Bean Basics - Harvest tips from A to Z.
August 12, 2004
Dry bean harvesting operation is done by one of two ways: undercutting, windrowing and combining from the windrow, and straight combining. Dry beans should be harvested at the 15 to 18% moisture level to minimize splitting and seed coat damage. Harvesting at lower moisture levels may result in an excessive percentage of split beans and checked seed coats. Beans with checked seedcoats may split with further handling.
Harvest dry beans before a killing frost. Frozen immature beans are difficult to separate in processing, while unfrosted immature bean seeds will shrink during drying and can be separated. Dry beans are ready for harvest when some of the pods are dry and when the majority of pods have turned yellow. The nearly mature dry beans in the yellow pods will continue to ripen after they are cut. Too many dry pods at harvest will result in heavy shattering. Dry bean cutting and windrowing should be done at night or early in the morning when the plants are damp with dew. All bean types, but especially whites, require a harvest period relatively free from rain to avoid seed discoloration.
Cutting and windrowing
Dry beans may be undercut and windrowed in two separate operations or as a single operation. Blade type undercutters knife the plant root 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface. The rodding operation uses a bean rod to lift the plants from the soil. The number of rows to be placed in one windrow will depend on the density of the crop and the size of combine used. Leave beans in the windrow only long enough for the lower stem and attached row parts to dry sufficiently for combining.
Bush type beans may be harvested with a straight-cut attachment on a combine. It is usually best to use the flexible cutterbar and pickup reel. These operate much closer to the soil and save considerably more seed. Most field loss is caused by pods being cut by the cutterbar or operating at an incorrect speed. Recent equipment developments include replacing or supplementing the pickup reel with an air reel to help move plants across the cutterbar. Research has shown that field losses with conventional straight cut type headers can range from 20 to up to 40% of the yield. Grower experiences with direct cut headers suggest that the addition of an air reel and supplemental lifter guards to a flexible cutterbar can reduce loss to 5 to 10% of yield.
Harvest dry beans before a killing frost.
Grower experiences with direct cut headers suggest that the addition of an air reel and supplemental lifter guard ... can reduce losses to 5-10% of yield.