Pinto bean plant growth

How to Grow Pinto Beans: Care And Harvesting Of Pintos

If you enjoy Mexican food, you’ve no doubt eaten your share of pinto beans which feature prominently in the cuisine. They are probably so popular because of the warm, drier climate south of the border. If you live in a warm subtropical region, want to expand your garden bean options or you love Mexican food, you should be growing pinto beans. Read on to find out how to grow pinto beans and other pinto bean information.

Pinto Bean Information

Native to Mexico, pintos take about 90-150 days to grow as a dry bean but can be harvested earlier and eaten as a green snap bean. They come in both determinate (bush) and indeterminate (pole) varieties. They require very little care, although they need more space between plants than other bean types. Since they are indigenous to subtropical climes, they can be sensitive to cold.

Pintos need long, warm summers with full sun exposure of at least 6 hours per day. Do not plant pinto beans where other beans have been growing for at least 3 years, as they may be susceptible to disease.

Beans, in general, do not do well when transplanted so it’s best to direct sow the seeds. Do not plant them too early or they will rot in cool, damp soil. Because the beans take a long time to mature, jump start the growing process by laying down black plastic to keep the soil warm. Or you can grow pinto beans in containers indoors to be moved outside once temperatures warm.

Pinto beans do well as companion plants with cucumbers, celery, and strawberries. Although they taste great when combined, avoid companion plantings alongside onion, garlic and fennel.

How to Grow Pinto Beans

Plant the pintos in well-draining, fairly fertile soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. Work in compost prior to planting to reduce the need to fertilizer. Before planting, soak the beans overnight. The eye of the bean should be facing downward, planted at a depth of 1-½ inch, 4-6 inches apart with at least 2 feet between rows when growing pinto beans.

If planting bush beans, allow additional space between rows for increased aeration. If planting pole type beans, be sure to provide a support like a trellis, teepee, or fence. Water the seeds in well and keep moist. Germination should occur between 8-14 days provided temperatures are between 70-80 degrees F. (21-26 C.). Gently thin the seedlings to 6 inches apart.

Once the seedlings have established, water the plants sparingly; wait until the soil dries out between watering. Pintos don’t mind drying out, but they hate wet roots. To prevent mildew and other fungal diseases, water from the base of the plant to keep the leaves dry.

Keep the area around the beans free of weeds but do so carefully lest you disturb the roots. Feed the beans with some compost tea halfway through the growing season. Otherwise, it is generally unnecessary to fertilize.

Now you just need to keep an eye on them and wait patiently for the harvesting of pintos.

Harvesting of Pintos

As mentioned, harvesting won’t take place until 90-150 days (depends on the variety and weather) have passed. Pintos can be harvested when they are still green and immature, but most people leave them on the vine until they dry. At this point, they will be firm and the thickness of a pencil.

Bush pinto beans mature all at once, but pole beans are harvested on a continuous basis which encourages additional production for a month or two. To harvest pinto beans, gently pull or snap off the vine.

If you are growing for dry beans, be sure the plants have plenty of space between them to allow the pods to dry completely. If you get a late rain and the pods are mature, pull the entire plant from the ground and hang it in a dry place to continue to desiccate.

Dry Edible Bean Profile

By Sara Schumacher and Michael Boland, Kansas State University.
Updated August 2017


Dry edible beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are grown in more than 30 states with commercial-scale production in 18 states. North Dakota again ranked as the top producer of dry beans. Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Idaho rounded out the top five states. U.S. production of dry beans totaled 28.7 million cwt in 2016 (USDA 2017). Although one of the world’s leading dry bean exporters, the United States is also increasing its import of certain dry beans.


Originally domesticated in Central and South America over 7,000 years ago, dry beans moved northward through Mexico and spread across most of the United States. These beans were commonly grown with corn and sometimes squash.
The commercial, dry edible bean industry originated in New York in the mid-1800s. The state maintained its dominance until the early 1900s when Michigan became the leading producer. Michigan prevailed until the 1990s, when North Dakota acquired the lead in 1991. Since then, the state has, for the most part, retained its position as the top-ranking producer of dry edible beans in the United States.


Dry bean consumption in the United States has recently rallied, reaching 7.5 pounds in 2016 (US Dry Bean Council 2017). The major uses of dry beans include dry packaged beans for home use, canned beans (both whole beans and otherwise), brine-packed whole beans and bean flour for commercial baking. Supermarkets sell bagged dry beans and canned products such as refried beans, soups, chili and baked beans. Restaurants use dry edible beans in foods such as tacos, burritos and chili. Restaurants and the fast food market accounted for a significant percentage of cooked bean consumption (ERS 2000).


Producers usually grow dry beans under contract with a processor (elevator) (ARS 1989). From the producer’s perspective, the motive for contracting is to address price risk, rather than quality issues. Quality issues tend to be addressed by “informal” means, such as communicating standards to growers and payment of bonuses.
In most producing regions, processing is highly concentrated relative to production (ARS 1989). In general, the bean producers and processors are not vertically integrated. Elevators sell to second level domestic users, brokers and export markets. Domestic users (for example, canners) use both contracts and spot markets for purchasing beans. A high level of interaction and coordination is required to communicate what product is needed and to agree upon a price, which is a very subjective process. Individual buyer’s quality specifications are not included in a formal contract, rather they are handled by communicating desired standards, monitoring and by the seller’s desire to maintain its reputation as a high-quality producer. Elevators have developed education programs to show farmers what types of products to grow and offer premiums for high-quality beans. Elevator managers have found that education programs are more effective than production contracts in obtaining nonstandard goods because a contract alone does not guarantee quality. Even though the dry edible bean market is complex and has subjective marketing specifications, the use of spot markets and marketing contracts have effectively coordinated the buying and selling of nonstandard dry beans.


