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Dry Beans

The Wyoming Bean Commission recently held a meeting at the end of February via teleconference, during which the Commission selected six dry bean research projects for funding.

According to a March 7 press release, $34,215 was funded to the six projects.

“The projects chosen are funded through assessments collected on dry bean sales in Wyoming and include a variety of topics that will assist bean growers in the coming years,” says the release.


According to Hank Uhden, Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Technical Services Division manager, the Bean Commission was formed in 2015 by the Wyoming Legislature and is funded through assessments on dry bean sales.

“WDA administers the commission itself and the collection of assessments,” he says.

The six-member commission was originally appointed by Gov. Matt Mead and includes four bean growers and two bean handlers.

The primary purpose of the commission is to pool resources for research on dry beans in the state of Wyoming, as well as to provide a voice for the industry.

The commission is also seeking to work with neighboring state commissions and universities, in both Colorado and Idaho, to share expertise.


The Bean Commission will be funding six research projects for the upcoming year.

“Of the six projects we’re funding, four of them were renewed from last year,” comments Uhden.

While not on the research project list, a producer survey that was funded last year is reaching completion, as surveys were sent out at the end of March.

“The Commission wants to hear directly from producers about what is important in the dry bean industry to see how to  best utilize the funds from the assessment,” he explains.

Two of the research projects include edible dry beans as part of a crop rotation and cooperative dry bean nurseries.

Another main topic of research is studying drought-resistant varieties based on bean genotype.

“Researchers are looking at a lot of drought-resistant varieties and identifying which varieties available in other states could be adapted here. These varieties don’t have the high water needs of a lot of the beans that we’re currently growing,” he says.

In addition to using genetics to identify drought-resistant varieties, researchers are also using genetic information to look at the option of direct harvesting beans.

“They’re looking to see if direct harvest is an option and if can they find a bean that has genetic traits to grow a little taller,” continues Uhden.


As part of the selection process, the commission sent out a request for proposals.

Uhden notes that key researchers from the University of Wyoming (UW) were present throughout the commission’s meetings and discussion.

“Through those discussions with the commission, university researchers were able to get a good feel for what the commission was looking for in their discussions,” he says.

Input was also taken from the annual Wyoming Crop Improvement Association meeting.

“One of the ideas that came through was the element of fertility that we need to look at in dry beans,” he continues. “UW came back this year with proposed projects in that area.”

The upcoming producer survey will also be critical in selecting future research projects for funding.

“The commission knows that they don’t get 100 percent participation from everybody across the state at these grower meetings, which makes responses to these surveys important,” comments Uhden.

Looking forward

Uhden notes that the commission will most likely have one more spring or early summer meeting for 2017

“If we don’t do one in late spring or early summer, we’ll have a meeting in the fall,” he explains.

Another large project is the upcoming election cycle, which will elect one handler and two grower positions on the commission.

Individuals who paid the assessment last year will be eligible to vote and should receive the ballots in the mail by the beginning of April.

According to Uhden, each individual serving on the board is eligible to serve one additional term if they are re-elected.

