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Study shows planting dry edible beans into winter rye ground can have benefits

The winter rye reduces soil erosion, suppresses weeds and soaks up excess moisture, the study conducted at the Carrington (North Dakota) Research Extension Center said.

Ripened rye and green dry edible beans plants.
Crops specialists at Carrington Research Extension Center study conducted did research on planting dry edible beans into winter rye.
Contributed / North Dakota State University
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Planting edible beans into winter rye has environmental and potential yield benefits, a North Dakota State University Extension study said.

The rye reduces soil erosion, suppresses weeds and soaks up excess moisture, the study conducted at the Carrington (North Dakota) Research Extension Center said.

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Greg Endres is an area extension specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center in Carrington, N.D. Photo taken August 2, 2017. Nick Nelson/Agweek

During the study, which began in the fall of 2017 and concluded in 2021, researchers planted winter rye into ground where pinto beans would be planted in the spring, said Greg Endres, NDSU Cropping systems specialist at the CREC.

“We generated four years of data where rye was planted the previous year,” he said. “I feel confident that the data we have is accurate enough to draw conclusions from.”

He decided to do the research at the CREC after attending a crop tour in Wells County, North Dakota, in 2016 and was impressed by the appearance of the edible beans field.

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A photo shows different trials of planting pinto beans into rye.
Trials in 2019 at the Carrington Research Extension Center look at pinto bean plant emergence when planted into rye.
Contributed / North Dakota State University

“It looked great. It was a commercial pinto bean field and there was a lot of rye residue present, and the field essentially was clean of weeds, and it looked like the harvest would go well,” Endres said. “I was interested because dry bean ground, because of preparation and production with normal tillage of the land, is so susceptible to soil erosion.

“When I saw this field, I thought ‘Oh man, this is a good answer for protection from weeds and soil erosion,” Endres said.

Carrington Research Extension Center crops specialists planted the Palomino variety of pinto beans into North Dakota Dylan winter rye residue and into growing — ‘green plant’ — rye fields using the no-till method to seed in rows spaced 21- or 30- inches apart. The pinto beans also were planted using conventional methods into tilled plots that contained no residue or rye plants.

The study results showed that yields in the pinto bean fields that were planted into rye stubble were similar to those planted using the conventional method into tilled plots.

The research also demonstrated that planting on rye had a negative effect on moisture content in the plot. If rye was desiccated near or after the pinto beans were planted, the rye reduced the topsoil moisture the bean plants needed to get established, which negatively affected the plants’ development, canopy closure and seed yield.

Those findings demonstrated that the rye should be desiccated at least two weeks before edible bean planting if environmental conditions are similar to the dry conditions that were in Carrington, North Dakota, when the research was underway.

However, the study also showed that if rye desiccation was delayed, it provided good ground cover during the crop season and weed control similar to using herbicides, so during years of adequate topsoil moisture leaving the rye to grow after planting would maintain seed yield potential, the study said.

Several farmers in Walsh County, North Dakota, have been experimenting with planting winter rye, using the green method, to improve soil health. The rye protected the pinto bean plants during windstorms in spring and early summer 2022, and those fields did not have to be replanted like many others did, said Brad Brummond, NDSU Extension agriculture agent for Walsh County.

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“Our pinto beans that were planted into rye didn’t get whacked by that wind and they didn’t get that crusted soil. Those fields look really good,” Brummond said in late August.

“I’m really hoping we can get more people to try that,” he said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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