Phaseolus lathyroides L. Phaseolus semi-erectus (L.) DC, P. crotalaroides Mort.
Phasey bean, Murray phasey bean (Australia), frijol de monte (Venezuela), frijol de los
arrozales (Colombia), wild pea bean (Hawaii) .
Herbaceous annual or short-lived perennial, erectly branching, 0.5 to 1 m high under
normal conditions, lower parts becoming somewhat woody; when grown under shade, in
association with tall grasses or sown early, assumes a twining habit and may attain 1.2 m.
Branches terete, clothed with long deciduous reflexed hairs. Leaflets ovate or lanceolate,
3.5 to 7.5 cm long. Inflorescence, semierect racemes about 15 cm long borne on axillary
peduncles up to 25 cm; pedicels short. Flowers red-purple. Pods subcylindrical, 7.5 to 10
cm long and 3 mm wide, slightly curved, approximately 20-seeded. Seeds oblong or
rhomboidal, slightly compressed, about 3 mm long, mottled light and dark grey-brown
(Barnard, 1967). It regenerates from seed under favourable conditions but Bryan (1968a)
found that it was unreliable in this regard at Beerwah, south-east Queensland.
Originated in tropical America and is now widespread and naturalized in the tropics,
including Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Belize, Panama, Brazil, the Caribbean (Jamaica,
Antigua, St. Vincent, Cuba) and Australia.
It grows from sea level to 1 800 m in Colombia (Crowder, 1960).
It is adapted to a wide range of climates with a rainfall from 475 to 3 000 mm,
although insect damage may be severe in the higher rainfall regime and its growth will
depend on summer storms and wetter depressions in the lower rainfall areas.
Phasey bean is adapted to a wide range of soils, from deep sands to heavy clays,
including lateritic types. It tolerates both acid and alkaline soils. It is fairly
tolerant to saline conditions (Fretes, Samudio and Gay, 1970).
Ability to spread naturally
Nodulates freely with native rhizobia. If inoculation is desired, use the cowpea
strain, the current Australian recommendation being CB 756 (Date, 1969) and, in Argentina,
strains C5 (from the United States) and 95 (of Australian origin) (Batthyany, 1970).
Land preparation for establishment
Under moist conditions, it will spread well naturally in both sandy and clay soils if
competition is not too severe.
Phasey bean grows best on well-prepared seed beds but will give less satisfactory
establishment with less cultivation.
Number of seeds per kg.
Seed can be drilled, or broadcast from the ground or from the air. In the poorly
drained flood-plain soils of the Burdekin River in north Queensland, Seton (1962)
suggested that phasey bean seed should be drilled into the top of planting ridges (15 cm
high and 1 m apart) and vegetative grass material (e.g. Para grass, planted two to three
months later) between these ridges. Irrigation water is then applied between the ridges so
that the legume seed is moistened only. Oversowing into natural pastures is usually not
very successful. It can be sown at any time during spring and summer when moisture is
adequate, using 1 to 3 kg. seed/ha. Sow on the surface or no deeper than 1.25 cm and cover
lightly with a harrow.
Seed treatment before planting
119 000 (ranging from 88 000 to 154 000). Percentage of hard seed is fairly low.
To break dormancy, treat the seed with concentrated sulphuric acid (sg. gr. 1.8) for 20
minutes, wash and dry (Prodonoff, 1968). Inoculation is not necessary. Pelleting is not
necessary unless to protect the rhizobia (use rock phosphate; Norris, 1967). For insect
and disease control, treat the seed with 2.2 g acid equivalent (13.2 ml of 15 percent
emulsifiable concentrate) of dieldrin per kg. of seed before planting to control bean-fly
damage to seedlings (Jones, 1965).
On fertile alluvial soils or heavy clays, it need not be fertilized. On poor sandy
soils, use 250 kg./ha molybdenized superphosphate. On lateritic gravels in Sri Lanka,
Paltridge and Santhirasegaram (1957) found responses to Ca, N, P and K, and on cinnamon
sand to P, Ca, Mg, K and B.
