Production and Market Management in Beans
» There has been a gradual shift in green bean production and marketing practices.
» Plant and bean characteristics are evolving to optimize quality and yield and to match consumer preferences.
» New packaging materials and methods can extend the shelf life of fresh market products.
FRESH MARKET BEANS
POD AND PLANT CHARACTERISTICS
The effort to develop bean varieties that best meet the
preferences of buyers and consumers is a constant
process for the vegetable seed industry. Currently,
there is a preference for plants with upright canopies
to help keep the pods off of the soil surface, reducing
the incidence of pod infections by soilborne pathogens.
Keeping the pods from touching the soil also results in
straighter pods, as pods that touch the soil when they
are developing are more likely to curve near the tip.
Plants with an upright structure are also better adapted
to machine harvesting, with less soil and plant debris
contaminating the harvested pods.1
While home gardeners choose between Kentucky
Wonder-type (flat-pod) varieties and Blue Lake-type
(round-pod) varieties, most of the commercial bean
varieties have rounded pods, and there is now a
preference for pods with a dark-green color.
There is also a preference for varieties that harvest
with the peduncle (pod-stem) attached to the pod, as
this helps prolong shelf life. In Europe, there has been
an increase in demand for smaller (diameter and
length) beans, and bean breeders have been expecting
the U. S. market to follow that trend (Figure 1). Some
growers in the U. S. are concerned that varieties with
smaller pods do not yield as well, and they tend to
prefer varieties with larger pods. However, many of the
smaller pod varieties have yield levels similar to
varieties with larger pods, as these plants often
produce more pods per plant. Table 1 shows what sizes
of pods are used for as various end products (fresh
market and processing).
Beans need to be harvested on time to assure quality.
The window for harvest can be as small as 36 hours to
get the highest quality beans, as pods become fibrous
when they are over-mature.1,2 Fresh market beans can
be hand harvested or machine harvested. With hand
harvesting, the crop can be harvested several times
over a two-week period, harvesting only the beans of
the desired size at any one harvest. With machine
harvesting, all pods are harvested at the same time,
resulting in a mix of pod sizes. Growers may get a
premium price for hand-harvested beans. For fresh
market bulk-bean displays, pods should be between 5
and 7 inches long, with most pods in the 5- to 6.5-inch
range.1 However, there is a trend away from bulk-bean
displays to bagged beans, and the pods may be snipped
or not snipped. For non-snipped, bagged beans, it is
desirable to have varieties that harvest with a high
percentage of peduncles attached to the pods. Broken
peduncles create wounds where decay can start.
PACKING AND STORAGE
Fresh market beans are packed in several different
types and sizes of containers including the following:5
- 26- to 31-lb. bushel wire-bound crates/bushel hampers
- 25- to 30-lb. cartons/crates
- 20- to 22-lb. cartons
- 15-lb. cartons
- 12-oz. un-snipped or pre-snipped bags (retail)
- 10-lb. pre-snipped bags (foodservice)
Once packed, beans should be stored at temperatures
between 41° and 45° F with relative humidity between
95 and 99%.3 This usually allows for a 7- to 10-day shelf
life.2 Cartons should be stacked to allow good air
circulation.5 Chilling injury can occur if beans are stored
at temperatures below 40° F. Cold-injured beans may
show surface pitting and russeting or other patterns of
discoloration. Damage may not be visible until the
beans are returned to warmer conditions, at which
time rapid decay can occur.2,5 Beans are also very
sensitive to ethylene and should not be stored with
other products that generate ethylene.
New packing materials and methods are available that
can increase the shelf life of beans. Modified
atmosphere packaging (MAP) substitutes atmospheric
air with a protective gas mixture to decrease the
oxygen content and slow microbial growth. Some
systems can adjust the level of oxygen in the package
based on the respiration rate of the product. The use of
bags made with breathable plastics can also reduce
microbial growth, pod rot, and weight loss. These
methods can extend the shelf life by 1 to 2 days.
Successful marketing of a bean crop requires planning
and attention to matters of production, harvesting,
packaging, transportation, distribution, warehousing,
pricing, compliance with health and safety regulations,
and being responsive to the demands of the consumer.
There are many marketing opportunities for fresh
market beans including direct marketing at roadside
stands or farmers’ markets, sales to local grocery stores
and specialty food stores, sales through cooperatives,
and contracts with wholesale shippers.3,4
Working with a cooperative typically involves shared
costs for packaging and shipping and pooled pricing of
the product. When working with local retailers (grocery
stores), growers must contact the produce managers
and provide a high-quality product when the stores
need them. When selling direct at roadside stands and
farmers markets, growers can get a higher price for
their product, as compared to the wholesale price, but
there may be added advertising, labor, and facility
expenses.4 With “pick-your-own” operations, labor
costs are lower, but the total amount of product
harvested and sold per acre is usually also lower.
Growing beans for the processing market usually
involves setting up a contract with a processor.4 The
processor typically designates the bean varieties to be
grown, along with instructions for planting and
production methods. Harvest is typically done by the
processing company or custom harvesters they have
For processing beans, there is also a strong preference
for plants with upright canopies. However, unlike with
fresh market beans, the processing market generally
prefers pods with a bright-green color. Processors also
prefer pods that detach from the peduncle at harvest.
There has been an increase in packing canned or frozen
whole-bean products that use smaller pod sizes. The
processor may obtain enough small-sieve size beans by
size grading them out from loads with mixed sizes. In
other cases, the processor may contract for varieties
that produce smaller sieve-size pods at maturity.
1 Maynard, L., Groff, M., Foster, R., and Egel, D. What a certified crop advisor should know about green beans. Purdue University.
2 Aguiar, J., Laemmlen, F., Baameur, A., and Mayberry, K. Snap bean production in California. University of California, Vegetable Research and Information Center. Publication 7240.
3 Hawkins, G., Sparks, A., Li, C., MacLean, D., Langston, D., Harrison, K., Sumner, P., Hurst, W., Boyhan, G., Culpepper, S., and Fonsah, E. 2013. Commercial snap bean production in Georgia. UGA Extension, Bulletin 1369.
4 Orzolek, M., Greaser, G., and Harper, J. 2017. Snap bean production. Penn State Extension.
5 Produce Market Guide. Commodity beans. https://www.producemarketguide.com/produce/beans.
Websites verified 12/19/17.
For additional agronomic information, please contact your local seed representative. Developed in partnership with Technology Development & Agronomy by Monsanto.
Individual results may vary, and performance may vary from location to location and from year to year. The information provided in this article may not be an indicator of results you may obtain as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible. The recommendations in this article are based upon information obtained from the cited sources and should be used as a quick reference for information about growing beans. The content of this article should not be substituted for the professional opinion of a producer, grower, agronomist, and similar professional dealing with this specific crop. SEMINIS DOES NOT WARRANT THE ACCURACY OF ANY INFORMATION OR TECHNICAL ADVICE PROVIDED HEREIN AND DISCLAIMS ALL LIABILITY FOR ANY CLAIM INVOLVING SUCH INFORMATION OR ADVICE. 170826145842 010318DME
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