Broad Bean Rust

Four years in a row I have saved broad bean seeds and sown them successfully.  This year it has been a little different.

I use a variety called Aquadulce which is a suitable variety for our cooler winter climate.  The bean stalks grow to about 1.8 metres (6 ft), and then I pinch of the tips so that the pods swell quicker.  I even eat the tips, wilted down in a little butter with garlic.  Delicious.

Not this year however.  Many of my broad bean plants have caught a fungus commonly known as bean rust.  It starts off as a small infection and grows rapidly.

According to the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, the scientific name is Uromyces viciae-fabae, and is not very common in commercial crops.  It certainly is not common in my crop.  It causes leaf drop and may reduce the size of the pods.  It spreads by wind, and multiplies rapidly in warm, wet temperatures above 20°C late in the season.

Well wouldn’t you know it, it has been unseasonably hot (31° C) here last week, especially when the long term spring average is 19.7°C.  Again with the abnormal weather, but this is not late in the season.  I didn’t harvest my broad beans until mid November last year.

I only noticed the fungus it on Saturday, so I would say that it blew in from from some farm up north of us.

From watching Gardening Australia, I have learnt that there are a few treatments to prevent a fungal infestation, but they only usually work before your plants get infected or very early stage of infection.

You can spray the fungus with a 1 part milk to 10 parts water mix which also works on powdery mildew on any of the cucurbit family (zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, squash).

Another organic fungicide is a Bicarbonate of soda based mixture.  2 litres of water (2 quarts), add a few drops of vegetable oil (any type will do), a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid, and four teaspoons of bicarb.  Mix it up well and spray the leaves.  The bicarb soda makes the leaves alkaline which inhibits fungal spore development.

Both these mixes are safe to use, however must be reapplied after heavy rain.  Herein is my problem.  Since I discovered the rust, it has not stopped raining.  So I have decided to harvest the crop this Saturday, and cut my losses.

An additional side effect of the rust is that I will not be able to compost the bean stalks or pods due to the risk of the rust infecting my compost bins and reinfecting broad bean crops again next year.  I also will probably not be able to save the seed from this crop either, so will have to start anew.

Anyway, I still get to harvest a big crop of broad beans, and blanch them for storage.  Hopefully I will still get as many as last year.

Bloody hot weather!

Has anyone else had a broad bean rust problem this season?


  1. Valerie Davis says

    I have got a bad case of Rust. I live in Dannevirke New Zealand. We have had a lot of wind this year and now it is hot and we have had rain as well. I can see the spores flying as I pick them. How do I treat the ground to stop it from spreading to other plants. I have a crop of potatoes right next door. Thank you for sharing this problem. A great site.

  2. says

    This morning I have just found this on my broadbean plants. Googled it and found your site and the information has been very helpful. I grow broadbeans for my husband (I can’t stand them, though have tried) and this is the first year that I have experienced this fungal problem. As we have had a rather warm autumn (Sydney) I gather this would be the cause of the problem.

    Thank you for the information.

  3. says

    Broad bean rust is one of the most common fungal diseases of broad bean leaves.This is the only known disease can that quickly infest an entire broad bean crop.Broad bean can be seriously damaged by the broad bean rust thus its important to control it immediately.Got good treatments to prevent it from this post!

  4. Elyssa says

    Hi Gavin, regarding the aforementioned spinach – I need some advice. I have far, far more spinach than I can use and I want to offer it (as food) on Freecycle. Obviously I’m going to destroy (will burning make it safe to use in compost?) the affected parts, but is it safe for me to give the unaffected leaves away? Should I include a note that the leaves can only be eaten, not composted because they came from a garden with rust? I also have a few spinach plants that are completely rust-free that I’d like to pot and offer away. Is this safe to do, or is the chance of spreading the disease too great to bother?

  5. Elyssa says

    I have some on my perpetual spinach. I didn’t know it was a fungus, it is mostly on the older larger leaves and I thought it was from dirt dust coating the leaves and then dew turning the dust into a substance that was burning holes in them. Certainly nothing as heavy as what you’ve got – and I’m south of you so it hasn’t blown across from my yard! Guess I’ll have to go out and spray everything now :(.

