San Luis Valley Dry Bean Initiative

College of Agricultural Sciences

San Luis Valley Research Center

Rio Grande 


(Alamosa, Saguache)

Primary Topic:

Food and Agriculture

Other Topics:

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Lead Mentor:  

Jeff Davidson

Assistant Farm Manager

Internship Overview:

The San Luis Valley has consistently been a major agricultural hub in the state of Colorado, predominately producing potatoes, barley, alfalfa, lettuce, and carrots. All of these crops are heavy water users. Each crop on average uses between 18-24 inches of water annually. With the current and future water situation in the western United States, the current use rates of water are not sustainable. The producers of these crops have worked tirelessly to reduce water use over the past several years. Strategies utilized include reducing acreage in production, converting to more efficient irrigation methods, and planting green manure crops to promote healthier soils. Water subdistricts have also been created to manage water that is being used. Producers have looked at several different alternative crops including hemp, quinoa, and canola to help offset water usage. Another crop that is being investigated is dry beans (primarily pinto beans). Pinto beans would provide a crop that uses significantly less water (potentially 50% less) than other primary crops in the area. Dry bean production could potentially provide a crop that would generate revenue through jobs and the sales of product. In addition, there is an anticipated increase in yields for rotational crops, such as potatoes, because of residual nitrogen production and decreased water consumption. The purpose of this internship program is to partner with local producers and the Colorado State Agricultural Extension Service to find crops that promote lower water usage, increased yields for rotational crops, and find alternative crops that can generate revenue for the local economy.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

1. Provide the intern with a hands-on experience developing a sustainable alternative crop in an area not traditionally known for that crop.
2. Create field experiences related to agricultural production in the San Luis Valley.
3. Provide intern with opportunities to learn new techniques in water conservation, soil conservation, and crop productivity.
4. Train intern on techniques in soil and plant sampling and the determination of crop water usage.

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

The intern will work with Colorado State Extension, San Luis Valley Research Center, eight local producers, and one local marketing firm (719 Produce, LLC).

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

The intern will receive hands-on knowledge and experience related to water conservation, soil health, crop development, and working and communicating with producers. Working directly with producers and industry partners will create opportunities to develop relationships that can lead to employment and networking opportunities in the future.
Scroll to Top