May, 1976

John Bollingberg, father of owner of Bollingberg Seeds Kurt Bollingberg, was featured for his work with Pinto beans in a 1976 article of the local paper.

Caption: John Bollingberg planting pinto beans with an eight-row "Cyclo" planter. Bollingberg said he was planting the beans about three inches deep, rather than the normal two inch depth, because of dry top soil.

Title: Pinto beans -- an alternative to summer-fallow

Author: Keith Haugland


The pinto bean is beginning to establish itself as a cash crop in Wells County. In 1974 the first 60 acres of pinto beans were grown in the county by certified seed grower, Ray Klindworth of Fessenden. This year, according to Klindworth, between 1500 and 1800 acres are being planted in the county.

Pinto beans are a specialty crop, according to Klindworth. A specialty crop that has distinct advantages and disadvantages. The advantages, Klindworth said, are that pinto beans "can replace some, but not all, of your summer-fallowing" and that in some years, the crop can pay a very high return.

The average yield for pinto beans in this area is between 800 and 1000 pounds per acrew, although yields up to 1400 pounds per acre have been harvested. The price per poiund in today's market is hovering around the $.14 mark. This would gross out between $110 and $140 per acre at harvest time at today's prices.

But the beauty of pinto beans, according to Klindworth, is that farmers receive a reutrn on land they normally would have summer-fallowed. "This is how we can compete with growers in the Red River Valley and other parts of the country where they get much higher yields," Klindworth said. "Because we are getting a return on land that normally would be fallowed, we are able to lower our cost of production and be able to compete with the other growers."

But there are disadvantages too. THe pinto bean is a high risk crop that is subject to disease and frost; and a crop that requires specialized and expensive machinery.

And the risks are real too. Pinto bean growers in the Red River Valley told Klindworth to expect losing about one crop out of five to either disease or frost. 

Because it is so suscepible to disease, a field cannot be replanted with beans for three or four years. And either a late or early frost will raise havoc with a field of Pinto beans.

But cost is the primary factor. According to John Bollingberg, Bremen, who raises beans with Klindworth, the cost per acre to seed, cultivate and harvest an acre of pinto beans is between $70 and $75. Those figures do not include any cost for land.

The reason for the high cost is primarily becauase of the cost of equipment and chemicals needed to raise beans. Before the beans are planted, the soil must be treated with a pre-emergence weed killer. The cost for the chemical alone, without the cost of application, is $7-$8 per acre.

The chemical must be incorporated in the soil within one minute of application. To do this, most farmers follow right behind the sprayer with a cultivator. After this is done, the chemical is re-incorporated at a right angle to the first incorporation. 

The beans are planted with a special bean planter using air to force the seed into the ground. A corn planter can be sed but a special "cyclo-type" planter vies better results.

After they have emerged, the beans are cultivated twice during the early growing season. Later cultivation will disturb the root system and damage the plants. 

Then comes harvest time-hopefully before the first frost. A "cutter" or "knifer" cuts the bean plants about one inch beow the surface of the ground. A special windrower is used to put eight rows of beans into one windrow. Sie delivery rakes cannot be used, according to Klindworth, because it would cause many pods to shatter.

A combine with a special pickup that handles the beans gently and yet gets rid of dirt and stone is used to harvest beans. The combine must be fitted with a special cylinder speed reduction kit and special screens to eliminate dirt. "Dirt is a big problem with harvesting beans," Klindworth said.

And finally when it is time to put the beans in a granary, a special belt conveyor should be used instead of a conventional screw-type auger. A conventional auger, Klindworth said, will damage the bean shell.

Up until this year, the closest market for beans has been in the Hatton-Northwood-Mayville-Portland areas where there are pinto bean processing plants. However, Klindworth hopes to have his certified seed and bean processing building ready by fall and be able to market on his own.

Klindworth said that in spite of the costs, pinto beans can at least equal the returns of small grains and have the additional advantage of being able to crop land that otherwise would be in fallow.

We've reduced our summer-fallow to just the problem fields where we have weed problems, he said.

Pinto beans are very tolerant to drought and are perhaps even more tolerant than wheat. Klindworth said that beans have an ability to stand almost dormant during dry periods and then "take advantage of the moisture when it comes.

It's a real interesting crop, he said. "We don't know everything about it yet, but we're learning.

Asked if he raised any sunflowers since they would have some of the advantages pintos do, Klindworth said, "Nope, we've got one specialty crop and that's enough."