“The growers and the handlers are able to vote by either checking that they want to retain who is on the commission or by writing in a new person,” he concludes. “Should somebody want to get on the commission, they could campaign amongst their peers who grow beans to write their name in.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Powell — According to Powell Research and Extension Center (PREC) Research Associate Randy Violet, dry bean acres in the Powell area will be pretty high this growing season.
    “Bean companies were very aggressive in securing contracts and acres with good contract prices for this year,” he says, noting that while corn and other commodities have dropped this year, beans have remained high. “Last year contracts signed for around $1,200 per acre. This year they won’t be quite that high, but they’ve held their value much more than other commodities.”
    In Wyoming dry beans are grown in the Big Horn Basin, the Riverton area and in the southeast corner of the state. “A couple of things make the Big Horn Basin ideal for dry beans, but primarily it’s the climate with very little humidity and precipitation,” says Violet.
    He says the biggest issue with dry beans is disease, and most are fungal diseases that thrive in humidity and moisture. “On an average year we don’t have much of that, so we have very little disease pressure,” he says, adding that dry beans do very well in furrow irrigation rather than sprinklers for the same reason.
    Regarding weed pressure, Violet says the biggest weeds the Basin contends with are black nightshade and hairy nightshade. “The nightshades mature so late in the year they escape our herbicide program, and they have a seed pod that’s still green in the fall when we’re ready to harvest, with a high moisture content and a sticky substance. If you run that through your combine it gums things up and sticks things together and the seed gets stuck to the bean,” he explains. “The nightshades are the biggest economic problem, and if you have it you have to remove it by hand because there’s zero tolerance for having nightshade in a seed field.”
    He says the new rotation of Roundup Ready sugarbeets into those fields should help in cleaning up the nightshade problem. Relating to Roundup Ready technology for dry beans themselves, Violet says he doesn’t see it happening. “Besides nightshades, weeds aren’t that big of a problem,” he says. “We use a lot of pre-plant herbicides that are pretty effective, and the beans grow rapidly and are very competitive with their creeping vines, so they can choke out a lot of weeds.”
    He says weed pressure in dry beans is nothing like it was in sugarbeets, so the drive for a company to spend the money isn’t there. He sees testing on disease and drought resistance as a more likely route for researchers to take.
    “The big thing in research is yield – trying to get seven or eight seeds per pod,” he continues. “Another thing they’re working really hard on is developing a variety that puts the pod up high on a plant and gets them off the ground so they can be direct cut.”
    Dry beans are typically harvested with a bean cutter that lifts the plant out of the ground, after which several rows are combined into one windrow to dry out and cure. “When you combine those with a pickup head you get a lot of rocks and dirt in the reel, so developing a variety where you don’t have to do all that is at the forefront,” says Violet.
    A variety with higher seedpods could be direct cut in the same manner as wheat and barley. However, Violet says he hasn’t yet seen a whole lot of progress.
    Concerning insects and diseases, Violet says the Basin hasn’t had a problem with either for quite a few years.
    The Big Horn Basin’s dry bean market is driven by seed beans that head for the Red River Valley in North Dakota, which has recently seen major pressure from flooding. “It’ll be interesting to see how the flooding will affect their bean acreage this year. Because the bean companies have already contracted for seed this year it won’t affect this year’s price at all, but it may have a domino effect in years to come,” notes Violet.
    The PREC trials a variety of dry beans, including dark and light kidney beans, black beans, navy beans and pinto beans.
    “The big contracts and the majority of beans in this area are pinto beans,” says Violet. He says there are varieties of pinto beans that are more producer-friendly and with which producers are familiar with the production and yields. “Harvest is a big thing for how well they cut and combine, and shatter is another issue with beans.”
    Shatter occurs when the bean pods dry up and split open and the seeds fall out. “Black and navies tend to shatter sooner than pintos, so pintos are friendly for producers to grow and their yields tend to be up and they combine well,” explains Violet.
    Another advantage to dry beans is they don’t require much nitrogen. “When nitrogen prices were way high it was easy to find people to grow beans,” says Violet. “Now that phosphorus is way expensive, that’s settled some of the fertilizer issues in terms of competition for acreage.”
    Violet says yet another boon of the crop is it doesn’t go in until May, and even early June for short-season varieties. “Right now guys are just finishing barley planting and starting to get sugarbeets bedded and planted this week. As soon as they get beets done, then they’ll have some time before they have to be in a big hurry about beans.”
    Also, dry beans prefer well-draining soils, so rocky or coarse soils that make it hard to keep sugarbeets and barley irrigated are well-suited for a dry bean crop.
    He says most producers pre-irrigate, then come in a week to 10 days later and plant. “They’ll let the bean sprout and start growing, and depending on the weather, they won’t have to irrigate again for another month.”
    Because of their late planting date, bean outlooks aren’t available until mid-June, when too much rain or too much cold really matter. “Beans do very well when it’s hot and dry,” he says.
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – With Wyoming falling in the top 10 for a number of production characteristics related to dry beans, controlling weeds and pests in the crop is important to producers. However, challenges with weeds, including Venice mallow, are often hard to address, as pesticide labels frequently don’t include the weed.

Jenna Meeks, a University of Wyoming (UW) researcher, commented, “Venice mallow, as with most weed species, came from another country where people thought it was pretty. Here it is a nuisance.”

Meeks presented research conducted by her colleague Gustavo Sbatella during the 2016 Wyoming Weed Management Rendezvous, held in Casper Jan. 19-21.

