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Published October 14, 2013, 10:00 AM

Weather helps dry bean growers

Nobody appreciates the region’s frost-free September more than dry bean growers, who are close to finishing up harvesting a pretty good overall crop.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Nobody appreciates the region’s frost-free September more than dry bean growers, who are close to finishing up harvesting a pretty good overall crop.

Though yields vary greatly, “There’s a good, solid average yield overall. And quality is good,” says Tim Courneya, executive vice president of the Northarvest Bean Growers Association in Frazee, Minn.

Like other area dry bean officials, he emphasizes the importance of the frost-free September.

“We were really looking for a good September free of frost. Our major production areas ended up with that, with a few small exceptions,” Courneya says.

North Dakota leads the nation in dry bean production. Minnesota ranks third. The crop is particularly popular in northern North Dakota, where a late, wet spring caused many dry bean fields to be planted much later than normal. As a result, late-planted dry beans needed extra growing time in September to catch up.

“We really dodged a big bullet there,” Andrew Ladwig, agronomist with Central Valley Bean Cooperative in Buxton, N.D., says of the lack of frost in September.

Escaping frost helped quality, too, a big consideration with dry beans.

Dry beans, unlike many crops, aren’t processed before they go to consumers. With dry beans, “It’s all in the state it’s sold. If you get a dry bean blemished by frost, consumers just aren’t going to want to deal with it,” Courneya says.

‘Pleasantly surprised’

By and large, dry beans planted on schedule this spring were harvested during the first two weeks of September and enjoyed excellent yields, Courneya says.

“People have been pleasantly surprised with yields. The (early planted) crop turned out good, just plain good,” he says.

Dan Webster, a Penn., N.D., dry bean grower, also uses the term “pleasantly surprised” to describe his reaction to the dry bean crop.

Webster, who raises a number of crops, says he was pleasantly surprised with how his other crops turned out, too.

Ladwig says dry bean yields vary substantially across the area.

“There were some really good yields, but some were disappointing, too. It’s really variable,” he says.

By and large, yields south of U.S. Highway 2 were good, while yields north of it were not, he says.

Dry beans north of the highway generally were planted later because of wet conditions.

Some dry beans planted late, in June, fared reasonably well. Other late-planted fields did not, Courneya says.

“There hasn’t been a lot of derogatory talk about yields. But some places just didn’t do well,” he says.

With a dry week of Oct. 6, roughly 95 percent of the region’s dry beans will be harvested by Oct. 14, Courneya estimates.

The final 5 percent may prove difficult to harvest, as is the case many years, he says.

“That last 5 percent tends to be around quite a while,” he says.

Late-September and early October rains slowed harvest, but had minimal effect on the overall quality of dry beans, he says.

Additional rains that further delay harvest, however, could hurt quality of dry beans still in fields, he says.

Dry bean prices generally remain at attractive levels, Courneya says.

Pinto beans, for example, continue to sell for 38 cents per pound.

“The prices are holding in there. They’re competitive with other crops,” he says.

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