Beans, Fava

Vicia faba

Last revised January 11, 2010

Faba (also spelled fava) bean seeds vary in shape, size, and color. The plants they come from vary in cold hardiness, size, and yield. They are called by a number of different names depending on their type. Small-seeded types (Vicia faba var.minor) may be called tickbean or pigeon bean and are commonly used for animal feed. Medium-size seed types (V. faba var. equina) are represented by what is commonly called the horse bean, whereas large-seeded types (V. faba var. major) may be called Windsorbean or broadbean and are used more commonly as a green vegetable or as a dry bean as indicated below. Faba bean is a cool-temperature vegetable popular in the Middle East and Europe, and uncommon in the U.S. Pods may be shelled when seeds are green for cooking as a green vegetable, commonly in stews. The seed may be boiled, or used roasted as a snack food. They are also harvested after the seed has dried and ground to a flour and used for falafel and foul, popular middle eastern foods. Some varieties are also grown for forage and as a green-manure or cover crop.

Windsor Faba (Fava or Broad Bean). Photo credit: Bill Mansour, Oregon State University


Spring planted varieties require approximately 130-150 days, while overwintering varieties require approximately 240 days to reach dry seed maturity. Green-pod harvest for green seed would be about 30 days less:

Aquadulce Claudia for overwinter or spring planting; Broad Windsor for spring planting. Dwarf type: Coles Dwarf Prolific (suited to windy areas where plants may be blown over). Heat tolerant type: Foul Muddamma.
For trial - spring planting: Acme, Dreadnought, Equina, Green Windsor, Ipro, Stereo, Sweet Lorane; Aprovecho Select (large-seeded, cold hardy).


Faba beans do best on well-drained silt loam soils. Sandy loams are also suitable but require more frequent irrigation. Faba beans produce best on soils which are neutral or slightly acidic. Lime should be applied if pH levels are below 5.6. Follow soil test recommendations.

Rotate faba beans with grains or other crops to reduce damage from soil-borne diseases. Crop residues of lettuce, carrots, cabbage, parsnips, and cucurbits may harbor white mold sclerotia.


Use fungicide and insecticide-treated seed. Also use the appropriate Rhizobium inoculum (Rhizobium leguminosarum) when faba beans are grown in fields for the first time, or where they have not been grown for several years.


Faba beans germinate and grow well under cool soil conditions such as those favorable for production of peas. Fields may be planted as soon as they can be worked in the spring, but delaying planting till June or July may reduce broad bean virus or chocolate spot infection. In the temperate areas of the Pacific Northwest, cold-hardy varieties like Aquadulce Claudia may be planted in the fall (late September or October).


Faba bean seed numbers about 200-800 per pound. About 60-80 lb are used per acre when faba beans are grown for fresh market. Seed should be planted 5-6 inches apart in the row, with rows 24-36 inches apart. Plant populations should be about 60,000 per acre. Use heavier seeding rate for fall planting than spring planting to compensate for some over-winter mortality.

When grown for a green manure or forage, use 150-175 lb of seed per acre in narrow rows. Rows 7 inches apart are often used for such purposes.

Inoculate with Rhizobium bacterium in a planter box treatment when planting on soils not previously planted to peas or beans.


For the most current advice, see Nutrient Management for Sustainable Vegetable Cropping Systems in Western Oregon, available as a free download from the OSU Extension Catalog

Good fertilizer usage is only one of the important management practices, including proper seeding, pest control, adequate irrigation, and timely harvest. Because of the influence of soil type, climatic conditions, and other cultural practices, crop response from fertilizer may not always be accurately predicted. Soil test results, field experience, and knowledge of specific crop requirements help determine the nutrients needed and the rate of application.

Fertilizer applications for faba beans should insure adequate levels of all nutrients. Optimum fertilization is intended to result in for top quality and yield, commensurate with maximum returns.

Fava beans are nitrogen fixers. Nitrogen (N) fixation is the process whereby legume crops and specific Rhizobium bacteria (rhizobia) work together to make nitrogen from air, which is then available for use by the plant. Soon after the crop germinates, rhizobia enter the root hairs. Therefore it is critical that the seeds are treated with the correct Rhizobium bacteria to insure inolucation of the roots. For Fava beans the correct species of bacteria is Rhizobium leguminosarum.

Recommendations are based on a row spacing of 36". With decreased row spacings fertilizer rates should be increased. Use the following recommended guidelines:



When properly inoculated with the appropriate Rhizobium inoculant, pulse crops can derive a significant portion of their nitrogen requirement through fixation. In some cases no additional N fertilization is required.

Rates of 50 to 80 lb N/A are generally recommended where faba beans are grown on fields having a history of heavy fertilization and intensive culture. Rates of 80 to 110 lb N/A are recommended where forage legumes or heavily fertilized vegetable crops were not grown the preceding year.


Phosphorus fertilizer should be banded at planting for vigorous early seedling growth. Bands should be located 2 to 3 inches to the side and 2 to 3 inches below the seed.

Response is greatest from bands properly placed at 2 x 2 inches.