Macroptilium lathyroides gave 68 percent of its maximum yield in the
absence of calcium, and its maximum yield at 995 kg./ha. In the absence
of calcium, N, P and K had an adverse effect on its root growth. It
responded to lime by increasing its nitrogen content from 1.7 percent
with nil to 3.8 percent with 740 kg./ha calcium carbonate (Andrew and
Norris, 1961). Paltridge and Santhirasegaram (1957) found small responses
to lime on lateritic gravels and sand in Sri Lanka. The calcium uptake
by phasey bean was found by Andrew and Hegarty (1969) to be 1.5 to 1.9
percent of the dry matter.
Phasey bean gave 46 percent of its maximum yield in the absence of copper, and so is
relatively insensitive to low copper status in the soil. Copper concentration in the plant
was relatively high, being higher in the roots than in the tops (Andrew and Thorne, 1962).
Santhirasegaram (1967) recorded 57 percent of the maximum yield in the absence of copper
in a sandy soil in Sri Lanka. Copper deficiency in this species does not show specific
symptoms. It causes reduced plant growth, with a slight change in colour of the younger
portions of the plant from the natural mid-green or greyish-green, to pale green.
Progressively, these portions become yellowish green and the younger, fully expanded
leaves absciss. The leaf abscission is not preceded by interveinal chlorosis or any form
of necrosis. Immediately prior to abscission, the leaves tended to fold down against the
stem of the plant, the condition resembling partial wilting. In severe cases, after
several leaves had dropped, the growing shoots became necrotic and the plant commenced
axillary growth, which also became necrotic (Andrew, 1963).
't Mannetje, Shaw and Elich (1963) found that phasey bean responded to
molybdenum and that the molybdenum had a residual effect in the soil
for three to four years. Santhirasegaram (1967) also obtained a response
to molybdenum on sandy soils in Sri Lanka.
Phasey bean gave 55 percent of its maximum yield at 250 kg./ ha superphosphate,
with its maximum at 1 132 kg./ha. The critical percentage of phosphorus
in the dry matter of the leaves was determined by Andrew and Robins
(1969a) as 0.20 percent. Increasing phosphorus supply in the form of
monocalcium phosphate increased the magnesium content but decreased
the potassium content.
Santhirasegaram (1967) obtained 50 percent of the yield of phasey bean
at first harvest and only 12 and 4 percent at the second and third harvest
when potash was eliminatedcompared with the yields from a complete
fertilizer mixture. Andrew and Robins (1969c) found the critical percentage
for potassium in the dry matter of the tops to be 0.75 percent. It gave
only 24 percent of its maximum yield in the absence of potash. Added
potassium had little effect on the concentration of other cations. Andrew
and Pieters (1970a) showed that deficiency symptoms commenced on lower
leaves as a rust-coloured spotting on the upper surfaces of the leaflets.
Individual spots were asymmetrical in shape and mostly interveinally
placed toward the margins of the leaflets. In this phase, there were
no signs of blemish or discoloration on the lower leaf surfaces, nor
was there any associated chlorosis or necrosis. With increased severity,
the rust-coloured areas became necrotic with light brownish-grey centres
and dark brown peripheries. Necrosis was evident on both surfaces of
the leaflet, but, in addition, the lower surface of the leaflet was
sunken at the necrotic areas. Following this phase, there was a general
marginal interveinal chlorosis of the lower leaves, but a halo of green
tissue remained around the necrotic spots. Chlorosis intensified, followed
by necrosis of the leaflet margin, particularly toward the distal end
of the leaflets. Finally, severely affected leaflets abscissed, the
central leaflet of each leaf falling before the lateral ones, resulting
in an upright, single-stemmed plant, abscissed leaves in the lower portion,
necrotic interveinally chlorotic leaves in the central portion, and
an otherwise normal top portion with reduced growth rate. The authors
found the healthy plant to have 1 g/100 g potash in the dry matter of
the tops. In the deficient plant, the concentration was 0.57 g/100 kg.
Santhirasegaram (1967) recorded only 28 percent of the yield of phasey
bean growing on sandy soils in Sri Lanka compared with the yields obtained
from a complete fertilizer.
