Green Bean Issues

Denise DuffyJuly 14, 2012

Some of my green bean plants are beginning to drop leaves, and some of the green beans are turning white. Produced well first part of the summer, but with the heat here in SW Oklahoma, things are beginning to change. I have read that this could be rust, or pythium blight, or powdery mildew. My questions:

Are fungicides safe for consumption?

Does this affect the soil for fall or later planting?

Can I simply just pull out all plants and it will take care of the problem?

Any help with this would be appreciated. I'm new to planting green beans. Thanks, Denise

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Denise,

Welcome to the exciting world of gardening in this hot and dry state. You know, sometimes it isn't as hard as it is this year (and last year).

In order to provide answers to your questions, we need answers to these questions:

Do the leaves turn from green to either yellow or tan/brown before they drop?

Look at the green beans that are turning white. Are they exposed to full sun because the leaves are dropping off? Also, are they full-sized and looking 'lumpy' with beans inside or are they still young and thin? Are the bead pods bleaching out white from being green previously or do they have a dry, white talcum powder-like growth on the outside of the green pods or foliage? (If so, that is powdery mildew.)

If it is rust, you'll be seeing rust-colored spotting on the plants. The fungicides approved for rust on green beans generally are effective. However, you need to read any product label very carefully to make sure that product can be used in high temperatures. Many products cause leaf damage once the temperatures are above 90 degrees or higher. So, read labels before using!! There's products I'll use in typical March or April weather, but not after it is hotter. Whether the fungicides are safe for consumption varies with your idea of safe, and with each fungicide. For each product, there is an MSDS that details the risks of using it. Google and find it and read it before selecting a product. A lot of research up front can prevent a lot of misery later.

Pythium blight on beans usually manifests as root rot of young seedlings. Sometimes you'll see it on mature plants. If that is what your plants have, you'll see a white, mold-like growth on the stems down near the ground because pythium lives in the soil. The only time I've ever seen pythium on beans is in the forum for damping off in times of heavy rain when bean seeds are just recently sprouted or are sprouting.

Most products will not affect the soil, but sulfur can alter soil pH, so be careful when using sulfur as the fungicide of choice. It also can burn foliage at high temps, and that can kill your plants.

Without knowing what your plants have, we cannot tell you whether you're dealing with a disease issue that could become permanent and recur annually. However, there are not a lot of bean diseases that I'd worry about. Beans grow well in most of Oklahoma most years. Since you're in SW OK, you may find beans to be strictly a spring or fall crop and not a summer one.

In general, pulling out diseased plants is always a good idea. Then, either dispose of them off the property or compost them in a hot, not cold, compost pile.

If you can tell me a little bit more about your green beans, I'll try to figure out if your plants have a big problem or if they're just heat-stressed and drought-stressed.

Are they bush beans or pole beans?

When did you plant them?

How long have they been producing?

How often are y'all getting rain?

When it doesn't rain, how do you water? Hand-held water hose? Sprinkler? Drip irrigation lines'soaker hoses? Flood irrigation?

Finally, look at the underside of the leaves that are dropping. Do you see any tiny insects about the size of the dot over the letter "i"? Any fine webbing? Anything that looks like spider mite damage?

I am inclined to think your bean issues all relate somehow to how hot and dry it is, whether they are disease-related or pest-related.

Just so you'll know what a MSDS looks like, I've linked one for Bravo, a common fungicide with chlorothalonil as its active ingredient. Whenever I am tempted to spray my plants with a chemical fungicide, I read the MSDS and change my mind. That's just me, though, because I do not like using chemicals.


Here is a link that might be useful: Example of an MSDS

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 4:01PM
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I have a terrible time with pole beans! I am about ready to give up on them. I can't seem to get them producing before the heat gets them. I could baby them until fall I guess. I have about decided that I prefer bush beans. Like a few fresh meals and would like to freeze a bunch.

My plants look beautiful, but they're not blooming. Tried blue lake this year. Tried rattlesnake last year. Great looking plants, but for some reason, the cucumber beetles loved the rattlesnake beans.

Which bush bean is better? Contender or jade? planted contender this year and produced a ton.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 9:10PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Quailhunter, How early are you planting your pole beans? I think a lot of pole bean performance depends on how early it gets hot. The last 2 or 3 years it has been really hard to get them to flower and form beans before it gets too hot. It drives me up the wall!

I've been picking pole beans for several weeks and bush beans and half runners since late April. I really thought the pole beans would have suffered blossom drop throughout June and they likely did, but they also are producing some beans.

My typical method is to plant bush beans in late March or early April for a sprig/summer harvest and pole beans in May or June for a fall harvest, but this year was so rainy in March and April that I went ahead and planted pole beans early.

I like Contender. I only grew Jade once and it seemed pretty finicky about our heat. I also like Top Crop because the beans are so easy to find there on top of the plant. My best producers this year have been Contender, Capitano, Purpuriat, Tanya's Pink Pod and Fowler in the bush bean category. Red Swan produced well early but not for long, and Marconi produced fine but seemed kinda late. Ironically, one names Speedy (it has a DTM of 55 days) was one of the last bush beans to produce because the others I planted have shorter DTMs than it does. White Half-Runner has produced remarkably well despite the heat and the ones I planted near tomato cages or fences have climbed 8' tall. Rattlesnake is setting beans right now and so is Dean's Purple Pole Bean, which has a DTM of 55 days. Musica/Smeraldo a has set beans despite being in the worst clay soil I have at the northeastern end of the garden. I can only imagine how well Musica likely would perform in good soil. Gold of Bacau was planted near a fence so it would climb it, but instead climbed into the late corn, so hasn't produced well yet. I think the corn may be shading it too much, or maybe it does not like the heat.

