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Chapter 13: Beans—Dry, Snap, and Lima

13.1 Varieties

Disease resistance tables for

13.2 Planting Methods

Most dry beans should be planted between May 20 and June 30, but light red kidneys and cranberry beans can be planted as late as July 10, due to their earlier maturity date. Insecticide-fungicide seed treatments assist early dry bean plantings, but best germination occurs at soil temperatures of 60°F or above. When weather and soil conditions permit, late-May and early-June plantings often yield as much or more than plantings made in mid-June or later. Optimal germination of snap bean seed occurs at soil temperatures of 75° to 80°F. The minimum temperatures at which snap bean germination will occur are 55° to 60°F. For recommended spacing of dry and snap beans, see Table 13.2.1.

Table 13.2.1 Recommended spacing of dry and snap beans

Type of Bean Row
(in inches)
(plants per foot)
Dry 28 - 32" 4 - 6 Because seed size varies greatly between varieties, make sure the proper amount is planted. Red kidney classes require 75 to 100 pounds per acre, whereas black turtle soup and navy/pea beans run at 35 to 40 pounds per acre. Adjust the plant rate for the percentage of germination.
Snap 30 - 36" 5 - 7 If closer row spacing and a higher plant population per acre is used, a proportionately higher rate of fertilizer should be applied.

Bean seed is sensitive to chilling injury when planted in cold soil. It is particularly susceptible during the initial stage of germination, which is referred to as imbibition. If the soil is cold at this time, permanent damage may occur. If, however, imbibition occurs under warm conditions, the seed can later tolerate cool soil temperatures and still germinate normally. The most critical period is the first 24 hours after planting. Seed with low vigor is especially sensitive to chilling injury, and dry seed is injured more easily than seed with a higher moisture content. Increasing the moisture content of the seed by placing it in an environment of high relative humidity for several days before planting can help minimize injury.

Planting dates for fresh-market and processing snap beans are May 1 to July 25. The crop matures in 50 to 60 days, depending on the specific variety and desired pod size. Only western-grown, certified, dry and snap bean seed should be planted.

A good rotation helps reduce the incidence of foliar diseases and lowers the population of plant pathogens that cause root rot and other diseases. Corn and cereal grains are excellent rotation crops. If a field with a history of root rot is to be planted to beans, plant as late as possible in the season when the soil is warm. To allow for adequate aeration and drainage of excess moisture, avoid compacting the soil. Planting on raised beds or ridges will help reduce root rot severity because the soil will be warmer and drier than the unridged soil. Seed should be treated with recommended fungicides.

Dry beans are not usually irrigated because of the lower cash value of the crop relative to the cost for irrigation. Nevertheless, one or two well-timed irrigations near blossom set and early pod fill can increase yields significantly if the crop is undergoing drought conditions.

A deficiency of water in the plant resulting from a lack of soil moisture or excessive transpiration can lead to deformed or pithy snap bean pods. Both yield and quality can be increased by irrigation before bloom and during pod enlargement if there is moisture stress. Irrigation during bloom with guns that produce large droplets is not advised because blossoms can be knocked off the plant.

13.3 Fertility

Use lime to maintain a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. See Table 13.3.1 for the recommended rates of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Table 13.3.1 Recommended application rate of nutrients based on soil tests.1,2

N pounds/acre Soil Phosphorus Level Soil Potassium Level Comments
  low med. high low med. high  
40 80 60 40 60 40 20 Total recommended
0 0 0 0 20 0 0 Broadcast and disk-in
40(3) 80 60 40 40 40 20 Band place with planter
1: If pH is <5.5, as in rotations with potatoes, or if the magnesium soil test is <30, apply 5 pounds per acre magnesium in the band at planting.
2: If pH is 7 or higher, include 1 pound per acre of zinc and manganese in the band at planting. After moderate or heavy applications of lime, when fields have been newly tilled, or when erosion has occurred exposing calcareous subsoil, apply 2 pounds per acre of zinc and manganese.
3: If dry beans follow a well established legume cover crop, apply ony 20 pounds per acre nitrogen.
4: If nitrogen deficiency is likely because of leaching rains, apply 30 pounds per acre when plants have 2 or 3 true leaves.

13.4 Harvesting

All processing and most fresh-market snap bean acreage is harvested by machine. Processing snap beans are prepared relatively soon after harvest. Fresh-market beans can be held for about one week at 40° to 45°F and 90 to 95 percent relative humidity.

Dry beans should be harvested when the plants reach physiological maturity. If maturity is uneven, several chemical defoliants are available to speedup desication of plants and pods. See Cornell Integrated Crop and Pest Management Guidelines for Commercial Vegetable Production. Do not delay the harvest after the beans become mature because fall rains on mature beans cause sprouted or blemished seed. Bean darken rapidly in the field after they are mature and subsequently become unmarketable. All varieties must be threshed carefully to prevent checked skins or broken seeds. Seed damage at harvest is highly correlated with low seed moisture and is least likely if moisture is 16 to 20 percent. At harvest time, beans undergo many drying and rewetting processes daily. The threshing cylinder on the combine should be adjusted frequently to minimize seed damage.

Dry beans should be handled as carefully and as little as possible after harvest to reduce damage. Use inclined chutes, belts, or bucket conveyors to move seeds, but avoid augers or free fall drops. Because checking and cracking of seed coats increases during handling as moisture content drops below 18 percent and rot problems are greater when moisture is higher, beans should be dried to between 17 and 18 percent for storage. If a mechanical drier is used, care must be taken not to dry the seed too quickly or the beans can be damaged.

13.5 Disease Management

13.5.1 Anthracnose

13.5.2 Bacterial Brown Spot, Common Bacterial Blight, and Halo Blight

13.5.3 Botrytis Gray Mold

13.5.4 Bean Rust

13.5.5 Root Rot and Damping-off

13.5.6 Sclerotinia White Mold

13.5.7 Virus Diseases


13.6 Insect Management

13.6.1 Aphids

13.6.2 Mexican Bean Beetle

13.6.3 Potato Leafhopper

13.6.4 Seedcorn Maggot

13.6.5 European Corn Borer

13.6.6 Spider Mites

13.6.7 Tarnished Plant Bug

13.6.8 Slugs

13.6.9 Western Bean Cutworm


13.7 Weed Management




Maintained by Abby Seaman, New York State IPM Program. Last modified 2019.