With an average price of $27.30 per cwt, the 2015 harvest was valued at $866.2 million. More than 1.6 million acres of dry beans were planted in 2016, a slight decrease from previous years (USDA Crop Values Summary, 2016). Total U.S. production of dry beans totaled 28.7 million cwt in 2016 (USDA 2017).
The dry edible bean industry consists of many different types of beans, including pinto, navy, black, Great Northern, red kidney, lima and blackeye. North Dakota is consistently the largest producing Dry Bean state, followed by Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Idaho (US Dry Bean Council 2017).

Beans are a high-cost, irrigated crop compared to sunflowers and wheat. Beans require two to three fungicide treatments to combat disease, are prone to iron deficiency, leave little crop residue to inhibit postharvest erosion and require irrigation. Multiple irrigation applications may also lead to the fungus problem. Beans are an excellent crop to grow in rotation with grain and root crops. Wheat, corn, barley, soybeans and sugar beets are the most common crops grown in rotation with dry beans (ERS 2000).


Producers typically market their beans by contracting with an elevator, the first level of processing where beans are sorted, cleaned, graded and packed for transport. At the second level of processing, beans are treated quite differently, depending on the intended final use. At this level, beans are further processed as in cooked and canned, preserved in brine, ground into flour or dry bagged for later use. Depending on the end use, the bean type and seed coat quality requirements differ across processors.
USDA quality specifications for dry edible beans include moisture content, broken seeds, uniformity of size, color and specification of foreign matter. These quality characteristics are easily measured by an elevator and bean canner. Depending on the intended use of beans, quality requirements differ with respect to seed coat integrity. For beans used in canning, it is important that beans have few seedcoat “checks,” or breaks, because these checks can cause the bean to burst, leading to a mushy, less desirable product. This seed coat characteristic is not included in the USDA’s grading standard for beans. Seedcoat checks are designed to identify small breaks in the seedcoat that are difficult to locate and not an objective measure of quality. An elevator can also use an on-site canning lab to test the product for canning quality before selling to a canner. Producers have a great deal of control over canning quality that is affected by variety, timing of harvest and handling procedures.

Health Benefits

The wide variety of beans available, each with its own unique characteristics, offer versatile ingredients that can be used in virtually any type of cooking. Beans are one of the most nutritionally complete foods available. They are an inexpensive source of both complex carbohydrates and protein and provide iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and soluble fiber in high amounts. Beans are considered healthy because they are high in complex carbohydrates, high in protein, high in dietary fiber, high in folate, low in fat, low in sodium, cholesterol-free and rich in vitamins and minerals.
Beans are an excellent, nonfat source of protein, with one cup providing as much as 16 grams of protein. Adults generally need to eat between 50 to 60 grams of protein a day. Protein is needed to repair muscle and bone tissue. It also fights infections, helps heal wounds and regulates enzymes and hormones.
Beans are high in complex carbohydrates, with one cup providing 40 to 48 grams of carbohydrates, which is 15 percent of the carbohydrates needed daily. The carbohydrates they provide have a low to moderate glycemic index, which means they have the ability to provide energy over a longer period of time (compared to simple carbohydrates) by being slowly released into your bloodstream to provided sustained energy.
Being a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, beans can help reduce the risk of some types of cancer and lower risk factors associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance, which helps the body handle fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates and plays a role in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber provides “roughage” that helps in digestions and can reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
Folate is needed in the diet for proper cell division and overall good health. Folate has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. It has also been shown to improve glucose control in diabetics. Studies have shown that folate may also help reduce the risk of certain birth defects. Eating one cup of cooked dry beans provides, on average, 264 micrograms of folate, which is 66 percent of the recommended dietary allowance.


USDA Crop Values Summary, 2017.

USDA Crop Production Survey, 2017.

US Dry Bean Council, 2017.

Dry Beans, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.

Dry Edible Beans, Vegetables and Melons Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2011.

Dry Edible Beans, Crop Production Annual Summary, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA, 2011.

Dry Edible Beans, Crop Values Annual Summary, NASS, USDA, 2011.

Dry Edible Beans, Statistics by Subject, National Agricultural Statistics Service, NASS, USDA.
Factors Affecting Dry Bean Consumption in the United States, Vegetables and Specialties Situation and Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2000.
Fruit and Vegetable Market News, Ag Marketing Service, USDA.

Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service, USDA, 2010.

Profile written October 2005, updated August 2017 and links checked July 2018.

Whether you prefer white chicken chili with Great Northern beans or classic beef chili with pinto and kidney beans, you should thank a Nebraska farmer. The state leads the nation in production of Great Northern beans and is the second-leading state for pinto bean production. In fact, Nebraska ranks third nationally for all dry bean production.

Kidney, pinto, Great Northern, navy, black and pink beans all fall under the umbrella of dry edible beans, or legumes grown to their mature stage, dried and harvested for the seed within their pods. In 2012, dry bean production in Nebraska exceeded 3 million hundredweights – that’s 300 million pounds.

Climate and Conservation

As with any crop, weather plays a critical role in Nebraska’s status as an ideal locale for bean production, which requires low humidity and an arid climate.

“Dry edible beans only grow well in western Nebraska, where the climate is different than eastern Nebraska,” explains Lynn Reuter with the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission. Many farmers choose to grow beans because they help conserve water.

“Using little water for dry beans can allow water to be used for crops that need more,” Reuter says.

