Heat tolerant beans could help alleviate poverty

Posted Mar 26, 2015 by Tim Sandle
A loss of crops and protein as a result of social, economic and climatic changes poses a new challenge for world hunger. A research group are addressing this with new plant lines to provide beans.
Researchers based at the CGIAR global agriculture research partnership have developed 30 new types (“lines”) of beans. These beans could be made available to regions like Latin America and Africa to help alleviate the risks of hunger and depleted resources.
One concern is that climate change could, through rising temperatures, lead to a loss of areas on the planet that are suitable for growing beans. It is for this reason that CGIAR has been researching and developing new bean lines that are heat tolerant. The outcome could be types of beans made available to farmers in areas most at risk to warming temperatures.
Most of the new bean lines are genetic crosses between relatively abundant beans like pinto; as well as white, black, and kidney beans with a bean called the tepary bean. The tepary bean is relatively hardy and grows in less hospitable areas. The bean is sometimes known as “meat of the poor”, based on its protein being used as a non-meat alternative. Of the primary bans, pinto beans are most commonly used for refried beans; kidney beans, in the red variety, are commonly used in chili con carne.
The new beans are being held in special gene-banks, together with other examples of vital crops: cereals, legumes, roots and tubers, trees. The beans have been described in a report titled “Developing Beans that Can Beat the Heat.”
The source beans were selected from over 1,000 bean lines. The focus was on selecting beans to be crossed with the tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius) to create beans able to survive in conditions of low water and higher temperatures. The tepary bean, is native to the south-western U.S. and Mexico and has been grown there by the native peoples since pre-Columbian times.
The selected beans have been assessed on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, to examine the impact of high temperatures. The results of these tests were successful. The beans were able to tolerate night time temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius (about 72 degrees Fahrenheit)
The new bean lines were presented to a development conference organized by the German government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during March 2015. The next steps are to work with governments to make the new bean lines available.
CGIAR is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future. It is not part of an international political institution such as the United Nations or the World Bank.