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Idaho’s Mexican bean seed effort starting to sprout

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Idaho's dry bean industry has spent a lot of money, time and effort trying to convince Mexican growers that Idaho bean seed will out-perform the traditional varieties planted in Mexico. Some people believe those efforts are starting to sprout.

Idaho dry bean seed performed well in field trials in Mexico this year and some industry leaders believe seed sales to that country could soon increase substantially.

The Idaho Bean Commission has had its eyes on Mexico for a while and has funded multiple field trials in the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Zacatecas and Durango since 2005.

The commission has spent a lot of money, time and effort in Mexico and IBC member Don Tolmie believes those efforts are about to sprout.

“It’s a very big thing for Idaho”s dry bean industry and it’s right on the edge of taking off,” he said. “I think we’re probably (three to five) years away from seeing a huge increase in sales.”

About 70 percent of the dry beans grown in Idaho are sold as certified disease-free seed and the Gem State bean industry believes its biggest potential for expanding sales lies in Mexico.

There are up to 500,000 acres of dry beans grown in Durango, Zacatecas and Sinaloa combined, and the amount of western bean seed imported to Mexico almost tripled this past year, said Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. in Homedale, Idaho.

“The potential there is the next largest potential we have as far as expanding our seed sales because the U.S. market is pretty well infiltrated,” he said.

Idaho bean seed is certified as disease-free but the IBC has conducted field trials to convince Mexican growers that Idaho seed will grow well in Mexico’s soil and weather conditions and out-perform the traditional varieties planted there

“We’re trying to prove to them that certified Idaho seed will improve their domestic growers” production. I think we’ve been able to show that pretty consistently,” said IBC Chairman Doug Carlquist, a bean grower from Eden, Idaho.

Tolmie recently returned from a field day in Durango where Mexican growers witnessed first-hand how their traditional varieties stood up next to seed grown in Idaho.

The trial included 13 pinto and five black varieties from Idaho that were planted next to traditional Mexican varieties in both irrigated and non-irrigated fields.

Specific results have not been translated into English yet, Tolmie said, but the Idaho varieties far out-performed the Mexican varieties.

Pinto Saltillo, the gold standard for the Mexican government”s seed program, is showing its age, Tolmie said, and in the trials had bean common mosaic virus, pythium root rot and several other viral issues.

“Our varieties had none of the above (and) the yield potential of the U.S. varieties far exceeded that of the Mexican varieties,” he said.



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