Kevin Kelley, who owns seed distributor and processor Kelley Bean Co., agrees they’re perfect rotation crops for farmers who also grow corn, sugar beets, wheat and alfalfa.

“Dry beans produce nitrogen to naturally fix the soil, plus beans are the last crops to be planted and the first to be harvested – they have a short growing season,” he says.

No beans about it, Kelley certainly knows his legumes. His Scottsbluff-based company, which employs 225 people, sells seeds to farmers and then purchases the harvested beans to sell to supermarkets and distributors.

But before they end up on grocery store shelves, the beans have to be processed. When Kelley Bean acquired KBC Trading and Processing (a former ConAgra division) in 2005, it became the canning industry’s top supplier. Brands such as Bush’s, Hormel and many more use beans from seeds developed by the researchers at Kelley Bean for their specific canning characteristics.

And Kelley Bean is not alone. Other dry bean companies in Nebraska, mostly located in the western part of the state, near where the crop is grown, include Nebraska Bean, Stateline Producers Cooperative, Trinidad Bean, New Alliance Bean, and AK Acres Popcorn Co.

Doug and Cindi Allen are two of the growers that work with Kelley Bean.

“We buy the seeds from Kelley Bean, grow the crop, then sell the grown beans back to Kelley,” Cindi Allen says. The couple raises beans along with corn, wheat and sunflowers on their farm in Ogallala.

“We grow corn for two years and then beans during the third year to get maximum use of our soil,” Allen explains. She says this ensures the best possible yields for the farm, which grows kidney, black and pinto beans.

She enjoys growing a true field-to-fork crop. “I can pick a bucket from the field,” she says, “soak the beans overnight, and serve them the next day in chili or a main meal.”

Packed With Protein

No matter how they’re consumed, dry beans are an inexpensive, healthy option, Reuter says.

“They are a nutrition powerhouse and an excellent low-fat source of protein, plus beans can reduce heart disease along with certain cancers,” she says. “They are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, complex carbohydrates and vitamins such as folate B. Actually, the folate found in beans helps diminish many birth defects, so beans are an excellent food source for pregnant women.”

Reuter adds that beans are not only low in calories but also a good source of energy.

“If you were stuck on a deserted island and had to pick one food for your ultimate survival, it should be beans,” she says. “In fact, new energy bars have been recently introduced that are packed with pinto bean flour and navy bean flour.”

With all of the associated health benefits, it comes as no surprise that consumers throughout the country eat beans grown in Nebraska.

“In the United States, Nebraska pinto beans are becoming especially popular in restaurant sectors that serve Mexican, Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex dishes,” Reuter says. “Black beans from Nebraska are gaining more recognition in restaurants along both the East and West Coasts.”

The leading export markets for Nebraska-grown pinto beans are Mexico, Dominican Republic and Angola, Reuter says. France, Malaysia and Turkey top the list of foreign markets for great northern beans.

“Dry beans are a vital part of the state’s agricultural economy,” Kelley says, “and Nebraska’s dry edible beans are some of the best – if not the absolute best – in the entire world.”


This planting season was marked by cool and wet weather throughout much of the U.S. dry bean growing area. These conditions caused widespread planting delays, with the last of the crop going into the ground in early July. The late planting has growers worried that frost may hit the crop before it is harvested.

“Given the forecast, that is a significant concern,” says Richard Duty of Trinidad Benham. He notes that the expectation at the moment is for average to above-average yields, but adds, “If the weather cooperates, we will have a good crop. But if it doesn’t, we will have a bit of a mess.”

The USDA’s August 12 Crop Production report estimates 1,328,500 acres were seeded to dry beans this year, up 9% from last year. The increase can be attributed to low prices for the major commodity crops, which made subpar bean prices look relatively appealing by comparison.

In terms of production, the USDA forecast the 2019 dry bean crop at 24,572,000 cwt, which is on the small side by U.S. standards.

For a fuller picture of this year’s U.S. dry bean planting, we took a closer look at the four states that seeded the most beans this year: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and North Dakota. Combined, these four states account for 87% of the total area seeded to dry beans in 2019.

U.S. Dry Bean Planting by Bean Class (in acres)

Source: USDA Crop Production Report, August 12, 2019.


Michigan is an important black bean growing state, with more than half of its bean acres typically seeded to black beans. The state also produces significant volumes of navy and red beans.

According to the USDA’s August 12thcrop production report, Michigan seeded 210,000 acres to dry beans this year, up from 195,000 acres in 2018. The increase is likely due to weak corn, soybean and wheat prices, which made dry beans look like the best money-making option for growers.

During the months of May and June, conditions were extremely wet, resulting in delayed planting and even some forced planting in very muddy ground. Joe Cramer of the Michigan Bean Commission reports that growers managed to only seed about a third of the bean crop by June 20th. The second third was seeded by the end of the month, and the final third didn’t go into the ground until early July.

“Overall, I would say we were two to three weeks late on planting,” says Cramer, “and practically 100% of the crop was planted into very muddy ground, and so now we are dealing with soil compaction that could result in root diseases.”

To compound matters, conditions have been very dry since planting. The combination of extremely wet conditions followed by extremely dry conditions resulted in bean plants with shallow root systems and limited topsoil moisture.

“Considering the poor planting conditions, and if you set the calendar aside, generally speaking the crop looks pretty good given the challenges it’s had since day one,” says Cramer.

In fact, the USDA forecast average yields of 22 bags per acre. Cramer, however, is not that optimistic. Yields that high are rare even in perfect conditions, he notes.

