Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center

Vegetable Research and Extension

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Grain Legumes

Introduction

Grain legumes are in the botanical family Fabaceae (formerly known as the Leguminosae family) and are used for human food and animal feed. There are more than forty species and many varieties of grain legumes but in the Pacific Northwest we are most interested in chickpea, faba bean, lentil, pea, and winter pea crops (Table 1). Grain legumes have historically been cultivated for their protein- and energy-rich dry seeds which are often called pulses.

There is renewed interest in grain legumes for their use in animal feed. Legume crops are valued for their ability to release nitrogen into the soil, especially for succession crops, and they play an important role as a rotation crop with cereal grain and vegetable crops. Historically, farmers grew much of their own food and feed, and today there is an interest in determining which grain legume crops are well-suited to production in the Pacific Northwest.

Grain legumes are generally divided into two groups: Cool Season Food Legumes and Warm Season Grain Legumes.

Cool Season Food Legumes are generally well-suited to the northern region and primarily consist of:

  • chickpea (Cicer arietinum)
  • faba bean (Vicia faba)
  • lentil (Lens Culinaris Medic)
  • field pea (Pisum sativum)
  • winter pea or Austrian field pea (Pisum sativum var. arvense)
  • grasspea (Lathyrus sativus)

Warm Season Grain Legumes require very warm temperatures for high yields and tend not to flower in the long, mid-summer days of the far north; they primarily consist of:

  • soybean (Glyscine max)
  • peanut (Arachis hypogaea)
  • common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
  • cowpea (Vigna unguiculata)
  • pidgeon pea (Cajanus cajan)
  • lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus)

While many legume forage crops, such as clovers (Trifolium), alfalfa (Lucerne) and medics (Medicago spp.) are grown where animals eat the whole plant through grazing, hay or silage, these crops and this use are not discussed here.

Common and Latin Names of Some Legumes

Grain Legume Production

Bavec, Franc and Martina Bavec. 2007. Cultivation practice (chickpea) , 205 – 207 in Organic Production and Use of Alternative Crops. University of Maribor, Slovenia.

Chickpea Fact Sheet. 1998. Purdue University. Covers wide range of topics such as uses, chemistry, origin, botany, field cultivation, harvesting, yields and economics germplasm and resources.

Conservation Tillage and Pulse Crop Production – Western Canada Experiences. 1999. Johnston, Adrian, Miller, P., McConkey, B. Pacific Northwest STEEP (Solutions to Environmental and Economic Problems) article reviews research results that explore the effect of tillage system and management of grain legumes on Canadian Prairies. Focuses on adoption and integration of grain legumes into semiarid areas.

Cover Crops for Home Gardens in Western WA & OR. 1997. WSU publication discusses choosing cover crops, specific crops and their traits, and crop management.

Fava Bean: Cover Crop. 1998 Oregon State University extension publication. Covers use, management, pest, varieties/cultivars.

Faba Bean Fact Sheet. 2006. Purdue University. Covers wide range of topics such as uses, chemistry, origin, botany, field cultivation, harvesting, yields and economics germplasm and resources.

Field Pea: Cover Crop. (Pisum sativum L. or Pisum sativum L. ssp. arvense (L.) poir.) 1998 Oregon State University extension publication. Covers use, management, pest, varieties/cultivars.

Food and Grain Legumes. Muehlbauer, F.J. 1993. p. 256-265. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York. This presentation at Purdue University’s Second National Symposium (NEW CROPS: Exploration, Research, Commercialization) discusses the botany and agronomy of cool season and warm season legumes.

Inoculation of Pulse Crops. December 2007. Government of Saskatchewan publication discusses nitrogen fixation, inoculation, fertilization, nodulation, causes of nitrogen fixation failures, evaluating inoculant formulation, and storage.

Lentil Fact Sheet. 1998. Purdue University. Covers wide range of topics such as uses, chemistry, origin, botany, field cultivation, harvesting, yields and economics germplasm and resources.

Pea Fact Sheet. 1998. Purdue University. Covers wide range of topics such as uses, chemistry, origin, botany, field cultivation, harvesting, yields and economics germplasm and resources.

Pulse Production Manual. Second Edition, April 2000. Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. “Farmer-friendly” comprehensive guide to the production of pulse crops in Saskatchewan.

Small Scale Grain and Pulse Production. Information exchange on grain and pulse production for food.

Soil Improvements With Legumes. December 2005. Government of Saskatchewan publication describes legumes, nitrogen fixation, role of legumes, effect on subsequent production, green manuring, agronomy and management and equipment requirements.

Grain Legume Seed Sources (Table 1)

Resources

Cover/cash crops in tillage systems. Fall 2004. Article in University of California at Davis Sustainable Agriculture Farming Systems Project newsletter discusses how “Conservation Tillage systems have the potential to improve soil and water quality, but only with the addition of compatible cover and cash crops to enhance production.” Study planted lupin and chickpea.

European Association for Grain Legume Research. AEP is a European-based, internationally-active network of scientists and end-users concerned with grain legumes (peas, faba beans, lupins, chickpeas, lentils, Phaseolus beans, etc.).

FAO / IBPGR Technical Guidelines for the Safe Movement of Legume Germplasm. 1990. Downloadable pdfs from the UN Food & Agriculture Organization are divided into 2 parts: 1). general recommendations on how best to move grain and fodder legume germplasm and breeding material and 2). the important viral, bacterial and fungal diseases of quarantine concern. The information given on any particular pathogen concentrates on those aspects most relevant to quarantine. Includes a useful appendix on page 87 that lists Latin and vernacular (English, French, Spanish, German and other) names of major legume species from around the world.

Indian Institute of Pulses Research. National institute researches major pulse crops with a focus on sustainable pulse production. Publications and newsletters available.

International Legume Database & Information Service. ILDIS is an international project which maintains a database of plants in the family Fabaceae and provides information to scientists and other people interested in these plants.

Janick, Jules and James E. Simon. (ed.) 1990. Advances in New Crops. [Online]. Purdue University. Paper version out of print. Available at: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1990/v1-toc.html#Grain%20Legumes (verified 8 June 2010).

Janick, Jules and James E. Simon. (ed.) 1993. New Crops. [Online]. Purdue University. Paper version out of print. Available online at: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropInfoSources/NewCropsBook1993_info.html (verified 8 June 2010).

Pacific Northwest Solutions to Economic and Environmental Problems (STEEP). University of Idaho, Oregon State University, Washington State University, and USDA-Agricultural Research Service works in cooperation with grower organizations and agricultural support industries and agencies. An interdisciplinary research/education program focusing on developing profitable cropping system technologies for controlling cropland soil erosion and protecting environmental quality.

Pulse Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP). Michigan State University. Supports

international research partnerships to increase the availability of beans, cowpeas, and related pulses around the world.

USDA Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit Located on WSU’s Pullman campus, their mission is to develop improved legume varieties and disease control strategies that will enhance the sustainability and profitability of cool season food legume crops in the United States and to expand their role in small grain cropping systems in the Northwest and Northern Plains states.

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