UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Agricultural Experiment Station
VELVET. BEAN VARIETIES
By JOHN M. SCOTT
Fig. 112.-Field of Wakulla velvet beans
Bulletins will be sent'free upon application to Experiment Station,
WHY GROW VELVET BEANS?
Because the velvet bean is the best soil improving legume for
Florida. It produces a vast amount of leaves and vines, which
add both humus and fertility to the soil.
Because an acre of good velvet bean vines when plowed under,
will add as much ammonia to the soil as will an application of
1900 pounds of cottonseed meal.
Because the velvet bean is adapted to Florida soils and pro-
duces satisfactory yields of 20 to 30 bushels of shelled beans
Because the velvet bean is an important protein feed for the
production of beef and dairy products, and furnishes excellent
winter foraging for cattle.
Because from two to two and a half pounds of velvet beans
in the pod will be found equal for milk production to one pound
of bright cottonseed meal.
For the good of the land grow velvet beans, for the good of the
cow grow velvet beans, and for the good of the farmer grow
There appears to be no definite data as to the exact date the
Florida velvet bean was introduced into the State. The name
velvet bean appears to have been applied to it for the first time
by the Florida Experiment Station in Bulletin No. 35 (1896).
In 1895, Director O. Clute received seeds of a legume known
by the indefinite term "the pea". This seed was received from A.
P. Newhart, of Ocoee, Fla., who wrote to the Director that he
knew nothing of the origin of "the pea" and that the old settlers
in that section could give him no information about it. He stated,
however, that it had been planted there for some twenty years
as a covering for trellises and unsightly places.
The late Mr. R. D. Hoyt stated in conversation that his first
experience with the velvet bean was during the eighties, on the
Pinellas Peninsula, but he could give nothing definite as to the
origin of the seed.
Bort, in Bulletin 141, Bureau of Plant Industry, states that
there is a specimen of the Florida velvet bean in the National
Herbarium bearing the date of September 20, 1890. This speci-
men was received from S. E. Carlton, Argo, Fla., and appears to
be the earliest authentic specimen of this plant from Florida.
Previous to 1896 it was used most frequently as an arbor plant
and not regarded as a farm crop by any considerable number of
people. In fact, before that date many considered it poisonous
Practically all of the work done on the velvet bean in the
United States up to 1907 was done in Florida, this being the
only state in which seed could be produced with certainty, owing
to the long time required for maturing.
*Up to 1910 the principal source of seed was Florida. Many
thousands of bushels were furnished to other states.
During the late nineties and first decade of the present century,
its value as a soil improver had become recognized in the coastal
plains of the South. The velvet bean fills a unique and very im-
portant niche in southern agriculture. Its importance is so
well recognized that in 1918 around five million acres were grown.
Up to as late as 1907 there was only one variety of the velvet
bean known to southeastern United States, and this is the- one
now known as the Florida velvet bean. During that year seed
of the Lyon velvet bean was received by the present Director of
the Experiment Station from Prof. C. V. Piper, Bureau of Plant
Industry, U. S. Department of Agriculture. These were planted
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
but failed to mature seed. During 1908 the Director received
seed of the Lyon velvet bean from Prof. C. M. Connor, who was
then in the Philippine Islands. During the same year more seed
of the Lyon velvet bean and a number of others were received
from Prof. Piper.
Numerous attempts were made to produce hybrids with the
Florida velvet bean as one parent. R. Y. Winters attained some
success by using the pollen from the Lyon velvet bean in 1907,
but the seed produced failed to germinate. In 1908 the work
was much more successful, and a small quantity of seed was
produced. This seed was sown in 1909, and in the spring of
1910 the work of hybridization was taken up more extensively
by Mr. John Belling, to whose patient work and tireless efforts
belong the credit of developing the hybrid varieties described in
this bulletin. In addition to these, Mr. Belling produced and
grew hundreds of other hybrids and segregates which appeared
to be less promising under our conditions.
Seed of several score of velvet beans obtained in various
tropical countries were furnished us by Prof. C. V. Piper. These
were tested out on the Experiment Station grounds, as well as in
several other parts of Florida.
