There is more interest today in the Panhandle in direct harvesting of dry edible beans, which is the most common harvest method for dry edible beans in Michigan and North Dakota.
The most common practice has been windrowing and harvesting in western Nebraska. Producers in western Nebraska, northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming want to learn more about the direct cut system and how it will work for them.
John Smith, professor emeritus at the UNL Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, and John Thomas, Extension educator in Box Butte County, say there are several practices to make direct cutting dry beans work.
Direct harvest combine headers perform best with bean plants that are tall, have long branches, and good growth, according to Smith and Thomas.
Also, leave ample surface residue from the previous year's corn or wheat crop that will protect the soil and emerging bean plants from wind erosion. The field must be very level after planting, which will leave the field vulnerable to wind erosion unless there is significant surface residue from last year's crop or from a growing cover crop. If you use tillage, do use a finishing tillage tool that leaves the field level and firm for the planting operation.
The Extension specialists recommend not using row cleaners on planters, or shanks between rows of planters, because these devices will leave small ridges which will hold the combine header off the soil surface.
They also recommend not creating ruts or ridges with tractor or planter tires, because these ridges will hold the header off the soil, and bean plant branches and pods will tip into the ruts, increasing harvest loss. Leave the soil surface as level as possible after planting or harvest loss will be excessive.
Also, choose varieties that stand tall, have long branches, and have most pods positioned high in the plant.
Narrow rows and higher plant population because upright, structured plant types tend to respond favorably to both narrow rows and higher plant population.