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Alternative Field Crops Manual


L.L. Hardman1, E.S. Oplinger2, E.E. Schulte2, J D. Doll2, and G. L. Worf2

1Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.
2Departments of Agronomy, Soil Science and Plant Pathology, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Cooperative Extension Service, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI 53706. May, 1990.

I. History:

The common or fieldbean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) could have been domesticated independently in Central and South America. Fossilized seed material has been found in Central America and Peru which dates to 7,000 years ago. By the time European explorers arrived in the New World fieldbeans were an important food staple. Today fieldbeans (Pinto, Navy, Kidney) are the most widely cultivated species of Phaseolus and, in terms of tons of crop produced per year, they are the second most important legume in the world (soybeans are first). They are now widely grown in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Asia and to a lesser extent in Africa.

Fieldbean acreage in the United States is concentrated in Michigan, North Dakota, Minnesota, Idaho, Colorado, Nebraska with limited acreage in several other states including Wisconsin.

Grower interest in fieldbean in the United States is largely affected by market prices and proximity of buying stations or processing facilities. In the rest of the world fieldbeans are a major source of protein in the diet of subsistence farmers. The nine major pulse (grain legume) crops, in order of acreage world wide are: drybean (fieldbean, adzuki, mung), chickpea, fieldpea, cowpea, fababean, pigeon pea, vetch, lentil and lupine.

II. Uses:

Fieldbeans are specific types of Phaseolus which are harvested as mature dry seeds, as opposed to snapbeans which are harvested when pods are green and the seeds are succulent for use as a fresh vegetable. They require minimal processing between production field and consumer, so they must be intact and free of blemishes as well as pesticide residue when presented for sale. Excellent quality is equally important to yield in realizing maximum economic return.

Fieldbean seeds contain 22% protein, 2% fat, 61% carbohydrate (includes 5% fiber) as well as adequate levels of all vitamins and minerals.

There is an inverse relationship between per capita income level and consumption of legumes such as fieldbean. For example Brazilians consume about 70 grams of beans per day while United States consumers only use about 16 grams per day.

Fieldbeans are used in soups, chili dishes, baked bean and casserole recipes, refried bean paste, fresh salads and can be purchased in dried or previously canned and cooked products.

Beans which do not meet human food quality standards can be utilized for livestock. Large amounts of splits, culls and poor quality lots of fieldbeans are used in this manner. They must be incorporated into the ration based on actual nutrient content.

Bean seeds contain an inhibitor which prevents the trypsin enzyme from digesting protein in the digestive tract of non-ruminant animals. Heat treatment using a commercial roaster or extruder, or some type of cooking can denature this inhibitor.

The following table shows the nutrient composition of three market classes of fieldbeans compared to soybeans. Note that they are much lower in protein and fat, a fact which must be taken into account when substituting them for soybean meal in a diet or ration.

Table 1: Nutrient composition of various classes of fieldbeans compared to soybeans.







% composition1

Crude protein






























1Values on air dry basis (88 to 90 % dry matter); F.B. Morrison, Feeds and Feeding 22nd edition, the Morrison Publishing Company, Ithaca, N.Y., 1957.

III. Growth Habit:

Fieldbeans are warm season annual legumes with upright or bush as well as vine type or indeterminate growth habit. The first true leaf formed after the cotyledons emerge from the soil is simple or unifoliate and all subsequent leaves are compound (with three leaflets).

Small flowers (self-pollinated) are produced in clusters at various nodes on the plant and may be either white or lavender in color. Mature pod color, seed color and seed size or shape varies depending upon market class and/or variety.

The crop requires between 85 and 120 days from planting to maturity depending on variety. The first half of this period is vegetative development and the latter half is reproductive. In vine types there is an overlap of the two periods because continued vegetative growth occurs after flowering begins. Flowering continues for 2 to 3 weeks so there can be new pods, half developed pods and fully developed pods as well as newly opened flowers present on many plants in early August. Pods are initially green changing to light brown or tan as they mature. Each pod can contain 2 to 4 seeds depending upon variety.

