Pulse YENs - end of 2020 season summary and beyond

Tom Wilkinson

The area of field beans and combining peas cropped in the UK has grown by 38 % and 28 % respectively. Pulses can offer an alternative to oilseed rape in the rotation for some, provide sustainability benefits by fixing their own nitrogen, and have scope to further increase in marketability as alternative protein sources e.g for humans through vegan and vegetarian markets, and for livestock as alternatives to soybean imports.

The Pea YEN and the Bean YEN are two separate networks of the Yield Enhancement Network family that aim to bring the industry together to learn more about the crop and how we can manage it to improve yields. More recently YEN initiatives have begun to focus on other factors such as sustainability as well.

The YEN Process

With the support of industry sponsors, ADAS and PGRO have worked together to facilitate the 5th year of the Pea YEN, and the 2nd Year of the Bean YEN in 2020. The networks allow a member to deeply understand an entered crop. Samples are analyzed for nutrition, quality and physiology and data is also collected on the agronomy choices and environmental conditions of the field. The biophysical yield potential for each crop is calculated from the light and water resources estimated to be available to the entered crop during the season. We base this on assumptions of growth specific to the crop type. All of this information is reported back to each member and is contextualized within the range of anonymized data collected from the rest of the network. This allows each member to see what parts of their crop or practice stands out from the average, and also provides a record of the crop for future reference and reflection.

In 2020, Pea YEN entered crops could be analysed for soil nutrition and health (NRM), foot rot risk (PGRO), physiological yield components (ADAS), leaf and seed nutrition (Lancrop) and pea quality (Askew and Barret Ltd). In 2020 Bean YEN entries could be analysed for soil nutrition and health (NRM), physiological yield components (ADAS), leaf and seed nutrition (Lancrop) and seed Bruchid beetle damage (PGRO).

At the end of the season, the information provided by all members is statistically analyzed and the results of this analysis shared with the whole network. The aim is to share our progress in better understanding the crop as a whole. The more we know about the physiology of UK pulse crops the more we can theorize what the optimum crop looks like for yield. This will lead to tests on how farm practices can lead to these optimum crops. The Pea YEN and the Bean YEN do not contain competition elements and it is strongly encouraged that information is collected from all crops to help forward this goal.


The end of season results meetings and discussions took place as virtual meetings in December. 

This year in the Pea YEN, 21 of 25 entries were able to return yield information and yields ranged from <1 to >5 t/ha. The percentage of biophysical yield potential ranged from 10 % to 60 %.

For beans, of 39 total entries, 7 winter bean and 24 spring bean yields were able to be returned. For winter varieties, yields ranged from 1.1 to 6.3 t/ha, and for spring varieties yields ranged from 1.2 to 7.1 t/ha. This reflected 8 % to 41 % of potential yield for winter, and 10 % to 75 % of potential yields calculated for spring entries.

The two results meetings consisted of overviews of the season, analysis and messages from the data sets so far. The meetings were rounded off with growers using their YEN reports to reflect on their entered fields using their YEN reports and this led to lively floor discussions.

Preliminary analysis of data sets

Collecting more data in 2020 allowed us to build on our historic Pea YEN and Bean YEN data sets. We carried out a partition analysis of the available data set to date to identify potential associations of measured crop characteristics with yield. This is a preliminary analysis due to the size of the data set, and so whilst it is currently not possible to share concrete messages, interesting questions for further study were raised. It should be noted that at this stage, cause and effect cannot be separated for this analysis, and confounding factors such as season, or location are not accounted for.

For the Pea YEN preliminary associations between yield and soil P; leaf tissue N, P, Mg and Zn measured between growth stage 34 and 38; the length of time between sowing and nodulation; the number of herbicide applications; plant populations, seeds/m2 in the final crop and seed Zn concentrations were identified. For the Bean YEN, leaf tissue K concentration at flowering, seeds/m2 in the final crop, TSW, individual shoot biomass, bean biomass per shoot and harvest index were positively associated with yield. Conversely, the number of shoots per plant, seed B concentrations and bruchid beetle damage was negatively associated with yield. It should be noted that spring and winter varieties were combined for analysis which could have implications on yield associations such as for shoots per plant.

Links to recordings of the two winter meetings can be found below which may contain further discussion on the results.

Pea YEN 2020 results meeting: https://youtu.be/8riPJy1ryn8

Bean YEN 2020 results meeting: https://youtu.be/mD-Z8HJmy0A

Aiming for 100 yields

The YEN process is built around the concept of ‘share to learn’. This is a circular process starting with 1) our current understanding of the crop science and concepts which influences 2) the crop metrics we target for data collection. This data is shared back to everyone through individualized benchmarking reports, and also through measuring this data we are able to aim towards step 3) designing questions and ideas of how to improve yields that we will eventually test in step 4).

The results from these tests are then fed back into our concepts and understanding and we repeat the process, building our understanding with each turn of the cycle and sharing messages we find along the way.