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Vicia faba L.

Broadbean, Fava bean, Horsebean, Windsorbean, Tickbeans (small types)

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Cultivated as a vegetable and used green or dried, fresh or canned, and for stock feed. feeding value of broadbeans is high, considered in some areas superior to field peas or other legumes. Broadbean has been considered as a meat extender or substitute and as a skim-milk substitute. Sometimes grown for green manure, but more generally for stock feed. Large-seeded cvs used as a vegetable, and frequently grown as a home-garden crop, and for canning. One of the most important winter crops for human consumption in the middle East. Roast seed are eaten like peanuts in India.

Folk Medicine

Said to be used for diuretic, expectorant, and tonic.


Inhalation of the pollen or ingestion of the seeds may cause favism, a severe hemolytic anemia, perhaps causing collapse. It is an inherited enzymatic deficiency occasional among Mediterranean people (Greek, Italian, Semitics). The genetic disorder occurs in about 1% of whites, 15% of blacks. The favism-inducing toxins are believed to be divicine and isouramil, the aglycone moieties of vicine and convicine. Flesh of broadbeans contains ca. 0.61–2.38% vicine, common vetch contains 0.04%, peas contitin traces, and soy flour is devoid of vicine. Injected intravenously in rabbits, broadbean extracts have produced haemoglobinuria and death. An ethanol-ether extract of broadbeans has estrogenic activity, 50 mg stimulates the nonpregnant uterus at dioestrus. The LD50 of the bean extract in mice was 19,000 mg/kg body weight. L-DOPA and epinene have been reported from the seeds. Among phytoalexins reprted in broadbean are medicarpin, epoxide, and wyerone. Seeds are reported to contain trypsin indibitors and chymo-trypsin inhibitors. The whole dry seeds contain (per 100 g): 344 calories, 10.1% moisture, 26.2 g protein, 1.3 g fat. 59.4 g total carbohydrate, 6.8 g fiber, 3.0 g ash, 104 mg Ca, 301 mg P, 6.7 mg Fe, 8 mg Na, 1123 mg K, 130 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.38 mg thiamine, 0.24 mg riboflavin, 2.1 mg niacin, 162 mg tryptophane, and 16? mg ascorbic acid. Flour contains: 340 calories, 12.4% moisture, 25.5 g protein, 1.5 g fat, 58.8 g total carbohydrate, 1.5 g fiber. 1.8 g ash, 66 mg Ca, 354 mg P. 6.3 mg Fe, 10 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.42 mg thyamine, 0.28 mg riboflavin, and 2.7 mg niacin. Taamiah, made from broadbean, contains 408 calories, 27.% moisture, 10.0 g protein, 31.8 g fat, 26.3 g total carbohydrate, 1.2 g fiber, 4.9 g ash, 72 mg Ca, 153 mg P, and 6.1 mg Fe. lmmature seeds contain: 75 calories, 76.3% moisture, 7.1 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 15.3 g total carbohydrate, 3.2 g fiber, 0.9 ash, 38 mg Ca, 127 mg P, 0.10 mg thiamine, 0.22 mg riboflavin, and 140 mg ascorbic acid. Germinated seeds contain: 111 calories, 64.5% moisture, 10.9 g protein, 0.3 g fat, 22.9 g total carbohydrate, 5.6 g fiber, and 1.4 g ash. Roatsted seeds contain: 366 calories. 5.3% moisture, 26.4 g protein, 2.0 g fat, 63.3 g total carbohydrate, 1.7 g fiber, 3.0 g ash, 60 mg Ca, 479 mg P, 6.8 mg Fe, 0.21 mg thiamine, 0.35 mg riboflavin, 2.4 mg niacin, and 2 mg ascorbic acid. Green seeds contain 118 calories, 69.0% moisture, 9.3 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 20.3 g total carbohydrate, 3.8 g fiber, 1.0 g ash, 31 mg Ca, 140 mg Fe, 2.3 mg Fe, 60 mg vitamin A, 0.28 mg thiamine, 0.17 mg riboflavin, 1.7 mg niacin, and 28 mg ascorbic acid. Fried and salted seeds contain: 402 calories, 7.6% moisture, 26.4 g protein, 14.8 g fat, 47.4 g total carbohydrate, 3.8 g fiber, 3.8 g ash, 73 mg Ca, 331 mg P, 7.1 mg Fe, 994 mg K, 5 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.10 mg thiamine, 0.05 mg riboflavin, and 1.0 mg niacin. The haulms contain: 85% moisture, 2.5% crude protein, 0.4% fat, and 4.9% crude fiber, 5.41% N-free extract, 1.8% ash, 0.22% Ca, 0.04% P, and 2% digestible crude protein. The amino acid content averages (mg/g N): isoleucine 250, leucine 443, lysine 404, phenylalanine 270, tyrosine 200, methionine 46, cystine 50, threonine 210. valine 275, arginine 556, histidine 148, alanine 259, aspartic acid 702, glutamic acid 942, glycine 258, proline 249, serine 280. The fatty acid composition of broadbean oil has been reported as 88.6% unsaturated (oleic 45.8, linoleic 30% and linolenic 12.8%) and 11.4% saturated (8.2% stearic). Cholesterol (0.04%) and lipoxygenase are also reported.