Controlling mallow

“Venice mallow is hard to find on herbicide labels,” Meeks added. “There aren’t a lot of products that specifically list Venice mallow as a species they control. Part of that is because there isn’t a lot of information available.”

Venice mallow as a weed is specific to dry beans, meaning it does not impact other crops.

“This weed is specific to dry bean production in the West, and a lot of herbicide label information comes from the Midwest where Venice mallow isn’t a problem,” she said.

In addition, controlling the weed is particularly important because many Wyoming dry bean producers are producing beans for seed.

“Certified seed producers need their product to be very clean,” Meeks explained. “Late season weeds can affect the certification. Venice mallow is a particular problem because there are several flushes. It can germinate throughout the growing season.”

Weed control study

To address concerns with the weed, Meeks said that UW conducted a study in Burlington to determine the crop response and efficacy of various weed control programs.

“We planted a variety of pinto beans called Othello in 22-inch rows, with a target population of 65,000 seeds per acre,” she explained. “The beans were planted on June 1.”

The soils planted were gravelly and sandy loam soils, both areas where Venice mallow thrives. Plots were 11 by 25 feet and randomized.

Weed counts were taken three times in the season – immediately before post-emergence application of herbicide, 15 days after post-emergence application and right before harvest on Sept. 1.

Two different pre-plant treatments were utilized in the study. The first treatment was Eptam at three pints per acre with Sonalan at two pints per acre. The second treatment used Eptam at the same rate and Outlook at 14 fluid ounces per acre.

In considering post-emergence herbicide, Meeks noted, “The total season application of Outlook can’t be greater than 21 fluid ounces per acre, so we used seven ounces in the post-emergence application if we had used 14 in the pre-plant.”

She added that if no Outlook was used in the pre-plant scenario, all 21 fluid ounces were applied at post-emergence.

“The other post-emergence herbicide we used was Permit for residual control of weeds,” Meeks said. “Outlook and Permit are the only two herbicides labeled for both beans and Venice mallow.”


Looking at results, Meeks noted that pre-plant treatments did not affect the number of Venice mallow plants in a statistically significant manner.

“We did see smaller Venice mallow plants, but there was not necessarily a density difference,” she clarified. “All of the treatments we compared to our weedy check significantly reduced density after treatment.”

She did mention that application of Permit did result in some weeds in the middle of their plots, but Venice mallow was still significantly reduced as compared to the non-treated, weedy check plot.

Meeks also said that yield differences were not seen between post-emergence herbicide treatments.

“We also wanted to look at this for purposes of getting seed certified for sale, and all but one treatment was approved for seed certification,” she noted.

Meeks added, “The other good thing is that there was no visible crop injury that was seen with any treatment.”


While all herbicide treatments were effective at controlling Venice mallow in beans, Meeks emphasized that producers be cognizant about the herbicides they use relative to crops they plan to plant in their next rotation.

“We have to think about cropping rotation restrictions with the use of these herbicides,” she said. “With Outlook, which had good control, we have to wait four months to plant winter barley and the next season for spring barley, sugarbeets and sunflowers.”

Meeks continued, “Where we get into trouble is with Permit. We can’t rotate to sugarbeets for three years after using Permit, which could present a problem.”

Additionally, sunflowers can’t be planted for 18 months after using Permit.

Meeks also noted that UW plans to repeat the study in the coming year, also focusing on nightshade control.

“We want to make sure we didn’t have a good year, good moisture or something else that may have affected the results,” Meeks said.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On Dec. 7-8, the Wyoming Dry Bean Commission, which was formed as a result of a bill that passed the Wyoming Legislature in February 2015, held its first meeting, electing officers and beginning to set up procedures for its operation.

“We had a full agenda,” said Hank Uhden, Wyoming Department of Agriculture technical services manager and ex-officio member of the Commission, “but we got through everything.”

“The checkoff provides an assessment on dry beans that is collected at the time beans are sold,” Uhden explained. “Those funds go into an account with the state, and the Commission can utilize the funds for research and marketing.”

Grower Beau Fulton of Powell was elected as chairman, and Jeffrey Chapman of Torrington, a dry bean handler, was elected as vice chair.

Conducting business

During the meeting, the Commission looked at distribution of funds collected.

“The first primary focus is obviously to get themselves going,” Uhden said. “The first year, we really need to see how much is collected, but we really need research.”