For the week ending August 18, the USDA reports 82% of the bean plants are blooming and 46% are setting pods. The bean crop rated 6% very poor, 17% poor, 23% fair, 38% good and 16% excellent. At the moment, Michigan’s bean crop could use additional moisture. It did receive decent rainfall in mid-August, but more will be needed to finish the crop. The biggest concern, though, is frost.

“Especially for that last third of the crop that was planted in July, we need to be frost-free until the 20thof October, and that’s going to take a lot of prayers,” says Cramer.

In terms of the market outlook, there was a lot of grower interest in black beans nationwide, but the increased planted area could see prices weaken due to excess production. Additionally, Cramer reports that buying from Mexico, a key export destination for Michigan black beans, has been slow. This is likely due to uncertainty around U.S. ratification of the USMCA (NAFTA 2.0).

Michigan heads into marketing year 2019/20 with minimal carryover. According to Cramer, navy and small red bean inventories have cleared out. A few cranberry bean stocks remain, and most of the black beans that are left have already been sold and are awaiting shipment.

“Movement on black beans has been slower than we’d like to see,” says Cramer. “But in terms of overall carryover, we are in good shape.”

At the U.S. Dry Bean Convention back in July, the Michigan Bean Shippers Association estimated production at 3,748,500 cwt, which presumed yields of 18 bags/acre. In August, the USDA estimated production at 4,532,00 cwt.

“We are feeling a little more optimistic today,” says Cramer. “The feeling of most people is that we have the potential to produce more than 4 million cwt of beans. The USDA estimated 210,000 bean acres and yields of 22 bags. I’m not sure we seeded that much and will see yields that high. But the Michigan Bean Commission set its budget in August on the assumption that we’ll have 4 million bags of production.”

Cramer sees a bullish outlook for Michigan’s navy and small red beans due to decreased acreage, practically zero carry-in and strong demand from domestic and export markets. On black beans, he says today’s low prices make them the best buy in the bean sector at present. But events could turn the market around. At present, all eyes are on Mexico, which planted its bean crop under drought conditions. Additionally, there is an expectation that the situation in Venezuela will eventually see U.S. black beans enter the country in the form of food aid.

Michigan Dry Bean Planted Area (in acres)

Source: USDA Crop Production Report, August 12, 2019.


Minnesota is a key kidney bean growing state that also produces significant amounts of navy and black beans. The USDA’s August 12thcrop production report estimates the state’s dry bean plantings at 205,000 acres, up from 175,000 acres last year. Minnesota dry bean grower Mark Dombeck attributes the increase in the bean area to low prices for corn, soybean and wheat, as well as poor planting conditions for corn and soybeans.

According to the USDA, this year Minnesota farmers seeded 64,200 acres of dark red kidney beans, 53,600 acres of black beans, 38,500 acres of navy beans and 19,600 acres of light red kidney beans, as well as an assortment of other bean classes.

Dombeck reports that, as with much of the Midwest, conditions were cool and wet at planting, and this set the seeding of the dry bean crop back a week to 10 days past the normal window.

“As of now, the biggest concern is early frost and a cool, wet harvest season,” he says.

For the week ending August 18, the USDA reports 90% of the bean plants are setting pods and the crop rates 8% very poor to poor, 26% fair, 57% good and 9% excellent. Dombeck indicates that in southern Minnesota, the crop is in poor shape due to excessive moisture. In the north, the beans are in fair condition, but the weather has been on the dry side as of late. In the central part of the state, the crop looks good, but it was planted late and is at an elevated risk of frost. A cool and wet weather pattern remains present, he says.

The USDA forecast Minnesota’s dry bean production at 4,448,000 cwt. Dombeck cautions, however, that it’s too early to put much stock on production forecasts, especially given the unusual growing season they are having and the varied crop conditions across the state.

Minnesota Dry Bean Planted Area (in acres)

Source: USDA Crop Production Report, August 12, 2019.

Minnesota Temperatures and Precipitation for the week ending August 18, 2019

Source: USDA, Minnesota Crop Progress & Condition, August 19, 2019.


Nebraska typically produces upwards of 80% of the U.S. great northern bean crop. Together with the neighboring states of Colorado and Wyoming, it also produces significant volumes of pinto and light red kidney beans.

GPC Executive Committee member Judd Keller (of the Kelley Bean Company) reports that early this planting season, cool and wet conditions caused delays in the seeding of the major commodity crops, and this in turn caused the bean crop—one of the last crops growers seed—to go in the ground a few weeks late.

Since then, warm temperatures have helped the bean crop catch up. As of August 18, the USDA reports 92% of the bean plants are blooming and 75% are setting pods. The crop rated 5% very poor, 18% poor, 20% fair, 50% good and 7% excellent.

Given the late planting, Keller anticipates the main part of the harvest will take place in mid-September and extend a bit past the normal harvest window.

“There won’t be any early beans this year,” he says. “Even the light red kidney beans, that usually start coming off the fields at the end of August, probably won’t begin coming off till early September.”

In Nebraska and Wyoming, there is a question as to how much of the crop will make it to harvest. On July 17, an irrigation tunnel collapsed, leaving 100,000 acres of cropland without a reliable water supply. Keller estimates bean fields make up 15-20% of that area. The authorities announced the flow of water will not be restored before the bean harvest, leaving growers hoping for rain.

“We are going to have some crop losses because of the absence of irrigation, and that’s on top of the losses we had in early August, when two major hailstorms swept through the Nebraska panhandle,” says Keller. Area growers are still evaluating the severity of the hail damage.

In its August 12thCrop Production report, the USDA estimated the area seeded to dry beans in Nebraska at 115,000 acres, not much different from the 117,500 acres planted to beans last year. Great northern bean plantings are up slightly at 44,500 acres from 41,000 acres last year. The light red kidney bean area is also up slightly to 11,800 acres from last year’s 10,100 acres. The pinto bean area, on the other hand, is down from 65,000 acres last year to 49,400 acres this year.

