Reducing risk associated with organic snap bean production in Wisconsin


Investigator: James Nienhuis, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
Project location: Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, organic snap bean production for processing currently meets less than one-third of current demand. In spite of price incentives, it is especially difficult for processors to contract sufficient acres to meet demand due to the high risk and low yields associated with larger-scale organic production. The principle limiting factors to organic production of snap beans include: 1) root rot disease, 2) nitrogen management, 3) seed corn maggot, and 4) the availability of certified organic seed. Technology and experience have been gained to address each of the limiting factors. The University of Wisconsin in cooperation with the Raw Products Committee of the Midwest Food Processors Association (MWFPA) has developed early maturing root rot resistant snap bean cultivars adapted to organic production. Early maturity and rapid growth is critical to snap bean cultivars to outcompete weeds. In addition, based on preliminary data from research trials, we have determined the optimal level of organic sources of nitrogen, identified spinosad-based OMRI-approved insecticides that are effective against seed corn maggot, and have identified seed companies interested in organic seed production.

In partnership with growers, Lakeside Foods, Inc., Pure Line Seeds, Inc., the MWFPA, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the objective of this proposal is to integrate technologies, strategies, and experience in a two-step process to determine the optimal levels of genotype, fertilizer type, fertilizer rate, seed treatment, and seed source to optimize benefits and reduce risk associated with organic snap bean production in Wisconsin.

Specific objectives are to:

  1. Identify UW root rot resistant genotypes that are best adapted to organic production. In addition to pod quality characteristics, early emergence and maturity are critical to out-compete weeds that will be controlled by conventional cultivation only;
  2. Identify the optimal level of nitrogen provided by composted chicken guano or from nitrogen credits provided by incorporating previous season alfalfa;
  3. Validate control of seed corn maggot using OMRI approved Entrust insecticide;
  4. Develop a package of best management practices based on optimal combinations of genotype with management of root rot, seed corn maggot and nitrogen;
  5. Validate best management practices in cooperation with growers, processors, and the MWFPA.
  6. Produce organic seed of UW root rot resistant cultivars with Pure Line Seeds, Inc., Moscow, ID

The best management practices will be validated with fresh market and larger commercial organic farmer cooperators and commercial snap bean processors. Information will be provided and exchanged with growers and processors in annual field days and formal research meetings of the MWFPA.