Yard long bean, or sitaw in Filipino, is a legume that lives up to its name, for it can grow up to about a yard in length. It is a vigorous climbing plant that produces pods of about 14 to 30 inches long within 60 days of sowing. The pods can come in varying shades of green or purple, and are known to be a good source of dietary fiber, folate, Vitamins A and C, and some minerals. It is considered one of the most important crops in the Philippines and in other Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, and Taiwan.

In general, it is a warm season crop and can be planted in a wide range of climatic conditions. Here in the Philippines, this crop can be planted all year round. It can tolerate heat and low rainfall, but grows relatively slow in cold environments.

Huge income potential

Based on East-West Seed’s research, if a one-hectare area is planted with yard long bean, and if management is good, farmers can have an average net income of PhP 258,610 to PhP 1,158,610, depending on the prevailing market price (see Table 1).

Table 1. Cost and Return Analysis

Ensuring a good harvest

It is important to ensure that your yard long beans are free from pests and diseases to get a good yield. Erratic weather patterns could stress yard long beans, making them vulnerable to pests and diseases, such as the cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV).

Cowpea mosaic is a disease of legumes that mainly affects the yard long bean. The disease is caused by the cowpea mosaic virus, a beetle-transmitted comovirus from the family Secoviridae. Beetles acquire the virus in short feedings, with no latent period, and can remain viruliferous or infectious for up to eight days, depending on the species. CPMV can also be transmitted through contaminated farm tools that can introduce the virus from infected to healthy plants. Plants affected by the disease show mosaic, blisters, leaf distortion, and a decrease in flower production. Pods of severely infected plants become short and unmarketable.

Characteristic symptoms of Cowpea mosaic in yard long bean include infected plants showing mosaic and blisters on leaves and shorter and twisted pods (in photo).

Based on literature, yield loss can go as high as 95% if the disease is not properly managed. Like most virus diseases, combined practices of regular monitoring, early detection, good cultural practices, and control of insect vectors should be employed. The use of yard long bean varieties with high level of resistance to the disease, such as East-West Seeds’ new varieties ‘Matikas’ and ‘Makisig,’ can also significantly reduce the risk of serious yield losses due to cowpea mosaic.

Aside from having resistance to CPMV, both Matikas and Makisig are high-yielding varieties with good plant vigor and improved pod qualities. They have smoother and glossier skin compared to existing varieties in the market. Matikas is medium green in color, while Makisig has a dark green color. They can grow up to 60 centimeters long.

Here are more tips in growing yard long beans:

1. Thorough land preparation is important. Well pulverized and leveled soil can contribute to good seed germination. It is also recommended to mix well-composted manure into the soil during land preparation to boost soil fertility.

2. Seeds are sown directly in the field at a planting distance of 30 to 50 centimeters with at least 1 to 2 seeds per hill or a seeding rate of 7-10 kg of seeds per hectare. Soil moisture must be good during sowing, but not too wet.

3. Minimal application of nitrogen-based fertilizer is recommended since the plants have their own ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Too much application of nitrogen can cause over-abundant leaf growth and reduced pod production. Side dressing of complete fertilizer can be done every other week one month after sowing and with addition of muriate of potash at the start of flowering to support the developing pods.

4. Trellising posts are installed in the field 10 to 15 days after sowing to hold up the growing vines.

5. Application of ample amount of water during the dry months is necessary to increase yield and improve plant vigor. The pods become short, fibrous, and deformed with low moisture.

6. Proper weed management also contributes in increasing the productivity of the crop. It can also help reduce the pest population and disease incidence. Some weed control measures include spot hand weeding, light cultivation, and mulching.

7. Harvesting will start at 55 to 60 days after sowing, with a harvest interval of one day. Pods are ready for harvest at seven to 10 days after flowering, or when the pods are still tender and the seeds are not yet fully developed. Proper timing of picking and handling of harvested pods is essential to keep it marketable.

Visit East-West Seed’s GrowHow to access more tips and download our vegetable farming guides. To diagnose your plant’s disease, visit East-West Seed’s Plant Doctor (plantdoctor.eastwestseed.com)

This appeared without a byline in Agriculture Monthly’s September 2019 issue.