UNL Dry Bean Research Part of Global Improvement Effort - UNL CropWatch, Sept. 29, 2011

UNL Dry Bean Research Part of Global Improvement Effort - UNL CropWatch, Sept. 29, 2011

September 29, 2011

Improving dry bean production worldwide is one goal of research being conducted at UNL’s Panhandle Research and Extension Center (PREC) at Scottsbluff.

Dry bean researchers in the field

UNL dry bean breeding specialist Carlos Urrea (left) and Phil Miklas of the USDA Agricultural Research Service look over one of more than 300 lines of dry beans in the plots near Mitchell.

Mapping beans’ gene sequence is a piece of the effort. Scientists also are comparing drought resistance, nutritional value, and disease among hundreds of cultivars, present, past, and in development.

Just before harvest, UNL dry bean breeding specialist Carlos Urrea and one of USDA’s top bean scientists, Phillip Miklas, inspected UNL research plots with more than 300 lines of dry edible beans. They noted maturity stage and uniformity, yield potential, and diseases.

This work is part of the BeanCAP project. (CAP stands for Coordinated Agricultural Projects.) One of BeanCAP’s goals is the development of genomic tools and the genetic sequence for dry beans, said Miklas, research geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Other major crops, such as rice and corn, have already been genetically sequenced, and now it’s dry beans’ turn, Miklas said.

After harvest, the 300-plus lines in the Scottsbluff plots will be tested for nutritional content and the effects of drought stress. Beans that were stressed will be compared with others that were fully watered.

Seed will be tested in USDA-ARS laboratories at Baylor University and Michigan State University to measure iron and zinc content. Genetic tools and sequencing will be used to check for differences and determine which genes influence levels of these and other micronutrients.

The 300-plus varieties represent U.S.-bred cultivars from the 1930s to new lines that haven’t yet been released for commercial production. Most of the lines were bred in Idaho, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, Washington and Michigan. Some were bred in other states and Canada.

Studying many varieties that have been developed over a long time allows scientists to see how the U.S. breeding program may have led to genetic gains in yield, Miklas said.

For more information on dry bean production in Nebraska see


Increased Interest in Beans

Several factors are driving the increased interest in improving dry bean production, Miklas said. More people are recognizing their health benefits, including high fiber, low fat, and several important nutrients. Some types of bean also help lower cholesterol.

Dry beans are on the lists of crops needing improvement for the Feed the Future Project, a U.S. government global hunger and food security initiative, Miklas said.

David Ostdiek
Communications Associate, Panhandle REC


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