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Bean Briefs
August 29, 2007

ITC: Lifting Restrictions Would Increase U.S. Ag Sales to Cuba

The U.S. could provide more than half of Cubas agricultural, fish, and forest product imports if certain U.S. trade and travel restrictions to Cuba were lifted,  the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) details in a new report,  U.S. Agricultural Sales to Cuba: Certain Economic Effects of U.S. Restrictions (

An independent fact finding federal agency, the ITC examined the effects of U.S. trade and travel restrictions on Cuban purchases of U.S. agriculture products at the request of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.  Highlights of the report:

"        In 2000-01, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba were negligible; however, they grew rapidly, and by 2004, the U.S. was Cubas largest supplier. Although the value of U.S. exports has fallen slightly since then, the U.S. still supplies more ag products to Cuba than does any other country, accounting for approximately 30% of Cuban imports in 2006.
U.S. regulations, such as those that require the Cuban government to pay for U.S. ag products in cash or through letters of credit drawn on third-country banks, raise the cost of U.S. goods for Cubans and likely limit U.S. sales. Other factors that increase costs are port delays; high transport charges owing to limited shipping routes; foreign exchange transactions, exacerbated by the need for third-country financing; and the uncertainty surrounding visas for Cuban officials to inspect U.S. agriculture production facilities.

"        About 171,000 U.S. citizens visited Cuba in 2005. According to Commission estimates, in the absence of U.S. travel restrictions, between 550,000 and one million U.S. citizens would visit Cuba annually. This increase in U.S. travel would likely increase demand in Cuba for more and better quality food for tourists as well as for Cuban citizens who work in tourism and related services.

"        Eliminating restrictions on trade, particularly those related to export financing, would likely have a larger impact on U.S. ag sales than lifting the travel restrictions on U.S. citizens. This is because most food imported from the U.S. consists of bulk commodities that are sold to Cubans rather than foods that are sold to tourists. With the elimination of all such restrictions, U.S. exports to Cuba could almost double from their 2006 level. 

"        All U.S. ag commodity sectors would likely benefit from the lifting of the financing restrictions on U.S. ag exports to Cuba. The largest absolute gains would be for fresh fruits and vegetables, including potatoes; milk powder, processed foods, and certain meats.


U.S. Could Supply Over Half of Cuban Dry Bean Imports

Lifting the financing regulations likely would increase the value of Cuban purchases of U.S. dry beans by between $9 million and $21.9 million above the $20 million of U.S. exports to Cuba in 2006, according to the ITC. Removal of travel restrictions to Cuba is likely to have a small impact on U.S. sales of dry beans to Cuba, as few dry beans are sold to the Cuban tourist sector, and would increase total U.S. dry bean exports by between $100,000 and $400,000 above the 2006 level.

Elimination of both the trade and travel restrictions is likely to increase
U.S. dry bean exports by between $9.3 million and $22.2 million above the 2006 level of U.S. exports. Under this scenario, U.S. dry bean exporters may supply between 37 and 55% of Cuban dry bean imports.

Cuba is a large consumer of dry beans, as they are an important source of non-meat protein in the Cuban diet. In 2006, Cuba imported $79 million of dry beans, of which the U.S. supplied $20 million (25%).  In 2006, green peas and pinto beans each accounted for about 40% of U.S. dry bean exports to Cuba, with lentils (11%) and yellow peas the remainder.  Cuba was the fifth leading U.S. market for dry beans in 2006.

The ITC notes in its report that
U.S. exports of dry beans have risen over the past several years, and become more price competitive in world markets with other competitive global suppliers, such as Canada.  U.S. dry bean exporters compete mainly with Canada and China in the Cuban market. For many years, Chinese dry black and pinto beans were priced lower than U.S. beans in the Cuban market, possibly because of government assistance to Chinese producers, according to the ITC.

U.S. beans shipped to Cuba have a significant ocean freight advantage over Chinese beans, and have become more price competitive in Cuba since early 2006.  Ocean freight costs of U.S. products from New Orleans to Cuba are lower than ocean rates for the Canadian product from Thunder Bay to Cuba, but internal U.S. rail costs to transport Upper Midwestern beans and peas to the U.S. Gulf ports are higher than those faced by Canadian growers to Thunder Bay.  Nevertheless, U.S. peas and lentils have become more prices competitive with Canadian products in recent years in third country markets, partly aided by the revalued Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar, according to the ITC.

