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Beans: Lima & Snap Market Summary


Image: msmsha, Rani Restu/

Beans: Lima & Snap Market Overview

Lima (Phaseolous lunatus) and snap beans (P. vulgaris) are vegetable legumes (not lentils), comprised of a seamed pod with a row of internal seeds. Both types produce flat, oval, or kidney-shaped seeds, which can be either smooth or textured depending on variety.
The primary difference between the two is the pod—lima beans are called shell beans and removed from the fibrous and inedible pod, while snap beans are eaten whole (both the pods and internal seeds).

Types & Varieties of Beans

Both beans are known by a number of other names from bush or pole/vine/runner depending on plant type to the nondescript and all-encompassing ‘green’ beans for the snap varieties, to the more flavor-influenced monikers like ‘butter beans’ for smaller limas (though ‘baby lima beans’ refer to a variety not size), and ‘potato beans’ for larger limas.
Lima beans are cream/beige or green in color, though newer varieties and hybrids can come in reddish-brown, purple, or speckled. Green or snap beans come in the requisite green, yellow or wax, red/purple, and streaked.
Snap beans may be string or stringless (though today’s varieties are almost all stringless). Some varieties are flat while others are round; they are called snap beans due to the most common test for quality: to be crisp enough to easily ‘snap’ in half.
Among the popular fresh market varieties for snap beans are Bronco, Derby, Gator Green, Mustand, Opus, Podsquad, Provider, Roma II, and Strike. A few yellow (wax) pod varieties for the fresh market are Eureka, Golden Rod, Goldkist, Gold Mine, and Goldrush.
Two popular processing varieties of lima beans are Bridgeton and Fordhook; home garden and fresh market varieties include Dixie or Florida Speckled, Henderson Bush, and King of the Garden.
Beans: Lima & Snap Seasonal Availability Chart

Cultivation of Beans

Bean plants are sensitive to cold temperatures and should only be planted once the danger of frost has passed. Fields are direct planted in rows with spacing determined by type (and whether support or trellising is necessary).
Germination usually occurs at temperatures between 60 and 85°F; low soil temperatures can lead to slow germination, which in turn can open the door to disease.
Once planted, beans grow best between 60 and 70°F, temperatures above 90°F can encourage flower loss. Due to beans’ shallow, weak root system, rows should be weeded regularly to protect the plants.
Snap beans should be harvested before the seeds are mature, when pods are still succulent. Lima beans should be harvested before they turn white. Beans should not be harvested while wet with dew to prevent the spread of bacterial blight.

Pests & Diseases Affecting Beans

Tarnished plant or lygus bugs commonly feed on young bean pods causing bud and flower loss, pitting, and blemishes. Some beans, like vine varieties, are more susceptible to the bugs which will produce multiple generations each year. Controlling weeds and insecticide applications can help control this pest.
Wireworms or click beetles typically feed on roots and seeds. While eggs are laid in early spring, the larvae hatch within a week and can live for several years in the soil. Due to this long lifecycle, wireworms can be present at any time of year and attack plants in various stages of growth.
Other common pests include aphids, armyworms, bean weevils, earworms, borers, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, leafminers, maggots, nematodes, snails, slugs, and white flies.
Common bean mosaic virus often causes stunted growth, mottling, and malformed leaves that can be afflicted with yellowish or green patches. The virus is often spread by aphids, through direct contact or seeds. Some seed varieties are now resistant to the disease.
White mold is a bacterium that leads to white fluffy growths on blossoms, stems, branches, and pods. The fungus spreads via spores and settles into watery areas on plants.
While considered a fungal disease, white mold often emerges in cool, moist conditions. Crop rotation, less crowded rows for good air flow, careful irrigation, and fungicides can help with prevention.
Beans can also be affected by Alternaria leaf and pod spot, blight, curly top, downy mildew, various types of rust, curly top, damping off, bacterial spot, a variety of rots, anthracnose, and seed spotting.

Storage & Packaging of Beans

Once harvested, beans are often placed in 15 to 22-pound cartons or 30 pound bushels, cartons, and crates. Recommended storage temperatures for lima beans range from 40 to 45°F with a freezing point of just over 30°F.
For snap beans, the range is 37 to 41°F for storage with a freezing point of 31°F. Both lima and green beans are sensitive to chilling injury, which may present as rusty brown specks that become spotted and sticky when warmed.
References: Cornell University, Purdue University, University of Arizona College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, University of California Pest Management Program, University of Georgia Extension, University of Illinois Extension, USDA.

Grades & Good Arrival of Beans

Lima beans for the fresh market are divided into U.S. No. 1, U.S. Combination, and U.S. No. 2 grades. For U.S. No. 1, pods should be uniform in size and shape, well-filled, not overmature, and free from decay, damage, or foreign matter.
Snap beans for the fresh market are divided into U.S. Fancy, U.S. No. 1, and U.S. No. 2 grades. All three require similar varietal characteristics and should be free from soft rot, damage, and debris.

Generally speaking, the percentage of defects shown on a timely government inspection certificate should not exceed the percentage of allowable defects, provided: (1) transportation conditions were normal; (2) the USDA or CFIA inspection was timely; and (3) the entire lot was inspected.


U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (°F)
13-5-1 5


U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (°F)
10-5-1 5
There are no good arrival guidelines for this commodity specific to Canada; U.S. guidelines apply to shipments unless otherwise agreed by contract.

References: DRC, PACA, USDA.
Inspector's Insights for Beans

  • U.S. No. 1 beans are required to be ‘reasonably sized’ though there are no minimum length or diameter requirements; they may not be spindly or excessively short and cannot have been prematurely picked
  • If a break occurs within the thick portion of the bean, this is a defect; the same is true if both ends are broken in the thin portion, if any break is materially affected by dirt or discoloration, if a break is ragged, or if the remaining portion is less than 3.5 inches in length
  • Russeting is characterized by the death of surface cells on the pod, which then becomes rusty to chestnut brown (browned areas are irregular in shape and without definite margins but sometimes occur as short, narrow parallel areas)-this is scored as damaged by russeting when materially affecting appearance.
Source: Tom Yawman, International Produce Training,

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