Compatibility with grasses and other
Russell (1966) found that the yields of phasey bean growing on a solodic soil in
south-east Queensland were severely depressed by liming above pH 6.3 in the absence of
zinc; the addition of zinc gave small yield increases.
Tolerance to herbicides
Compatible with Para grass (Brachiaria mutica) under swampy conditions; on well-drained
land it grows well with Panicum maximum, Setaria anceps and Paspalum commersonii.
Response to defoliation
Paltridge (1955) analysed its effect on a companion grass, Paspalum commersonii, at
Lawes, Queensland (lat. 27°30'S), growing in a heavy black clay soil. Grown as a sward,
the legume increased the yield over grass plus 100 kg. N/ha by 77 percent. In terms of the
total yield of nitrogen, Paltridge estimated that the inclusion of phasey bean into P.
commersonii would be the equivalent of adding 800 kg./ha sulphate of ammonia.
Sen and Paul (1959) found that the nitrogen content of the soil after three years' growth
of phasey bean was the same in the first 30 cm of the profile and had increased 10 and 15
percent respectively in the 60- and 90-cm zone. No fertilizer data were given.ğ
Paltridge (1955) found that-M. lathyroides did not persist with continuous grazing.
Heavy grazing including woody parts severely reduces its vitality.
Response to fire
It should only be lightly grazed to encourage persistence. Only leaves and fruiting
branches should be removed by the grazing animal. Paltridge (1955) found that it should be
rested for six to eight weeks during the summer growing season, as it is selectively
grazed early in the growing period. A light cultivation of the pasture helps annual
Does not survive fire, but the seed will germinate afterwards when conditions are
Dry-matter and green-matter yields
It is closely self-pollinated (Hutton and Beall ,1957) . A relative humidity of 95
percent or more at 28°C was necessary for vigorous pollen germination and pollen tube
growth. The flowers do not "trip". Temperatures between 23 and 30°C are
satisfactory (Hutton, 1960).d a
Suitability for hay and silage
Paltridge (1955) obtained a mean yield of 5 439 kg. DM/ha from a mixed pasture of M.
lathyroides with Paspalum commersonii and 4 115 kg./ha from the grass alone. Crowder
(1960), in Colombia, recorded a production of 15 tonnes/ha of green material when cut at a
height of 1.25 to 1.5 m.
Value as a standover or deferred feed
Makes quite good hay if an effort is made to conserve the leaf, handling the material
when it is supple. Robertson (1971) made excellent silage with Sorghum almum mixed with
phasey bean in Uruguay and fed it successfully to Brahman cows and calves.
It contributes very little to winter feed, as it is susceptible to frost and defoliates
Has a high feeding value, which declines after frosting.
Milford (1967) determined the analyses for phasey bean shown in Table
The mean intake of 19.6 g/kg. W0 75 was higher than the autumn means
for subtropical grasses. The highest intake was before leaf shedding
and intake fell by 37 percent after frosting.
Stock prefer to graze M. lathyroides after the seed has set; young plants appear to
be less palatable (Young, Fox and Burns, 1959).
Seed harvesting methods
It had been reported as poisonous to horses, but Paltridge (1955) found no toxicity
with horses at Lawes and chaffed green material had no effect on dairy cows when fed for
ten successive days. It did not produce any milk taint.
Its shattering habit makes it difficult to obtain full seed yield. It can be
direct-headed when a fair percentage of the pods are ripe to ripening and the material
subsequently dried where seed from dehiscing pods will not be lost. Subsequent threshing
in a stationary thresher and winnowing to clean the seed are required. Seed yield. Two
hundred to 250 kg./ha.
There is only one cultivar, cv. Murray, which is more robust and vigorous than other
ecotypes so far tested. Some more prostrate new ecotypes are under test.
Susceptible to Phaseolus virus 2 (Wilson, 1958). Shows field resistance to little-leaf
(Hutton and Grylls, 1956).
