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And the Winner Is… (PCN Spring 2014) MAY 5 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Every year in February, I make the trek first to Burdett, and then to Taber to attend the Viterra bean grower meetings. Viterra staff provide an overview of the year from a business perspective which includes a detailed operations update, with planned equipment upgrade, expansions and expenditures.

This year growers have indicated their intention to grow just over 50,000 acres of dry beans in the 2014 season. Of note is Viterra’s intention to fine tune the dockage assessment by market class to more closely mirror what the marketplace is demanding in terms of seed sizing and which the CGC assessment does not take in to account. For the upcoming season SGS will be used for third party arbitrations of dockage if required.

Kevin Sawchuk, a Viterra bean merchant, provided a market outlook which included the information on pricing and percentage of 2013 crop that has been sold. North American bean yields were above average for the 2013 season, similar to all other crops, however the logistical constraints associated with transport haven’t affected the bean crop as greatly as some other crops. The low inventory carry over from the previous has resulted in excellent ability to move beans early with lots of forward contracting. The pooling system used by the Bean Division allows for marketing flexibility and access to premium pricing options, it is a very unique relationship between Viterra and the bean producers that makes Alberta very competitive from a global perspective.

Viterra works closely with Dr. Parthiba Balasubramanian, (AAFC Lethbridge) in the development of new bean varieties specifically adapted for Alberta. They collaborate on the selection of lines that will be moved through the registration process. Dr. Mike Harding (ARD Brooks), Doon Pauly (ARD Lethbridge), Pat Pfiffner (ARD Lethbridge) and Brian Storozynsky along with Dr. Balasubramanian provided updates on the ongoing agronomic research in the area of dry bean production.

A highlight of the bean meetings are the growers production awards. Two awards, one for top yield and one for best quality are given out on an annual basis. Samples are taken based on off-the-truck delivery and rated for merit. Larry Doherty, provided some insight into the parameters of the two awards. The highest yields of each market class are determined after dockage as they arrive at either the Taber or Bow Island plants. The average yields for 2013 were up 10% over 2012 and up over 18% over the last 5 year average.

To determine the grower with the highest quality, 5 – 10 samples from each of the market classes are selected first based on dockage. Those samples are then visually assessed for color by Doherty and Jim Rex, another Viterra field rep. This reduces the selection to three samples from each of the market classes. The final determination is based on seed weight and size. The producer with the top yield and the producer with the best quality are recognized at these meetings in front of their peers.

Doherty stated that the presentation of these awards is “good for the morale of growers”. Celebrating success is not done often enough, it provides growers with the opportunity to see how other growers management decisions impact the ability to produce high yielding, high quality dry beans. This year Viterra is taking it one step further. The top growers will be a part of a panel talking about the intricacies of combining dry beans, and the methods that they have found to best reduce harvest losses and damage.

The relationship between the Southern Alberta bean growers and the Alberta Bean division of Viterra is completely unique. A pooling system with full support of the growers who contract with the company coupled with an openness regarding the business and management decisions on the part of Viterra has resulted in a long history of success.

Congratulations to this year’s winners! Quality Winner was Muller Ventures Inc., who had the top quality beans in both Pinto and Great Northern classes. Overall Yield winner was Lohues Farms Ltd., Coaldale who produced 3812 lbs/ac of Myacoba beans.