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Lower bean yield expected this season
September 24, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen - Jerald Meisner combines a field of pintos north of the sugar factory in Scottsbluff on Sept. 11. Meisner said there was a little disease this year, a bit of blight and a bit of mold. “There’s always something you have to contend with but this season turned out alright. Meisner is a third generation farmer in the Valley and farms with his brother Gordy Meisner as part of Meisner and Son, Inc. Meisner reports his yield has been slightly above average this year.

Wet conditions earlier this year has caused delays in getting the dry edible bean crop into the ground, setting back the season and resulting in smaller yields for the 2015 growing season.

“Average rain for area in the spring is about an inch,” said Dan Smith, chief agronomist with Kelley Bean Company. “This year some areas got about seven inches. Around Potter, they received 22 inches of rain in a month.”

The excess rain saturates the soil, which gets compacted when producers bring in equipment for planting. The compacted soil makes it more difficult for beans to establish root systems. Wet, compacted soil conditions aren’t ideal for beans. The conditions probably held back bean growth and possibly caused more disease in the crop, such as root rot.

Although the area’s bean harvest was only about 10 to 15 percent completed on Sept. 10, activity was expected to get into full swing within a week to 10 days. So far, the yields are pretty good.

“We’re probably 10 percent behind last year’s record yields,” Smith said. “Still, that’s pretty good. Last year, we averaged over 45 bushels an acre for the entire area. This year, we will probably come in at around 40 bushels an acre.”

“Growers got the crop in as they could and we should get a fair crop out of the deal,” Smith said. “We had such a huge crop of Great Northerns last year that sales were down. So this year, most growers switched to Pintos.”

American consumption of the Great Northern variety of dry edible beans is around 1.1 million 100-pound bags a year. And the Pinto market is around 10 million. The North Platte Valley is the world’s top exporter of the Great Northern variety.

While the number of acres of Great Northerns are down considerably from 2014, acres of Pintos took a considerable hike, although the overall acres under cultivation stayed about the same.

Great Northerns and Pintos make up about 95 percent of the bean crop in the area, but some producers grow smaller acreages of light red kidneys, navy and black beans.

“The weather’s been great for the harvest because of the dry weather,” Smith said. “The beans are turning fairly quickly, so we had more early beans than I thought we would. Because of the lack of moisture, the quality of the beans is really good.”

Smith said prices are about half of what they were at the start of last year’ record harvest. All commodity prices are down, and bean acreage has been up the past few years because of depressed corn prices.

“We had a big crop last year, and another coming on this year,” Smith said. Last year’s price on Great Northerns going into harvest was $38 a hundredweight and now it’s down to $18. I don’t expect that to change much as we carried over a lot of beans that didn’t sell last year because of the size of the crop.”

In the Alliance area, where the elevation is higher, the harvest starts earlier, and is about 50 percent completed as of the week of Sept. 14. Charlie Wright, division manager with New Alliance, said their company is spread out, receiving beans from Mirage Flats, Alliance and Hemingford, Bridgeport and Gering areas.
“Because of the wet weather in the spring, and the dry weather later, we’re seeing yields all over the map,” Wright said. “We’ve heard of some very good yields, and some that are average to below average. And right now, bean prices are flat.”

He said that after last year’s excellent yield, this year’s crop will be down somewhat. Both Great Northerns and Pintos account for this year’s crop in the Alliance area.

“Traditionally we grow more Great Northerns here than in the valley,” Wright said. “This year it’s bout fifty-fifty.”

Wright said the harvest might have gotten started a bit later than usual in some areas because spring planting was strung out due to the wet weather, so the harvest might drag on a little bit.
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