Butterbeans struggling to survive in South Carolina heat

Pee Dee

A Clemson researcher is growing a variety of butterbeans at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center greenhouses to help farmers save the Southern staple from high temperatures.

Researcher Tony Melton said he hopes to develop a butterbean that can survive in temperatures above 75 degrees, so farmers can stay in business.

“I’m doing this because of the farmers. Everything I do is because of the farmers. Farmers are having a hard time growing butterbeans and producing them through our hot summers here in South Carolina, ” Melton said.

According to Melton, butterbeans can take hot temperatures during the day but not at night. Beans exposed to high heat levels drop their flowers and prevent production.

South Carolina 2007 Census data showed that in 798 acres of butterbeans were planted across the state. But, the number dropped to 261 acres by 2012. 

Some butterbean farmers said making a living and keeping the Southern staple on the table will be difficult if weather conditions continue.

“Butterbeans and our other produce offers us opportunity. Without produce, it would be pretty detrimental to our farm,” said Jeremy Cannon, Cannon Ag Products.

Cannon started planting butterbeans five years ago and only had 25 acres. He now has 200 acres of butterbeans planted in Turbeville.

Melton said it’s farmers like Cannon that made him interested in taking on the research project.

“The last few years have been very scarce. You can’t hardly find any butterbeans, so it affects the people who want to buy the wonderful butterbeans and enjoy them, plus the farmers. They can’t produce them and make enough money to keep producing them,” Melton added.

Melton hopes to complete his butterbean project by the end of 2019. He said his ultimate goal is to help farmers who have went out of business and to prevent others from going out of state to buy them.

“He really gave us a bit of hope to hopefully have something that we can plant and stand the heat as to where some of our older varieties can’t take as much,” Cannon said.

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