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Perfecting the ‘Perfect’ Food

The USDA-supported Bean Coordinated Agricultural Project (BeanCAP) is working to help bean plant breeders develop new varieties that are better at adapting to changes in climate.

The USDA-supported Bean Coordinated Agricultural Project (BeanCAP) is working to help bean plant breeders develop new varieties that are better at adapting to changes in climate.

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.

One Response to “Perfecting the ‘Perfect’ Food”

  1. I almost never comment, however i did a few searching and wound up here USDA Blog » Perfecting the ‘Perfect’ Food. And I actually do have a few questions for you if you usually do not mind. Is it just me or does it look like a few of the responses look like coming from brain dead people? :-P And, if you are posting on additional sites, I’d like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Could you list of all of your shared pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

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