There are several pests that effect different parts of green bean crops. One of these pests that are particularly detrimental to green bean pods is the corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea). This pest is traditionally managed with chemical insecticides, which poses an additional challenge for organic green bean producers.
The corn earworm is a major challenge to the green bean industry, especially in beans destined for French cut canning, because these pests burrow into the pods. French cut green beans are green bean pods that have been split lengthwise.
If a green bean crop is infested with corn earworms, then the pests will be present inside the pods when they are cut. In green beans that are intended to be French cut and then canned, corn earworm infestations can lead to entire crops being rejected from processing plants.
In commercial production operations, corn earworm infestations are almost exclusively combatted by chemical insecticide treatments. This pest causes an even larger challenge for commercial scale organic growers because there are limited organic options for battling these pests on a large-scale.
The use of synthetic chemicals, organic or not, is a major political concern for growers as laws for chemical uses vary for certain regions. This adds additional constrains on what, when, and how a producer can treat a crop in order to rid it of pests.
Many traditional methods for eradicating corn earworms from a green bean crop (at any stage of growth or processing) are not considered organic. This leads to a very limited number of canned green bean processors who accept organic green bean crops for French cut products, due to the number of challenges and constraints that must be overcome to reach a final processing stage.
Organic vegetable production is increasing in popularity among growers throughout the country; however, for many products there still do not exist commercial production methods that can organically manage pests. This is particularly true for green bean pods, which harbor pests out of sight and can lead to crops being rejected from processing. Many producers avoid this conundrum altogether by using traditional production and management methods instead of organic methods.