Breakthrough science and innovation

N. Palmer (CIAT)

Climate-proof beans yield hope for farmers

Climate-Smart Technologies and Practices

Despite hotter conditions challenging agriculture in many parts of the world, new types of ‘heat-beater’ beans may allow current bean growing areas to continue producing the crop during the entire 21st century under most global warming scenarios. This is according to recent modelling analyses by CCAFS partners.

“This discovery could be a big boon for bean production because we are facing a dire situation where, by 2050, global warming could reduce areas suitable for growing beans by 50 percent.” Steve Beebe, Senior Bean Researcher, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

The ‘heat-beater beans’ were identified by researchers in a scientific collaboration between CCAFS, the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). These new lines of beans have a strong tolerance to temperatures 4°C higher than the range that beans can normally tolerate. This offers the potential to adapt bean production in Africa and Latin America to increasing temperatures caused by climate change.

N. Palmer (CIAT)

Previous modelling research in 2011, using a range of climate scenarios, had predicted that, over the next several decades, higher temperatures will become the primary threat to bean production. Introducing heat stress tolerance into bean genetic material was therefore recognized as a top breeding priority.

With these findings, the Bean Program at CIAT, with funds from CCAFS and the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes, made crosses of common bean and tepary bean (another type of bean known for its heat tolerance). Field tests of breeding lines in Colombia, as well as in the high-temperature greenhouses at CIAT, revealed that around 30 lines held the heat tolerance genes that were much needed for climate change adaptation.

The lines are being further advanced in CIAT breeding trials to introduce all the other preferred characteristics – such as seed size and colour – that are key for adoption by farmers.

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