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- Author or Editor: Elizabeth Enke x
Cover cropping has been strongly promoted, but few growers have realized the benefits of this practice due to challenges linked to economic returns and whole-system management. In the western United States, winter legumes including faba bean have the potential to add economic value while offering soil health benefits compared with fallow fields. This experiment assessed the potential of five vegetable faba bean varieties for fresh pod yield, fresh pod quality, and biomass N return under a single and multiple pod harvest scheme. Vegetable faba bean varieties were further compared with two popular cover crop faba bean varieties, ‘Bell bean’ and ‘Sweet Lorane’ for cover crop and biomass N return benefits. The experiment revealed significant (P ≤ 0.05) genotypic variation for vegetable fresh pod yield, dry biomass, fresh pod quality, pod N removal, biomass N return, and C:N in three testing environments under the single and multiple harvest schemes. Finally, the vegetable variety ‘Vroma’ produced high average fresh pod yield under the single (16,178 kg·ha−1) and multiple (38,928 kg·ha−1) harvest schemes while maintaining high biomass N return under the single (119 kg·ha−1 N) and multiple harvests (97 kg·ha−1 N) compared with the cover crop varieties (128 kg·ha−1 N). This experiment demonstrated that a single fresh pod harvest on an early and high yielding faba bean variety can generate economic returns while also providing cover crop benefits that are comparable to termination of a faba bean cover crop on the same date.