Farming tips: sugar beans

Sugar beans are popular with both subsistence and commercial farmers countrywide but many are not able to maximise their yield because of poor farming skills. The following are tips to help increase productiveness.

Preparing the land

The land should be well prepared in order to leave the soil loose enough for planting seeds. This loose topsoil should be about 15cm deep.

To add manure to the soil the farmer may use garden compost as artificial compounds may contain too much nitrogen. Beans produce nitrogen so it is important not to use too much fertilizer.

Sugar beans should be planted in well-drained soil as they are sensitive to acid soils.

Seed choice

Farmers are advised to choose seed varieties that are resistant to disease. Coloured seeds are more likely to germinate in cool soil than white seed.

SC Bounty is a high-yielding variety that is resistant to some of the prevalent diseases. (According to Seed Co, a giant and reputable seed manufacturing company in Zimbabwe).

The seed should be dressed with insecticide to reduce losses caused by bean stem maggot. Thiram seed treatment before planting will improve plant stand.

Bean growers are advised to plant fresh seed from farmers’ markets, although dry seed is fine provided it is not too old.

When planting on a small piece of land use your finger or a stick to create a 2.5-5cm hole for the seed. Pat the soil over the seed. Planting on a larger piece of land would need a tractor-drawn planter or a wheel planter.

Space the seeds 15cm apart. Sprinkle some water on the soil to avoid re-exposure of the seed. Ideal soil temperatures should average 16 degrees celsius. Growing conditions include full sun for at least six hours a day (warmer climate).

Watering and sprouting

Farmers should have a systematic watering schedule; plants need 71ml of water every two days but should be watered daily if it is dry. Remember, too much can be as harmful as too little.

Water with a ‘rain’ spray, a hose-pipe or watering can. Avoid running the hose-pipe directly onto the seeds as there is a risk of washing them away. Seeds should sprout within three days.

When the seedlings are one to two inches tall, attach them to a pole, net or whatever support is available. Without support the seedlings may fall over and rot. They may also entwine and become difficult to separate. A light application of top dressing fertilizer (100kg per hectare) at the flowering stage is beneficial.


Flowering begins a couple of weeks after the seeds sprout. When the flowers dry, bean pods will begin to grow from the same place.

Pest and bugs

If you see a white film on the leaves, pull them off and throw them away. Dilute one part powdered milk in nine parts water and spray plants once a week. This neutralises the infection at the early stages and prevents further infestation.

A mild solution of apple cider vinegar or baking soda and water can be alternated.

If farmers see small green or brown bugs (aphids) or tiny white flies (white fly) wash them off with water and soap. If it is all over a branch, cut it off and throw it away then wash the branches nearby.


Diseases such as rust, angular leaf spot, anthracnose and viral diseases should be kept under check with fungicides. The farmer should constantly check for pests such as bean fly maggot, ampids, thrips and bollworms.

When ripe, the little bumps from the beans inside can be seen. Pick them, open the pods and access the beans. Beans are good to eat soon after harvesting. If you keep them longer, they lose their flavour and sweetness.

Harvested beans can be planted again the next season. Harvesting can be carried out when the crop stem starts to dry or the pod splits. Pick them, open the pods and put the seeds in a cool, dry spot.

Post published in: Agriculture
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