In addition, the Commission looked at growing trials, including on-farm trials, and university trials.

The group also looked at their statutes and responsibilities, as well as how they will conduct business moving forward.

At their next meeting, set for Jan. 14 in Casper, the Wyoming Dry Bean Commission will consider routing assessment funds through the Crop Research Foundation of Wyoming, which would enable them to pool resources with other funding sources.

“Even though funding is limited at this time, they will also look to establish a draft budget,” Uhden said. “Ted Craig from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture will also talk about specialty crop grants.”

The Commission has to develop regulations, which Uhden anticipates will be available at the next meeting. They will also discuss draft policies.

“Our meetings are always open to the public, and anyone can contact me if they have questions,” he said.

Similar work

Aside from Wyoming’s newly established Dry Bean Commission, the dry bean industry in the state is also working cooperatively to conduct research with Idaho and Colorado through the Rocky Mountain High Plains Bean Research Consortium.

“The Consortium was the brainchild of Drs. Mark Brick and Howard Schwartz at Colorado State University,” explained University of Wyoming Seed Certification Manager Mike Moore. “Mark talked to me about this idea years ago. He said that so many of our university programs, especially breeding programs, are very expensive.”

Moore explained that, in addition to breeding, testing varieties for traits is a very expensive process.

“The Colorado group reached out and said, ‘Let’s talk about a cooperative effort – one where a university or state has a breeding program and others have the agronomic programs,’” he said, noting that at that point, the Consortium was formed.  “To this point, the concept is working out.”

Pooling resources

The Rocky Mountain High Plains Bean Research Consortium is pursuing a unique concept in pooling resources across state lines to conduct research.

“At this point, we have Memorandums of Understanding from each of the three states that are part of Consortium that we are going to share information and resources for the greater good of the whole,” Moore commented.

In addition, Brick has pledged two lines of beans that are ready to be released now to the Consortium.

“Those lines provide a revenue stream,” Moore explained. “Money drives this effort. The Idaho and Colorado Bean Commissions have put money up front, and we hope the Wyoming Bean Commission will also see the opportunity.”

Moving forward

Currently, the Bean Commission is seeking additional funding and pursuing a new USDA grant.

Andi Woolf-Weibye of the Idaho Bean Commission noted, “Last July, we learned about an opportunity through USDA for a specialty crop multi-state program. This is a beautiful fit for us, and we decided it was what we are looking for.”

Woolf-Weibye continued that they are working to develop the pre-proposal for the grant, which is due at the beginning of December.

If funded, the grant would provide money through 2018.

“We just want to make sure we don’t see bean research fade into the distance,” Woolf-Weibye added. “We want to make sure we still have a voice and can get things done.”

Needs of growers

An array of issues face dry bean growers in Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming, including variety and disease challenges.

“One of the big challenges facing bean research is the lack of a public bean breeder,” Woolf-Weibye stated. “No one is doing work to breed new bean varieties.”

New varieties would be beneficial in helping growers achieve the best possible yield and use of resources.

“We don’t have anyone breeding beans,” Moore added. “If we had a variety that works well here, that would be huge.”

Uhden also noted that dry bean growers around Wyoming struggle with finding varieties that are suited to grow in their environments.

“The development of varieties for geographical regions – and even locally – we can have a variety,” he continued. “As an example, on Beau Fulton’s farm, there is a 1,000-foot elevation difference, and the environment is very different. Those are the things they want to look at – developing varieties that will work in growing areas across the state.”

Woolf-Weibye also noted that water supply issues have come up, particularly in recent drought years.

“For us to see the timing and amount of water that is best for beans would be important,” she explained. “We want to be as efficient as we can.”

Consumer questions

Another area where research in beans is needed is in bean darkening. Darkening is a phenomenon where beans gradually turn darker in color as they are exposed to sunlight. Darker beans are less appealing to consumers, though they are still safe to eat. 

“Slow darkening is a genetic trait in pinto beans, and it is a game changer,” Moore commented, noting the trait would allow beans to be in inventory for longer periods of time while maintaining consumer shelf appeal.

“There are all sorts of agronomic questions,” he said. “We are still using 40-year-old chemistry to control weeds and varieties that aren’t tailored to our environment right now because we don’t have the funds for research.”