The rapid development of velvet bean growing in the South
was due to the introduction of the early varieties. These were
obtained in three distinct directions, first by the introduction of
early varieties thru the office of Prof. C. V. Piper; second thru
the hybridization work of Dr. R. Y. Winters and Mr. John Bel-
ling; third, thru the spontaneous arising of early varieties from
the Florida velvet bean. It is believed that the varieties described
in this bulletin are the ones best adapted to our State.
One step further is needed, and that is the production of a
bush velvet bean. Much time and attention has been given to
this, but none has yet been discovered that fills the place more
acceptably than the vining varieties.
The story of the velvet bean might be called an agricultural
romance. To the Florida velvet bean belongs the honor. It was
with this variety that the Florida Experiment Station was able
to prove the value of this plant as a soil builder and a forage crop.
The large number of bulletins and reports on velvet beans from
the Florida Experiment Station show the constant progress of
this crop. It has taken much time and effort on the part of many
members of the staff, but it has been a most profitable piece of
work. P. H. ROLFS, Director.
Bulletin 152, Velvet Bean Varieties
VELVET BEAN VARIETIES
By JOHN M. SCOTT
The Florida velvet bean requires a long growing season in
which to attain its maximum growth of vine and production of
seed. The early maturing varieties have an advantage of the
Florida velvet in that they may be grown over a much larger
area of the United States. The Florida velvet bean will not yield
a profitable crop of seed when grown more than 200 miles north
of the Gulf Coast. The early maturing varieties may be grown
as far north as the southern part of Missouri, Kentucky and
Virginia. This bulletin is a non-technical discussion of the dif-
ferent varieties and their characteristics.
FLORIDA VELVET BEAN
The Florida velvet bean, Stizolo-
bium deeringianum (Bort), makes a
rank growth of vines and leaves and
requires about 175 to 190 days to
mature. When the vines have oppor-
tunity to climb they may attain a
length of 30 or 40 feet. The leaves
are large and smooth, but sparsely
pubescent. The flowers are purple
and are borne on long pendant ra-
The seed pods (fig. 113) are black
in color and contain 3 to 5 seeds.
The mature pods are from 2 to 3
inches in length. The seed are near-
ly round in shape. They are speckled Fig. 113.-Florida velvet
with brown or black, sometimes both, beans
on an ash-gray ground color. Frequently white or gray seeds
appear and sometimes black seeds are produced.
LYON VELVET BEAN
The Lyon velvet bean, Stizolobium niveum (Roxburg Kuntz),
was introduced from the Philippine Islands. Seeds of this bean
were received from Prof. C. V. Piper in 1907, under the name
Mucuna lyoni, S. P. I. No. 19979, but these failed to mature
seed. A second lot of seed was received from Prof. Piper in
1908, under S. P. I. No. 21952. In 1908, seed of the same
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
Fig. 114.-Lyon velvet beans
bean was received from Prof.
C. M. Connor, who was then in
the Philippine Islands.
The Lyon velvet bean re-
sembles the Florida velvet bean
in its habits of growth and re-
quires about the same length
of time for maturing. It dif-
fers obviously in the wrinkled
leaves, the long racemes of
white flowers, the strong pods,
about 3.5 to 4 inches long, and
the white seeds.
As may be noted from the
length of pod just stated, the
seed pods of the Lyon velvet
bean (fig. 114) are much long-
er than those of the Florida vel-
vet. The covering of the pods
is also quite different.
The blackish hulls or pods
of the Lyon bean are covered
with a fine appressed down
of whitish hairs, giving an
ashy gray appearance to the
YOKOHAMA VELVET BEAN
The Yokohama velvet bean, Stizolobium hassjoo (Piper and
Tracy), is originally from Japan. It was introduced into the
United States by the Bureau of Plant Industry, U. S. D. A.,
under S. P. I. No. 25254, and sent to the Florida Agricul-
tural Experinient Station by Prof. C. V. Piper, and planted
-This is one of the earliest maturing varieties of velvet beans.