Coarse upright, annual herb; stems large, unbranched 0.3–2 m tall, with 1 or more stems from the base: leaves compaound, leaflets usually 6 large broad, oval; flowers large, white with dark purple markings, horne short pedicels in clusters of 1–5 in axils of leaves; 1–4 pods, developing from each flower cluster; legumes greenish black, brown to black, glabrous,reticulate, 8–20 cm long, 10–30 mm broad, inflated, terete, flattened, oblong, obliquely accuminate at both ends, style usually permanent, 3–4-seeded, twisting loosely or tightly during dehiscence; seeds oblong or oval, flattened or rounded, smooth, bright reddish brown, light to dark greenish brown or light to dark purple, all obscurely mottled or dotted with colors similar to base colors, 6.517 mm long, 730.5 mm broad, 4.5–9 mm thick. V. f. var. major, seeds 1,103 kg: V. f. var. equina seeds 6.615/kg. = 77. Germination cryptocotylar.


Some of the many horsebean cvs developed and grown for their seeds, are 'Windsor,' 'Longpod,' 'Dwarf Fan,' 'Julienne,' 'Lorraine,' 'Black Spanish,' 'Mazagan,' 'Picardy,' and 'Winter' are a few of the U.S. cvs. 'Lindsay-Johnson Winter' bean is a large flat green-seeded cv. Small-seeded cvs are more often grown for green manure and forage. Other important cvs are: 'Albyn Tick,' 'Herz Freya,' 'Blue Rock,' and 'Maris Bead.' Smaller less productive tick beans are grown in Europe to feed pigeons and other livestock. 'Petite' tickbean yields ca. 2,500 kg/ha. Botanical vars equina, faba, minor, and paucijuga have been recognized in recent revisions, and subvarieties have been named. In this partially allogamous species, with considerable intrapopulational variation and no sterility barriers between subspecies, such fine-honed nomenclature may seem superfluous. Broadbean has been assigned to the Central Asian, Mediterranean, and South American Centers of Diversity. Cubrero (1973) postulated a Near Eastern center of origin with four radii (1) to Europe (2) along the north African coast to Spain, 03) along the Nile to Ethiopia, and (4) from Mesopotamia to India. Secondary centers of diversity are postulated in Afghanistan and Ethiopia. The wild progenitor has not been discovered yet. Several wild species (V. narbonensis L. and V. galilaea Plitmann and Zohary) are taxonomically closely related to the cultivated crop, but they contain 2n = 14 chromosomes. Numerous attempts to cross them with Vicia faba have failed. Broadbean of cvs thereof is reported to exhibit tolerance to high pH, insects, low pH, slope, and virus. (2n = 12, 14.)


Probably native to the Near East, broadbean is now widely introduced and cultivated in temperate North America, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan, South America, especially the Andes, and elsewhere (e.g. Burma, China, Sudan, and Uganda).


Broadbean requires a cool season for best development. Grown as a winter annual in warm temperate and subtropical areas. It can be grown anywhere it does not winterkill but where temperatures fluctuate rapidly. Well-adapted to wetter portions of cereal-growing areas of western Canada. Tolerates nearly any soil type, grows best on rich loams. Moderate moisture supply is necessary. Not drought resistant. Moisture requirement is highest ca. 9–12 weeks after establishment. More tolerant to acid soil conditions than most legumes. Can be grown in nearly all parts of the United States without liming. Hardier cvs tolerate winter temperatures of -10°C without serious injury. Winter types fare well with average temperatures of 2°C, without severe frost. Growing season should have little or no excessive heat. Ranging from Boreal Moist to Wet through Tropical Desert to Dry Forest Life Zones, broadbean is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 2.3–20.9 dm (mean of 95 cases = 8.0), annual mean temperature of 5.6°–27.5°C (mean of 95 cases = 12.1), and pH of 4.5–8.3 (mean of 87 cases = 6.6).


