Edible Bean School: Growing location key to seed quality

Canada grows a lot of seed — from 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. On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Edible Bean School, Hensall Co-op seed and research manager Paul Cornwell shares the strategy behind why edible bean producers have been looking to the northwest U.S. state for many years for seed supply.

Idaho is a great region to grow seed because it’s disease-free. The state is located west of the continental divide, and eastern diseases don’t have the wherewithal to “jump over the mountains,” Cornwell quips. State regulators have also recognized the uniqueness of the growing area and its value as a seed-growing region. The seed business is considered a cornerstone of Idaho’s agriculture industry and receives significant support.

Located at the north end of the Nevada desert, the semi-arid conditions create a disease-free growing area for irrigated seed crops. With seven to 10 inches of annual rainfall, and most of it coming during winter months, irrigation is a must. “With full irrigation and lots of hours of sunlight, it’s almost like they [growers] control the weather,” says Cornwell. “It’s like a greenhouse outdoors.” (Story continues after the video.)

Hensall Co-op has sourced seeds for all major edible bean crops from Idaho since the 1990s — from cranberries and dark reds to white kidney beans and adzuki beans. There is some navy 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 couple of market classes for Manitoba growers were tight “but with the ways acres are shaping up, there should be adequate supply.”

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