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Dry Beans

Bean Field With Irrigation Pivot

What are dry beans?

Dry beans are a pulse crop that is part of the legume family. The word “pulse” comes from the Latin word puls, meaning potage or thick soup. Pulses are the dry edible seeds of pod plants and are high in protein and fibre and low in fat.

The common cultivated dry bean is botanically classified as Phaseolus vulgaris. There are many types of dry beans. Some are based on production such as narrow row (solid seeding) and wide row (30 to 36 inches). Some are grouped according to plant growth habit such as determinate bush or indeterminate vining with associated plant growth types. The most widely grown in Alberta are indeterminate vining types.

Dry beans are also grouped based on seed and bean type – Great Northern, Pinto, Cranberry, Pink, Small Red, Yellow, Black Shiny, and Black Matte. Great Northerns and Pinto beans make up the majority of bean acres in Alberta. Production is greatly influenced by adaptability to a particular region and market demand. Alberta dry beans are mostly sold for human consumption. 

Great Northern Beans
Pinto Beans
Small Red Beans
Black Beans
Yellow Beans
Cranberry Beans


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Where do dry beans grow?

Dry beans are a warm season crop and are grown across the southern part of the province.  Southern Alberta is the largest, northern commercial bean growing area in North America. There are over 400 different types of edible beans grown throughout the world. Most beans are consumed in local diets. 

In 2019, Alberta’s pulse growers grew 65,300 metric tonnes of dry beans on 53,900 acres with farm cash receipts of $48.1 Million. Alberta dry bean exports were valued at $110 Million with the top export countries by value – United States, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, United Kingdom, and Angola.

(Source:  Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Economics and Competitiveness Branch)

The top five dry bean producing countries in the world include India at 6.3 Million tonnes, Myanmar at 5.4 Million tonnes, Brazil at 3.0 Million tonnes, United States at 1.6 Million tonnes, and China at 1.3 Million tonnes. (Source, World Atlas, The World’s Top Dry Bean Producing Countries, (

Figure 2: Dry Bean Field

Consider growing dry beans if …

  • You live in Southern Alberta and produce crops under irrigation.
  • You live in an area that receives 1,900 corn heat units or more during the growing season.
  • Your soil is medium-textured — for instance, light loams, sandy loams, or silt loams.
  • Your fields have good drainage and low salinity.
  • You’re interested in marketing flexibility, with commercial buyers located in your area. Dry beans are mainly sold for human consumption.
  • You want to reduce your input costs (as pulses are nitrogen fixing); break disease cycles in your field; obtain a second-year yield boost in other crops following a pulse crop; improve your soil health; promote soil conversation and sustainable farming practices; and improve farm profitability.
Figure 3: Dry Bean Field Under Irrigation


Dry beans are herbaceous annuals, determinate or indeterminate in growth habit, which bear flowers in axillary and terminal racemes. Dry beans are a dicot crop and exhibit epigeal emergence (after germination, the cotyledons and the growing point push up above ground).  For germination, the plant requires approximately seven days at a soil temperature of 16˚C. A dicot plant is any member of the flowering plants, that has a pair of leaves, or cotyledons, in the embryo of the seed.

Leaf Structures

The true first leaves are single and opposite, with all following leaves being trifoliate (with a leaf divided into three leaflet) arranged on alternate sides of the stem. 

Determinate types have a central main stem with five to nine nodes (growing points) on the main stem. Indeterminate types have a main stem with 12 to 15 nodes, or even more in climbing vine types.

In addition to the distinction between determinate and indeterminate, there are four plant growth types:

  • Type I – determinate bush with five to nine nodes (growing points) on the main stem.
  • Type II – indeterminate bush-type with 10 to 12 nodes on the main stem and three to four branches.
  • Type III – indeterminate, prostrate vine with 10 to 12 nodes on the main stem and several branches.
  • Type 1V – indeterminate, with strong climbing tendencies requires trellis systems for optimum production.
Figure 4: Field of Dry Beans

Reproductive nodes (flower)

Dry beans have white, purple, or pink flowers, depending on the market class, and emerge at the upper leaf axils.

The days-to-flower varies with variety, temperature and photo period and can take up to 50 days.

Flowers are normally self fertilized, developing into a straight or slightly curved pod.