New Great Northern Line Resists Bacterial Disease

A new germplasm line named ABC-Weihing is now available for breeding high-yielding varieties of great northern beans that can resist common bacterial blight.  Caused by the pathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. phaseoli, bacterial blight is an endemic disease that can affect bean crops. Antibiotic treatment, clean-seed programs and sanitation are standard control measures. But crop resistance is the keystone defense, notes USDA-ARS geneticist Phil Miklas, Prosser, Wash.

 In susceptible bean plants, disease symptoms include large brown blotches with lemon-yellow borders on leaf surfaces and small discolored seed in infected pods. Severe outbreaks can cause yield losses of up to 40% in susceptible crops.

Miklas and Carlos Urrea, a
University of Nebraska bean breeder who is handling seed requests, developed ABC-Weihing using marker-assisted selection, a method of detecting inherited genes that is faster than conventional screening of plants for disease resistance and other traits. ABC-Weihing is the offspring of several crosses the scientists made, starting in 1997, between a Great Northern bean cultivar and XAN 159, a germplasm breeding line.

In greenhouse tests, ABC-Weihing also resisted eight strains of bean rust, and all non-necrotic strains of bean common mosaic. ABC-Weihings upright growth also helped protect it from soilborne assault by white mold.  Other features include white flowers that bloomed 45 days after planting and seed that was slightly larger than 
Matterhorn, a commercial check variety used in trials in North Platte, Neb., Carrington, N.D., and elsewhere. In those tests, ABC-Weihing had an average seed yield of 1,869 pounds per acre versus 1,896 pounds per acre for Matterhorn.

USDA Geneticist Phil Miklas examines the results of an earlier experiment in breeding disease resistance into bean plants.

Estimating Dry Edible Bean Yields

You can estimate dry bean yields by knowing the number of seeds per pod, pods per plant and plants per 1/1000th of an acre. At the same time of counting seeds and pods, the maturity status of each should be determined.  If a seed or pod will not mature, it shouldnt be counted. Then count the total plants per 1/1000th acre to complete the data collection.

Within a representative and uniform plant stand, randomly select five plants each from at least five randomly selected locations in the field.  Keeping all plant data separate, pull and count the pods from each plant and then count the seeds to determine average seeds per pod for all five replications. These data are combined with the average number of plants per 1/1000th acre.

Seeds per pound can vary 10-20% for different varieties within a bean class. If available, use reported estimates for seed number per pound for your variety.  The accuracy of yield estimate can be improved by counting seeds and pods from at least 10 plants per replication.

Average number of seeds per pound
Kidneys                          900-1000
Pintos                            1400
Great Northerns               1600-1800
Pinks/Small Reds              1600-2000
Navies/Blacks                  3000   


1. (Average seeds per pod) x (average pods per plant) = average seeds per plant.

2. (Average seeds per plant) x (plants per 1/1000th of an acre) x (1000)  รท by seeds per pound of the variety = yield in pounds per acre.

Apply Desiccant When Pods At Least 80% Yellow/Brown

NDSU advises applying both paraquat (Gramoxone Max, Gramoxone Inteon, both restricted use products) and Aim when at least 80% of pods are yellow/brown.  Apply when no more than 40% (bush type beans) or 30% (vine type) of the leaves are still green.  Sequential applications may be needed, and thorough coverage is essential.

Keep in mind that a desiccant doesnt speed up crop maturity; it just shortens the time between maturity and harvest.  Thus, the crop must be physiologically mature (ready to swath) before a desiccant is applied.

Allow a seven day pre-harvest interval for paraquat and three days for Aim. Desiccants can be expected to perform more effectively in warm, sunny conditions compared to cloudy, cool conditions.

Roundup (glyphosate) is labeled for late season weed control in edible beans, and is not labeled for use as a crop desiccant.  Apply glyphosate after dry bean pods have turned yellow and leather in texture; at hard dough bean seed stage and 30% or less seed moisture.  Allow a 7 day preharvest interval, and do not apply to dry beans grown for seed, because reduced germination/vigor may occur.

Observations on the performance of Aim, based on limited research at NDSU:

"        Aim does poorly with vine desiccation.

"        Aim at 1 oz/ac usually gave similar desiccation as paraquat at 1 pt/ac, but Aim at 2 oz/ac + MSO gave around 5% greater desiccation than paraquat.

"        Aim applied with MSO at 1 qt/ac usually increased desiccation as compared to adding petroleum oil (COC) at 1 qt/ac.

"        Aim at 2 oz/ac gave about 10% greater desiccation than 1 oz/ac at 5, 7, and 14 days after application.

Keep in mind that Valor (flumioxazin) will not be registered for dry bean desiccation use until the 2008 growing season.  



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