It matures. in the same length of. time as the Wakulla and
Georgia. or Early Speckled .velvet beans, which is 120 days.
fThe growth of vines and leaves is also about the same as the
Wakulla and the Early Speckled. .There is one difference, how-
ever; the Yokohama, variety produces all or nearly all of its
- Bulletin't152, Vl ('4 Bean Varitei's
seed pids at or near
the base oflthe
plant. Very few or
none are produced
more than 2 feet
from the base.-
T h e Yokohama
velvet bean pods s
(fig. 115) are cov-
ered with a longer,
down which is usu-
ally more yellow in
color than that of
the Chinese and Ly-
on velvet bean pods.
In other respects
the pods are quite
similar. The pods
are from 4 to 4.5
inches long, with
very stout wa l1 s.
The flowers are vio-
let purple in color,
and the seeds are
ashy gray. Fig. 115.-Yokohama velvet beans
CHINESE VELVET BEAN
The Chinese velvet bean, Stizolobium niveum var. (?), was
introduced from Tehwa, China; One seed of this bean was sent
to the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station by Prof. Piper
under S. P. I. No. 26185, and planted in 1910.
The Chinese differs from the Florida velvet bean in many
respects. The seed pods and the covering of the pods resemble
the Lyon velvet bean more than -those of any other variety.:
The blackish hulls or pods are covered with a fine appressed)
down of whitish hairs.. This downy covering of whitish hairs
gives an ashy gray appearance to the ripe pods. The seed
pods of the Chinese velvet bean (fig. 116) are about 4 inches in:
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
-The Chinese velvet
bean makes a ranker
growth of vines and
leaves than any other
variety of velvet beans
described in this bul-
letin. It matures about
two or three weeks
earlier than the Flor-
ida velvet bean, but
not quite as early as
The seeds of this va-
riety are larger than
those of any other va-
riety of velvet beans.
They are flat in shape,
and are of whitish
gray color. The flower
color is white.
GEORGIA OR EARLY
The Georgia or
Early Speckled velvet
bean is one of the ear-
liest maturing vari-
eties of velvet beans.
From the best infor-
mation available, this
variety is a sport from
Fig: 116.-Chinese velvet bean the old Florida velvet
bean. It was first found in Georgia, hence the name. Just who
discovered this variety is difficult to state.
The Georgia or Early Speckled velvet bean is exactly like
the Florida velvet except that it does not produce as rank a
growth of vines and leaves. The Georgia matures in about 120
days, or in the same length of time as the Wakulla and Yokohama
It is impossible to distinguish between the flowers, pods and
seed of the Georgia or Early Speckled velvet bean (fig. 117) and
those of the Florida.
Bulletin 152, Velvet Bean Varieties
WAKULLA VELVET BEAN, NO. 216
The Wakulla velvet bean is a hybrid
produced by crossing the Florida and
the Lyon velvet beans. This cross was
first made in 1908 by R. Y. Winters.
He pollenated Florida velvet bean
flowers with pollen from the Lyon vel-
vet bean. It is one of the earliest ma-
turing varieties, maturing in 120 days
from planting. It does not make as
much growth of vine as does the Flor-
ida velvet, the vines rarely exceeding
ten feet in length and the majority of
them being from three to six feet long.
The mature pods are quite different .
from those of the Florida velvet.
They are Fig. 117.-G e or g i a or
from 3 to Early Speckled velvet
4 inches beans
long and are covered with gray-
ish brown hairs, which can be
Easily seen under a hand lens.
The seed of this variety are
larger than those of the Florida
velvet. They differ in shape, in-
clined to be flat rather than round,
and are light gray in color.
SSince the Wakulla velvet bean
does not make as rank growth of
vine as does the Florida velvet, it
'can be planted in closer rows and
Also closer in the row, thus requir-
ing a little more seed to plant an
The chief advantage of this va-
riety is that it matures earlier
I "4 than the Florida velvet, hence is
seldom attacked by caterpillars.
It has one serious disadvantage,
however; when the seed pods are
Fig. 118.-Wakulla velvet beans mature the pods pop open and
Floilida .4jrieural KIpr lin CutSetion
scatter the seed. If the beans are not harvested when the pods
first ripen, a large percentage of the. seed will be lost. The
flowers are generally purple.