Figure 5: Black Bean Flowering

dry bean PODS

Pod size may vary depending on the variety of dry bean.

Figure 6: Dry Bean Pods

seed shape & size

Seeds may be round, elliptical, somewhat flattened, or rounded-elongated in shape and have a rich assortment of coat colours and patterns.  Seeds of varieties produced in Alberta range in size from 170 – 400 gm per 1,000 seeds.

Figure 7: Beans from Dry Bean Pod

Figure 8: Different Dry Bean Seed Shapes and Colours

Adaptation Characteristics

Optimal Temperature

  • Dry bean requires a warm growing season. Daytime temperatures between 20 and 32˚C are ideal for dry bean production.
  • Temperatures higher than 35˚C can cause flower drop, especially if high temperatures persist over an extended time period.
  • Temperatures below 10˚C will limit plant growth and development; below 8˚C at flowering will cause substantial flower abortion.
  • Dry bean can be grown in areas of southern Alberta that receive 1,900 corn heat units or more during the growing season and in areas with a long growing season that is warm enough to allow for proper plant development.
  • Dry bean is not adversely affected by high temperatures as long as soil moisture is adequate.

Frost & Drought Tolerance

  • Dry beans are very susceptible to spring frost and fall frost, and can easily be killed and damaged by frost or prolonged exposure to near-freezing temperatures. They must reach maturity before the first killing frost of the season.
  • Cool, damp weather during August and early September will delay maturity of the plant and make the crop susceptible to first frost, with even one degree of frost damaging the plant.


  • Dry beans have both determinate growth habit (stem elongation will stop when the terminal flowers develop on the main stem), and  indeterminate growth habit (will continue to grow and flower until some stress factor induces maturity).


  • Dry bean varieties: 
    • wide row (Great Northern, Pinto, Pink, Yellow, Red, Cranberry, Black Shiny, and Black Matte).
    • narrow row (Great Northern, Pinto, Pink, Yellow, Cranberry, Small Red, Black Shiny, and Black Matte).
  • Varieties released through the Crop Development Centre, University of Saskatchewan, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
  • Regional Variety Trials are planted across Alberta every year to showcase the varieties available and how they grow in Alberta’s different environments. 
  • Yield, characteristics, and standability data are found at Pulse RVT.
  • For more information on the varieties of pulse crops in Alberta, please see Alberta Agriculture’s Varieties of Pulse Crops for Alberta.


  • Dry bean maturity will occur approximately 105–115 days from planting in southern Alberta.


  • Dry bean requires soil that is medium-textured (light loams, sandy loams, or silt loams); and high residual fertility.
  • Dry bean fields must have good drainage and low salinity. They do not tolerate excessively wet soils, and those fields susceptible to ponding water. Standing water for 24 hours may severely damage dry bean seedlings.
  • Dry beans are sensitive to herbicide residues (e.g. clopyralid, muster, and atrazine, among others).
  • Avoid growing beans within four years of each other to avoid diseases (sclerotinia) and avoid planting in fields with a recent history of sclerotinia-susceptible crops such as potato, canola, sunflower, peas, faba beans, buckwheat and safflower.

Stages of Development

The life cycle of the dry bean plant has four principal stages:

  • germination and emergence
  • vegetative stage
  • reproductive stage
  • senescence (mature stage)



Dry bean has evolved from a wild growing vine in the highlands of Central America and the Andes in South America into a major food legume crop. The cultivated type was introduced to Canada by European settlers. The need for diversification of crop production in Canada, and the development of dry bean varieties adapted to the environment, with improved seed quality and disease resistance, have resulted in a substantial increase in dry bean production since the mid-1990’s. (The Canadian Encyclopedia, Dry Bean)

Genetic analyses of the common bean Phaseolus show that it originated in Mesoamerica, and subsequently spread southward, along with maize and squash, traditional companion crops. (Bitocchi, Elena; et al. (3 April 2012). “Mesoamerican origin of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is revealed by sequence data”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109 (14))

Dry beans come from both Old World varieties of broad beans (faba beans) and New World varieties (Kidney, Black, Cranberry, Pinto, Navy/Haricot).


Special thanks to Saskatchewan Pulse Growers and Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers.