Plant Sciences


| Share


Dry Bean History

Race Durango beans were cultivated in Mexico and the U.S.A. in pre-Columbian times. Kaplan (1965) reported that beans found at archaeological site in the southwestern U.S.A. were cultivated 2,300 years ago and that they likely originated from Mexico and Central America. New World settlers cultivated dry beans in the western U.S.A. from selections and landraces of small red, pink, pinto, and great northern beans that were cultivated by Native Americans or introduced from the semiarid highlands of Mexico. The early introduced landraces were grown on small acreage in the U.S.A. until I state and federal governments initiated improvement programs during the late 1800's and early 1900's. Among the early bean researchers, R. A. Emerson worked at the University of Nebraska from 1898 until 1912. During the early 20th century, research programs introduced new germplasm and determined that seed stocks produced in the semiarid western U.S.A. had lower levels of seed-borne pathogens, notably bean common mosaic (BCM, caused by a potyvirus), bacterial blights, and anthracnose [caused by ColIetotrichum lindemuthianum (Sacc. & Magn.) Bri. & Cav.] (Adams, 1996). By 19 17, seed production shifted from the central and eastern to the semiarid western U.S.A., where most commercial bean seed is produced today (Dean, 1994). In 1906, the Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State University) was the first institution in the U.S.A. to employ a full-time bean breeder (Adams, 1996). Subsequently, other universities and the USDA initiated breeding programs and efforts concentrated on improving disease resistance in introduced germplasm and selection of resistant plants in heterogeneous stocks.  (Brick, M., and K. Grafton, 1999. Improvement of Medium-Seeded Race Durango Cultivars. p. 223-254. In Shree P. Singh (Ed) Common Bean Improvement in the Twenty-First CenturyKluwer Academinc Publisher. Netherlands).

Bean consumption in the U.S. averaged 3.5 kg per person per year during 2001-03. Annual consumption per capita of dry beans was 11 percent lower than in 1991-93, but 1 percent above the 1981-83 average (USDA-ERS, 2007). After several years of environmental stress, such as drought, which caused yield reductions, the estimates for 2007 U.S. dry edible bean production has increased six percent (USDA-ERS, 2007). This increase in production was mainly due to a favorable late-season weather that boosted yields. However, this scenario is more the exception than the rule. Output of all bean market classes is currently estimated at 25.3 million cwt, up four percent from a year earlier. However, the harvested area is currently expected to decline five percent from 2006 to 1.46 million acres. Only two states have reported increases in area planted to beans: North Dakota (up three percent) and Minnesota (up four percent). The cash value of the crop at the U.S. farm gate is $1 billion. Although the 2007 yield remains two percent below the record high set in 1991, production levels are significant because it is only the fifth time that U.S. dry bean average yields have surpassed 1,900 kg ha-1.

Dry edible bean was first commercially grown in North Dakota in 1962. Since then, production has increased substantially, from 2,000 acres to approximately 640,000 acres in 2006, accounting for a value of $139 million. Today, North Dakota is the largest producer of dry beans in the U.S., accounting for 52% of the total production. The main market class grown in the state is pinto beans followed by navy beans. Although dry bean acreage was 1% less in 2007 compared with 2006, production forecasts estimate that 2007 could be a record year in dry bean production in the state.

The NDSU Dry Bean Breeding Program started at in 1980, Dr. Ken Grafton was the leader project for many years, until he took an administrative position in NDSU. He is now the Dean of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources and Director of N.D. Agricultural Experiment Station. In 1981 our Research Specialist Albert Jody Vander Wal was hired and he has been involved with dry beans until today. Dr Grafton released 12 varieties including pintos, navy’s, and black beans. In January of 2003 Dr Grafton hired two Research Associates (Drs. Robert Gelin and Gonzalo Rojas-Cifuentes) to help him to continue to carry on with the NDSU dry bean breeding program. Finally in 2007 Dr. Juan Manuel Osorno took the dry bean breeder position. The Dry Bean Breeding Program at NDSU is the biggest program in US, and will continue the legacy of Dr. Ken Grafton.


Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.