OSCEOLA VELVET BEAN, NO. 297
The Osceola velvet bean is a hybrid produced by crossing the
Florida and the Lyon velvet beans. This cross was first made
in 1908 by R. Y. Winters. He pollenated Florida velvet bean
flowers with pollen from the Lyon velvet bean.
It matures earlier than either of its parents, the period re-
quired being from 140 to 150 days. The Osceola makes more of
a vine and leaf growth than does the Wakulla, but not as much as
the Florida and Chinese.
The mature pods of the
Osceola (fig. 119) are much
longer than those of the
Wakulla, or any of the
other varieties of velvet
beans, being from 4.5 to 5
inches long. Some pods may
even exceed this length. As
a rule the pods contain
from five to seven seeds.
The pods are covered with
a soft brownish-black vel-
vet or wool of flat and
twisted hairs, very similar,
to that found on the Flor- .,
ida velvet bean.
The seed of the Osceola
are larger than those of the
Florida velvet, and are
slightly flat in shape. In
color they are about the
same as those of the Flor-
ida velvet. Flower color of
this variety is white.
The chief advantage of
this bean- is that it matures
earlier than: the Florida vel-
vet, :hence, -is- seldom at-
tacked by caterpillars, : Fig. 119.-Osceola -velvet beans
SBulletin 152, Velvet Bean Varieties
ALACHUA VELVET BEAN, NO. 515
The Alachua velvet bean is a
hybrid produced by crossing the
Florida velvet and the Lyon velvet ."
beans. This cross was first made
by R. Y. Winters. He pollenated
Florida velvet bean flowers with .-
pollen from the Lyon velvet bean. i
It matures in about the same time e "
as the Florida velvet and make-
about the same growth of vines '
The mature pods of the Alachua
velvet bean (fig. 120) are about the
same size as those of the Lyon \el-
vet bean. As a rule each pod con-
tains five or six seeds, altho they i
may vary from four to six seeds
in a pod.
The pods of the Alachua are
nearly-smooth. The small amount t-
of velvety covering is grayish- .
brown in color. How-
ever, the velvet cover-
ing is so slight that it.
is only with the aid of '
a lens that it can be ob- i
In color and size the Fig. 120.-Alachua velvet beans
seeds of the Alachua are almost the same as those of the Osceola.
The Osceola is perhaps a little larger and a little more plump
in appearance. Flower color of this variety is purple.
One of the chief differences in character of the various varieties
of 'velvet beans is the difference in time of maturing. Fig. 121
shows six varieties of velvet beans to compare time of maturing.
These were all planted early in May and photographed Septem-
ber 18. A is a typical plant of the Yokohama velvet bean as it
usually appears in September. B is a typical plant of the
Florida velvet bean in flower. Seeds of both of these plants were
planted at the same time in the spring and grown under the same
conditions. The picture is a good illustration of the difference
in date of maturing and also of the difference in the amount of
.. .. ..
t'- '4 <; ,,
I oi I
Fig. 121.-Six varieties of velvet beans to compare times of maturing. The plants were seeded early in May and the photo-
graphs taken the middle of September. A, Yokohama; B, Florida; C, Osceola; D, Chinese; E, Wakulla; F, Lyon
Bulletin 152, Velvet Bean Varieties
vine and leaf growth produced. C is a typical plant of the
Osceola velvet bean. The seed pods on this plant are nearly all
ripe. D, typical plant of the Chinese velvet bean. This plant has
on it immature seed pods and flowers. E, a typical plant of the
Wakulla velvet bean. On this plant the pods are nearly all ripe.
F, a typical plant of the Lyon velvet bean in flower. This is a
good comparison of the difference in amount of growth produced
in these two last named varieties. It also shows a great difference
in time of maturing.
The illustration of these different varieties of velvet beans
should be of considerable interest in helping to select the varieties
of beans one should grow. If something for early feed is wanted,
the early maturing varieties should be selected. If the main
crop of beans are grown as a soil improver, then one of the late
maturing varieties which produce a heavy growth of vines and
leaves should be selected.
