LUBBOCK Can Texas producers step up to the plate and grow a better mungbean, and hence a better sprout? J Pao & Company Limited, a British Oriental food firm, certainly hopes so.
J Pao recently sent Adrian Shirlin, director of legume research, and George Davies, technology manager, to the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Lubbock to take a closer look at “Texsprout.”
Texsprout is an improved mungbean bred in Asia. It was selected and developed at several locations in the U.S. from 1980 to 1988 by Dr. Creighton Miller, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station professor of horticulture and genetics, and other scientists.
“The parent cross that led to Texsprout was made in 1977 with two Philippine cultivars at the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center in Taiwan,” Miller said. “Dr. George Fernandez, a former Ph.D. student of mine, made that cross.
“It was entered into our Texas yield trials in 1981. We evaluated it in 16 trials at five locations in Texas from 1981 to 1987. We formally released Texsprout for seed increase through the Texas Foundation Seed Service in 1986. Since 1988 it has been grown on as many as 4,000 acres in Texas … near Vernon and San Antonio.”
Steve Brown, director of the foundation seed service in Vernon, explained that mungbeans for sprout production are grown in rotation with winter wheat on several thousand acres in Texas. The primary market for these sprout-able beans is the Oriental food industry, he said.
“Our sprouting facility near London can handle about 1,500 metric tons of mungbeans annually,” Shirlin said. “We produce market-ready, sanitary sprouts for the catering and fresh produce markets. The population of the United Kingdom is quite ethnically diverse and consumer tastes are following that trend.
“Our market demands a clean, fresh sprout that is 6 to 7 centimeters long and 4 to 5 millimeters in diameter. We want a brilliant white sprout with a crisp texture. Right now, we import our sprout beans mostly from Asia. We’re looking for another source of beans that meet our quality and phytosanitary requirements. Right now, the Texas High Plains region is looking pretty good.”
Texsprout was bred for its high bean and sprout yields, wide adaptability, large beans, resistance to lodging and shattering, and its erect growth habit, Miller said. Its habit of setting pods/beans in the top of the plant canopy is friendly for mechanical harvesting, a trait that J Pao values.
“We want to minimize human hand contact as much as possible in harvesting and processing, to rule out any possibility of bacterial contamination,” Shirlin said. “In looking for a better mungbean we are visiting production test areas in Chile, Peru, California, Oklahoma and Texas.”
Davies said mungbeans that pass muster in these regions have to produce sprouts with a longer shelf life.
“We want a shelf life of seven days, rather than two or three days,” Davies said. “We sprout 250 metric tons of beans per week in our facility. One kilogram of beans produces roughly 8 kilograms of fresh sprouts. We want day-neutral mungbeans with uniform seed size that will produce at least 1 ton per acre in a temperate or tropical growing environment.”
After mungbeans are graded, sorted and delivered to J Pao’s facility, they are put into large bins and gravity flushed with water every two hours for three to four days. During the remainder of the six-day sprouting cycle the beans are treated with low concentrations of ethylene gas, which helps thicken the cell wall of the sprouts.
The sprouts are then washed, sorted and packed in 10-pound market lots in polyethylene bags for market sale and distribution, Davies said. Consumers typically boil these fresh sprouts or saute’ them in oil before serving them on the table.
J. Pao hopes to select the best mungbeans for its sprout market from production trials in the U.S. and South America this year, and possibly have Texas growers lined up for commercial production by 2007, Shirlin said.
“The mungbeans grown here in Texas would be harvested, graded and shipped by container to Houston or another port, and then shipped directly to the United Kingdom,” Shirlin said. “We’re currently working out of a rented facility, but we may site a new production facility outside of London in the near future.
“We like what we’ve seen here in Lubbock. The climate seems a natural fit for the type of bean we want to produce, and Texsprout seems ideal for the type of sprout we are marketing.”