Garden Tiger Moth photographed by Gabor Pozsgai


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Project Reports


Faba bean protein concentrate for aquaculture

Faba bean starch concentrate for pigs and poultry

Agronomy to increase faba bean yield and/or protein content

Faba bean breeding


Non-feed uses for faba bean starch: baking, brewing and distilling

Other reports on developing the economic potential of pulses

InnovateUK Completion Meeting Presentations - PGRO, Thurs 28th April 2016

Other related PGRO PULSE-Magazine reports

Additional resources for growers and research scientists 


Faba bean protein concentrate for aquaculture


  • In an article published in Fish Farmer magazine, Prof. Douglas Tocher of Stirling University explains that alternative protein sources such as faba beans can be a major ingredient of feeds for salmon.


  • Air fractionated bean protein concentrate included in Atlantic salmon feeds up to levels of 20% increased growth and protein content of salmon juveniles (parr). The gut inflammation generally observed in fish when fed high soybean meal was largely avoided with faba bean proteins. The use of faba bean concentrate protein offsets the need for imported soybean protein and/or fish-meal. See De Santis et al., 2015a, for more details.


  • In a second article De Santis et al., 2015b assesses the metabolic response of salmon to increasing inclusion of air-classified faba bean protein in feeds as a replacement for soy protein. The study suggests that the optimum inclusion of air classified faba bean protein in Atlantic salmon parr feed is around 120 g kg-1.


  • Metabolic analyses of liver function revealed a dose-dependent response of Atlantic salmon to faba bean protein concentrate inclusions. While a major negative response was only evident above 34% faba bean protein inclusion, molecular indicators of nutritional stress suggested an optimum faba bean protein concentrate inclusion level of around 12%. For further details please contact - Dr. Christian De Santis.


  • Application of the faba bean protein concentrate in on-growing feeds (adult, post-smolts salmon) is currently being evaluated. Preliminary findings confirm the early data on juveniles. That is, air fractionated faba bean protein concentrate is beneficial for fish weight gain and is likely to be of significant economic importance for the UK salmon farming industry. 


Faba bean starch concentrate for pigs and poultry


  • At the start of this project there was no information on the digestibility of air fractionated faba bean starch concentrate for production of broiler chickens (poultry raised for meat production). However, Olukosi & Houdijk (2014) found that the air fractionated faba bean starch concentrate at an inclusion level of 16% can partly replace soybean meal in broiler diets. 


  • Despite methionine being a limiting amino acid in faba bean starch concentrate, it can still be used to improve the efficiency of broilers production as a feed adjunct with wheat or/and maize: with the proper use of added crystalline methionine. For more information please contact - Dr. Oluyinka Olukosi.  


  • Trials feed pigs has shown that, energy and protein digestibility of faba bean starch concentrates is similar to that of whole beans, and is very digestible - that is, level of 'digestion resistant' starch are low. While levels of the essential amino acids methionine and tryptophan are limiting amino acids, the relatively high level of residual protein present in the starch concentrate means that it can replace soya bean meal to provide a nutritionally complete grower- and finisher-pig diets. For more information please contact - Dr. Oluyinka Olukosi.  For more information please see these artilces by Houdijk and Olukosi (2014) and Smith et al., (2015). Also, you may contact - Dr. Jos Houdijk


Agronomy to increase faba bean yield and/or protein content


  • Soil N levels should be low - ‘starter N’ is not always necessary and may have a negative effect.



  • Consider the use of seed priming - also known as hydro- or osmo-priming. This practice is generally applied to only vegetable crops. However, as a relatively large seeded crop type faba beans must imbibe a significant quantity of water to germinate quickly. Normally, faba bean seed germination and establishment is determined by the interaction of particular soil qualities and prevailing environmental conditions at the sowing site. However, seed priming could help ensure rapid imbibition, germination and germination rate, seedling establishment, crop performance (including pest and disease suppression), and ultimately higher yields - especially if soil moisture (or temperature), is limiting. The potential of the approach for faba bean remains to be tested and developed.


  • Consider inoculating seeds with ‘elite rhizobia' from a reputable commercial supplier with a quality assurance guarantee - such as Legume TechnologyWe have also isolated new strains of elite rhizobia to help crops achieve the high levels of nitrogen fixation and to increase yields - see: Iannetta PPM, James EK, Karley A, Ramsay G, Ramsay L. (2015) Inoculum can be the key to increased pulse crop yields. Pulse Magazine, Summer Edition. A publication of the Processors and Growers Organisation, pp34-35. 


  • Arbucular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) inoculum applied at sowing has also been shown to improve legume performance and yield, and  the effect may be enhanced by co-inoculation with rhizobia. Field trials using co-inoculants are planned for 2016. UK suppliers of AMF inoculum include - rootgrow. The efficacy of this approach for faba beans also remains to be tested and developed.


  • Intercropping faba bean with a cereal can increase the Land Equivalent Ratio (LER, yield per unit area), for both crop types. Intercropping based field trials using faba bean (and pea), are currently underway at the James Hutton Institute. 

