Uncertain markets plague area bean growers


SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – Dry bean producers from across the region participated in the 2017 Nebraska Dry Bean Growers Association Dry Bean Field Tour, Tuesday, Aug. 22. The annual event is held at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff.
The 2017 agenda included market situations and research results, as well as updates on UNL administrative and program changes.
Jessica Groskopf, Regional Extension Economist, reviewed market trends over the past year and presented possibilities for the coming harvest and into next year.
“Beans are about the only ray of sunshine in commodities right now,” Groskopf said, adding that the national harvest could be as much as 1.4 million acres of dry beans. Most of those are pintos, with North Dakota the main producer, followed by Nebraska, which produces the most Great Northerns.
Prices are influenced by a number of things, including weather, supply, and demand,
Groskopf also explained the impact of corn prices on dry beans. With $2.70/cwt corn, bean growers might get $23.61/cwt. On the other hand, $3.90/cwt corn might result in
$28.45/cwt beans.
At this point, Groskopf said, dry bean growers can expect above $23.59/cwt for dry beans, but as always, that depends on market conditions. She believes contract prices will remain steady.
Regarding crops, John Thomas, Extension Educator at Alliance, reported on direct harvest progress. He estimates that direct harvested beans account for 20-25 percent of the Panhandle
production.
Among the reasons for switching to direct harvest are labor shortage, weather, reduced soil disturbance and less soil through the combine. On the downside are the expense of having to buy a new header, switching to a new harvesting system that includes taking longer to harvest, no cultivation to control weeds, increased seed purchase, and higher harvest loss.
Thomas said new upright bean varieties are making direct harvest more attractive, but they must hold the pods two inches or more above the ground. Otherwise the tips of the pods are clipped off and the seeds spill out.
A level field surface, flex draper heads, and a knowledgeable operator are very important for successful direct harvest, Thomas said.
“You need to check your harvest loss,” Thomas said. “Get off the combine and see what the loss is. Five to 10 minutes can give you a good idea to what’s going on.”
In his turn, Jim Schild, Extension Educator, explained some of the findings from his research on 30 years of variety trials.
“We know we have different agronomic practices,” he said, noting that during the past 30 years there have been significant increases in yield.
“But why?” he asked, adding that Nebraska dry bean acreage is down, there are no Roundup Ready beans and the number of varieties have increased.
Schild believes variety management is
the key.
“In 1920, there was one dry bean variety,” Schild said. “Today there is a pallet of traits to match a variety of conditions, and better management of varieties.”
He explained varieties exist for soil conditions, weather, temperature, and other environmental
influences.
“We have more upright varieties, choices in maturity, and disease control,” he said. “There are improved selections of varieties for our area, with 110 this year.”
Addressing another major issue for dry bean growers was Dr. Nevin Lawrence Extension Weed Specialist, who relayed information on attempts to control Palmer Amaranth, an aggressive weed that has reached the Panhandle.
Standing next to a test plot overwhelmed with the tall invasive species, he emphasized caution when using available herbicides. Some can be used only once, and others cannot be combined. He also alerted producers to keep in mind carryover problems if using pre-emergent
herbicide applications.
Lawrence did say a micro-rate program is being considered, so there could be two applications, but it is off-label and has not been properly tested.
“There are no magic words or formulas,” Lawrence concluded. “Nothing really
works great.”
Addressing research at other locations, Dr. Hector Santiago, University Assistant Dean/Agriculture Research Division, presented a program on advanced technologies in water management. High tech operations – Translational Plant Science – monitors growth and water use through futuristic lab operations that include a growth chamber, and a large technologically advanced greenhouse, before plants are transferred to small plots in fields where they reach maturity.
Plants are monitored from seed to maturity, using robotics, automation, and energy chambers, using total
computer control.
He also addressed a project, the first of its kind in the United States, that includes a tall drone device, which monitors plants from the air.
Other tour topics
included:
• Using beneficial insects to increase yield and reduce input costs: Dr. Jeff Bradshaw
• Deficit irrigation management and water stress monitoring: Dr. Xin Qiao
• Potential Great Northern and Pinto bean lines to be released as cultivars: Dr. Carlos Urrea
• Presentations by representatives from Nebraska U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, and Congressman Adrain Smith.

Dry Bean Field Day President Comment

Surviving 2017

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – Considering what the crop and producers have endured this growing season, Paul Pieper, president of the Nebraska Dry Bean Growers Association, hopes the area communities profited some from the hundreds of out of state visitors who were on a mission to view the Great American Solar Eclipse.
Since most were expected to be Colorado residents, driving vehicles with the tell-tale green and white license plates, Pieper said, “I hope they left a lot of greenbacks in the Valley, because we’re (producers) sure going to be short this year.”
During noon break for lunch that included bean brownies and ice cream, that followed the 2017 Nebraska Dry Bean Growers Association Dry Bean Field Tour, Pieper reviewed the year’s impact on producers and their communities.
From three inches of rain in some areas on Mothers Day, to drought conditions, and back to too much rain in the Dutch Flats area in July, the year has not been kind to a large number of growers in the North Platte River Valley.
“It’s been a full bag of not so nice tricks,” Pieper said. “It’s been full of challenges. What worked for one (grower) might not work for the next.”
Pieper said everyone is concerned with the encroachment of Palmer Amaranth, the weed that has made its way from southeast Nebraska to the Panhandle.
However, there is always hope.
“Prices aren’t great, but they are steady,” Pieper explained. “I just hope they continue, but that will depend on conditions at harvest.
“That cash flow is important to farmers. We hope it all pays, or we’ll just have to fight it out.”

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