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Published June 23, 2014, 09:28 AM

NDSU grows with bean breeding industry

North Dakota State University’s dry edible bean breeding program began in 1980 and is one of the nation’s largest programs on the topic.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State University’s dry edible bean breeding program began in 1980 and is one of the nation’s largest programs on the topic.

It is located in a region that produces 40 percent of the nation’s dry edible beans. It is supported by the Northarvest Bean Growers Association, as well as tax dollars and other industry and government grants. North Dakota and Minnesota bean production in 2013 was worth $370 million at the farm gate.

The program works to develop high-yielding, high-quality bean genotypes adapted to the Northern Great Plains. The work involves genetics, pathology, physiology and nutrition, among other things.

The first priority is to improve pinto, navy and black bean market classes that are important in North Dakota and Minnesota, but also kidney, great northern, small red and pink beans. The scientists use a modified pedigree breeding method, which involves continual evaluation and selection. The region doesn’t produce snap beans (green, or string beans), which are also common.

Each winter, the NDSU program performs about 300 unique hybridizations, mostly in NDSU’s new greenhouse complex. The scientists also use winter nurseries in Puerto Rico, New Zealand and in south Florida to make more efficient use of time to reach uniform performance.

Researchers cross-adapt cultivars grown in the Northern Plains with breeding lines developed at NDSU, and germplasm with desirable traits from other breeding programs. They also evaluate other unadapted lines for desirable traits that can be introduced into adapted material.

The program evaluates materials from around the world for resistance to white mold, rust, root rot, anthracnose, viruses and bacterial diseases, as well as for desirable traits. After early selection for disease resistance in the field and the greenhouse, promising lines are put in preliminary yield trials, allowing replicated data. Selections are included in advanced yield trials in several locations for two or three years. Elite lines go into variety trials for another three years.

It can take 10 to 12 years to develop and release a variety after the first cross.

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