CHOICE OF VARIETIES
The particular variety of 'velvet bean to grow will depend
somewhat on the section in which the field is located. Under
average conditions any variety named in this bulletin can be
grown anywhere in Florida. The early maturing varieties have
an advantage in that they will escape the attack of the cater-
The choice of varieties for growing in states north of Florida
is limited to the early maturing ones because of the shorter
The Wakulla, Yokohama, and Georgia or Early Speckled are
the earliest maturing varieties. The choice from among these
would most likely be the Georgia or Early Speckled. The pods
of both Wakulla and Yokohama varieties have the bad habit
of popping open and scattering the seed when mature. If the
crop is not harvested as soon as it matures a large portion of
the seed will be lost. The Georgia or Early Speckled velvet bean
does not scatter its seed. The Lyon, Chinese, Alachua and
Osceola velvet beans all scatter seed when the pods are mature.
TIME OF PLANTING
Velvet beans are rather sensitive to cold and for that reason
should not be planted in the spring before the ground is thoroly
warm. If planted before that time they will make a rather slow,
Florida Agricultural EtKperimeit 'Station
unsatisfactory growth. Early planting, providing conditions are
favorable, will produce a considerably larger percentage of seed
than late planting, and for that reason it is advisable to plant
as early in the spring as practicable. The velvet bean will grow,
however, when planted late in the season, but it will not be found
advisable to plant much later than the middle of May. When
planted after this date a comparatively light growth of vines
and leaves and a very light yield of seed will result. It is also
advisable to plant with some other crop, such as corn or sorghum,
for the beans produce more seed when given a support on which
The time for planting depends largely on location. In the
extreme southern part of the State plantings may be made any
time after February or early March, while in north and west
Florida planting should perhaps be delayed until the last of
March or the first of April. For states farther north the time
for planting may be as late as the middle of April or the first
To secure the best stand and largest yield of beans it is neces-
sary to plant only good seed. The young plants will be much
stronger and more able to withstand unfavorable conditions. It
is always advisable to thrash the beans before planting, altho
some farmers continue to plant beans in the pod. When planted
in the pod the seed must be dropped by hand, which requires
more time. When planting the pods, no method of seed selection
can be practiced; also more seed are required. This is a rather
important point, especially when seed is high-priced. When
planting in the pod it is almost impossible to get a uniform
stand as some of the pods will fail to open and many of the seed
will not germinate in time to make the stand uniform. If the
beans are thrashed they can be planted by machinery, thus
reducing the cost of planting; also the seed are covered to a
uniform depth which will give uniform germination and, conse-
quently a uniform growth of plants thruout the season.
PREPARATION OF THE SEED BED
The preparation of the seed bed is too often neglected by the
busy farmer, yet as a rule it is more important to spend time
in preparing a good seed bed before planting than it is to culti-
vate after the crop is planted. The ground should be thoroly
Bulletin 152, Velvet .Bean Varieties
plowed. The depth to plow will depend upon conditions, but
should be at least four inches. After plowing, the land should
be thoroly harrowed to pulverize it. The preparation of the
land should be made as early in the winter as possible. If the
ground can be prepared in December it should be harrowed at
intervals of from ten days to two weeks until time for planting
the crop. The frequent harrowings will conserve moisture in the
soil sufficient to insure germination when the crop is planted.
METHOD OF PLANTING
Best results will be obtained by planting in rows from three
to six feet apart. If six feet apart, it will be advisable to plant
corn or sorghum between the rows. The corn or sorghum should.
be planted at the same time the velvet beans are planted. This
will give the beans some support on which to climb, and this will
materially increase the yield of seed per acre. Drop-the seeds
from 15 inches to 2 feet apart in the rows. Planting in this
way will require about one peck of seed to the acre. Some
farmers advise sowing the seed broadcast but this method is not
to be encouraged because the crop cannot be cultivated.
FERTILIZER NOT NEEDED
All of our experiments so far indicate that the velvet bean
is a crop that does not require the application of any fertilizer.
An increased yield may sometimes be obtained, but it will cost
more than it is worth.
The following table shows the results of a fertilizer test made
at this Station.