“The prices aren’t great on anything out there: corn, grains, whatever. Beans did get a little more attention, because although bean prices are low, too, they are not as low,” says Keller.

In terms of the supply-demand situation, Keller expects navy and light red kidney beans to be tight this marketing year. On pinto and black beans, it all depends on demand from Mexico, the largest export market for those two bean classes.

“Black beans may be the one bean class with a bit of surplus production this year,” says Keller. “But if Mexico comes into the market, it should balance out.”

Presently, drought conditions in Mexico has resulted in reduced plantings this spring-summer cycle, especially in the major dry bean producing states of Zacatecas, Durango and Chihuahua. A U.S. Dry Bean Council report indicates that 40% of Mexico’s intended dry bean area will go unseeded this year.

Even so, Keller is cautious. Last year, he recalls, Mexico had a short crop, but the expected demand for U.S. beans never materialized. Keller attributes the letdown to reduced consumption caused by the economic hardships the country was experiencing back then (consumers have food options that are cheaper than beans in Mexico) combined with changes to food aid policy on the part of the López Obrador administration.

“We’ll have to see how the economic and political situation in Mexico affects consumption this year,” says Keller.

Nebraska Dry Bean Planted Area (in acres)

Source: USDA Crop Production Report, August 12, 2019.

North Dakota

North Dakota is the biggest dry bean growing state in the U.S., typically accounting for about half of the area seeded to dry beans. The major bean classes produced in North Dakota are pinto, black and navy beans, with pinto beans alone typically accounting for more than half of the state’s dry bean output. North Dakota also produces lesser amounts of other bean classes, including small red, pink and kidney beans.

The USDA’s August 12thcrop production report estimates North Dakota’s dry bean plantings at 630,000 hectares this year, up from 520,600 hectares last year. Dan Fugelsten of the Central Valley Bean Cooperative indicates that the overall planting of the crop went well this year, with just a few delays due to wet conditions in some areas.

“In general, the crop was seeded in a reasonable time, just not as early as it has been the last few years,” he says. “Some areas in the south of the state are dry, some in the north are too wet, but overall, if the weather is agreeable through harvest, I think we are looking at a decent crop.”

The USDA reports that through August 18, 94% of the bean plants were setting pods and 21% were dropping leaves. At that time, the crop rated 3% very poor, 12% poor, 35% fair, 44% good and 6% excellent.

The area seeded to black beans increased by 44% this year over last year, as did the pinto area to a lesser extent (18%). The navy bean area fell off slightly by 6%. Fugelsten attributes the increased black and pinto bean planting to low prices for the major commodities as well as fewer dry bean stocks-on-hand, the result of a smaller crop in 2018 compared to 2017.

The USDA is estimating North Dakota’s 2019 dry bean production at 9,394,000 cwt. In terms of the market outlook, Fugelsten sees a possible opportunity for good volumes of pinto and black beans to be shipped to Mexico this year as bean growers there contend with dry conditions. He describes the navy bean supply as tight. But his optimism is tempered by the tariffs and tensions that mark the current trade environment, especially with respect to Europe and Mexico.

North Dakota Dry Bean Planted Area (in acres)

USA / Nebraska / Michigan / North Dakota / Minnesota / pinto beans / red beans / white beans / black beans

Dario Bard GPC Content Editor


Any information provided by an external source does not necessarily reflect the official position of the Global Pulse Confederation and should be verified independently.

In this article, learn how to grow pinto beans. The easy growing pinto beans are nutrient rich and eating them can reduce the cholesterol level and risk of heart disease.

USDA Zones— 5 – 11

Difficulty— Easy

Other names — Phaseolus vulgaris var. pinto (Scientific Name)Frijol pinto, Speckled bean, Poroto frutilla, Strawberry bean, Carioca bean, Mottled bean, Phaseolus vulgaris and Common beans.

Pinto beans are annual plants that grow best in areas with long hot summers as they take three to five months to mature for harvest.


Pinto beans grow on both vine (pole) and bush. Pole bean varieties produce more yield than bush beans. But bushier varieties are relatively easy to grow.


Sow seeds 1 inches deep in the soil when all the dangers of frost are passed. *Pinto beans require direct seed sowing as they are not easy to transplant. Also, remember that it is a subtropical plant and needs a temperature around 60 – 70 F (16 – 21 C) for germination. Space pinto bean seeds 3-4 inches apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart. *Soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting to accelerate germination.


Choose the sunniest spot in the garden that is less windy. For optimum growth, growing pinto beans in full sun is important. It needs at least six hours of direct sun a day but grows better if receive more sun.

Also Read: How to Grow Cluster Beans

Requirements for Growing Pinto Beans


Pinto Beans do best in well-drained soil that is loamy, avoid clay-rich, heavy or soggy soil. Soil that is waterlogging causes root rot.


Water the plant only when top one inch of surface seems dry. Avoid overwatering because it does not tolerate excessive moisture but handle a bit of drought. Also, try not to wet the foliage while watering as it may promote fungal diseases.


Keep the location weed free by gently pulling out the weeds around the plants by hand. Better not to use a tool as pinto beans have shallow roots that can be damaged by weeding with the help of tools.


Since pinto beans have shallow feeder roots, it is best to do mulching to stop weeds from growing. Mulching also protects the plants from the cold.


For growing pinto beans you’ll require low nitrogen fertilizer, legumes produce their own nitrogen and applying too much nitrogen can also result in comparatively more vegetative growth than fruits.