The U.S.D.A. Marketing Service assigns beans to market classes, many of which can be grown in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A brief description of each market class is provided in the following paragraphs. For specific details on the varietal performance of beans within each class, see the most recent edition of Varietal Trials of Farm Crops, Miscellaneous Report 24, Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Minnesota or similar references from other universities or private companies.

Black Turtle: Plants of this class have short vines and produce dark black seeds with a white hilum.

Cranberry: Both bush and vine type varieties are available. Seed is similar to pinto except that the seed surface is pink with scattered reddish markings.

Great Northern: These plants have a viny, indeterminate growth and produce large flattened white seeds that compete with navys for dry package sales. Great northerns are not used for canned beans because the seeds soften and deteriorate during cooking.

Kidney: Plants of this class are upright, bush types that mature slightly later than navy or pinto. The seeds are large and flat with a distinct dark red coloration. Kidney seeds crack easily, and harvesting damage is a common cause of dockage or rejection at the buying station. Most kidney beans are canned and cooked as whole beans or as a component in canned chili products.

Navy: Both short vine and bush varieties are available, but Minnesota and Wisconsin growers utilize bush varieties to produce good quality white beans. Careful management is necessary to produce the blemish-free seeds which bring the highest price. Navys are used in canned pork and bean products or as bagged dry beans for boiling and baking purposes.

Pink: Plants of this class have indeterminate vines and are more susceptible to halo blight than pintos. Seeds of the pink class are medium sized and uniformly rosy redbrown at harvest. These beans are used interchangeably with small reds in canned bean products such as chili.

Pinto: These varieties generally have a prostrate vine type growth and produce a flattened buff-colored seed with scattered brown splashes on the surface. Pintos are used directly as baking beans or in a canned product. Refried bean paste is another use. Because of the mottled seed coat, weathering and disease spots do not reduce market quality as much as with white seeds.

Small Red: Small acreages of these short, vine type plants are grown in Minnesota. Seed of small red varieties are medium sized and uniformly red with a white hilum. Market competitors for small reds are the pinto, cranberry, and pink classes. Production of good quality small red beans is difficult in humid climates because of rust and blight disease problems.

Small White: It is possible to produce these beans in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The seed resembles that of navy beans. The recommended variety has a short vine growth habit, and mature seed is difficult to tell from the slightly larger navy beans. Small whites and navy beans are used for the same commercial purposes.

IV. Environment Requirements:

A. Climate:

Fieldbeans are a warm season crop which performs best in temperatures ranging from 80°F highs to 50 to 60°F lows during the growing season. High temperature and moisture stress during the flower and pod setting period results in abortion of large numbers of blossoms and developing pods.

Growing season of 14 to 20 in. rainfall are best. Low relative humidity is best because bacterial and fungal disease problems are lessened. Light rainfall as crop nears maturity is best to facilitate maturity. Most types of fieldbeans require a frost free growing season of 85 to 120 days between mid-May and mid-September for best yield performance.

B. Soil:

Fieldbeans perform best on fertile sandy loam soils with good internal or tile drainage and moderate organic matter content. Soils that can be temporarily flooded, easily compacted, or which crust over regularly in early spring are not suitable for fieldbean production. These conditions result in plant death or restricted root system development.

Good water holding capacity in the upper 5 ft is essential, otherwise sprinkler irrigation will be required for best yield performance.

Soils with a pH between 5.8 to 6.5 are best. A soil pH above 7.2 can result in chlorosis problems due to iron and zinc deficiencies in certain varieties and/or market classes.

C. Seed Preparation and Germination:

Selecting high quality fieldbean seed for planting is essential. Germination percentage, physical appearance, varietal purity, and freedom from disease are the principal quality considerations. Bag labels usually provide information a grower needs about each seed lot; be sure to read these labels carefully. All states have a certification system to help ensure the availability of high quality seed and most use the following categories:

Breeder seed is controlled by the originator or owner of the variety and is used to produce foundation seed as the first step in the multiplication process.

