August 01, 2001
I cant say enough good things about dry beans, says Paul Schulz
I cant say enough good things about dry beans," says Paul Schulz.
He and his wife, Susan, farm a few miles east of the Missouri River in central North Dakota near Washburn. The area has produced a significant amount of dry beans in recent years.
Good yields as much as 2,500-2,600 pounds per acre have encouraged production.
"Its a crop that has paid a lot of bills," Paul says.
Northarvest Bean Grower Association members who grow dry beans in the Missouri River area currently have several things going for them.
Land costs are lower than in eastern North Dakota and Minnesota. Cropland typically rents for $30-$40 per acre.
The growing season weather has been just dry enough to reduce white mold pressure without trimming yield potential.
Kansas and Colorado processors frequently offer contracts for and bid for Missouri River production.
Dry beans also significantly boost yields of wheat the main cash crop on most central North Dakota farms.
But Northarvest dry bean growers in Lewis and Clark country also face some serious challenges.
Drought or at least mid-summer dry weather is a constant threat.
Edible beans tend to dry rapidly as they mature, making it more difficult to minimize splits and cracks.
Frost can clip the growing season in spring and fall.
Row crop machinery isnt standard on most farms. Producers who want to diversify with dry beans must buy a planter, cultivator and harvesting equipment.
Dry beans also require more inputs and intensive management than traditional crops in the region.
How they do it
Like many other successful Missouri River area farmers, the Schulzes tackle these problems head on.
Paul and Susan spend the money required on the seed, fertilizer and crop protection products to produce maximum yields under ideal weather conditions.
Cutting corners isnt wise. "If you get the right weather conditions to produce a big crop and you miss it, the financial loss is tough to make up," Paul says.
The couple who manage the farm themselves grow black and pinto beans in 30-inch rows. They plant approximately 65 pounds of seed per acre, apply 120 pounds of N per acre and usually incorporate Eptam or Prowl herbicide to control weeds. Then they follow up with post emergence chemicals. They cant use Sonalan or Treflan due to the presence of resistant weeds.
The Schulzes tried an all post-emergence herbicide program this year, but werent happy with results. Their fields are clean, but it took full rates of the post compounds. Without the preplant chemical, "weeds seem to die harder," Paul says.
One of the biggest challenges for the Schulzes has been harvesting. They cut and rodweed dry beans, then pick up 12 rows at time with a conventional grain combine.
Last year, they bought a John Deere STS rotary combine and realized a vast improvement in efficiency. The John Deere handled more material, and fed the beans into the threshing mechanism slowly and evenly. They were able to harvest as much as 75 acres a day without breakdowns.
Unless dry weather returns to central North Dakota, the Schulzes figure that dry beans will continue to be an important crop for them.
"Each year, we learn something that makes the crop better," Paul says.