It needs fertilizer application twice for better yield. Admix 5-10-10 slow release fertilizer in the first 6 inches of the planting bed after the germination. Make sure not to apply fertilizer in 2 inches radius around the seedlings as it may damage them. Make a second application of 10-20-20 fertilizer when the plant begins to flowers.

Pests and Diseases

Its main problem is root rot, which you can easily prevent by moderate watering.

Pinto beans are sometimes attacked by aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, leafhoppers, and beetles. Use organic sprays to get rid of them or handpick if the infection is small. You can also invite beneficial insects into your garden to get rid of them.

Also Read: Plants that Attract Ladybugs


Pinto beans are ready for harvest within 90 to 120 days after planting. Harvest pinto beans by cutting the pods using clean scissors or pruning shear when they turn brown and become brittle and dry. You can also harvest the beans early if you want to use them green.

Also Read: How to Grow Adzuki Beans

Soil for Pinto Beans

Pintos, like all legumes, will fix nitrogen from the soil. However, they still need well-drained fertile soil for best growth. Native to a dry climate, they are not really drought tolerant, but excess water in the soil increases the risk of disease. Add extra humus to soil to increase fertility and promote better drainage. Well-aged manure and rotted leaves are good choices.

Bush Beans vs. Half Runners

Although some catalogs describe pole varieties of pinto beans, in reality the beans are either bush varieties or half runners. A half runner bean grows about three feet in a sprawling fashion rather than a vine. Half runners do need some support for best growth (bush beans don’t), but must be fastened to the trellis in some way as they don’t really climb.

Pinto Bean Varieties

Most seed catalogs simply list these beans under the name Pinto. However, there are a few distinct varieties:

  • Long’s Peak – commercial bean, a half runner type that grows more upright.
  • Nodak – Developed in North Dakota; half runner, very productive.
  • Centennial – resistant to several diseases, including mosaic and rust.
  • Grand Mesa – resistant to rust and more tolerant of wet conditions.

Planting Pinto Beans

Pintos will do best if not planted until the soil is warm – usually two or three weeks after the last expected frost date. Soaking beans for eight hours prior to planting may improve germination. Plant about one-and-a-half inches deep and four to six inches apart. Half runner types need the additional space. For rows, plant about 30 inches apart.

Growing Conditions

Pintos are tropical plants and very frost sensitive. If there is a risk of a late frost, cover with row covers to provide protection. Keep weeds down to prevent competition. Don’t add high nitrogen fertilizer to the growing beans. Nitrogen spurs leaf growth at the expense of flowers and pods. Keep well watered but avoid watering the leaves; it increases the risk of fungal diseases.

Harvesting Pintos

Maturity dates for pintos range from 90 to 150 days. Cool weather can slow maturity. Leave pods on the plants until they are dry. If rain threatens and the beans are mature or nearly so, pull plants and hang in a dry building with good air circulation. Once the beans are completely dry, thresh the seeds from the pods.

Growing Beans: A How-To Guide

By Anne Van Nest

Staple and comfort food icon, the bean has played an essential role in the survival of people and animals since ancient times. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence that old-world legumes (len­tils, peas, broad beans, chick peas, and soybeans) were used as food for more than 10,000 years in eastern Asia. Caches of lentils have been found in Egyptian tombs, signifying the reverence paid to this plant. In “His­tory of Legumes: Man’s Use of Legumes” (, Jason Ladock writes that “Legumes are second only to the cereal grasses as sources of human food and ani­mal forage.”

Beans are easy to grow, and, when dry, can be stored for long periods of time without losing viability if they are kept in a cool, dry, dark environment.

Why are legumes so popular? Le­gumes, members of the bean or Fabaceae plant family, have many significant at­tributes. Beans are high in iron, potassium and magnesium, and are also an important source of protein and fiber. They are easy to grow, and, when dry, can be stored for long periods of time without losing viability if they are kept in a cool, dry, dark environment. Beside their nutritive benefits, the USDA Soil Quality Institute reports that beans have an ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen with the help of symbiotic Rhizobia bacteria living in their roots.

An inclusive term, “beans” commonly refers to large-seeded plants that include peas, soybeans, peanuts, and vetches. Beans are generally a summer crop that needs warm weather to grow (as opposed to the growing conditions of the group of plants we call peas). Other than growing tem­peratures, beans and peas are very similar.

Growing Beans: Bean Types

Green Beans (fresh)

Known as snap beans / string beans / runner beans / squeaky beans / French beans / stringless pod / filet beans / yellow wax beans / Romano beans / Italian snap beans (Phaseolus vulgaris).

Available in bush or pole forms with round or flat pods, these are used as an edible pod or shelling bean. Grow the pole types where space is limited. Cornell Univer­sity reports that these will yield two to three times as much as the bush types in the same space. Some green beans have purple or yellow pods and often are quite decorative with swirls of color. They are very easy to grow.

Fresh green beans are not native to North America. They have been cultivated for more than 7,000 years and originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru and the Lerma-Santi­ago River basin of Jalisco in west-central Mexico.

Beans do not like to be transplanted and therefore are best direct-seeded into the garden.

Green Beans (dry)

Known as common beans / shell beans / kidney beans / navy beans / soldier beans / pinto beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). Used predominantly as soup beans. Harvested dry.

Lima Beans (Phaseolus lunatus)

Both bush and pole varieties exist. Available as white, black, red, orange, and mottled seeds.

Small-Seeded Lima Beans

Known as butter beans / Dixie beans / Henderson beans / baby lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus — Sieva type). Bush or climbing varieties. Warm temperature crop. Seeds often eaten fresh. Grown similar to lima beans.