In localities having no hard frosts, most cvs can be sown in fall and survive the winter. In northern localities, or at high elevations farther south, fava bean should be planted in early spring, when ground can be worked, at the same time as the earliest ordinary spring crops. Large-seeded cvs are sown with planters used for lima beans, small-seeded cvs with a common corn planter. In some areas broadbeans are planted by hand. At seeding time the field is plowed shallow and seed dropped in every second or third furrow. Seed are usually sown 5–10 cm deep in rows ca. 75 cm apart, with seeds 15 cm apart in the rows. Rows 60 cm apart, or even closer, give good results under favorable conditions, but wider planting usually is preferable. Small-seeded cvs are planted at 90–122 kg/ha; large-seeded cvs. 78–90 kg/ha. In United Kingdom, 450 kg seed/ha produces maximum yields. Yields are economically optimal at 225–340 k/ha for large seeded cvs, and satisfactory at 190 kg/h for small-seeded cvs. For green manure or forage small-seeded cvs are usually broadcast. Russian field trials showed that pretreatmant of the seeds with 0.01% of vitamins of the B group increased seed yields by as much as 36%. Fertilizers and seed inoculation with proper legume bacteria are usually recommended. Innoculation is not always, practiced (e.g., Britain, Europe in general, where nodulation with indigenous rhizobia is excellent). In southern United States, P and K are used before or at seeding. Early deep sowing into a well-drained firm seedbed gives best results. Broadbeatns should be thoroughly cultivated throughout their growing period. When planted in 60 cm rows or closer, special machinery is necessary for cultivation. When planted in 90 cm rows, ordinary cultivators can be used. Zero tillage has depressed yields by 22%. In United Kingdom, thiram and captan are recommended as fungicides, chlorpropham plus diuron or fenuron, or simazine, its preemergence herbicides, dinoseb-acetate as a postemergence herbicide.


Time of harvest depends on method-hand or mechanical. Beans mature 90–220 days after planting. Harvest can be delayed a little longer for hand than for mechanical harvest. In either case, crop should not be cut until the lowel pods are matured and the upper ones fully developed. If harvest is delayed until the upper pods are ripe, loss from shattering is great. An ordinary mowing machine can be used, but the drop-rake reaper is more satisfactory and reduces shattering. Crop should be cut on cloudy day and maybe cut at night and shocked early the next day. Large-seeded cvs are threshed with a common bean thresher with special adjustments to the cylinder. Small-seeded types can be thrashed without difficulty. After threshing, seed are cleaned with ordinary fanning mills. For canning, beans are allowed to swell and then are picked by hand before they become hard. As a dried vegetable, they are prepared the same way as other common beans.

Yields and Economics

Dry bean yields in the US average ca. 6,600 kg/ha; in Great Britain, ca. 3,000 kg/ha. Yields are closely correlated with number of pods per plants. In British field maximum potential seed yield in 'Herz Freya' was 4,940 kg/ha, in 'Maris Bead' 6,710 kg/ha. Water could be more important in yield than solar radiation or plant competition. (Sprent et al., 1977). In 1975, Asia produced 4,750,000 MT (1192 kg/ha), Europe 722,000 MT (1,433 kg/ha), Africa 688,000 (1,098 kg/ha). South America 135,000 MT (557 kg/ha), North America 43,000 MT (537 kg/ha). China was the largest producer with an estimated 4,660,000 MT (1189 kg/ha) Italy, 252,000 MT (1,222 kg/ha); Egypt, 234,000 MT (2125 kg/ha), Morocco, 213,000 MT (966 kg/lha), Ethiopia, 124,000 MT (886 kg/ha) (FAO, 1975) Switzerland reported highest yields (4,000 kg/ha), followed by Denmark (3,500 kg/ha) and West Germany (3,176 kg/ha). The United Kingdom yield was 2,395 kg/ha (FAO, 1976). Canadian studies of 16 cvs at 6 localities, mean seed yields ranged from 2,533 to 3,488 kg/ha, with the highest yield at over 7 MT/ha ('Klein Kronige'). In British studies, 'Albyn tick' gave 6,765 kg seed/ha, 'Blue Rock' 6,025, 'Herz Freya' 7,007, and 'Maris Bead' 6,602. Consumption and horsebeans for green manure and stock, feed are becoming important crops in southern United States and along the Pacific Coast. Broadbeans are grown in home gardens. Large-seeded green types are canned. Yields of fresh green broadbean for home consumption as a vegetable average 11–12.5 MT/ha in United Kingdom and 25 MT/ha was reported.


