Agriculture / Agribusiness

Mung Beans in the Meat-Loving State: Texas Explores Mung Bean Cultivation for Plant-Based Foods

Texas A&M AgriLife Research, in collaboration with AgriVentis Technologies, is exploring the adaptability of mung beans in Texas, a state known for its substantial meat production and consumption. The initiative, led by Dr. Waltram Ravelombola, an organic and specialty crop breeder, involves conducting variety trials across Texas to find suitable mung bean varieties that thrive in the state’s diverse climates.

“We have the potential to grow the crop and help our farmers at the same time”

Mung beans, primarily grown in small acreages in Texas, Oklahoma, and California, have garnered interest due to their health and environmental benefits, along with their various applications in plant-based protein products. They are a high-quality protein source and also contribute positively to crop rotation and soil health. The majority of mung bean crops are currently grown in South Asian countries, including India, China, Myanmar, and Indonesia. However, Texas, with its varied climates, appears suitable for mung bean cultivation, although Ravelombola cites challenges like susceptibility to bacterial diseases in humid conditions and blister beetles. 

The potential for mung bean cultivation in Texas is underscored by the plant-based protein industry’s reliance on imported mung beans, given the low US production. North American companies such as ZoglosJUST Egg, and Beyond Meat use mung beans as the key ingredient in many of their plant-based egg and meat alternatives. 

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Texas’s ability to grow mung beans could significantly benefit local farmers and reduce import dependence. Dr. Ravelombola tells AgriLife Today, “They are importing mung beans, and we know here, especially in the southern US, we have the potential to grow the crop and help our farmers at the same time. So, there is a potential market.” Similar trends are present in other countries as consumers turn to plant-based diets. In the Philippines, mung beans currently account for 90% of the imported legumes.

Climate resilient crop

Research by German scientists at the University of Bonn and the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV has highlighted mung beans as a climate-resilient option for plant-based meat. This research is significant given the dominance of soy as the primary legume for protein extraction in plant-based industries. The researchers explored various protein extraction methods, finding that certain techniques that yield the highest protein content also have limitations in terms of economic viability and antinutritional compound reduction, underscoring the need for further research to optimize protein extraction from mung beans.

According to AgriLife Today, Dr. Ravelombola’s team is currently focused on variety adaptation trials, testing four varieties, and planning to increase seed production in the coming year. He concludes, “We wanted to see how widely adapted mung bean is across the state of Texas, and our two-year data shows there are varieties that have potential and perform better than the checks.”

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