Tepary Beans

Known as Pawi / Pavi / Tepari / Escomi­te / Yori Mui / Yori Muni (Phaseolus acuti­folius). A drought-resistant bean native to southwest United States and Mexico.

Runner Beans

Known as scarlet runner beans (Phase­olus coccineus). A vining plant that is great to use in edible landscaping situ­ations. Decorative red or white flowers with white or multicolored seeds. Pods are edible when young. Seeds used fresh or dried.

Broad Beans

Known as fava beans / horse beans / English beans / European beans / Windsor beans (Vicia faba). Best if grown during a long, cool growing season.


Known as Southern cowpeas / Crowder peas / blackeyed peas (Vigna unguiculata). Available as vining, semi-vining, and bush types. Best grown in warm, humid weather. Grow like lima beans.

Yardlong Beans

Known as asparagus beans / Bora / long-podded cowpeas / Chinese long beans / snake beans, (Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis). A type of cowpea that is eaten as immature pods like snap beans. A vigorous climbing vine for warm cli­mates. Harvest 65 to 80 days after plant­ing.

Edible Soybeans/Edamame (Glycine max)

Grown similar to lima beans. Requires 90 days to harvest.

Hyacinth Bean

Known as Indian bean / Egyptian bean (Lablab purpureus). A vining plant to 20 feet with purple flowers and vibrant electric-purple seed pods. Great to use in edible landscaping. Fast growing, and flow­ers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Has edible leaves, flowers, pods, and seeds.


Known as garbanzo beans / chestnut beans / Egyptian beans / grams (Cicer ari­etinum). Technically not a pea or a bean. They need a long, warm growing season of about 100 days.

Winged Beans

Known as asparagus peas / goa beans / four-angled beans / winged beans / princess beans (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus). A vining plant with almost all parts being edible. Mature pods are six to nine inches long with a high protein content.

Growing Beans: Planting Times

Beans are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost and should be planted around the average last frost date in the spring. The exact date depends a lot upon the condi­tion of the soil — it must have warmed to 60°F and started to dry out. Seeds should be planted about one inch deep. Plant bush beans about two to three inches apart in rows two feet wide. Pole beans can be planted four to six inches apart in rows three feet wide. Alternatively, four to six seeds can be planted in hills centered about 30 inches apart. Plan to plant suc­cessive crops every two to four weeks for an extended harvest season (usually until late July in northern areas). Inoculating the seed with rhizobium bacteria may increase yields if you have alkaline soils (Colorado State University Extension reports that acid soils are a challenge for rhizobium bacteria) and use the correct bac­teria for the legume type. The rhizobium bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with legumes. The bacteria invade the plant root hairs and multiply while the plant produces a protective nodule enclosure and energy for the bacteria. Payback in this mutually beneficial situation occurs when the bacteria convert nitrogen gas to ammonia in the nodules. To check on the effectiveness and quantity of rhizobium bacteria in your soil, excavate some bean roots. Upon slicing open a nodule, those that are actively fixing nitro­gen will be pink to reddish, rather than tan (ineffective) or green (dying). Also be sure to check the expiration date on the inocu­lant package before applying, as the living rhizobia have a finite shelf life.

Beans have an ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen with the help of symbiotic Rhizobia bacteria living in their roots.

Contrary to popular wisdom, do not soak seeds — beans tend to germinate poorly if they absorb too much water and crack. This also applies to planting seeds in overly wet soil conditions. Instead, water after planting or plant before a heavy rain.

Beans do not like to be transplanted and are therefore best direct-seeded into the garden. But if done carefully, they can be successfully started indoors in peat, newspaper, or soil pots and transplanted into the garden. Gardeners with short growing seasons, cold and wet soil, rot­ting issues, or early insect pressure may want to start seeds indoors three weeks early to overcome these situations.


The best sites have full sun (partial shade is tolerated but will reduce the yield), well-drained soil (but consistently moist), average fertility (too rich of a soil will produce an excess of foliage at the expense of beans), slightly acidic soil pH (6 to 6.8), and good air circulation.

If bean diseases have been a problem in previous years, do not replant in the same location, since overwintered bacterial and fungus diseases can strike again.


Watch that close cultivation or hoeing doesn’t damage the shallow, brittle, weak bean roots. Fertilize sparingly and avoid using ni­trogen to promote lush growth. Extend the harvest by succession planting several sowings.

Plants under heat or water stress are more prone to becoming stringy. Mulching after the plants are about 6 inches tall will help conserve soil moisture.

Hot, dry, stressful weather conditions can cause bean blossoms to fall and fail to produce pods. Water regularly if no natural irrigation occurs. Beans need about one inch of moisture every week (especially when flowering and develop­ing pods). To minimize disease problems, avoid wetting the foliage for prolonged periods. Water early in the day for the fastest drying time.

Consider using bush beans as cover crops.


Edible Pod Peas for Fresh Eating

The best time to pick the various snap beans is when they are still young and aren’t tough and stringy (July to frost).

Since beans ripen at different times on the same bush, it is best to check them daily. Picking the beans frequently encourages more to form. Skipping a day may send some pods into the inedible category and slow down production since the plant thinks it has accomplished its goal of producing seed.

Most beans should snap nicely from the plant. Select beans that are firm, pencil thickness (or less), tender, and medium green. Harvest only when bean plants are dry to avoid bacterial blight, a serious bean disease. Cut off the tougher stem and tip end and they are ready for cooking (or eating fresh). Store pods unwashed in a tight container in the refrigerator, then wash and use as soon as possible. After several days beans may get wilty or tough. If they can’t be used fresh within three or four days, the pods can be blanched and frozen, canned, or pickled.