According to the phytomass files, NPP in Czechoslovakia is as high as 15 MT/ha, 4 in Egypt, 4–8 in England, up to 20 in western Europe, 8–9 in Italy, and 11 MT/ha in the Netherlands (Duke, 1981a, 1981b). The plant is calculated to fix 200 kg N/ha/yr (Duke, 1981a). Other NPP figures for Vicia include 4 MT/ha for V. cracca, 3–5 for V. dasycarpa, 6 for V. sativa, and 2 for V. villosa (Duke, 1981b).

Biotic Factors

One study concluded that bees increase seed production by 15–20%. Honeybees were estimated to account for 80% of cross-pollination, bumblebees less than 20%, wild bees less than 1%. A closed-flower phenotype (recessive to normal) exists which lacks the typical scent and is avoided by bees (Poulsen, 1977). Many fungi attack broadbeans, depending on the area where they grown. The following have been reported on broadbeans: Alternaria brassicae var phaseoli, A. Tenuis, A. tenuissima, Ascochyta boltshauseri, A. fabae, A. pinodella, A. pinodes, A. pisi (A. viciae), Aspergillus niger, Botrytis cinera, B. fabae, Cercospora fabae, C. viciae, C. zonata, Cladosporium cladosporioides, C. herbarum, C. pisi, Clonostachys araucariae, Colletotrichum lindemuthianum, Corticium rolfsii, C. solani, Cunninghamella echinulata, deplosporium album, Dothiorella fabae, Erysiphe pisi, E. polygoni, many species of Fusarium, Gibberella fujikuroi, G. saubinettii, Gloeosporium viciae, Helicobasidium purpureum, Leveillula taurica, Macrophomina phaseoli, Melanospora papilata, Mycospharaella pinodes, Nectria anisophylla, Olpidium viciae, Peronospora fabae, P. lagerheimee, P. pisi, P. viciae, Phoma malaena, Phyllosticta fabae, Phymatotrichum omnivorum, Physoderma fabae, Phytophthora cactorum, Ph. cinnamoni, Pleospora herbarum, P. vulgaris, Pythium spp., Rhizoctonia solani, Rhizopus nigricans, Sclerotinia fuckeliana, S. minor, S. sclerotiorum, Sclerotium rolfsii, Stagonospora carpathica, Stemphylium botryosum, S. consortiale, Trichothecium roseum, Uromyces appendiculatus, U. fabae, U. orobi, and U. viciae-fabae. Broadbeans also attacked by the sweet pea streak, tooth-tumor swelling vein virus and broadbean wilt, red-clover vein mosaic (Marmor trifolii), virus 1-celery mosaic (a strain of cucumber mosaic virus: Marmor cucumeris), spotted wilt (Lethum australiensis). Bacteria causing diseases in broadbean include: Bacterium phaseoli, B. viciae, Erwinia phytophthora, and Psuedomonas viciae. Nematodes isolated from broadbean include: Ditylenchus dipsaci, Heterodera glycines, H. goettingiana, H. rostochiensis, Longidorus maximus, Meloidogyne arenaria, M. artiella, M. hapla, M. incognita, M. incognita acrita, M. javanica, Pratylenchus brachyurus, P. coffeae, P. goodeyi, P. pnetrans, P. pratensis, P. vulnus, P. zeae, Rotylenchulus reniformis, Tylenchorynchus dubius, T. parvus. The most serious insect pests are the broadbean weevil, Bruchus rufimanus and aphids, especially the bean aphid, Aphis fabae. Broomrape (Orobanche crenata) may be a serious problem in the Middle East. Eptam, applied as a postemergence spray, was fairly effective, as was soil fumigation with dibromochloropropane, and oxak (terbutol), if deeply incorporated into the soil before sowing.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Friday, January 9, 1998 by aw