Foundation seed is produced from breeder seed under the control of the designated seed certification agency in each state. White tags are used to identify bags of this seed.

Registered seed is produced from foundation seed and is carefully managed to maintain its genetic purity. Higher standards for field culture, seed cleaning, and storage are required of growers who produce registered seed. Purple tags are used to identify this seed.

Certified seed is produced from registered or foundation seed and, under certain conditions, from other certified seed. Good standards of field culture, cleaning, and storage are required of growers of certified seed. This class of seed is most commonly used by growers for commercial planting and is identified with blue tags. In Minnesota, fields being considered for certification require two field inspections as well as laboratory evaluations to ensure quality and purity.

States differ on standards and testing procedures for certification of edible beans. Because Idaho provides much of the seed, producers should understand three additional categories that are used in that state:

Seed labeled with a green tag indicates that a field inspection has been done by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (IDA) to check tor blight symptoms. No varietal purity is guaranteed, nor are laboratory tests for seed-borne blight organisms conducted on such seed lots.

Seed labeled with a yellow tag by the IDA is intended for use only in Idaho. Yellow-tagged seed is reported to be blight-free based on a laboratory serological test. Yellow tags are issued for pinto, pink, great northern, small red, and lima beans. The Idaho Crop Improvement Association also issues yellow tags for seed lots in the certification system that fail to qualify for blue tags because of low germination or large numbers of split seeds.

Affidavit seed is not a part of the seed certification system, but this category is used by some companies for seed of known variety or purity. Quality of the seed lot is based on the word of the seed conditioner of dealer. No minimum standards exist for this type of seed.

Certification of seed does not guarantee freedom from seed-borne disease problems, but it does insure the best quality seed possible with the inspection and testing procedures currently being used.

Fieldbean seeds are routinely treated with a fungicide, insecticide, and bactericide to control root rot and damping off organisms, insects, and to kill bacterial blight organisms on the seed surface.

V. Cultural Practices:

A. Seedbed Preparation:

The soil should be tilled to remove weeds and prepare a seedbed which will provide a good seed soil contact. Fall plowing is recommended to prepare this seedbed on heavier soils in order to allow secondary tillage in the spring which can break up clods and incorporate remaining residue. If moisture is short, keep spring tillage to a minimum to prevent excessive drying of the top few inches of soil.

B. Seeding Date:

The highest yields result from plantings between May 15 and 26. Seed should be planted when the soil temperature reaches 50°F at a 3 in. depth, but after the danger of late spring frosts has passed. Growers should plant beans as early in each season as possible for maximum yield.

Certain plant or seed characteristics are affected by planting date, including days to emerge, first bud date, and date of maturity. Beans planted on May 15 take twice as long to emerge as beans planted on June 5.

Planting in mid-May results in slightly delayed flower bud development compared to later plantings, but it also results in higher yield. Early plantings permit flowering and pod set early in July, when the probability of adverse weather is lower. Later plantings are subject to high temperatures and lower soil moisture during reproductive periods, which cause shedding of flowers and developing pods. Early planting also allows completion of growth and maturity in late August. Harvest can then be completed before the wetter September weather comes.

C. Method and Rate of Seeding:

Recommended planting rates for fieldbeans depend on plant growth habit, seed size, germination rate, and experience of the grower, Table 2.

Table 2: Fieldbean planting rate recommendations.


Seeds/lb (number)

Rate (lb/acre)

Rate (seeds/acre)

Black Turtle








Great Northern








Navy (30 in. rows)




(6 in. rows)












Small Red




Small White




Experienced growers have produced excellent yields of most of these classes using lower populations than these values, but because of the wide range of conditions which a crop might encounter, these values should be used until you can do the job well.