Dry Beans for Longer Storage

Shell beans can be harvested at three different stages. They can be harvested young in the pod before the seeds are visible from the outside (bump free) and eaten like snap beans. They can also be harvested when a little more mature (but still green), when the beans inside have formed significantly but before the pod is dried. These tender beans (shell outs) are separated from their shell and cooked. The more common way to harvest shell beans is to leave the pods on the plant until they are hard and dry (but before the pods split and drop the seed). The dry beans can be shelled by hand or threshed by beating the pods until they break and release the beans. Another method is to uproot the bean plants and hang them upside down inside a large garbage bin while beating them against the sides. The seeds, once removed from the pod, can be stored in a cool, dry place for months.

If snap beans are not harvested at the young, tender stage, they can be left on the plant to form shell outs or even left on to use as dry beans.

Growing Beans: Preventing Bean Pests & Diseases

Mexican Bean Beetle & Bean Leaf Beetle

Look for clusters of yellow eggs hanging vertically from the underside of the snap or lima bean leaves (they also like soybeans and other types, too) in early summer. Soon fuzzy, bright yellow insects will appear and start feeding on bean leaves — these are the Mexican bean beetle larvae, which are very destructive as they skeletonize the leaves. The adult does less damage and looks like a yellow-orange ladybug with eight black spots in rows on each wing. The adult is a good flyer and can travel far to find new bean fields. The beetles overwinter in moist, protected debris. Control measures include cultivating to destroy overwintering locations; handpicking eggs, larvae or adults; using floating row covers; planting a heavy bean crop in the spring (beetle popula­tions are heaviest later in the summer); using a trap crop; using predators; spraying with azadirachtin, garlic, cedar oil, or mineral oil; and planting less-preferred types like mung beans, cowpea, and soybeans. This is one of the top insect pests in many areas.


Leafhopper feeding shows up as a browning (called hop­perburn) and curling of the leaves with the greatest damage on young plants. Most of this damage is the plant responding to saliva from the sideways-walking, wedge-shaped insect, which is long gone by the time damage shows. The leafhopper is a major dry bean pest in many areas of the country and can have four to six generations during the sum­mer. Control includes floating row covers, not planting beans near alfalfa fields, and successive plantings.

Cutworms & Army Worms

The Western bean cutworm is march­ing eastward and is causing significant in­jury on dry beans as the larvae chew holes in the pod walls and developing seeds. Most feeding occurs on cloudy days or at night. Controls for the cutworm and armyworms include plowing to reduce overwintering larvae, encouraging bird and skunk feeding, and using Bt on larvae.

Bean Blight

Several bacteria attack beans, and for many the early symptoms may look like anthracnose (a fungus). Later symptoms include enlarging, irregular brown patch­es with yellow edges on the leaves. Many bacterial diseases are seedborne and can overwinter in bean debris and spread fast and far via the rain. Humid and moist conditions favor the spread of these dis­eases. Control includes using certified seed, planting on a rotation (avoid re­planting beans in the same place for three years), avoiding harvesting or working the bean fields with leaves that are wet, plowing down bean stubble, planting re­sistant varieties (if available), and spraying with copper (check the label for recom­mendations).

Root Rot, Seed Rot, & Damping Off

Root rots, damping off, and seed rots are all destructive at the time just before seedlings emerge and are caused mostly by fungi present in the soil. Significant losses may occur, especially if cool, wet weather just after seeding is followed by hot, dry weather.

Controls include crop rotation (don’t grow beans in the same location for four to five years if these diseases are a problem), improving drainage and breaking up hard pans, hydrogen peroxide or dioxide spray or soil drench, and delaying planting until the soil is over 65°F.

This article appeared in the February 2013 issue of Acres U.S.A.

How To Sprout Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are a versatile, inexpensive legume, delicious in soups and stews, tacos and burritos. But they can be a bit difficult to digest. Sprouting the beans makes them easier to digest. As a bonus, sprouting also makes beans more nutrient dense and helps them to cook faster.

Pinto beans do not sprout as reliably as some other beans. Because of their lower germination rate, pinto sprouts can be considered done even if only 50% of them have sprouted. Like other beans, one quarter inch of sprout is enough to get all the benefit.


Before you get started sprouting pinto beans, read through these tips:

  • Large beans sprout better in cooler temperatures. Keep sprouting beans around 68-70°F, if possible.
  • Large beans require a longer soaking period and more frequent rinsing and draining, especially in warmer temperatures.
  • Large beans may not get enough air during draining. Make sure your sprouting container allows plenty of ventilation during draining periods.
  • It is normal for the skins to loosen and come off the beans. Either pick the skins out or leave them in as they do not affect the flavor.
  • Sprouted beans require cooking before consuming.

Instructions for Sprouting Pinto Beans

  1. Rinse ½-¾ cup pinto beans, remove any stones or other debris, and place in a quart-size sprouting jar or other sprouting container.
  2. Add 2-3 cups water, filling the jar three-quarters full, cover with a sprouting screen or mesh sprouting lid. Soak pinto beans at least 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Drain and rinse pinto beans thoroughly. Invert the jar over a bowl at an angle so that the beans will drain and still allow air to circulate.
  4. Repeat rinsing and draining 3-4 times per day until sprout tails appear. Taste sprouts (not beans) daily; discontinue rinsing and draining when sprouts have reached desired length and flavor.
  5. Allow beans to drain for several hours before cooking or transferring to a covered container.

Store sprouts in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Pinto beans and other large seeds also sprout well in a bag. Learn more in our article How to Sprout Seeds in a Sack.

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