FERTILIZER TEST OF VELVET BEANS
Amounts of Fertilizer Yield of Shelled Beans
Pounds-per acre per acre
Plot Dried Acid Muriate els
Blood Phosphate of Potash
2 50 ...... ... 1161 19.4
3 ... 40 1311 21.9
4 .... 180 ..1278 21.3
5 50 ...... 40 1278 21.3
6 50. 180 .. 1236 20.6
7 .. 180 40 1275 21.3
8 50 180 40 1150 19.2
S75 270 60 1254 20.9
10 100 360 80 1569 26.2
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
Plot 10 which received the most fertilizer showed an in-
creased yield, but the value of the increase was not sufficient to
pay for the additional fertilizer.
Good cultivation of the crop during the early growing period
will increase the yield sufficiently to more than pay for the cost.
This cultivation keeps the soil in good condition by allowing
more heat and air to enter it, which stimulates plant growth.
It also keeps down obnoxious weeds. The cultivation should be
continued until the beans begin to put out long runners, after
which they will cover the ground so completely that all weeds
and grass are smothered.
The time of harvesting the crop depends very largely on the
variety of beans grown. Where the Florida velvet beans are the
main crop, they may be left in the field all winter for pasture.
It is not advisable to begin pasturing velvet beans until the crop
is mature or until the vines have been killed by frost. Where
some of the newer varieties are grown, it will be necessary either
to harvest the crop or to use them for pasture very soon after
the beans mature, because pods of nearly all of the early matur-
ing varieties have the bad habit of splitting open and scattering
the seed very soon after the pods mature. If the crop is grown
for seed it would be advisable to harvest the entire crop as soon
as practicable after the pods mature. If the crop is grown as a
soil renovator, and is not intended for winter pasture, it should
be plowed under in December, if possible, in order to give the
leaves and vines a longer time to decompose before spring plant-
In an effort to determine the yield that might be expected
from velvet beans, seeds from four different varieties were
planted on the Station grounds on May 20, 1913. The plantings
were made as follows:
Seeds from four families of the Wakulla variety, and two
families each of the Yokohama, Alachua and Florida were planted
in adjacent plots of 1,000 square feet. The seeds were dropped
at intervals of from 11/2 to 2 feet in rows 3 feet apart. There
were three rows in each plot, with 6 feet separating the rows of
Bulletin 152, Velvet Bean- Varieties
In such tests on a small area, the stand is of first importance,
and this depended here mainly on the quality of the seed, which
was not selected in any way. Three plots of Wakulla and two
plots of Florida showed a good stand. The stand on one plot
of Wakulla was not as good. The two plots of Alachua, and one
plot of Yokohama had a poor stand. The other plot of Yokohama
had a very poor stand. Hence, so far as stand goes, the compari-
son of yield can be made only between the Wakulla and the
On August 18, the Wakulla had nearly finished flowering, arid
growth of vines had ended; the Alachua was beginning to flower.
The Florida had no flowers.
The pods were picked during and after September. Weighed
when quite dry, they gave the amounts shown in the following
POUNDS OF PODS TO 1,000 SQUARE FEET
WAKULLA FAMILIES Yield in Pounds
216-1-17 .....-..- ..................---..... ----------94.50
216-1-28 .........................- ........-.... ------. ---. -------.--. 124.50
216-1-35 .----.............. ------...................----- --------.... 119.75
216-1-27 ..................-- ---.......- ---.......--------- .. ....--- 109.25
1 ......................--... -..- --.....--- ..--- 19.50
2 ---------........................ -------- ---56.00
515-27-35 ........................ ..----------- -------------29.50
515-27-14a .------................-- -----.------------------51.00
1 ..............----- --.---....---.--------..---27.50
2 -.... --..-.....-... .... .--- .--- .---------------------------.....23.00
An early drouth, an attack of caterpillars (for which they
were sprayed), and a comparatively early frost diminished the
yield of all late plants in 1913.
The average yield of Wakulla was 112 pounds of dry pods to
the 1000 square feet, or 4,879 pounds to the acre, which is ap-
proximately equivalent to 48.8 bushels of clean seed to the acre.
In 1913 the yield of Chinese velvet beans was as follows:
On three acres the yield varied from 20.9 bushels to 27.1
bushels per acre, with an average of 23.2 bushels of clean seed
to the acre. These beans were all planted in rows 4 feet apart
and from one and a half to 2 feet apart in the row.
