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Exotic Beans Provide New Opportunities

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
June 14, 2000

Bean growers and consumers may benefit from a collaboration between the Agricultural Research Service in Prosser, Wash., and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, or CIAT, in Cali, Colombia. Instead of kidney or navy beans, growers may tap new export markets by growing Mexican “Bayo,” Brazilian “Jalinho” or other bean market classes popular in Latin America and the Caribbean.

CIAT develops breeding materials for farmers in those countries. ARS geneticist Phillip Miklas has evaluated much of CIAT’s germplasm to find breeding lines suitable for U.S. growers. Researchers at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins and the University of Idaho in Kimberly also collaborate on the project.

The team has found germplasm in at least nine market classes that show promise for this country’s cooler climates and longer day lengths. Some are practically ready to plant now. With others, breeders would have to develop domestic varieties that could better withstand U.S. environmental conditions.

Most of the beans would be exported, but the domestic market could benefit, too. Consumers may already enjoy farofa, a dish with beans and cassava flour found at a few Brazilian restaurants. A soup, frijoles garras, is on the menu at some national beef restaurant chains. And nearly all Mexican restaurants serve refried beans.

The foreign germplasm might also help breeders improve market classes grown here, such as by incorporating heat resistance from a Latin American bean into domestic kidney bean varieties.

Breeders can obtain small amounts of seed from Miklas.

ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Philip Miklas, ARS Vegetable and Forage Crop Research Unit, Prosser, Wash., phone (509) 786-9258, fax (509) 786-9277,