Peter Mackay from Bracken Timbers Farming Greytown has been planting McDonalds Seeds speckled sugar bean variety Ukulinga.
From the outset he was determined to choose the right variety so he could direct combine his sugar beans, the Ukulinga has all the characteristics needed for this type of mechanisation, being an upright grower with pods carried high off the ground, not lodging easy and also shatter resistant.
After 3 seasons Peter has fine-tuned it to where he wants it to be, and according to him these are the most important aspects in getting it right.
Seed bed preparation – rolling directly behind the planter to create a flat level seedbed is the single most important factor, he has adapted a lightweight roller attached to the planter which flattens off all the small ridges left behind after planting, this allows for even germination and plant height as well as allowing the combine to cut as low as possible to pick up all the beans.
Row spacing and plant population – Peter has brought his row spacing down to 38cm rows with a plant population of 220 to 230 000 seeds / ha – in our own experience 76cm row spacing with a population between 170 to 180 000 dry land and 220 to 230 000 under irrigation will also work.
They use a Geringhoff flexi head draper system, and plan to add an Air Reel to assist in picking up and blowing in pods closer to the ground onto the draper.
A critical point with planting beans in narrow rows and at a high population is the creation of a micro climate conducive to high disease pressure, to this end Peter has been working on biological control of sclerotinia, this is a long term approach he says and now in year 3 he is seeing positive results. He said key to combating disease pressure is a good spray programme for your farm and sticking to it.
Weed control is also critical, we could pick up immediately the yield difference and ease of combining in the weed free lands, the high population and narrow rows canopy quickly and this also plays a big role in suppressing weeds.
Ukulinga has been consistent in its performance on his farm, with yields going up to 3,5 tonnes on his good lands.
In our opinion direct harvesting of sugar beans is the way forward, as a seed company McDonalds Seeds is placing all our emphasis and efforts in breeding varieties which will make this possible, key to this is obviously the points mentioned above, Ukulinga and our new slightly faster variety Oribi are 2 such commercial varieties, with a few more in the pipeline to follow in the not too distant future.