Average yield but quality crop
Steve Winter and his son, Jason, have been trying to get their dry bean harvest in the bin for the past couple of weeks.
“If this weather will just hold up a little longer, we’ll be in pretty good shape,” Steve said as he watched his son move through a field northeast of Greeley, Colo., gathering up the yellow beans that had been cut and put in windrows earlier this month.
The weather has been a challenge for bean farmers in the county this year. A wet and cool spring, combined with an early onset of winter last fall, resulted in a number of farmers having to put off field work, which they would normally do in the fall after harvest, until spring prior to planting. The hot summer, however, helped the bean crop, but the hot dry conditions at harvest time presented a few more challenges.
“As wet as it was this spring the soil got pretty hard once we could get started with planting, so the crop is a little later than usual this year,” Winter said.
Beans grow on vines that have to be cut at the ground, usually in late August to early September, then put in windrows to dry prior to being harvested by a combine.
“We haven’t had any dew to speak of the past few weeks, up until the past couple of days. So we started cutting beans at 1:30 in the morning and had to stop by 6 when it got too dry. If you try to cut them when it’s dry like that, they shatter. You can see some (bean) pods on the ground in this field,” Winter said.
Dry beans are a staple crop in Weld County and in many other parts of the state.
According to the Colorado office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, state farmers produced 84.8 million pounds of dry edible beans in 2009, with Weld producing 1.32 million pounds from 6,400 acres, ranking it the fourth highest-producing county in the state, trailing Yuma, Dolores and Montezuma counties. Historically, Weld has been among the top five in the state.
Annually, cash receipts for dry beans top $25 million.
Bean acreage is up this year, however, said Larry Lande with Northern Feed and Bean of Lucerne, Colo., which markets the beans grown on the Winter farm and several others in the region.
Lande, the current president of the Colorado Bean Administrative Committee, said acreage in Weld this season may approach 10,000 and, for the most part, the bean yield will be average to perhaps a little below average. Hot temperatures in July, along with some scattered hail storms, share the blame, he said.
The majority of Weld’s pinto beans – 75-80 percent – are exported to Mexico, but Lande said farmers south of the border have a pretty good crop this year, including a new variety of pinto which has become increasingly popular.
“Mexico may not be the market that is has been for us in the past,” he said, but Northern Feed and Bean is getting into more national grocery chains and finding markets in such places as the Dominican Republic and Haiti, although peas and lentils can go into those countries at a cheaper price than beans, which may put a damper on those exports.
The harvest of the bean crop in North Dakota, the leading state in the nation, is only half completed, Lande said, and rain showers have slowed that crop, which could have an effect on production. The Nebraska crop, like that in Colorado, will probably end up less than average. Colorado ranked eighth in the nation last year, according to the statistics office.
Winter said he planted this year’s crop in mid-May, a little later than normal due to the wet and cool conditions. He is harvesting 150 acres of pinto beans and 150 acres of yellow beans.
“The yield is about average for both, but the quality of the yellows are really good this year,” Winter said, noting his pintos are averaging 35-40 bushels to the acre while the yellows were doing 45-55 bushels. The color of the yellows, which indicates quality, is excellent,” he added.
“But we’re just getting started on the yellows,” Winter said at mid-week last week. “I think once we get into the final couple of fields we’re going to see that yield go up.”