Limas, Common Beans, Garbanzos (chickpeas), and Cowpeas (blackeye beans)
Dry beans are a big business in California with about 50,000 acres in production valued at around $60 million. Lima beans accounted for about 40% of this total acreage, with California producing nearly 99% of the US domestic supply of dry lima beans. California’s dry beans are marketed throughout the world, including Japan, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom. California also grows dry bean seed stock for export to other states and international markets.
California farmers grow four main classes of dry beans, including limas (large and baby), common beans (such as kidneys, pinks, whites, cranberries and blacks), garbanzos (chickpeas), and cowpeas (blackeye beans). Garbanzo beans are grown as a winter crop, while the others are produced in the summer.
From a nutritional standpoint, dry beans are a healthy food choice — an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, plus they’re very low in fat. Organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the USDA’s My Plate all recommend including beans in one’s diet to reduce cholesterol, maintain normal blood sugar and to maintain a healthy weight. From a production standpoint, beans are a crucial crop for farmers.
In rotation with other crops beans help control weeds, add biomass to the soil via plant matter disked into the ground after harvest, and require relatively few pesticides. In addition, beans, as legumes, fix nitrogen from the air via nitrogen-fixing bacteria that colonize the roots, forming nodules. Economically, beans can enhance the annual farm profitability because common beans and cowpeas can be double-cropped with grains or forage crops, producing two crops in one year.
Many of today’s commercially grown dry beans come from University of California varieties, such as those shown at the UC Field Day. Seed germplasm for different genetic traits are selected from all over the world. UC research is leading the way to ensuring that the future of California’s dry bean industry remains strong. These efforts will continue to enhance sustainable farming practices in our state and provide nutritional benefits to consumers.
(2011, by Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension Advisor)