Dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are beans grown to maturity and harvested for the seeds within the pods. Also referred to as field beans, dry beans are primarily grown in the U.S. for human consumption.
Per capita use of dry beans averages 6 to 7 pounds. This amount may increase in the future due to the larger Latino populations, heightened consumer awareness of potential health benefits, and the increase in foodservice usage. Approximately 20% of United States’ dry bean production is exported. Top destinations are Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Despite being the sixth largest dry bean producing country, the U.S. imports 17% of dry bean consumption. Top suppliers are Canada, Mexico, and China. Dry beans are typically grown under contractual agreements with a processor. Additionally, some users (i.e., canners) have used spot markets. Since the contracts are not stable for multi-year periods, growers should carefully develop their marketing plans before they decide to produce dry beans. Quality issues often are addressed with the use of payment bonuses.
The most popular dry beans in the U.S., based on per capita consumption, are pinto, navy, great northern, red kidney, and black. Adzuki, garbanzo (chickpea), and lima beans are also familiar to many consumers. There are a large number of lesser-known types (e.g. such as anasazi, cannellini, and cranberry beans) that could be grown for specialty niche markets. UK Extension specialists believe most dry bean types could potentially be grown in Kentucky; unfortunately, there is insufficient research data to recommend the types that are best suited for our region. New growers should start small; larger plantings should not be attempted until the crop has been evaluated over several seasons and the grower has test-marketed their product. When grown under contract for wholesale markets, the buyer specifies the cultivars to be grown.