Profitability of Dry Beans vs Soybeans

There are producers in Ontario who grow dry edible beans every year. Others may only grow dry beans when prices are strong and they fit into the crop rotation. It makes sense to be selective about where and when to grow dry beans, because they can be higher risk than soybeans.

What is the profit potential of soybeans vs small-seeded dry beans?

Below is a table comparing the cost of productions of various types of beans and their potential profitability across a range of yield outcomes.

 soybeanIP soybeanwhite beanblack beanadzuki bean
Cost of production/ac$409$482$679$679$679
Yield Range
(provincial average yield and aspirational yield goal)
49 bu/ac
59 bu/ac
49 bu/ac
59 bu/ac
2400 lb/ac
3000 lb/ac
2400 lb/ac
3000 lb/ac
1700 lb/ac
2200 lb/ac
(5 year average)
(range based on yields provided)

Cost of production values are taken from OMAFRA Publication 60 Field Crop Budgets 2023 and do not include the cost of land. Publication 60 does not currently include adzuki beans, so they are assumed to be similar to white and black beans. Yield ranges are based on Agricorp data for the average provincial yield as well as higher yields that have been reported by Ontario farmers (aspirational yield goal). The prices are also from Agricorp and are an average of the past 5 years. For soybeans the prices are based on a survey conducted in October of each year and for dry beans the price is an average of all sales up to November 30th of each year.

At the lower end of the yield ranges, IP soybeans appear to be the most profitable followed by adzuki beans. Profitability with white and black beans is not vastly different than crush beans at lower yields. On highly productive fields it may be most profitable to grow adzuki beans but they are more challenging to grow, and those with limited experience with adzuki should set reasonable expectations. White and black beans and IP soybeans may be a good choice for highly productive fields. At these prices, experienced dry bean growers who are generally able to achieve strong yields may benefit from keeping dry beans in rotation rather than making the switch to crush soybeans, from a profitability perspective.

A helpful tool for crop budgeting

A budgeting tool developed by OMAFRA is available online to help producers calculate the cost of production on their farms. It is pre-populated with costs, with the exception of land costs, but all costs can be edited. By inputting the expected yield and grain price an expected revenue can be calculated, as well as what price is needed to break even. Producers can input optimistic and pessimistic yield outcomes and prices based on what they have experienced in past years to get a better idea of the risk of producing a certain crop. Yield stability of soybeans vs dry beans may be a significant factor to consider when determining potential profitability. You can also input your desired return/ac and the chance of meeting that goal will be calculated. These estimations may be helpful in comparing the profitability of different bean crops. If you do not have your own easy-to-use budget tool, gain a better understanding of your costs and potential profits by trying this one.

What factors should be considered aside from prices?

All of these beans would likely hold the same spot in a crop rotation. Based solely on the table provided above it’s difficult to see why a producer would grow soybeans rather than adzuki beans. However, the differences in cost of production provides some clues. Dry beans are managed more intensely than soybeans and additional workload should be considered when deciding which bean type to grow. Frequent scouting and more pesticide applications are typical with dry beans, so there may be advantages to having your own sprayer and a crop scout. A crop advisor with edible bean experience can be valuable, although experience with adzuki beans can be harder find. Tillage is also commonplace in dry bean fields but there are many Ontario examples of producers having success with strip till and no till in small-seeded beans.

Field choice and soil type should be considered. Well drained and lighter textured soils reduce the risk of root rot complex, a disease that frequently robs yield from dry beans. A field that is free from soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is critical for adzuki production. Unlike soybeans, there are no SCN resistant dry bean varieties available. Research on a limited number of varieties has shown that white and black beans may be more tolerant to SCN than a susceptible soybean variety, but adzuki beans are highly susceptible to SCN.

One other point to consider is proximity to a delivery point. While there are quite a few elevators in Ontario where you can deliver dry beans, producers in certain parts of the province may have to truck beans a long way.

There are crop rotation advantages to growing dry beans. Dry beans are typically harvested earlier than corn or soybeans which offers a great opportunity to plant winter wheat earlier, and this often translates to good fall growth and strong wheat yields. Growing some white or black beans may also spread out the spring workload because they are planted the first week of June, or sometimes in late May. For adzuki beans, on the other hand, it is recommended to plant as early as possible following spring frosts because there are often late pods that need time to mature at the end of the season.

Growing dry beans can be highly profitable in the right field and with good management. If you are thinking of growing some dry beans, use a budgeting tool to estimate costs and profitability compared to other crops and consider the winter wheat planting advantage.