Minnesota beans damaged after an early frost

Frost on Sept. 14 and 15 turned some beans yellow.

FISHER, Minn. — Frost damage on dry edible beans has been a big topic in the northern Red River Valley this week, and it’s getting hotter.

JTS Farms of Fisher, Minn., was one of the farms getting into the specialty crop harvest. JTS includes Todd Sorenson, his son, John, his uncle, Dale, and his cousin, Eric. Together, the Sorensons grow significant acres of navy beans, corn, soybeans, wheat and sugar beets.

The temperatures dipped to 30 degrees on Sept. 14 and then 28 degrees on Sept. 15.

“At first everybody believed it would help with the desiccation of the plants,” Todd said. He often artificially dessicates edible beans; some was done just prior to and some three to four days after the frost.

2019 beet rut impact

Excessive rain early in the season had held back some of the crop's progress.


“Those areas that got held behind were affected by some of the frost we’ve had,” he said. It wasn’t necessarily the last fields planted.

The edible bean yield in the area ranged from about 1,800 pounds to 3,000 pounds per acre, Todd said, and his yields were somewhere in between.

One 50-acre field that the Sorensons found to be the most frost-nipped was either their second or third planted. Other fields had “streaks” of immature beans that primarily seemed to be from compacted and deep ruts from sugar beet trucks in the ugly harvest of 2019.

The Sorenson familIes of Fisher, Minn., in JTS Farms say they’ll put some frost-bit navy beans in the bin over the winter. Processors have rejected beans with yellow color, but the Sorensons hope they can be color-sorted by spring or summer 2021. Photo taken Sept. 21, 2020, near Fisher, Minn. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Any beans that are somewhat yellow, compared to a bright, white bean, are damaged. The contract buyer can reject loads, which turned out to be the whole field.

The Sorensons were almost 100% harvested as of Sept. 21, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Statewide, Minnesota’s harvest progress jumped from 20% complete the previous week to 46% percent of edible harvested as of Sept. 21. That was 15 days ahead of last year but three days behind average.

Minnesota dry edible beans were rated 80% good to excellent. Dry beans dropping leaves was at 94% — eight days ahead of last year, but only one day behind average.

North Dakota dry bean condition was rated 59% good to excellent with harvest 55% complete, well ahead of 24% last year and equal to average.


Turning yellow

Todd said the family for now will put the questionable beans into the bin. The processor they contracted with has said they can’t market the beans right now. The Sorensons hope the damaged beans can be color-sorted by spring or summer 2021 by sophisticated color-sorting machines that can take the damaged beans out of the mix.

The Sorensons also filed a claim with crop insurance officials for possible compensation, but the Federal Grain Inspection Service deemed it a viable product. “The end user and grain inspection are a little out of tune,” Sorenson said.

Separately, Todd sells corn and soybean seed under the Red River Seed moniker.

The frost also caused hit corn rows on his farm, turning them white a week after the frost, Todd said. About 15 to 20 rows in were still green and the frost didn’t seem to affecting earlier varieties. The frost just burned the top foliage of the soybeans and left them with minimal damage. Soybean harvest is just beginning in the area. Sugar beets were looking healthy, with American Crystal Sugar Co.'s full-scale harvest expected to start about Oct. 1.

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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