Biotech Updates

Beans Suited for the Harsh Mediterranean

November 16, 2007

Common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are important source of dietary proteins. In the Mediterranean, however, common beans are incapable of growing because of poor soil and limited water. Researchers from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the University of Frankfurt, developed new bean lines capable of tolerating the harsh Mediterranean environment.

Legumes can grow on poor soils even without the addition of nitrogen fertilizers, with the help of symbiotic bacteria. The bacteria can transform atmospheric nitrogen to ammonium, which the plants use in protein synthesis. The activity of these bacteria, however, is limited in the Mediterranean because of the phosphorus deficient soil.  Fortunately, the scientists located the genes that can facilitate efficient phosphorus absorption. Hence, just by crossing BEATS 477, a drought tolerant variety harboring genes for efficient phosphorus absorption with the bean mosaic virus-tolerant cultivar DR 304, the scientists were able to obtain promising new hybrids. These new lines are expected to increase bean yield in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.