  6. Derek says

    Hi Gavin, I just noticed rust on my broad beans too :( The ones from the seed I saved seem to have been more badly affected. Mine got also trashed by the strong winds we had a few weeks ago and now this. Other plants are ok. I’m glad I don’t monoculture or I’d be totally stuffed.

  7. says

    Checking my garlic for black aphids (referring to your previous post) I found no aphids but did find rust on some of my garlic plants. In particular the Southern Glenn early garlic which being day length neutral is almost ready for harvesting now. Only small amounts on the standard garlic in another raised bed, so removed those effected leaves. Not sure what to do with the Southern Glenn. Maybe I should harvest now? However another few weeks would see them finished.

    • says

      Hi Ian,

      I planted some southern glenn last year and the bulbs were tiny compared to the Aussie Purple. I didn’t plant any this year due to last years experience.


    • says

      Will be interesting to see how they go.

      At the moment by running my fingers around the top of the bulbs forming it seems that they are all have bulbs in the 4-6cm diameter range. The Early White garlic which is planted in the same bed in rows next door don’t seem to have any bulbs forming.

      The standard maturing garlic in another bed still have a long way to go. These are Oriental Purple, Dynamite Purple, Australian White and one I have labelled as King Island Garlic (as a friend brought some seeds bulbs back from King Island).

      My aim was to have a year round supply of home grown garlic, and I have managed it this year. Still eating the garlic that I harvested early January, although only a few bulbs left that have not started sprouting. No more Chinese garlic (yuk) for us!

  8. says

    Fungal diseases are always a problem in our QLD humidity (although lately we have had hot/dry weather, can we borrow some of that rain?). A few of my broad beans have some kind of black spot, which I assume is also fungal. I’m still picking a few beans every day, so its not too serious. I don’t really want to freeze them, bad memories of my mum boiling her frozen BB until they went grey, yuck! I prefer them fresh and raw in a salad!

    • says

      Hi Liz, my mum used to boil the crap out of the beans as well. I cook mine for 3 minutes then serve bright green with butter. Certainly not bitter and grey like the old days and very tasty.

  9. Tracey says

    I had a bit of rust last year on the end of one bed and in one big tub. It definitely spread less than I expected given Melbourne’s high winds, so I gather there’s some aspect of plant susceptibility in play. Anyway I harvested those plants first and didn’t see any discernible drop in yield.
    I think you’re taking the right approach by getting rid of the spent plant material and not saving seed this year.
    I wouldn’t get too stressed over it, though. Some gardeners take every disease/pest attack personally, as if, with the right knowledge they could have prevented it. Maybe so, but I think that’s riding for a fall. I reckon I’ve seen more disease and more slug/snail depredations in the past 2 or 3 years of relatively high rainfall than I did in the 10 preceding years of drought, but I don’t think that’s evidence that my gardening knowledge has gone backwards. ; )

    • says

      Good point Tracey. During the drought I had none of these issues, just a problem keeping things watered!

      I am not fussed personally by the infestations, I just don’t like losing food that I worked so hard to grow.

      Gav x

  10. says

    I haven’t grown broad beans, but have had experience with dry beans such as pintos and anasazi in western Washington state: it was always a race to get them to mature. If the weather turned bad before they were totally dry, we put brought them into the house to complete drying.

  11. says

    Yes I have had rust on my Broad beans, but maybe not quite as severe as you. Funnily enough, I have several different varieties growing and at different stages of growth (including some self sown) and they have been affected differently. We are still getting a good crop but I am about to pull out the worst affected ones (which happen to be the oldest) to make room for my (late) tomatoes.

    I think the beans should be ok to store for planting esp if you give them a wash before you dry them to remove any spores etc. Having said that, I would like to hear from others who have better knowledge than me.


  12. says

    it seems each season we get a different pest or probem and a bumper crop of something different than the previous year…last year everywhere i read it was powdery mildew and 23 spotted lady bug and everyone had great tomatos…


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