Timor-Leste researchers challenge belief that red beans can’t grow at sea level

Farmers with successful red beans in Betano, Manufahi municipality

You can’t grow red beans at sea level in the tropics: it’s a fact as accepted as knowing the day follows night.

But new research from Betano research station in sub-district Same on Timor-Leste’s south coast shows that if planted at the right time, red beans can in fact grow successfully at sea level.

Common beans, known as red beans in Timor-Leste, are a normal part of people’s diets in Timor-Leste and provide much-needed protein.

Planted in June 2017, three local bean varieties were found to have good adaptation to growing on the south coast, offering farmers in Same sub-district a new crop and alternative source of protein, fibre and carbohydrates.

Common beans, Phaseoulus vulgaris, are typically grown at altitudes of approximately 1000 metres elevation or higher, and popular belief says they can’t produce at lower altitudes.

Previous research conducted at the Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa’e by researcher Dr Marcal Gusmao showed that beans planted in June in Dili could grow and produce a good yield.

Dili sits on the country’s north coast at an elevation of just 11 metres.

The Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) replicated the trial at its research station in Betano and in Viqueque municipality in June, during Timor-Leste’s dry season, producing a bean yields of one ton per hectare. The beans were grown with no external inputs and using seeds sourced from Timor-Leste.

MAF staff report local farmers being so excited with the result, they’d take their families to the research centre on Sundays instead of to the beach.

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