Weather, fates impact bean season

Andrew D. Brosig/business farmer Ty Lewis combines dry edible beans for J.D. Farms on Sept. 20 along Experiment Farm Road northwest of Scottsbluff, Neb. Yields were definitely down after at least one of the multiple storms which hit the Wyo-Braska area this growing season dropped hail on the field.

WYO-BRASKA – It would be an understatement to say the 2019 growing season has been difficult across portions of the Nebraska Panhandle and eastern Wyoming.

From a cooler- and wetter-than-average spring to multiple hailstorms to the lack of irrigation water caused by the collapse of The Gering Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal tunnel in July, many factors make the fact there are crops at all in some places something of a miracle. And nowhere is that more evident than in the dry edible bean crops around the growing region.

“Overall, it’s disappointing to everybody,” said Dan Smith from Kelley Bean Co. in Scottsbluff, Neb. “Even in the fields that had no issues, (yields are) still down probably 20 percent from the past two years, just because of the cool, wet summer.”

Depending on where they are, producers early in the week were reporting harvest activities anywhere from 40 percent to 90 percent done, with yields were averaging in the 15 to 18 bags per acre range, Smith said. Courtney Schuler, field operations manager for Trinidad Benham in Bayard, Neb., noted yields ranging from 15- to 50-bushels per acre.

“Obviously, yields aren’t spectacular, with hail and the lack of irrigation water,” Schuler said. “But the quality is better than one might expect from all those challenges.”

One saving grace for producers who do have dry beans to harvest and sell might be the price, Smith said. As of Monday afternoon, grower price for new crop pinto beans was $25 per hundredweight. Great northern beans were fetching $27 per cwt. at midafternoon, Smith said Tuesday, with the price jumping to $30 by the end of the day. That’s more than what producers were getting in the past two or three years, Smith said, but slightly less than the 10-year average prices paid out at the elevators.

“We were kind of expecting small beans in the dry fields, but that also surprised us,” Smith said. “There’s pretty good quality on what’s come in.

“The beans that got hailed, if the crop was early enough … what was harvested in those areas was decent quality,” he said. “Some of the fields that were more mature when the hails came, some of those fields are pretty poor quality.”

Schuler agreed: “Our yields are all over the map. There are so many situations on each of these fields, an average is not an easy thing to calculate. The past couple of years, we’ve had a decent percentage of the production over 50 bushes (per acre); I don’t think there are going to be many of those fields this year.”

One positive note came when U.S. Department of Agriculture officials determined in August the acres denied water during the period the irrigation tunnel was shut down would be covered by crop insurance. That’s going to help, Schuler and Smith said, but it’s not going to make up for what could have been. 

“There were some things that definitely helped growers this season,” Schuler said. “No one is happy with how they’re doing on those fields. Yes, (prices and yields are) better than expected, but are they making any money? Probably not. They may just break even, which is better than not.”

Warm, dry conditions promote harvest for Tri-State

Weather conditions across Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming for the week ending Sept. 29 mostly cooperated with producers working in their fields. With average first-freeze date of Oct. 1, mostly warm, dry conditions prevailed across much of the Tri-State region during the week. But the National Weather Service had issued freeze watches for portions of the area Tuesday night into Thursday morning and significant snow was reported early in the week in parts of the northern Rockies.


LAKEWOOD – Producers in the Centennial State saw hot and dry weather continue last week, allowing producers plenty of days in the field for planting and harvesting activities, according to the NASS Mountain Region Field Office. 

Corn for grain harvest picked up as limited harvest began in more counties. 

Northeastern county reporters noted winter wheat seeding was slightly delayed in areas due to high winds, but continued despite dry conditions. East central counties remained dry with no moisture received last week. Winter wheat seeding progressed quickly where conditions allowed. 

In southwestern counties, reporters noted adverse drought conditions worsened and no measurable precipitation was received last week. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions expanded in several western and southern counties. 

San Luis Valley reporters noted alfalfa harvest progressed quickly and producers worked to cut hay prior to damage from nighttime frost. Potato harvest progressed well and quality was noted as good. 

In southeastern counties, minimal moisture was received last week. Crops were drying down well and harvest of both sorghum for forage and silage progressed. 

Statewide, stored feed supplies were rated 2 percent short, 87 percent adequate, and 11 percent surplus. 

Sheep death loss was 2 percent heavy, 86 percent average, and 12 percent light. Cattle death loss was 76 percent average and 24 percent light.


LINCOLN – There were 5.5 days suitable for fieldwork across the Cornhusker State for the week, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent very short, 13 percent short, 79 percent adequate, and 7 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 1 percent very short, 9 percent short, 83 percent adequate, and 7 percent surplus.

Field Crops Report: Corn condition rated 2 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 20 percent fair, 56 percent good, and 17 percent excellent. Corn dented was 95 percent, near the 99 percent last year and 98 percent for the five-year average. Mature was 52 percent, well behind 82 percent last year and 72 percent average. Harvested was 8 percent, behind 16 percent last year, and near the 11 percent average.

Dry edible bean condition rated 1 percent very poor, 8 percent poor, 27 percent fair, 57 percent good, and 7 percent excellent. Dry edible beans dropping leaves was 95 percent with 71 percent of the crop state-wide harvested.

Winter wheat planted was 71 percent, near 69 percent last year and 73 percent average. Emerged was 23 percent, behind 28 percent last year and 38 percent average.

Sorghum condition rated 1 percent very poor, 2 percent poor, 14 percent fair, 70 percent good, and 13 percent excellent. Sorghum coloring was 98 percent, near 97 percent last year, and equal to average. Mature was 38 percent, well behind 68 percent last year and 66 percent average. Harvested was 2 percent, behind 15 percent last year and 11 percent average.

Pasture and Range Report: Pasture and range conditions rated 1 percent very poor, 3 percent poor, 14 percent fair, 62 percent good, and 20 percent excellent.


CHEYENNE – Cool, wet weather prevailed across northern portions of the Equality State, while southern Wyoming experienced mostly warm and dry conditions with some scattered thunderstorm activity for the week, according to the regular report from the NASS Mountain Regional Field Office. 

Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels were mostly in the adequate to short range. A reporter from Northwestern Wyoming said they had cold and wet conditions this past week. A reporter from Western Wyoming reported they received some pretty good rain events. They also reported most nights are in the mid to low 20s, which is making harvesting of grain difficult. A reporter from Southeastern Wyoming said fall conditions persist. 

The U.S. drought monitor released on Sept. 26, showed most of Wyoming with good moisture, but with abnormally dry conditions in the west, southwest and south-central portions of the state. Irrigation water supply across Wyoming was rated 2 percent poor, 32 percent fair, and 66 percent good. Stock water supplies across Wyoming were rated 6 percent very short, 26 percent short, and 68 percent adequate.


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