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Dry Bean Breeding

Watch: A Journey through the Bean Breeding Process

View additional videos about plant breeding on the BeanCAP Educational Video Series YouTube Channel

USAID Legume Innovation Lab Project: Genetic Improvement of Middle-American Climbing Beans for Guatemala

NDSU Bean Improvement Program Highlighted in National Federation of Cereal and Legume Growers Publication (FENACLE) in Colombia

NDSU Breeding Program Objectives and Methods

The main objective of the dry bean breeding program at North Dakota State University is to develop high yielding, high quality bean genotypes adapted to the Northern Great Plains. This involves many characteristics of dry beans and different disciplines of research (e.g. genetics, pathology, physiology, nutrition etc.). The first priority is to improve pinto, navy, and black market classes, but also kidney, great northern, small red and pink. A modified pedigree breeding method is used, which allows continual evaluation and selection of desirable families and/or lines. Therefore, activities and procedures remain relatively similar from year to year, providing consistency in development and evaluation of new genetic materials in a step-wise manner. During the winter of each year, we perform approximately 300 unique hybridizations in the greenhouse. Crosses involve adapted cultivars grown in the Northern Plains, breeding lines developed at NDSU, and germplasm possessing desirable traits from other breeding programs. Unadapted germplasm lines from other sources are evaluated for desirable traits and introgressed into adapted material. Each year, the breeding program evaluates material from around the world as possible sources of resistance to white mold, rust, root rot, anthracnose, virus, and bacterial diseases, among others.

Breeding lines are tested and selected in different environments and evaluated for disease resistance under natural pressure in the field and in the greenhouse. After the early stages of selection, good promising lines are put in preliminary yield trials (PYT) across several locations, which allow practicing another round of selection, this time based on replicated data. Selected promising lines are then included in the advanced yield trials (AYT), also planted in several locations during two or three years. Then, elite lines that perform well in the AYT are entered into variety trials (VT) for three years.

The aid of off-season or winter nurseries makes the process more efficient in terms of time, particularly at the early generations, in which one of the main objectives is to reach homozygozity (lines with homogeneous performance). Current winter nurseries are planted in Puerto Rico, New Zealand, and more recently at south Florida. The time required to develop and release a variety after the initial cross is made is usually 10-12 years, although it may be reduced considerably if off-season nurseries are used. Only through long term commitment and funding for this activity is it possible to integrate several traits and genes of interest and thus, obtain new varieties that will increase productivity of bean growers and to the region in general. A breeding program is the only one able to put together all the research from geneticists, pathologists, physiologists, entomologists, etc, into a concrete and visible product: an improved variety.

The breeding project is using laboratory procedures in an attempt to identify and routinely use molecular markers associated with several genes of interest such as white mold resistance. Breeders could then select for the presence of the associated marker for the desired trait. The dry bean breeding project has shared laboratory space with the barley and oat breeding projects. Work at other laboratories has identified markers associated with three rust resistance genes, anthracnose resistance genes, and BCMV resistance genes, among others. Efforts are focused on white mold resistance introgressed into pinto bean, rust resistance, root rot resistance, anthracnose, and quality traits. As additional markers are identified, it may be possible to select for a number of traits simultaneously using DNA obtained from leaf tissue. We also routinely use molecular markers to evaluate for the presence of genes resistant to bean common mosaic virus and rust. We hope to continue doing this for other traits as long as it shows an advantage either in costs or in efficiency within the project (time and/or space).

The dry bean breeding program at NDSU has grown considerably since originating in 1980. In addition, successful collaboration with scientists in several departments at NDSU and scientists at other institutions and universities in the U.S. offer unique opportunities to expand the knowledge base of bean genetics and have an impact on production. Financial support and long term commitment from Northarvest Bean Growers Association has been crucial for the ongoing success of this project.

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