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Dry Bean Production

Dry Bean Varieties

Southern Alberta is the largest, northern commercial bean growing area in North America. As the growing season is short and relatively cool, the number of suitable varieties for this area is limited.

Up to the early 1990s, only American varieties (particularly from Idaho and Washington) were available to Alberta producers. Since then, a few suitable Canadian varieties have been released through the Crop Development Center, University of Saskatchewan and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. More suitable varieties will be available from these sources in the future.

Table 39 outlines varieties presently being tested in the Alberta Regional Variety Test Program for Dry Bean. The test includes both wide row and narrow row evaluation, with data from 1994-1998.

For further reference, consult Agdex 140/32-1 Varieties of Special Crops in Alberta.

Pre-Seeding & Seeding Management

Seedbed Preparation

Land must be properly prepared to provide seed with the best environment for rapid germination and emergence, allow roots to grow quickly and absorb nutrients and provide the conditions necessary for good weed control and proper irrigation.

Dry bean requires warm, moist soil conditions for germination and emergence. The soil must be prepared so it warms rapidly, but still retains as much moisture as possible. Fall plowing is preferred because it conserves more moisture than spring plowing. Freezing and thawing during winter tends to reduce soil clods.

Tips to enhance seedbed preparation:

  • land should be moderately firm, level and free of clods and trash
  • land needs adequate moisture in the seeding zone
  • soils, especially heavy clay types, must be worked at the right moisture to avoid producing a lumpy seedbed and soil compaction
  • avoid excessive tillage – it’s not only costly, but can cause compaction that interferes with water drainage and root penetration, also has a tendency to dry out the seedbed
  • compacted wet soils tend to warm slowly and cause delays in germination and emergence

Seed Quality

  • dry bean is very sensitive to a number of seed-borne diseases – it is critical to plant disease-free seed
  • purchasing seed from areas isolated from commercial production will ensure seed is disease-free
  • ensure seed lots contain sound, whole seed and that seeds have few hairline cracks

Dry Bean Inoculation

  • dry bean has a relatively poor ability to fix nitrogen compared to some other species in the annual legume family (it can fix about 30-40 per cent of its own nitrogen needs)
  • inoculate bean seed when planting in a virgin field
  • dry bean is normally grown on irrigated fields where residual N levels are quite high – if residual N level in the top foot of soil exceeds 40-50 lb./ac., nitrogen fixation will be inhibited and ineffective (often no pink/red nodules will be observed on the bean root under these conditions)
  • dry bean seed is often treated with Captan®; this fungicide can harm dry bean rhizobium – only apply inoculant to the seed immediately before seeding, or apply in granular form in the seed row
  • three types of dry bean inoculant are available: Peat (including Self Stick Peat), Liquid and Granular

For more information, refer to the section in this manual on Inoculation of Pulse Crops.

Seed Handling and Sowing

  • bean seed should be placed into warm, moist soil to a depth of 1 to 2.5 inches (2.5 to 6 cm)
  • if soil moisture is too low to initiate germination of this large-seeded crop, an irrigation prior to seeding followed by a light tillage operation is strongly recommended
  • irrigating after seeding often reduces soil temperature below that required for bean germination – this low temperature may increase both the incidence of fungal diseases of the root system and the chance of damage to the seed (and germinating seedling) by insects
  • bean seed is very fragile – take care to ensure the seed coat is not cracked during handling or seeding, as bean seed with cracked seed coats will not germinate, resulting in a decreased plant population
  • precision planters provide the most uniform seed drop per foot of row and minimize the amount of seed required, thus reducing the cost of seed per acre and minimizing inter-plant competition
  • vacuum or air precision planters provide the most accurate seed drop (but plate and peanut bottom planters do an adequate job)
  • regular drills or air seeders do not provide accurate seed drop – use great care with these seeding implements to minimize seed damage
  • dry bean is generally grown as a row crop – space rows so that cultivation and harvesting equipment can be used efficiently (row spacings vary from 22 to 30 inches [56-76 cm], with 24 inches [61 cm] being most common)
  • narrow row crops should produce higher yields, but high disease pressure (particularly white mold) and higher harvest losses result in lower yields compared to wide row crops
  • solid seeded bean is normally planted in 7 inch (17.5 cm) rows with either a conventional grain drill or air seeder – this type of seeding system requires much higher seeding rates, and care is needed to obtain a uniform seeding depth and to minimize seed damage
  • plant bean rows in the direction of the prevailing winds to maintain a drier soil surface, which will help suppress white mold

Seeding Date

  • bean plants are not frost tolerant, so seeding should not begin until the likelihood of frost has passed (in southern Alberta, this normally results in a seeding date between May 20 and May 25)
  • it’s also important that the crop be completely mature before the first fall frost, or crop quality will suffer
  • the latest date to plant dry bean to qualify for Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) Crop Insurance is June 10
  • ideal soil temperature for germination of dry bean is 18˚ C – seeding when soil temperatures are below 12˚ C will result in slower emergence and weaker plants
  • cool, moist soil provides an ideal environment for insects and disease, resulting in damage to young seedlings

Seeding Rate for Row Crop Dry Bean

  • seeding rate should be targeted between 95-100,000 plants per acre
  • the number of seeds per pound will vary between varieties and types (as well as from year to year), so do a seed count with all lots (see Table 40 for proper calibration of planters)

Seed Treatment

Most bean seed purchased in southern Alberta is pre-treated with a fungicide. It is also beneficial for the grower to treat the seed with an insecticide as well to protect against two insects that cause damage to bean seed and seedlings: wireworm and corn root maggot.