Researchers expand tillage options related to dry beans

There are few weed control options for dry bean in conservation tillage

Todd Cowan, station manager of the Centralia Research Station.

More than half of the dry bean trials at the Centralia Research Station are now done using strip tillage equipment. 

“We want to go strip till, because that’s what we’re evaluating it for, growers who want to go strip till or minimum till. We want to be closest to the practices that growers are using or will use, or will transition into once they have options,” says Todd Cowan, station manager and weed science technician at the University of Guelph research station. The station hosted a recent Ontario Bean Growers research day, the first in-person event there in the past 18 months.

Why it matters: With few options for weed control, researchers are examining various tilling methods to help dry bean growers maximize yields. 

Dry bean growers, however, still lack herbicide options to help with weed control in minimal or strip till. 

There is a lack of pre-plant treatment options to help control Canada fleabane, which has become a problem due to glyphosate resistance. 

There has been a minor use registration submitted for Eragon used on adzuki beans, which could help for growers of that type of bean, although adzukis interact much differently with herbicides than other dry beans. Eragon is a Group 14 herbicide used pre-plant in soybeans and other crops.

Tergeo, another Group 14 herbicide currently in the approval process for other crop uses, could be used for other classes of edible beans, including as a tank mix down the road, if it is registered, says Cowan.

“There are a number of different options available to growers who use conventional tillage, but in conservation tillage, there’s a gap there.”

Cowan says they expect to have more research in the future on desiccants. The ability to kill green matter before harvest on a field of dry beans is helpful to ensure a clean harvest and there have been increasing restrictions placed on what can be used in the past few years. For example, the marketplace has said it doesn’t want glyphosate used as a desiccant in dry beans.

Cowan talked about some of the research conducted at Centralia by Dr. Peter Sikkema, who was unable to attend the event.

Chris Gillard, a professor at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, also used strip till for fertilizer and cover crop trials in dry beans at Centralia.

“We’re getting more and more strip tillage equipment here that can handle cover crops. It fits nicely for dry beans,” he said.

Gillard is looking to do more research on cover crops and dry beans and it could include dry fertilizer research too. Dry beans are one of the earliest harvested crops in the fall and don’t leave much residue, so they are a prime candidate for cover crops.

“I think they respond well to have some kind of a fibrous root system before them in the rotation,” says Gillard.

The Centralia Research Station has a new vertical tillage machine with the ability to plant a cover crop, so he says there are more capabilities to do such research.

“The end users in Britain would love it. If you can show that you are placing your fertilizer below the soil line and protecting it from being lost to surface erosion, if you can show that you’re using cover crops to help manage weed control, and to help reduce soil erosion, it just makes sense for this crop,” he says.

Western bean cutworm research

There are years of data from western bean cutworm moth traps across the province that haven’t yet been analyzed, including hundreds of thousands of data points. 

“Nobody’s looked at how do they relate to growing degree days or soil type or growing season,” says Gillard.

Western bean cutworm larvae are being raised at Ridgetown College for use in research. photo: John Greig

That job is falling to Josee Kelly, who recently started a master’s degree at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, working with entomologist Jocelyn Smith. She helps Smith maintain a colony of 8,000 western bean cutworm larvae at Ridgetown.

Kelly is also researching how Coragen could help control western bean cutworm in dry beans. The insect has become the most economically harmful pest in corn in Ontario and it also has created damage in dry beans. 

However, there’s little information on control in dry beans, which Kelly aims to change.

She’s brought larvae and infested a block of dry beans, with 11 different rates of infestation and insecticide applications.

She’s also looking to see if pathogenic nematodes could work to help control western bean cutworm in dry beans.

About the author


John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig



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