UNL CropWatch Nov. 23, 2010: UNL Bean Breeding Specialist Part of Effort to Address Drought, Climate

UNL CropWatch Nov. 23, 2010: UNL Bean Breeding Specialist Part of Effort to Address Drought, Climate

Nov. 23, 2010

A UNL bean breeder has joined an international effort to develop dry bean seed that is more resistant to drought and other environmental stresses.

UNL Dry Bean Breeder Carlos Urrea

UNL Dry Bean Breeding Specialist Carlos Urrea monitors a research plot in western Nebraska.

Carlos Urrea, UNL dry bean breeding specialist at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, recently participated in a conference to share information and combine resources in this global effort. The conference was hosted by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and held in Colombia.

Urrea is developing drought-tolerant lines of dry beans for Nebraska growers. CIAT’s goal was to bring plant breeders, plant physiologists, and plant genomics specialists together to share information and combine efforts to improve the common bean’s tolerance to “abiotic stresses.” These environmental factors including drought, heat, flooding, low nitrogen and phosphorus levels, and poor soil fertility.

Urrea was one of about 30 scientists from the United States, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Africa, and other nations. Other U.S. scientists were from Michigan, North Dakota, and Puerto Rico. Nebraska is the third largest state in dry bean production, behind North Dakota and Michigan.

“This is important because they are recognizing Nebraska as one of the largest bean producers in the United States and one of the very few places in the U.S. working on drought tolerance,” Urrea said.

CIAT’s mission is to reduce hunger and poverty and improve human health through research aimed at increasing the eco-efficiency of agriculture. The workshop was funded by the Worldwide Universities Network, whose aim is “to engender novel collaborations addressing plant systems, climate change and food security.”

Urrea, a Colombia native who has been at the Panhandle Center for almost six years, shared information about Nebraska dry bean production and his efforts at Scottsbluff to breed new, drought-resistant bean lines. Urrea has been testing dozens of domestic and wild strains of beans from around the world to identify genetic sources of drought tolerance, and mapping the genes responsible for drought tolerance. He also talked about studies taking place at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center into soil compaction and its effects on irrigation.

He then took part in discussions to develop a comprehensive work plan including sharing research materials, collaborating on grant proposals, and submitting manuscripts to a special issue of the journal Functional
Plant Biology.

The next step will be to develop a large-scale framework for a collaborative project, Urrea said. He expects that some research would be done at the Panhandle Center. One of the bean populations that Urrea has developed to identify genes for drought tolerance will be part of the core project.

He said he expects to seek funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to map and identify mechanisms of drought resistance in dry beans, working cooperatively with scientists from the conference.

While he was abroad, Urrea also participated in a conference at the National University of Colombia at Palmira to discuss a collaborative agreement between UNL and the Colombia university to exchange scholars, students, and information on teaching methods and programs.

David Ostdiek, Communications Specialist
Panhandle REC, Scottsbluff