         If the soil test*                    Apply this amount of
         for P reads (ppm):             phosphate (P2O5) lb/A:
            0 - 15                                   120-150
           15 - 60                                    90-120
           Over 60                                    60- 90			  

*Assumes extraction procedures similar to those used by the OSU Central Analytical Laboratory. Specific information on soil test procedures is available from the Dept. of Crop and Soil Science.


Potassium should be applied before planting or banded at planting time. Amounts above 60 lb K2O per acre should be broadcast and worked into the seedbed.

         If the soil test*                        Apply this amount of
         for K reads (ppm):                   potassium (K2O) (lb/A)
            0 -  75                                       90-120
           75 - 150                                     60- 90
          150 - 200                                    40- 60
           Over 200                                     None 			  

*Assumes extraction procedures similar to those used by the OSU Central Analytical Laboratory. Specific information on soil test procedures is available from the Dept. of Crop and Soil Science.


Include 20-30 lb S/A in the fertilizer program for faba beans. Sulfur is sometimes contained in fertilizers used to supply other nutrients such as N, P, and K, but may not be present in sufficient quantity.

Plants absorb S in the form of sulfate. Fertilizer materials supply S in the form of sulfate and elemental S. Elemental S must convert to sulfate in the soil before the S becomes available to plants. The conversion of elemental S to sulfate is usually rapid for fine ground (less than 40 mesh) material in warm moist soil.

Sulfur in the sulfate form can be applied at planting time. Some S fertilizer materials such as elemental S and ammonium sulfate have an acidifying effect on soil.

The S requirements of faba beans can be provided by:
The application of 20-30 lb S/A in the form of sulfate at or prior to seeding.
Applying 30-40 lb S/A as fine ground (finer than 40 mesh) elemental S the preceding year.
Applying coarser ground elemental S at higher rates and less frequently.

When the soil test value is below 1.5 meq Mg/100g of soil or when calcium (Ca) is ten times more than the Mg, apply 10 to 15 lb Mg/A banded at planting. If deficiency symptoms appear, spray with 10 lb Epsom salts in 100 gal water/A.

Mg can also be supplied in dolomite, which is a liming material and reduces soil acidity to about the same degree as ground limestone. Dolomite should be mixed into the seed bed several weeks in advance of seeding.


Responses of faba beans to B applications have not been observed in experiments on growers' fields in western Oregon.


Responses of faba beans to Zn applications have not been observed in experiments on growers' fields in western Oregon.

When the soil test is below 1 ppm Zn, a response to Zn is expected on all soils.

Where Zn is required, either 10 lb/A of Zn should be broadcast and worked into the soil prior to planting or 3 to 4 lb/A of Zn should be banded with the fertilizer at planting time.

A broadcast application of 10 lb Zn/A should supply Zn needs for 2 or 3 years.


Lime applications should be made when the soil pH is 5.5 or below, or when calcium (Ca) levels are below 5 meq Ca/100g of soil.

        If the SMP Buffer*                   Apply this amount
       test for lime reads:                   of lime (T/A):
           Below 5.2                               4 - 5
           5.2 - 5.6                                3 - 4
           5.6 - 5.9                                2 - 3
           5.9 - 6.2                                1 - 2
           Over 6.2                                 None 				  

*Assumes extraction procedures similar to those used by the OSU Central Analytical Laboratory. Specific information on soil test procedures is available from the Dept. of Crop and Soil Science.

The liming rate is based on 100-score lime. Lime should be mixed into the seed bed at least several weeks before seeding. A lime application is effective over several years. Do not apply lime when the soil pH is above 6.2.

  EASTERN OREGON, east of the Cascades:

                                             lb per acre  
Nitrogen (N):                        50 -  80  
Phosphorus (P2O5):           50 - 100  
Potassium (K2O):               up to 50  
Sulfur (S):                             20 -  30  


Irrigation is not recommended until about 2 weeks after planting. Too much water at seeding slows growth and may increase root rots.

During the rest of the season, keep moisture levels in the top foot of soil at or above 50% of available water. To avoid any water stress the two critical times during bean development are during bloom and pod set. It is advisable to irrigate in the early morning hours so the plants may dry off before the night. A total of 10" - 16" may be needed in western Oregon depending on location planting date, seasonal variation and variety.

Approximate summer irrigation needs for the Hermiston area have been found to be: 3.5 inches in May, 5.0 in June, 7.5 in July, and 7.0 in August.

Soil type does not affect the amount of total water needed, but does dictate frequency of water application. Lighter soils need more frequent water applications, but less water applied per application.


Faba beans are usually harvested when the seeds have reached full size but are still green. They may also be harvested after the pods and seeds have dried for various uses. When harvested green, pods may be sold for shelling by consumers or shelled, and the green seed packaged for sale.

Store at 40 to 45 F and relative humidity of 95%. Faba bean pods or seed lose moisture rapidly if not properly protected by packaging or by a relative humidity of 95% or above. When the relative humidity approaches saturation, as in consumer packages, temperatures above 45 F must be avoided or decay is likely to be serious within a few days.

Containers of faba beans should be stacked to allow abundant air circulation. If containers are packed close together, the temperature may rise because of the heat of respiration, and the faba beans will deteriorate rapidly. When faba beans are stored in large bins or pallet boxes, provision should be made for rapid cooling. Faba beans stored too long or at too high a storage temperature are subject to various decays.