Feeding the world, one bean at a time

Feeding the world, one bean at a time
Feb 20, 2024

A $2 million gift is provided by an anonymous donor and the Ontario Bean Growers to the University of Guelph towards advancing bean production and capacity.

By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Image by Ariel Núñez Guzmán from Pixabay

Beans, beans, good for the wallet.

Dry beans, such as pinto, navy, and kidney beans, are big business in Canada and around the world.

Adzuki beans were Ontario’s top moneymaker per acre in 2023. Last year, Ontario farmers planted a record 23,000 acres of the niche crop, which was up from the 19,000 acres planted in 2022.

Even still, those numbers paled in comparison to the almost three million acres of soybeans grown in Ontario last year.

Then again, dry beans such as adzuki, pinto, navy, and kidney do cost more to produce.

While some dry bean farmers will grow these beans every year, some only grow dry beans when prices are strong and they are likely to fit into their crop rotation.

One of the biggest concerns for dry bean farmers, however, is weeds. Because the dry bean is a short-stature crop—and one that does not form a full canopy until mid-July—weeds tend to have free reign, which is one reason farmers must only grow it on fields that are already relatively weed-free.

Other issues for dry beans include seedling diseases, where they suffer seed rot, and seedling blight diseases caused by Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, and Pythium. And then there’s viral diseases such as bean common mosaic virus or yellow mosaic virus. Oh, and we all know that rust never sleeps. And bacterial blight. White mould. Anthracnose. Grasshoppers. Cutworm.

It’s a wonder anyone can grow any type of dry bean sometimes.

And it’s because there is a real need to grow these dry beans more efficiently and sustainably that money has been donated by Ontario Bean Growers (OBG) and an anonymous donor to the University of Guelph’s (U of G’s) Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).

This $2 million donation will also be used to support the OBG Assistant Professorship in Weed Sciences faculty position at U of G’s Ridgetown Campus.

Additionally, the U of G has announced the renewal of the Dry Bean Agronomy and Pest Management faculty position at Ridgetown Campus.

Collectively, these faculty hires will better ensure that the University of Guelph will continue to be among the world’s best in dry bean agronomy and weed management research.

The new OBG Professorship in Weed Management and the Professorship in Dry Bean Agronomy and Pest Management fill the vacancies left by Dr. Peter Sikkema, who recently retired, and OAC’s Chris Gillard, who will retire later in 2024.

“Peter and Chris have had an immense impact on the Ontario bean industry for years,” stated Dr. Rene Van Acker, the interim Vice President (Research) at U of G. “This renewal of these professorships will ensure their legacy continues and that U of G remains at the forefront of industry innovation.”

The hired faculty will continue conducting research at the Ontario Crops Research Centre sites in Huron and Ridgetown.

Annually, Ontario’s dry bean growers produce close to 100,000 acres of crops, with up to 90 percent of the crop exported to international markets.

“Ridgetown Campus has been pivotal to Ontario agriculture for 100 years,” commented Brett Shepherd, Director of Ridgetown Campus. “We are incredibly grateful to OBG and the private donor for their tremendous support. These gifts will allow us to recruit leading experts who will serve the needs of the industry for many years to come.”

The announcement was made in partnership with U of G on February 20, 2024, during the OBG’s Annual General Meeting in Stratford, Ontario.

The Ontario Crops Research Centre is owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario. It is managed by the University of Guelph via the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and U of G.

As a more sombre aside, the Ontario Bean Growers have announced the sudden passing of Dave Woods, Chair of the OBG board of directors, this past week. Farms.com offers its condolences to his daughters, parents, and family.

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