All bean types showed 10 to 15% yield decreases at row spacings wider than 30 in. and 18 to 32% yield increases for narrower row widths. Because beans in narrow rows outyield those in wide, growers should consider narrow rows for erect or bush types.

Consistent yield increases are obtained for both pinto and navy beans in the narrowest row spacings in both dryland and irrigated plots. Narrow rows can increase the possibility of foliar and stem disease problems because the plant canopy is dense.

Normal planting depths of 1 to 2 in. may sometimes be exceeded to place seed in moist soil for rapid germination, but maximum planting depth should not exceed 2.5 in.

Carefully planned crop rotations are necessary in bean production, and rotations should be a minimum of 2 years, but 3 and 4 year cycles are best. Crops such as corn, wheat, oats, barley, and flax should precede beans because bean diseases do not build up in those crops. Effective herbicides for controlling annual and perennial weeds are available in those grain crops, thereby reducing weed competition in dry beans.

D. Fertility and Lime Requirement:

Fieldbeans require good fertility to achieve high yields. Yields are generally highest when fertility is supplied to the alternate crops in the rotation rather than as direct additions to the current crop.

Soil scientists recommend a fertility program based on yield expectation, nitrate nitrogen soil test levels, previous crop in rotation, and soil organic matter level either singly or in combination. Recommended Nitrogen for fieldbeans is N (lbs/acre) = expected yield/50 to 2.5 (% soil O.M.). Adjustments can be made for a previous legume crop and manure applications. The following tables indicate the Minnesota recommendations for phosphorus, potassium and zinc requirements of fieldbeans.

Effective nodulation by nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobium phaseoli) is difficult to achieve in certain soil types and under certain environmental conditions. Yield increases have been reported following inoculation on fields in which nodule development was poor in previous crops. If nodule development is poor, growers should consider application of a commercially available inoculant at planting time. Inoculants come in moist, peat form, or in slightly drier granular form. Moist types are added directly to the seed. Granular types can be applied in furrow and still achieve satisfactory results. All types of inoculants should be fresh and stored in a cool, moist environment until placed in the soil at planting. Low humidities and high temperatures inactivate the live bacteria in the inoculant.

Other nutrients should be added as needed, according to soil test results. Fieldbeans will generally show yield responses to applied fertilizer if the soil tests are low to medium, but they rarely respond to fertilizer when test values are in the higher range.

When fertilizer is required, one choice is to broadcast and plow or disc it down. Row application can be done as long as the fertilizer does not come in direct contact with the developing seedling roots. A 2 in. by 2 in. placement is common; with such placement, the developing root system gradually grows into the fertilizer supply.

Table 3: Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) recommendations for fieldbean.

Expected yield

Phosphorus (P) soil test (lb/acre)l

Potassium (K) soil test (lb/acre)1










P2O5 to apply2 (lb/acre)

K2O to apply2 (lb/acre)

3000 or more




































1400 or less









l For soil P and K reports in ppm. (ppm × 2 = lb/acre).
2Recommended rates are for total amount to apply-broadcast + row. Low rates may be row-applied.

Table 4: Zinc recommendations for field corn, sweet corn, grain sorghum, and fieldbeans.

Zinc soil test


Amount of
zinc to apply (lb/acre)

Possibility of yield
increase from
zinc application


zinc sulfate

Less than 0.5


10 to 15

28 to 42

Highly possible

0.5 to 1.0


5 to 10

14 to 28


More than 1.0





Other crops: Zinc response has not been observed on other crops in Minnesota. If zinc test is low (less than 0.5 ppm) apply zinc on trial basis only at 5 to 10 lb/acre of actual zinc.

Micronutrient deficiencies occur on certain soil types or in certain pH ranges. If a soil or tissue test indicates a deficiency, additions are likely to raise yields. Fieldbeans have a relatively high requirement for manganese. Well-drained, high pH soils, especially organic soils, are often low in this element.