For comparison, another acre was planted with sorghum and
Chinese velvet beans in alternate rows. This made the rows of
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
beans 8 feet apart. Planted in this. way they gave a yield of
26.9 bushels of clean seed to the acre. This shows the value of
planting a support crop on which the beans can climb.
USES FOR VELVET BEANS
There are few other crops that can be put to so many uses
that will give such satisfactory results. This plant was first used,
and is still used, for growing on trellises and screens to cover
unsightly places. For this purpose it is excellent, as it makes
a quick, rank growth. It is also grown as a cover crop. Here
again it is excellent. However, like every crop, it has its peculiar
drawbacks. In citrus groves it is objectionable because of its
method of growth. The vines grow so vigorously that if not
.kept under control they will in a short time completely cover
the citrus trees, cutting off the light and starving them. Then
too, the vines are much in the way when gathering the fruit.
It is when used as a cover crop on bare land that the best
results are obtained. The shelled beans have been used by some
as human food, but this use is limited. The most important
uses for the velvet bean are as a soil renovator, and as feed for
the production of meat and dairy products.
USE AS A SOIL RENOVATOR
If velvet beans are grown and the matured crop plowed under
as a fertilizer, the amount of ammonia added to the soil is equal
to an application of about 1900 pounds per acre of cottonseed
meal, analyzing 7.5 per cent ammonia. The amount of ammonia
that may be left in the soil by any leguminous plant depends
largely upon the amount of growth the crop makes. The larger
the growth of vines the more ammonia and humus are added to
There is quite a.number of leguminous plants'that grow in
.Florida but perhaps only three are employed to any extent as
soil improvers. These are of importance in the order named:
Velvet beans, cowpeas and beggarweed. The advantages of
velvet beans over cowpeas are: First, velvet beans are not
attacked by nematodes which cause root-knot; second, velvet
beans generally make a heavy growth of vine and so add more
ammonia and humus to the soil; third, when velvet beans are
killed by frost, the vines and leaves go down on the ground to-
:gether and the mass of vines tends to hold the leaves in place until
Bulletin 152, Velvet Bean Varieties'
they are plowed under. With cowpeas, only the leaves fall when
killed by frost; the vines remain in an upright position and the
wind tends to scatter the leaves.
The yield that may be secured from beggarweed is considerably
below the yield of velvet beans or cowpeas. However, ton for ton,
these three crops are about equal as a source of ammonia and
humus. One advantage beggarweed has over cowpeas is that it
is not attacked by the nematode which causes root-knot.
CONTINUOUS PLANTING OF VELVET BEANS
In the spring of 1907, an experiment was begun to determine
the yield of velvet beans when grown on the same plot of
ground continuously for a number of years. One acre of land
was selected for this work and planted to velvet beans, and this
same piece of land was planted in velvet beans for six years in.
The growth of vines seemed to be about the same from year to
year. When the growth of vines on the acre continuously planted
to velvet beans was compared with the growth of vines on land
that had not grown velvet beans for several years, there was no
noticeable difference. The vines, however, were not harvested
To get the yield, the beans were picked by hand, and the dry
pods were weighed. One hundred pounds of beans in the pod
will give about sixty pounds, or one bushel of shelled beans.
The following table shows the yields of beans secured during
the test. The results are stated in bushels of shelled beans per
acre, to the nearest bushel.
YIELDS OF VELVET BEANS IN CONTINUOUS PLANTING TEST
1907 .......- ..-...... ........ .. .. ... .... .. ..............- ..... 25 Bu. 21 Bu.
1908...--.... .... ............................. ..... ...... ..........-.. 15 Bu. 23 Bu.
1909................... ...-................ ....... ... 11 Bu. 28 Bu.
1910. ....... ... .............. ........ ............ ... 14 Bu. 22 Bu.
1911 (crop destroyed by caterpillars)...................... ....
1912 ................ ...... ...................... 10 Bu. 20 Bu.
Average of five crops................. .................. 15 Bu. 23 Bu.
