Canada produces a lot of seeds – forage, canola, wheat and a host of other crops. But when it comes to Canadian edible bean production, the vast majority of the crop is grown from seed produced in Idaho.
The decision to grow seed south of the border really comes down to the need to control seed blight and seedling diseases. In this episode of RealAgriculture’s Edible Bean School, Hensall Co-op’s Director of Seed and Research Paul Cornwell explains the strategy behind why edible bean growers are turning to the upstate. western United States for many years for seed supply.
Idaho is an excellent region to grow seed because it is disease free. The state is located west of the continental divide, and eastern diseases cannot afford to “jump over mountains”, Cornwell jokes. State regulators have also recognized the uniqueness of the growing area and its value as a seed-producing region. The seed sector is considered the cornerstone of Idaho’s agricultural industry and receives significant support.
Located at the northern end of the Nevada Desert, the semi-arid conditions create a disease-free growing zone for irrigated seed crops. With seven to 10 inches of annual rainfall, and most in the winter months, irrigation is a must. “With full irrigation and many hours of sunlight, it’s almost as if they [growers] control the weather,” Cornwell says. “It’s like a greenhouse outside.” (The story continues after the video.)
Hensall Co-op has sourced seed for all of Idaho’s major edible bean crops since the 1990s – from cranberries and dark reds to navy beans and adzuki beans. There is some white and black bean production in Ontario, but this seed is grown from parent seed produced in Idaho.
Looking forward to 2022, Cornwell says seed supplies look good. A few market categories for Manitoba growers were tight “but with the way the acres are going, there should be adequate supply.”
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