Harvest of dry edible beans underway in the Nebraska Panhandle


Harvesting of dry edible beans this season is underway in the tri-state Nebraska Panhandle, southwestern Nebraska, eastern Wyoming, and northeast Colorado.

The overall harvest in the region looks very good, despite difficult weather conditions and hail earlier in the year throughout the growing region. Average yield is expected to be about 2400 pounds per acre or about 40 bushels per acre.

Edible dry beans are harvested using two different methods. The more traditional method requires different equipment to make several passes through the field, first cutting the roots of the bean plants and placing the plants in a windrow to dry.

When the crops reach the desired humidity level, the swaths are combined. Many growers use a traditional combine, and some growers use a specialized Pickett dry edible bean combine.

The downside to this method is that the windrows are sometimes blown across the field, splitting the bean pods and scattering the beans. They are also prone to rain and yes even early snow, leaving the swaths wet. In this case, the grower may need to “turn” or “lift” the windrows to dry, which can lead to increased crop losses in the field. The field of dry edible beans is planted in rows when this harvesting method is used.

The other method is to harvest the crop directly. The bean plant can be desiccated to facilitate even drying of the growing crop. Again, when the crop reaches the desired moisture level, it is directly harvested by a combine harvester. The combine generally has a very wide header, up to 40 feet in width.

Precipitation events are generally not a problem for direct harvesting, as plants can dry out quickly.

However, there is a greater chance of crop loss in the field when combining. Edible dry bean plants do not stand up very well in the field, and bean pods are lower to the ground. If the combine cannot pick up the lower bean pods, it results in crop loss. The dry edible bean crop can be planted in rows or sown with this harvesting method.

Once the beans are harvested in the field, they are delivered to processors (most of whom are based in Nebraska or have elevators in the area). Processors clean, sort and condition the grain.

The packaged grains are then shipped across the country for distribution to consumers. About 20% of dry beans are exported to customers outside of the United States.

In 2020, nationally, Nebraska was ranked # 1 in Far North edible dry bean production and # 2 in pinto and light red kidney production. Nebraska growers produce over a billion servings of dry beans per year. The production of dry edible beans in Nebraska adds $ 158.4 million to the state’s economy.

You’ve probably eaten edible dried beans in chili, baked beans, or a bean salad. But did you know that they can also be used to make brownies, fudge or mashed potatoes? Edible dry beans are a great source of fiber, protein, and other nutrients.

Some edible dry bean recipes and nutritional information can be found on the site Nebraska Extension’s Food Website. Type “dry beans” in the search box.


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