These results would indicate that it is not profitable or ad-
visable from the standpoint of seed production to grow velvet
beans continuously on the same piece of land. If, however, the
growing of velvet beans is for the purpose of soil improvement,
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
and the production of seed is a secondary consideration, it would
seem from these observations that there would be no objection to
continuous planting of velvet beans.
THE VALUE OF VELVET BEANS AS A SOIL IMPROVER
Data in the following table taken from Bulletin 60 of this Sta-
tion shows the amount of nitrogen in an acre of velvet beans.
Most of the nodules on the plant roots had. decomposed and for
this reason the entire value of the crop is not shown.
NITROGEN IN ACRE OF VELVET -BEANS
Weight of green material from an acre....................... .................. 21,132.0
Weight of dried material from an acre.................................................. 5,953.0
Weight of dried roots from an acre.............................--------- .. 690.0
Weight of nitrogen in vines from an acre.. ................ ....... 131.5
Weight of nitrogen in roots from an acre....-......... ................ 9.7
Total nitrogen in crop from an acre..... ............. -...........-- 141.2
Bulletin 95 of the Alabama Experiment Station gives some
valuable information as to the use of velvet beans as a soil
improver. The following table is taken from that bulletin:.
YIELD OF OATS GROWN AFTER COWPEAS, VELVET BEANS, CRAB GRASS
Yield per acre
Average after velvet bean vines and stubble...........---- 33.6 1439
Average after cowpea vines and stubble.................-- .. 31.6 1738
Average after crabgrass and millet stubble.......--.....--... ....... 8.4 296
On one of the plots only the stubble was plowed under, and on
the other two the vines were plowed under. This shows con-
clusively the value of the velvet bean and the cowpea as sources
of ammonia for fertilizing. If ammonia can be produced on the
farm by growing these leguminous plants it will cost only half
as much as it would if bought in the form of cottonseed meal or
dried blood. Aside from the ammonia obtained by growing
velvet beans, another very important fact that must be con-
sidered is the large amount of humus that can be added to our
soils by growing velvet beans and plowing under the dried vines.
VELVET BEANS AS A FORAGE
Perhaps the velvet bean is the best forage crop for Florida. It
without doubt, provides the best and cheapest protein that we
Bulletin 152, Velvet Bean Varieties
can secure for a winter forage crop. Altho the velvet bean does
not furnish a green pasture at any season of the year, it supplies
good protein foraging from December or January until grass
comes in the spring.
The yield per acre varies according to conditions, but from one
to one and a half tons of beans in the pod is not too much to
expect. One hundred pounds of beans in the pod will shell out
sixty pounds of beans (one bushel).
It is usually estimated that one to one and a half acres will be
enough to fatten one animal. Cattle do not eat more than fifty
percent of the leaves and vines and none of the roots; therefore,
there is a large amount of fertility left in the soil for the suc-
The following is a list of articles relative to velvet beans, writ-
ten by Mr. John Belling while connected with the Florida Ex-
Velvet Beans Crossed with Lyon Beans,
Report Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, 1910.
Second Generation of the Cross Between Velvet and Lyon Beans,
Report of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, 1911.
Third Generation of the Cross Between Velvet and Lyon Beans,
Report Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, 1912.
The Mode of Inheritance of Semi-Sterility in the Offspring of Certain
Ztschr. Induk. Abstanim, u. Vererbungs Bd. 12; Helt 5, p. 303-342; 17 fig.
Inheritance of Purple Color and Time of Flowering in Velvet Bean Crosses,
Report Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, 1913.
Inheritance of Pod Pubescence and Partial Sterility in Stizolobium Crosses,
Report Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, 1914.
A Study of Semi-Sterility,
Journal of Heredity, Vol. V, No. 2, Feb. 1914.
Inheritance in Plant Hairs,
Journal of Heredity, August 1914.
On the Time of Segregation of Genetic Factors in Plants,
The American Naturalist, Vol. XLIX, Feb. 1915.
Linkage and Semi-Sterility,
The American Naturalist, Vol. XLIX, Sept. 1915.
Inheritance of Length of Pods in Certain Crosses,
Journal of Agricultural Research, Vol. V, No. 10, Dec. 1915.