This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
How does one improve upon perfection? By definition, that’s an impossible task, but a team of scientists is working to help breeders of the “near-perfect” food so they can improve production around the world.
The bean is often referred to as a near-perfect food because of its unsurpassed ability to provide high amounts of protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and soluble fiber. Common beans, the world’s most important food legume, feed about 375 million people in Latin America and 200 million in sub-Saharan Africa.
Researchers from the Bean Coordinated Agricultural Project (BeanCAP), led by Dr. Phil McClean at North Dakota State University, on Oct. 14 released information on 1,575 molecular genetic markers that will help bean plant breeders develop new varieties that are better at adapting to changes in climate. BeanCAP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and includes scientists from six U.S. universities and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.
The markers, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), identify genes that are important to agriculture – such as resistance to diseases or climate change and increased nutritional value. The SNPs were evaluated on 384 bean cultivars of Mesoamerican and Andrean origin and are well-suited to breeding tropical bean germplasm. Researchers expect that SNPs and other genetic marker technologies will dramatically reduce the time and cost required to develop new genetically improved plant varieties.
BeanCAP released the SNPs to the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. GCP will make the SNPs available on its Integrated Breeding Platform, a public information site to assist those who conduct molecular-assisted breeding experiments, especially those in developing countries.
NIFA supports projects such as this to solve critical issues that impact people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.