On a recent hot late summer day, as many Nebraska dry edible bean growers watched their fields color and prepare for harvest, four scientists walked through a bean field north of Scottsbluff consisting of hundreds of small plots, each with a different row or type of bean – representing different varieties of dry beans from around the world.
Farmers in this region mainly grow pinto beans, far north and light red kidneys, and smaller amounts of others such as black beans, marines and chickpeas.
But these plots, which are part of the research areas of the University of Nebraska’s Panhandle Research and Extension Center, consist of hundreds of different lines of many different types of beans, from all over the world. They are part of a collaborative effort between UNL plant breeders, other land granting universities, the United States Department of Agriculture, and other organizations to improve the genetics of dry edible beans grown in Nebraska. And in the world.
Dried bean lines are tested in these plots to see if their genes could be introduced into bean lines sold to farmers in Nebraska to make their crops more resistant to diseases such as fire blight; increase their tolerance to heat and drought; or produce plants with erect architecture, suitable for direct harvesting with the combine harvester. Other characteristics that are still important are early ripening, yield, size and seed quality.
Carlos Urrea, dry bean breeding specialist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, supervises these plots. Urrea regularly collaborates with plant breeders from the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, other universities and international organizations such as the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
That day, Urrea and three USDA plant breeders from Washington, Michigan, and Puerto Rico were inspecting the plots for promising plants. They are looking for genetic material that can be introduced into ongoing breeding efforts in Nebraska and elsewhere.
Visiting the plot near Scottsbluff is an annual routine, part of the process of seeing how the many different breeding lines behave under different conditions. Researchers also take the opportunity to share information about each other’s projects. The collaboration was recognized with the Excellence in Multistate Research Award from the Western Association of Agriculture Experiment Station Directors in 2009.
Market classes in these plots include pinto, great north, small blacks, reds, light red kidneys, yellows, cranberries and an assortment of others (Calima, Rozi Koko, Kablanketi, etc.) from different continents. Collaborative projects represented include regional western bean trials (Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho and Washington); the Midwest Regional Performance Nursery (Nebraska, Michigan, North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming); the Cooperative Dry Bean Nursery (nine US states, one Canadian province); the shuttle bean breeding nursery with Puerto Rico; and a dry bean drought nursery and white mold monitoring nursery, each involving multiple states.
When bean breeders visit cooperative plots such as Urrea in Scottsbluff, they look for plants that exhibit a combination of characteristics such as moderate to early maturity, good pod formation, good yield (more seeds in pods), uniform maturity and less disease, according to Phil Miklas of the USDA ARS in Prosser, Wash.
As the plot inspection progressed, he noted that the beans in a particular plot are later and not suitable for that region. âThese materials were actually bred in Tanzania and selected in Tanzania. What we’re looking for here are potential gems – materials that were bred in a vastly different environment, that could bring new genetic diversity into the coarse-seeded kidneys and cranberries that we grow in the United States.
Miklas said that each of the four who visit the fields have projects in East Africa. âAs a member of the research community, we share material, work together and try to help each other to succeed in developing better cultivars. A USAID project designed to help feed African people could also provide genetic material that helps fight a plant disease in America, he said.
Tim Porch is a research geneticist with the USDA-ARS in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, who worked on the shuttle breeding project for 11 years with Urrea. âWe select from locations in Nebraska in the summer and Puerto Rico in the winter,â he said. âWe draw other sources of drought tolerance from germplasm from South and Central America. So there are crosses between two races of these smaller seeds. In doing so, we expand the diversity of these seed classes and also provide other sources of drought tolerance. In addition, with climate change, we are also introducing heat tolerance. And we selected for resistance to common fire blight disease at both sites. “
Karen Cichy of USDA-ARS in East Lansing, Michigan, is working on a breeding project involving yellow beans.
âThey are a minor market class, but we are interested in them because we have found that some of them have a very fast cooking time and we have found that they have interesting nutritional properties,â he said. it said, especially a high iron content. bioavailability. Working with a collection of germplasm from 300 different yellow beans from several market classes (Mayocoba, Canario, Azufrado, etc.), she tries to breed yellow beans for the United States.
âWe will try to understand the genetics of this yellow color and the genetics of cooking time and identify the right materials that we can use for breeding in order to obtain good agronomic characteristics, as many of these yellows are susceptible to many diseases. Nebraska is one of three sites where we are testing this genetics this year.
She said the U.S. yellow bean acreage is quite small compared to market classes such as pinto and kidney, but there is potential. âThey are becoming more and more popular, especially with Latinos. Different types of yellow are commercially important in Mexico and East Africa.
Collaborative bean breeding efforts have been going on for about 50 years, said Urrea. He has been the dry bean breeding specialist for UNL at Scottsbluff for almost 14 years. The number of dry bean lines tested varies a bit from year to year.
The dry beans that researchers saw recently have better plant architecture than 15 years ago, Urrea said. They are more upright, suitable for harvesting directly with the combine. Some beans carry several genes for resistance to more diseases than in the past. Over the years, the number of market classes represented in the plots has increased.
One of the benefits of working with other researchers, Urrea explained, is that when he grows lines of dry beans from other programs and sees their beans performing well in western Nebraska, he can ask for permission to include these lines in his hybridization breeding program. This spirit of sharing and collaboration, evident between the four breeders, and which benefits everyone was refreshing to see.