You must have my cucumber beetles there because I have very few of them this year, which is odd. Usually they plague me like the devil. I just hate them.

Keep your plants watered, and feed them if you think they need it, and in the fall they'll produce tons and tons of beans. I get so disgusted with how our heat usually interferes in pole bean production, but I know if I can just keep the plants alive, they'll go crazy producing beans in the fall.

The only beans that have not yet produced anything for me are the lima beans, but they're blooming now. The grasshoppers are devouring their foliage, so I need to spray with Garlic Barrier to see if I can drive the grasshoppers away.

I was concerned this summer would be like last summer even though the winter and spring had been rainier at our house, so I was determined to get a bunch of bush beans in the ground early. I put 3 or 4 bush bean varieties in the ground in early to mid-March (our last freeze was March 4th or 5th which is amazingly early) and they were producing by the end of April. I think April's hot temperatures pushed them to produce earlier than normal. About 3 weeks after the first planting, I planted 3 more bush types and the half-runners. Then, 3 weeks after that I planted pole beans, runner beans and yardlong beans. We've had beans almost nonstop ever since. Of course, the harvest in May was better than the harvest in July has been, but any time we're getting beans at all in July, I am a happy camper. I think I have enough beans in the freezer for about 60 meals, but I'd like to double that this fall. We love beans.

In order to get early pole bean production, I try to choose varieties with a short DTM. I save the ones with a later DTM for fall beans.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 10:12PM
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I probably put them out the last third week of april or so. I had to replant the first week of May....maybe a bit too late. I have these nice bean towers and hate not to use them, but I'm getting sick and tired of no pole beans. I planted one 25' row of Contenders just to have a few to eat while waiting on the pole beans. They Contenders produced a ton of beans. I froze three gallons of snapped beans from that one row. Had three full pickings.

Tried rattlesnake last year. Beautiful plants and they produced considering the heat. The spotted cucumber beetles absolutely loved them. They were stringy also. I could shake the bean towers and hundreds if not thousands of cucumber beetles would fly out of the beans. They preferred the beans to the cucumbers that were a few feet away.

I have seen ONE cucumber beetle this summer. Maybe I could get away with the rattlesnakes again...maybe it was just a good year for cucumber beetles. Either way, I found them to be quite stringy and I don't want stringy beans.

I also put out a few Kentucky Blue pole beans and they have produced a few beans. Not many (not enough to pick).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 11:19PM
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This year I planted Blue Lake and Kentucky Blue.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 11:20PM
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There are a number of Appalachian type pole beans which seem to do pretty well in Oklahoma. Carol (Soonergrandma) plants Long Cut Old Timey Greasy Beans (the variety whose name, everyone struggles to remember). Tennessee Cutshort, my wife's family's heirloom is my mainstay. Childers, seems like the same bean as Tennessee Cutshort. It would be VERY hard to obtain. I'm growing it out for seed this summer. But I planted it in an area where it receives almost no irrigation, and I'm only going to harvest a handful of seed. Frank Barnett, is a very nice cutshort, which did quite well for me. I have seed. I notice that Sustainable Mountain Agriculture (Bill Best's organization) doesn't list it this year. Tennessee Cornfield seems like it would do well here. I only grew it once. But it seemed to "buck" the heat.

Sounds like Dawn's White Half-Runner is a winner. What's the exact variety name? Where'd you get it Dawn? Sounds like it could be grown as a pole bean. The original source for Childers said that it was a half-runner, and grew it without support. Yet Childers easily tops 10-12' when given support; and it produces much more that way.


Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 8:37AM
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Forgot to give the link to this fine organization.

Also, Sandhill Preservation carries Tennessee Cutshort. I know for a fact that they have more seed than do I.


Here is a link that might be useful: Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center Beans

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 8:52AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

George, It is simply called White Half Runner but you might know it or know of it by its alternate name, Mississippi Skip Bean, and I got the seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. This was my first year to grow this bean, although I have grown a white-seeded half-runner in the past, a long time ago, that seemed identical. I don't remember where I got the seed for that one or what its real name was. I'll link SESE's description of WHR.

Quailhunter, Lazy Housewife is a good stringless bean, and I've grown George's Tennessee Cutshort and really like it. I have a cornfield bean growing in my mid-season corn along with Old-Fashioned Cornfield Pumpkin and at least one other pole bean and Seminole Pumpkin. The Cornfield Bean is climbing the cornstalks really well, but hasn't bloomed or set beans yet. I planted it really late--likely near the end of May, as it was intended for fall production. With this week's lower temperatures, it may bloom and set some beans.

Also in that area I have Kebarika planted. One half of the sixty foot row is Cornfield and the other half is Kebarika, which is a shelling bean from Africa. I don't think Kebarika is even blooming yet, but it has a fairly late DTM and it was planted fairly late, so that's not surprising.

I forgot to say that for some reason purple podded beans often tolerate really cool soil and air temps and produce really early, as well as really late in the fall. So, to guarantee a good early crop, I plant Royalty Purple Pod very early (and very late for fall), and I plant Dean's Purple Pole early in spring. It has a DTM of 55 although I think that in a good spring without very cold nights I have gotten beans from Dean's Purple Pod in roughly 48-50 days. With our erratic weather I easily plant 12-18 bean varieties every year because, no matter the weather, with that many varieties there's bound to be a couple that will like whatever weather we are having.


Here is a link that might be useful: White Half-Runner (Miss, Skip Bean)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 9:42AM
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