We’ve discussed manure and corn, and now it’s time to tackle another staple in farming. Beans. These little plants are a vital player in what we grow here at Silver Reef. In fact, not to toot our own horn, but Silver Reef has sold our pinto beans to quite a few customers throughout the United States, including none other than Chipotle. Pinto Beans are by no means an easy plant to grow, but we like to think we have a pretty great handle on the process. Over our three years of planting, we have realized that when it comes to these plants, choosing a few varieties proves best.

The three varieties of pinto beans we planted this year were:

  • Medicine Hat––89 Day
  • Croissant––92 Day
  • Poncho––95 Day

Now, the reason we go about planting three varieties is actually quite simple. As an organic farm, our first line of defense against disease lies within the genetics of the plant. Each brand of bean has its own susceptibility to these dangers along with resistance. So for example, if we were to only plant one variety that let’s say was weak when it came to blight, and suddenly one field was overcome with it––we have a problem. However, if we had thought ahead and planted a bean that was resistant to blight, we could still harvest and have sufficient yields.

Along with basic susceptibility and resistance, pinto beans also have three different forms: upright, vining, or semi-upright. Basically, they can either grow straight up, grow into one another, or a little mix of both. Semi-upright is our favorite variety because it begins its growth in an upwards direction––allowing us to weed and cultivate easily and for a longer period of time. But, as it matures, the bean begins to vine. This later stage covers the rows between plants, effectively inhibiting any weed’s access to sun and water.

Of course, there is no miracle bean that can withstand any and all variables. In fact, pinto beans are an incredibly delicate plant––meaning they require extra care no matter what strengths or weakness they may inherently have. So what does this mean for us farmers? More hand labor. Due to their fragility, significant weeds at harvest will affect the quality of the bean, unlike some of our other organic crops. But, we’ll discuss this particular topic further when we get closer to harvest. However, just because pinto beans are delicate, does not mean they are a weak plant. That may sound counter-intuitive, but in fact, pinto beans are fighters. These beans can find cracks in the soil and literally push through them due to their strong taproot. If put in the same position, many other plants would simply suffocate below the tough ground, but pinto beans drive right past it.

Pinto beans sprouts beginning to break through the soil crust
Pinto bean sprouts have finally broken the surface and begin to uncurl

But before any of this can be seen, the plants actually have to be planted. Silver Reef plants each of our varieties at 105,000 seeds per acre even though 85,000 would be considered normal. Why do we do this? Well, there are many factors that can inhibit emergence like rotary hoeing and cultivation, not to mention Mother Nature. We plant at a higher rate because we want to ensure that even with all those pesky variables we have a plentiful crop. It’s very similar to what I discussed in my last blog about corn. Over plant to guarantee that emergence stays high. Currently, we are at 102,000 emergence from our 105,000 planted seeds. Now this is amazing, a truly great rate. But, again like our corn, this may turn out to be too much. In theory, it works, but in reality, it could mean too much competition for nutrients. So, we’ll have to see what happens. And just like always, don’t worry––we’ll keep you posted!