The Move from Beans to Barley in Mexico
March 28, 2008
Dry beans are an important crop and food staple in Mexico. But production challenges and economics are forcing major changes in the traditional bean producing areas of the country.
Dr. Marcial Ortiz, a researcher with in Zacatecas, Mexico, told growers attending Bean Day in January that SAGARPA (Mexico’s Department of Agriculture) has a strategy to replace 500,000 acres of bean production with malting barley, oats and wheat acreage.
The move to convert production to other crops is driven by a number of factors:
• Average farm sizes for barley production are larger – 150 acres compared to 12 acres for dry beans. Barley production offers small growers the opportunity to expand their production into a larger-scale, more profitable cropping systems.
• Fixed production and price contracts exist for malting barley. They don’t for beans.
• Barley production allows for crop rotation options. Dry bean production in Mexico is largely a monoculture system. Adding barley to the cropping system will not only help improve profitability, but offer rotation options to improve agronomics.
• There are fewer pests to deal with in barley production. And, as stated above, rotational flexibility can result in fewer pests when dry beans are introduced into the barley rotation.
• Yields and income for barley are greater.
Also, it is difficult for Mexican dry bean growers to compete with U.S. bean producers. “With barley production, new cropping methods and technology can be more readily adapted to help them become more profitable,” says Ortiz.
What does this mean for U.S. Growers?
Since the Mexican growing regions that are moving to increased barley production mainly produce black beans now, there may be an opportunity for U.S. black bean growers to fill the void caused by the increased production of barley, corn, wheat and oats.
In Mexico, barley is planted in 26” furrows. This results in the use of less seed per acre, reduced herbicide use, less lodging, better quality, and higher yields than traditional drilled row spacing.