Heat-tolerant beans developed for resilience amid rising temperatures

Signal of change / Heat-tolerant beans developed for resilience amid rising temperatures

By Juliette Aplin / 25 Aug 2015

Scientists from the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) have announced the development of 30 new varieties of ‘heat-tolerant’ beans.

CGIAR had previously warned that an increase in global temperatures is likely to disrupt bean production in countries including Nicaragua, Haiti, Brazil, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bean crops originate from the cool hills and mountain areas of Central and Southern America, and are therefore not well adapted to high temperatures. CGIAR research estimates over 400 million people rely on bean crops for subsistence.

Through traditional crossbreeding methods, scientists have developed strains of bean that are resistant to drought and higher temperatures. Furthermore, these varieties have been adapted to increase their nutritional value with higher levels of iron.

Although the initial results are promising, the seeds need to undergo further tests before the new bean varieties can be certified and made available to farmers on a mainstream basis.

Image credit: Mememtosis / Flickr

So what?

Rising temperatures and food security challenges create an urgent need for diverse and resilient seeds that yield crops with high nutritional value. However, a recent report by The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) found that millions of small holder farmers are not able to access a wide range of crop seeds as they are too costly, or simply not available from local seed sellers.

How can access to new crop varieties be secured for low income farmers?

As reported in The Guardian, Steve Beebe, a senior CGIAR bean researcher, believes the seeds should be distributed in small, affordable packages that farmers can test before committing to more.   “When you sell seeds in very small packets it gives the farmer the option to invest in a very small amount – it’s the cost of a cup of tea – and then test it in their back yard. If they like it, they can buy more. Otherwise you might have NGOs giving seeds away, which is not sustainable, or you have private sector firms selling 50kg bags, which farmers can’t afford.”

What other crops can be cross-bred to develop new climate-resilient sources of protein?

Sources

The Guardian (March 25, 2015) Bean breakthrough bodes well for climate change challenge

CGIAR (March 25, 2015) Discovery of beans that can beat the heat could save “meat of the poor” from global warming

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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