Soils with high soluble salt values (as measured by electrical conductivity) are not good choices for edible bean production and should be planted to crops that are more tolerant.

E. Variety Selection:

New fieldbean varieties are constantly being developed by breeders at public universities and private companies. Hundreds of these varieties have been evaluated in the performance testing programs conducted by the University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University, as well as private bean companies and crop consulting firms. These test results usually provide data on disease and insect resistance, maturity, yield, seed quality and size, growth habit, as well as possible special characteristics such as cookability or flavor tests. The results of these tests are available from the Extension Service or from the field agronomists employed by the bean companies. They are also featured in a late winter issue of 'Bean Talk' published by the Northwest Bean Growers Association R.R. 3, Box 102, Frozee, MN 56544.

Good yielding disease resistant varieties adapted to this area are available in all the market classes described earlier in this chapter. Growers should check with the company to whom they plan to sell their production to see if they have a variety preference. This is important because canners and processors are often very particular about the specific color, size and shape of the beans they use in their products.

F. Weed Control:

Fieldbeans compete poorly with weeds and should be planted on fields with a carefully planned weed control program. Perennial weeds, both grass and broadleaf, are severe problems in edible bean fields, since annuals can be controlled with preplant or preemergence chemicals or cultivation.

A weed control program for most growers should be a combination of chemical and mechanical methods.

  1. Mechanical: Mechanical cultivation should only be, used during the early growth period (first 5 to 6 Weeks) All cultivation should be completed before bloom, because the roots begin to spread into the row middles and can be damaged by late cultivation. Cultivation after the canopy has closed spreads disease. The best weed control program eliminates weeds early, before canopy closure, preventing competition with the beans for nutrients, light and water.
  2. Chemical: Factors to consider in making chemical choices are: crops planted before and after beans in the rotation, weed species present, weather conditions at application time, and rates required. A selection of preplant incorporated, preemergence, and postemergence herbicides is available for use on drybeans. Several states including Minnesota (AG-BU-3157) and Wisconsin (A2350) have extension publications with herbicide recommendations for drybeans. Before making any decision on a chemical, growers should have the following information on each field: soil texture, percentage organic matter, weeds expected, and soil pH. The chemical and proper rate can then be matched to the field conditions, weed species, and bean type.

G. Diseases and Their Control:

Fieldbeans are susceptible to several diseases that can limit yield. Some of these diseases can accumulate in the soil of a field until beans cannot be grown. Detailed information on the major diseases of fieldbeans are described in Edible Bean Diseases and Disorder Identification, North Central Regional Extension Publication 159. Common blight, white mold, rust, halo blight, Rhizoctonia, Pseudomonas brown spot, Fusarium, Bean common mosaic, Pythium (damping off), and Anthracnose are the diseases which can attack fieldbean.

The following field management procedures can help reduce disease in edible bean fields:

  1. Refuse remaining in a field after combining should be buried by tillage to promote its decay and reduce spread of disease organisms to other fields or farms.
  2. Proper weed control during the growing season is important because some disease organisms can infect weeds growing in the field. White mold, for example, can infect ragweed and increase white mold problems in a field.
  3. Use only disease-free seed to prevent introduction of bacterial blights, anthracnose, and common bean mosaic which are seed-borne.
  4. Use disease resistant varieties.

Chemicals applied to dry beans are called protectants because they protect the seed or plant from initial disease infections or reduce disease spread. These chemicals establish a protective blanket on the surface of the seed or plant (surface protectant), or by absorption into the plant (systemic fungicide), which prevents infection by specific pathogens.

Timing of these protectant sprays is critical. Spray applied at later stages of plant growth are less likely to show economic returns but do prevent the further development of the disease.