Moore added, “All of these efforts coming together are huge for the dry bean industry in Wyoming.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Manderson – A Montana-based company marketing dry pinto beans into over 40 states has now expanded to Manderson, offering new opportunities for Wyoming producers.
“Russell E. Womack is a family-owned business with family stock holders and two co-presidents. It was started in the early 1970s by the current generation’s uncle, and Yellowstone Bean is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Russell E. Womack,” explains Yellowstone Bean Vice President Todd Curtiss of the company’s history prior to expanding to the Big Horn Basin in 2010.
“Russell E. Womack is based in Lubbock, Texas, and they process and package dry pinto beans into one-, two-, four-, 10-, 20-, and 50- pound casserole packages,” continues Curtiss. “They’re in 6,500 grocery stores in over 40 states. “
He adds that the company has purchased Big Horn Basin beans from a number of companies for over 20 years, and recently decided to solidify their supply in the area.
“In doing that, they purchased Yellowstone Bean, which was located in Bridger, Mont., in January 2008, and I started with the company at that time. From there we have added this facility, and currently employ 15 to 20 full-time employees and hire additional help during harvest, company wide,” says Curtiss of the company’s growth.
“The reason for solidifying supply is to basically go from farmer to shelf, and that allows us to do a lot of things. We can put out a very competitive price to our growers by not having another person in the middle, it allows us to guarantee supply, and we know what we have in our bins and the quality of beans we’re dealing with,” explains Curtiss.
The Manderson facility was started in April 2010, and is currently comprised of six 60,000-bushel storage bins.
“We filled five out of the six bins last year, and that was an above-average crop. We designed the facility for a static number of acres, and we will be at that target number this year,” comments Curtiss.
“The facility ended up being built on a pretty tight schedule. We started dirt work July 22, concrete was poured Aug. 14 and we put beans in on Sept. 14. At the beginning of harvest we had to utilize a competing company’s bins for two weeks because the schedule was so tight. We were bringing in a million pounds of beans a day, and were really starting to wonder when we would be in our own bins,” notes Curtiss with a laugh.
One goal Yellowstone Bean made a top priority during the building phase was to support local businesses.
“Everything except the bin crew that put up the bins is local. Our electrical workers, dirt and concrete guys, the people who built the sheds and buildings on the facility, the office furniture – it all came from up and down the Big Horn Basin, and we made that a top priority. We are a local company, and we wanted to support other local companies, and we’re proud to do so,” says Curtiss.
He adds that the benefits of being a local company extend to the product, as well.
“We contract annually with growers. We don’t do anything more long-term than that because the market makes it really difficult to do so. But people do business with us directly, and we live here, and we go out and meet our growers personally,” says Curtiss, adding that he really enjoys that aspect of the job.
When beans arrive at the facility, they are run across a scalper to remove excess dirt on their way to the bins. Then, while being loaded onto a rail car, they are run across a gravity screen to further remove dirt and debris.
“Beans are shipped to Lubbock to be milled, cleaned and packaged. Here we sort beans into different bins based on size and quality, then ship everything to Texas via rail car. We do have the capability to load trucks out of this facility, but don’t do that at this time,” explains Curtiss.
Wyoming beans are considered a quality product, in part because of their light, bright color.
“They definitely cook faster, and stay brighter during cooking, because they haven’t gone through the weather changes you’ll see in other states. Fall rains and weather variations cause the seed coat to harden, and Wyoming doesn’t receive those weather conditions as much as other areas. A really nice, bright bean also looks good on the shelf, and is attractive to customers,” explains Curtiss.
Of the facility’s future plans, Curtiss says they are currently satisfied with the size of their Manderson facility.
“Right now we’re happy with where we are. We do have enough acreage to have the option to do additional things, and we can’t rule anything out, but I don’t have any plans currently. We’ve put in a pretty large-scale facility, and I will say we are definitely here to stay for a vey long time,” comments Curtiss.
Yellowstone Bean is a member of the Rocky Mountain Bean Dealers Association, and Curtiss is also involved in the Ag Issues Committee on the U.S. Dry Beans Council.
“Those things are another step that provide a different service to our growers and farmers, and give them a voice. It also gives us insight into more political issues that everyone may not always be aware of. We all do a little bit of everything around here, and like it that way,” explains Curtiss.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..