Some ag critics say farmers don't grow enough food for people and that modern technology is only being used to increase food for livestock and fuel for developed countries.
The next time you hear that lament, you can tell them it's not so. At North Dakota State University, plant breeders are working to develop better dry edible beans – More than 375 million people in Latin America and 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on dry edible beans, or common beans, for food.
NDSU is part of the Common Bean Coordinated Agricultural Project (BeanCAP), which is releasing into the public domain the first installment of resources to boost molecular breeding in common beans.
BeanCAP is releasing to the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) information on more than 1,575 bean SNPs that will broaden the genetic tools available to developing-country bean breeders.
SNPs (pronounced "snips") is a technical term, and the abbreviation is derived from single nucleotide polymorphism, which is an advanced molecular-marker system widely used in genetic science. SNPs have not been available in critical amounts to bean breeders until now. By reducing time and cost, the use of SNPs for molecular breeding greatly increases the efficiency of crop breeding.
Phil McClean, BeanCAP project director and researcher at North Dakota State University, leads the USA BeanCAP team of plant breeders and geneticists. The $4 million project was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Nutrition in 2009 and involves 18 co-investigators at 10 research locations.
The SNP marker development and evaluation was conducted by Perry Cregan, BeanCAP team member and legume research leader at the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Md.
"These SNPs were evaluated on 384 bean cultivars, including cultivars of Mesoamerican and Andean origin," Cregan says. "The SNPs donated to GCP fall into two groups: one selected to function well in the Mesoamerican and the other in Andean germplasm. Both sets will be suitable for applications in the breeding of tropical bean germplasm."
The development of SNPs and other genetic marker technologies and their application in plant breeding have dramatically shrunk the time and cost required for developing new genetically improved plant varieties.
"The BeanCAP team is particularly pleased that the SNP genetic markers we are developing and applying will rapidly find their way to applications in common bean breeding in developing counties where common beans are such an important dietary component," Cregan says.
"This transfer is consistent with the USDA Feed the Future commitment to be actively engaged in global food security efforts," McClean says. "It supports the research objective to seek gains in productivity through adoption of improved technologies that will promote the development of more nutritious, environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient crops. Transfer of these molecular markers is consistent with a USDA strategy that envisions outcomes that will deliver scientific breakthroughs and research to promote adoption of the best science through links with private-sector research partners and international agencies."
BeanCAP will collaborate with GCP to aid in the dissemination of the SNPs to developing-country researchers.
"GCP works with a wide network of partners in and out of the CGIAR system, and this should ensure broad dissemination of these new bean resources to researchers across the world, particularly in the global south," says Xavier Delannay, GCP integrated crop breeding leader at GCP. "The BeanCAP SNPs are a welcome and much-needed resource for bean molecular breeding because sufficient SNPs have not been available for this critical food crop."
The SNPs will be available through the marker services that GCP offers as part of its integrated breeding platform, which is a public, Web-based, one-stop shop for information, analytical tools and related services to design and efficiently conduct molecular-assisted breeding experiments. Developing countries stand to benefit from this donation because BeanCAP is making these SNPs available to GCP without any restrictions.
"Ensuring the availability of a sufficient quantity of SNPs for the main food crops in developing countries continues to be a key priority for GCP, and this collaboration with BeanCAP will enable us to fulfill this goal for common beans," Delannay says.
Source: NDSU Agriculture Communication