The use of systemic fungicides offers the potential for improved disease control. Once absorbed by the plant tissue they are less subject to weathering and are often active against newly established infections. Careful monitoring of crop and weather conditions can lead to the accurate timing of applications, improved disease control and significant reduction in fungicide use. An important limitation in use of systemic fungicides is the selection of fungal strains that are resistant to specific systemic fungicides. This risk can be substantially reduced by combining systemic and protected fungicides or alternating treatments between different fungicides.

H. Insects and Other Predators and Their Control:

The fieldbean crop in Minnesota and Wisconsin has generally been free of serious insect problems, although several different species of insects are encountered in fields. Occasionally one or more of these insects can become abundant enough to cause yield loss. It is important, therefore, to be aware of insect pests so they can be controlled before major losses occur. For some pests, chemical treatment, along with crop rotations, can be used to reduce the damage.

A list of common fieldbean insects in Table 5 should assist you with field evaluations. Only the most common ones are included. Other less obvious problems can appear which will require the services of a professional consultant or extension agent to ascertain which insect species is causing the problem.

Table 5: Possible fieldbean insect problems.




At emergence

Evidence of poor stand, wilting seedlings or cutoff plants

White grubs
Seedcorn maggot

During: early seedling grow

On leaves

Bean thrips (not common in Minnesota)

Late season plants

On leaves, flowers and pods

Green cloverworm
Bean leaf beetle larvae
Two-spotted spider mite (rarely in Minnesota)
Plant bugs

During storage or during cleaning


Plant bugs
Bean weevils

Aways read product labels and consult with extension specialists and custom applicators when you have questions.

Insecticides on fieldbeans must be applied carefully because minimal processing of the crop occurs between the grower's field and the consumer's product. Strict adherence to label restrictions will help avoid problems in selling the crop.

I. Harvesting:

Fieldbeans are usually harvested with puller-cutters, followed by windrowing and combining. A puller-cutter has heavy, V-shaped blades that move just below the soil surface, cutting off or uprooting the plants and turning them over into windrows. This process is best done early in the morning when the plants are damp to minimize shattering.

After sufficient time in the windrow for drydown, combining is done using slow cylinder speeds to prevent seed damage. The combine should be kept at full capacity by using large windrows or faster ground speeds to move plant material into the threshing mechanism and prevent damage to seed. Periodic adjustments in the cylinder-concave clearances are necessary to prevent seed cracking if moisture content of the beans changes during combining.

Bean ladders or belt conveyors should be used to move beans, especially when seed is dry. If augers have to be used, they should be run full to reduce damage. Fieldbeans vary in susceptibility to damage. The various classes and their damage sensitivity are:


Damage sensitivity rating

Red kidney


Black turtle


Small red


Great northern




Small white






Adapted varieties of navy, dry red and kidney beans have a determinate growth habit (bush), so the beans are more uniform in maturity. Some growers combine navys directly, but this method can result in large losses if the combine is not equipped with a floating cutter bar and automatic header control. Direct combining also causes considerable seed damage if the concave clearances are not carefully adjusted. Direct combining reduces machinery costs and field time and reduces the risk of quality and yield loss during rainy periods.

Pinto beans have an indeterminate growth habit (vines) and generally are pulled when most pods are yellow and seeds have visible streaks. Immature beans continue to dry in the windrow. Pintos are generally ready to combine after 4 to 10 days in the windrow. Beans with moistures as high as 18% are safe to combine, with safe short-term storage moistures being 16.5% and longer term storage 15.5% moisture or less.

J. Drying and Storage:

When prices are low, growers store the crop until prices improve. A storage facility for a crop that is used directly by humans without further processing must be protected from water; from contamination by other crops, chemicals, or odor; from rodents; from insects; from fungi; from fire; and from temperature extremes.

Mold development on beans in storage is influenced by the temperature of the beans and by the relative humidity of the air in the spaces. For all grains, 75% relative humidity in these spaces will provide safe storage, if normal temperatures are maintained. For fieldbeans, 75% relative humidity occurs at bean moisture contents of 16 to 16.5%.

