By SEAN ELLIS
KIMBERLY, Idaho -- Results from a grower survey are helping Idaho Bean Commission members decide how to spend industry's money this year.
The commission on March 12 agreed to fund several research projects involving weed control, fertilizer management and seed treatment and white mold trials.
Not coincidentally, those issues were high on the growers' priority list, according to a survey that asked dry bean producers what their biggest production challenges were and where they would like to see the commission focus its efforts.
"The survey comments were very supportive of research. That's where our emphasis is right now," said IBC Commissioner Don Tolmie. "Our budget will probably have a bigger research emphasis this year than it has had in quite a few years."
The commission received surveys from 200 of the state's estimated 560 bean growers.
Growers were asked what their top production challenges were and the weed nightshade was "by far and away the winner," said IBC Administrator Lacey Menasco.
Nightshade was followed by other weeds and weed problems, such as lack of post-planting herbicide options, and then white mold, fertilizer management and irrigation management.
The fact that growers ranked weeds as their top production challenge came as no surprise to commissioners.
"Weeds are definitely a struggle all our growers are challenged with," said IBC commissioner Gina Lohnes.
Asked where they want to see the commission focus its efforts, the top response was pest and disease research, followed by developing new dry bean varieties and promoting Idaho seed in Latin America.
"All of those were very close score-wise," Menasco said.
Because the commission resigned its membership from the U.S. Dry Bean Council this year and stopped funding a bean breeder position at the University of Idaho several years ago, it has a healthy reserve budget and is trying to determine how to best spend it, said commissioner Bill Bitzenburg.
"We need some direction and felt we needed to go to the source, which is growers," he said. "What I got from the survey responses is that cultural challenges are still important to growers."
IBC Chairman Lorell Skogsberg said commissioners want to spend the money in a way that will benefit growers quickly.
"We want to focus on bringing the most immediate results to the folks who are paying the assessment," he said.
The commission did not make a decision on whether to fund a bean breeder position at the University of Idaho in the hopes of developing a commercial pinto cultivar that would perform better in Idaho's climate and soil conditions.
If the commission opts to go that route, it would likely mean an increase in the assessment fee paid by growers and dealers. Growers currently pay 8 cents per hundredweight and dealers pay 4 cents.
Tolmie said the commission could make a decision on that idea by early summer.