Later in the season - at flowering - other factors should be considered 


  • As a pollinator dependent crop, if pollinators are  in short supply yield will suffer. Honey bee's may be used, but short-tonged bumble bees are the best pollinators for faba beans, and probably also peas. Commercial suppliers of native bees do exist - such as Koppert. However, the products are for horticultural crops cropped in smaller scale production-units. It is best that bumble bees populations are accommodated naturally through the establishment of semi-natural habit made within field, or at field margins. More evidence on the potential of interventions to help conserve wild bees may be found here. For more information on pollinators please contact - Dr. Cathy Hawes.


  • Our field trials in 2014 have shown than foliar urea spray applied (Evergreen+, supplied by the Nutrel Group Ltd.), at mid-flowering can significantly increase yield - by up to 25% - depending on cultivar and timing of application. Further trials are ongoing in 2015. The spray may be applied in concert with other insurance applications - such as against Bruchid). However, it should be noted that such applications of nitrogen should be avoided to qualify for payments under the new Common Agricultural Policy rules on legumes cropping. 

  • Field tests at the James Hutton Institute's Centre for Sustainable Cropping has shown consistently year-on-year that more nitrogen (10% on average) is fixed by faba beans treated with compost only i.e no fertiliser is applied. With 90% of their total nitrogen content being acquired from air - this amounts to 25 kg ha-1 more N remaining in the soil. Up to 300 kg N ha-1 of the fixed nitrogen can be removed in grain and up to 80 kg ha-1 could remain in-field. See this short report for more details - Iannetta et al., 2014


  • For more details on agronomy to increase yield of faba beans please contact: Dr. Pete Iannetta.


Faba bean breeding


  • Research on a faba bean recombinant in-bred lines (RiLs) is on-going. The RiLs are now an F9 generation from an original cross between and a commercial spring bean variety and an Afghan land-race. The population is being characterised genetically and for in-field traits to discern the genes which underpin traits such as earliness, grain protein content, yield and biological nitrogen fixation. For more details please contact Dr. Luke Ramsay or Dr. Pete Iannetta.


Non-feed uses for faba bean starch: baking, brewing and distilling


The protein component of the dehulled faba bean kernels accounts for only around 20% of the original weight. That is the bulk of the remaining weight is the starch component. Therefore, the commercial success of the 'bean protein for aquaculture' approach is largely dependent on obtaining the most profitable routes for the starch component. We have therefore successfully trailed the use of the air fractionated bean starch concentrate for baking, brewing and distilling. 


Distilling Neutral Spirit Using Faba Beans. The first publication in the exciting new area was presented by Walker et al., (2015) at "Distilled Spirits. Future Challenges & New Solutions", Proceedings of the 5th Worldwide Conference on Distilled Spirits, Edinburgh. Goodall, I, Fotheringham, R, Murray, D, Speers, A & Walker, GM (2015) Eds. Context Publishers, Nottingham, pp13-17. The short article may be read here

​This year’s Edinburgh Science Festival from Barney's Beer (Summerhall, Edinburgh), is called “Fe Fi Fo”, the name taken from the catch-phrase of the giant fabled in ‘Jack And The Bean Stalk’, and for good reason. While the beer is based on Barney’s best-selling Volcano IPA, Fi Fi Fo challenges brewing tradition by using the sugar released from faba bean starch. The brewing of Fe Fi Fo used 30% faba bean starch concentrate and the ale produced is slightly darker and more rounded in body than Volcano - to complement the naturally nutty flavour of the beans.


Research on distilling and brewing faba bean starch and whole faba beans is now being progressed via a PhD Studentship jointly funded by the University of Abertay and The James Hutton Institute - the student is Kirsty Black, Manager of Arbikie Distillery. Please contact Kirsty or Prof. Graeme Walker (University of Abertay, Dundee), for more details on brewing and distilling beans.


Brewing with whole faba beans

Special natural processing steps have allowed Barney's Beer (Edinburgh), to produce ale using whole beans of Limagrain's high performing winter bean variety "Tundra", bottles will be available from May 2016.




"Tundra IPA" will feature at several events throughout this year which celebrate 2016 as the FAO's International Year of Pulses (IYoPs). 


Faba ale Tundra faces a taste test on National Radio - the BBCs Food Programme's - RAISING THE PULSE - July 2016 (see 17:45 - 19:15).


Making Bread with faba beans

In collaboration with Abertay University and Dr. Athina Tziboula-Clarke several successful MSc projects have developed the faba bean starch concentrate for bread and other baked products. The picture opposite shows a delicious faba bean based bread - the optimum inclusion level of bean starch concentrate for this loaf being 20%. 


Presentations from the InnovateUK Project-Completion Meeting - PGRO, Thurs 28th April 2016


  1. Introduction to the Beans4Feeds Project - Prof. Douglas Tocher, University of Stirling.

  2. Salmon screening trials: the economics of air classification - Dr. Viv Crampton, EWOS.

  3. Salmon proof-of-concept feeding trial: the economics of wet processing - Dan Leeming, BioMar.

  4. Pig & poultry trials - Dr. Oluyinka Olukosi, Scotland’s Rural College.

  5. Bean agronomy studies -  Dr. Pete Iannetta, James Hutton Institute.

  6. Bean variety studies - Milika Buurman, Limagrain​


Other related PGRO PULSE-Magazine reports

Other reports on developing the economic potential of pulses




Additional resources for growers and research scientists


If your webpage relates to this project and would like the link featured here please contact - Dr. Pietro Iannetta.