Two new varieties of kidney beans —Talon and Rosie — have recently been released by North Dakota State University.
Both new varieties possess improved resistance to root pathogens and bacterial diseases, says research team leader Juan Osorno. Talon and Rosie also show higher seed yields and superior performance compared to older varieties.
Improved resistance to root rot, which is caused by fungal pathogens, is especially important for kidney beans.
“Their root systems are often weaker than other beans, so they are more susceptible to root diseases,” Osorno says. “Anything we can do to improve these root systems is very helpful for farmers.”
Osorno and colleagues tested how Rosie and Talon performed in 24 different field testing sites across Minnesota and North Dakota. Minnesota is the leader in kidney bean production in the U.S.
“If you buy a can of kidney beans produced in the U.S., chances are about 50-50 the beans are from Minnesota,” he adds.
While they are both kidney beans, Talon and Rosie belong to different market classes. Talon is a dark red kidney bean, the most extensively cultivated subclass of kidney bean in the U.S. Rosie is a light red kidney bean, the second-most important subclass.
Less genetic diversity
“It’s important that we develop new varieties of kidney beans, irrespective of market class,” Osorno says. Kidney beans have less genetic diversity than other beans. That makes them more vulnerable to a single pathogen or disease.
“Less genetic diversity also makes breeding new varieties more challenging,” he says. There are simply fewer trait choices from which to build.
Part of the challenge is matching consumer expectations.
“When consumers think of kidney beans — or any kind of beans — they already have something in mind,” says Osorno. New varieties have to look and taste like consumers expect. Otherwise, traits such as higher yields won’t be useful.
Most efforts to develop new varieties of beans are publicly funded, according to Osorno, because of their importance as a source of protein. “Beans are a vital part of food security across the world, especially in many developing countries,” he says.
Osorno has made Rosie and Talon seeds available for research purposes.
“As a breeder, I am always looking for new varieties to cross,” he says. “Plant breeding can be a bit like rolling dice — you never know quite what to expect. The more plants you breed, the greater the chances of generating a useful variety.”
It’s also important to protect the existing varieties. Seeds of Talon and Rosie have been deposited for safekeeping with USDA Agricultural Research Service’s National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation.
Source: American Society of Agronomy