An excellent pioneer species giving rapid growth, nitrogen fixation and early feed in
pasture mixtures in the establishment year. Can be grazed without damage to the permanent
legumes, which helps in early weed control (Bryan, 1968a). Is adaptable to wet conditions
and to poor soils. Seeds heavily. Andrew (1964) has found it particularly suitable as an
indicator plant in nutrition studies.
It is only an annual or biennial and does not persist in pastures at Beerwah,
south-eastern Queensland (Bryan, 1968a). Is susceptible to bean-fly and nematode attack.
Because of seed shattering, it is difficult to obtain an effective seed harvest.
It has not been widely tested as a major constituent of tropical pastures. Bryan
(1968a) and Ebersohn (1969) stressed its value as a pioneer species to give an early
return on the capital invested in pasture improvement. At Rodd's Bay (central Queensland),
Bryan and Shaw (1964) obtained a live-weight gain of 404 kg./head and 90 kg./ha on
Paspalum plicatulum/ phasey bean pastures in 7/2 months of grazing in the first year,
stocked at 1 beast/1.8 ha. The yield from native pasture alone was 185 kg./head and 19
kg./ ha stocked at 1 beast/4 ha.
Young, Fox and Burns (1959) found that it produced up to 495 kg. DM/ha in the second
autumn in a grass/legume mixture at Gayndah, south-east Queensland, and produced
high-quality fodder in late autumn. However, it did not persist longer than two years and
gave no winter grazing because of defoliation by frost.
Ability to compete with weeds
About 23°N to 28°S.>
It competes favourably with weeds under fertile, moist conditions.
Toxicity levels and symptoms
Seedlings are severely attacked by bean fly (Melanagromyza phaseoli). Nematodes attack
the roots in sandy soils, the main species being Meloidogyne incognita (Koford and White)
Temperature for growth
Manganesephasey bean is subject to manganese toxicity in high manganese soils. Andrew
and Pieters (1970b) showed that the first sign of toxicity in this species was a light
interveinal chlorosis of the growing shoots. With increasing severity, these leaves upon
expansion continued to show the interveinal chlorosis effect, but new shoots were more
severely chlorotic. As toxicity progressed, leaflets moderately affected by chlorosis also
showed brown necrotic areas at the extremities of, and along, the secondary veins; these
brown areas appeared to be more developed on the underside of the leaflets than on the
upper side. Associated with this effect, the younger shoots were severely chlorotic and
when fully expanded showed puckering of the leaflet surface, usually raised above the
upper surface. In addition, the necrotic spots at the vein tips coalesced, and those that
affected leaflets showed edge and tip necrosis with outward and downward curling of the
leaflet lamina, while the base of the leaflets remained interveinally chlorotic with some
brown necrotic spots along the veins. In the severe form, new shoots were almost devoid of
chlorophyll, were puckered and malformed, and abscissed prematurely, while brown necrotic
patches occurred on the stems and petioles. Axillary growth followed this phase but it was
also chlorotic upon emergence . AluminiumRussell (1966) reported aluminium toxicity in
Macroptilium lathyroides growing on a solodic soil of low calcium status in south-eastern
Queensland. By adding lime he was able to eliminate the toxicity.P
Tolerance of drought and flooding
Whiteman (1968) found that the optimum temperature for growth was 30/25°C. Minimum
temperature was not recorded. It is susceptible to frost, but has usually seeded well
ahead of them. Paltridge (1955) recorded occasions when it survived the winter and
provided new growth in the following summer. Jones (1969) recorded 21 percent survival of
plants at Samford after a winter in which the lowest temperature reached -8.3°C.
Vigour of seedling, growth and growth
It escapes drought by its free-seeding habit. Phasey bean is fairly tolerant of
waterlogging and frequently grows in the drains (or water-tables) on the edge of highways
in areas where it is adapted.
Response to photoperiod and light
It has a vigorous seedling and establishes readily. Grows vigorously in the warm moist
Minimum germination and quality for
It is day-neutral. Capable of climbing tall grasses, it is not unduly suppressed by
absence of light except in the seedling stage.
Seventy percent germination with a purity of 98 percent and a maximum hard-seed content
of 10 percent in Queensland. Seed is germinated at 25°C.