Dry bean growers need to be very cautious of saved seed

Saving dry bean seeds is highly risky due to disease concerns. Those using saved seeds, should have the seed tested for disease.

Occasionally dry bean growers face a temptation to save some of the previous year’s crop for seed the following year. When seed supplies are tight, or when quality seed is perceived as being very expensive, this seems to be a great temptation for some growers. Planting seed that is infected with seedborne disease often turns into the most expensive seed due to the loss of crop yield and quality.

Anthracnose is a seedborne disease that once caused great losses in both yield and quality in dry beans here in Michigan. Anthracnose has not disappeared – it is alive and well. It is still observed in Michigan at low levels from time to time. Other dry bean growing areas where infected seed is often planted see it quite regularly and experience substantial yield and quality losses, especially when weather conditions are conducive to disease development.

Common bacterial blight and halo blight are also diseases that infect the seed. Common blight in particular has been present in several Michigan fields in the past few years. Both diseases have the potential to reduce yields dramatically.

To avoid these diseases it is imperative that clean, disease-free seed be planted.

I recommend planting clean seed that has been professionally grown in a disease-free environment, field inspected and laboratory tested. However, I know a few dry bean growers do gamble and plan to plant “bin run” seed. If you plan to do this in 2011, you can get your seed laboratory tested for bacterial blight and anthracnose through the Michigan Department of Agriculture Seed Lab.

Laboratory testing alone does not guarantee that there is no disease present in the seed lot! A negative test result is, however, a bit of assurance that the seed lot is relatively clean.

Getting a representative sample is critical! Take several sub samples from the entire seed lot, mix them, and take from this the sample you intend to send to the lab. The sample you send to the lab must be at least 5 lbs.

Bean seed samples can be submitted to the Michigan Department of Agriculture Seed Lab for Anthracnose and blight testing between October 1 and March 30.  For more information on testing costs and details on how to submit samples, contact your local MSU Extension office or the MDA Seed Lab at (517) 337-5091. 

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