In Minnesota and Wisconsin, bean quality can be easily maintained at low temperatures (35 to 55°F) in storage shortly after harvest if bin aeration is provided. These low temperatures slow mold development. A small aeration fan 0 to 14 horsepower) and a 12 in. diameter perforated duct can aerate up to 3,000 hundredweight of beans.

If beans need to be dried prior to storage, two methods can be used:

In-Storage Drying With Unheated Air: The bin must have a perforated floor and a fan capable of delivering at least 5 cubic ft per minute per hundredweight of beans in storage. The fan must be run continuously until the beans at the top are dry. The fan will provide about 2°F temperature increase, which will lower the relative humidity of the spaces in the bin. With these air-flow rates and the cool weather normally present after harvest, you can maintain beans in good marketable condition.

Heated-Air Dryers: High air-flow heated dryers (batch, continuous flow, or batch-in-bin) can be used if temperatures are lowered to prevent seed damage.

Dryer operating temperatures depend on air flow, bean moisture content and the weather. It is best to start with small temperature increases (2 to 5°F over ambient temperature) to determine the specific operating temperature to use in each situation.

VI. Yield Potential and Performance Results:

Yields in Minnesota average between 1,200 and 2,000 lbs/acre for the most commonly grown classes, although research plot yields and fields of certain top growers have exceeded 3,500 lbs/acre. Most of the bean acreage in Minnesota and Wisconsin is devoted to pinto, navy and dark red kidney classes, but smaller acreages of great northern, pink, small red, black turtle, cranberry, adzuki and swedish brown classes have been grown.

On nonirrigated soils in northwest Minnesota, fieldbeans are included in a small grain rotation because of high cash return. Fieldbeans are used in rotations in central and north-central Minnesota where soybeans do not show increased yield from irrigation and in central and west-central Wisconsin where irrigation is available. They are not widely grown in the major soybean areas of southern Minnesota and Wisconsin because they have not been competitive with cash returns from soybeans.

Bean production requires a greater attention to field management than do some of the other commonly grown field crops. Since beans are a special use crop, market demand is variable.

The advantage of growing several different types of fieldbeans each year is that each class may have a different price in the market. Such diversity can allow a producer to stabilize income. Local markets have not been developed for some of the lesser grown types so you should obtain a contract or a written price quote before planting.

VII. Economics of Production and Markets:

Farmers often sign contracts with bean brokers, processors or canners for a portion of their anticipated production prior to planting. These contracts often specify variety and/or market class, moisture content, physical quality and delivery point as well as price per pound. The quantity contracted is often about one-half of the anticipated yield/acre so that cash costs, etc. can be recovered if the actual yields fall below anticipated values. These contracts can have "act of God" clauses which release the grower if drought, hail, or insect problems reduce yields significantly.

Prices paid for fieldbean vary widely from year to year and prices for each market class varies depending upon supply and demand. Prices, at harvest, have ranged from seven cents to fifty-three cents per pound in recent years. Preplant contracts during the recent production years varied between sixteen and twenty-five cents per pound.

Tables 6 and 7 provide some typical cash, overhead and total costs of production under dryland conditions or under irrigation in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Cash costs include fertilizer, pesticide, seed, fuel costs, etc. while overhead includes depreciation on equipment, labor, property taxes, land interest charges, insurance, etc.

Minnesota studies estimate that the average cost to grow a pound of fieldbeans is somewhere between fifteen and eighteen cents. Farmers should calculate their own cost of production in order to ascertain the yield level needed to make a profit. A per pound price calculation will allow you to obtain the contract price which will provide you the greatest profit.

Table 6: Fieldbean costs of production (Navy, Pinto, Kidney).





Cash costs



Overhead costs






Table 7: Returns over cost of production at 100%, 7S%, 50% of listed yield (Beans at 0.23/lb).

Yield level

Dryland yield (1600 lb/acre)

Irrigated yield (2100 lb/acre)

















$ 15



VIII. Information Sources: