Helping Haiti Achieve Higher Black Bean Yields

For Haitians, black beans are a food staple and the most consumed bean in the country. But farmers there have one of the lowest yield rates in the world for the crop – 660 kilograms per hectare (ha-1). Franky Celestin, UF/IFAS Soil and Water Sciences graduate student, knows this too well. The native Haitian wants to help farmers increase black bean yields.

“Several things are causing the low yields,” Celestin said. “Poor soil and agronomic management, an improper balance of nutrients in the soil, and limited fertilizer application are the primary reasons.”

The problem exists, even as agriculture accounts for approximately one-fifth of Haiti’s economy. The sector employs 60-percent of the population, mostly on small-scale farms.

To evaluate black bean growth and yield, Celestin conducted a study with two types of soil found in Haiti – Kenscoff (acid) and Cabaret (alkaline). The beans were grown in pots with different amounts of phosphorus and potassium added to the different soils.

“We saw a significant difference in yields for both soils, whether we used phosphorus or potassium,” Celestin said.

Black beans in the alkaline soil achieved the highest yield of 3,053 kg ha-1 when 55 kg phosphorus ha-1 and no potassium were applied. The acidic soil reached its optimum yield of 2,046 kg ha-1 with the application of 44 kg phosphorus ha-1 and 20 kg potassium ha-1.

“The farmers need to understand that with proper management of nutrients in the soil, and at the right rate, we can have a better yield,” Celestin points out. “And researchers need to say here’s a better way, not just, okay, apply a bag of fertilizer.”

Dr. Rao Mylavarapu, professor of Sustainable Nutrient Systems, is Celestin’s advisor and chair of his thesis committee. He said there were logistical issues with doing the work in Haiti, but the effort paid off.

“Franky did a good job, and this is a very important issue in Haiti,” Mylavarapu said. “I’m happy several graduate students from Haiti have come to study at UF through the Feed the Future program. Hopefully, we can have a lot more collaborations and travel back and forth to help the country.”

You can watch Franky Celestin’s research seminar HERE.