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Researchers Breed New Bean for Export Markets

By Jan Suszkiw
April 8, 2002

With a per capita consumption of 7.8 pounds, Americans enjoy their beans. But only the best beans make the cut as a crop grown by farmers for consumers to enjoy in soups, salads, chili and other dishes.

Rojo Chiquito, the latest contender, is literally in a class all its own. In fact, it's the first Central American market-class small red dry bean bred for production on U.S. soils, notes Philip Miklas, a research geneticist at the Agricultural Research Service's Vegetable and Forage Crops Production Research Unit, Prosser, Wash.

Miklas developed the new cultivar, along with Washington State University agronomist An Hang and ARS colleagues Matt Silbernagel (retired) and George Hosfield, based in East Lansing, Mich.

Rojo Chiquito differs in several ways from the small red dry bean cultivars that U.S. farmers now grow. First, it was specifically bred by Silbernagel with genes conferring disease resistance to both curly top virus and bean common mosaic virus. Second, it grows upright rather than prone. This cuts down on the fungal disease sclerotinia white mold and allows farmers to use ultra-narrow rows for increased yield.

Rojo Chiquito's seeds are smaller than Small Red market-class dry bean cultivars. Compared to NW-63, for example, Rojo Chiquito's average seed weight is 19 to 21 grams versus 30 to 32 grams. While small, its shiny, dark red seeds are ideal for canning and cooking since they retain their color and firmness. Field tests at 20 different U.S. locations show that Rojo Chiquito produces an average yield of 2,061 pounds per acre, reaches maturity in 100 days, and performs best in Pacific Northwest growing conditions.

According to Miklas, Rojo Chiquito is primarily intended as an edible dry bean crop that U.S. farmers can grow for export markets in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and other Central American countries. But another potential outlet is North America's multi-billion dollar ethnic foods market.

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

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