NAMPA, Idaho — The Idaho Bean Commission is working on a project designed to develop improved yellow bean varieties that could result in the state’s dry bean growers selling more yellow bean seed in Mexico.
The IBC has received a $134,000 specialty crop grant from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture for the breeding project, which will include University of Idaho and Oregon State University researchers.
The goal is to develop advanced yellow bean lines with more intense yellow seed color and larger size, with high resistance to bean common mosaic virus and other bean diseases.
A previous IBC-sponsored research project developed two yellow bean varieties with BCMV resistance.
Those varieties are being brought to the market now and it’s the first time that a yellow bean has had “off-the-chart resistance to bean common mosaic virus,” said IBC board member Don Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co.
“(They) will out-produce anything in Latin America because it has BCMV resistance,” he said. “What kills them in Mexico is that they don’t have the resistance.”
The project seeks to combine that disease resistance in yellow varieties that are more culturally accepted in Mexico. That means a more intense yellow color and larger size.
The BCMV-resistant yellow bean varieties created through the previous project aren’t yellow enough for some markets, said IBC Administrator Andi Woolf-Weibye.
Consumers in Latin American nations “really want that vivid yellow color and that’s what we are really trying to accomplish with this project,” she said.
While adding virus resistance to yellow varieties immediately benefits bean seed growers, “improvement in the color and size of these lines will make the product even more desirable to the consumer and will likely increase demand for Idaho-produced seed,” the IBC’s grant application states.
Idaho has 30 bean dealers and more than 500 dry bean growers, and the state leads the nation in dry bean seed production. About 70 percent of the dry beans grown here are for seed.
Previous IBC field trials in Mexico and other Latin American nations have shown that Idaho-produced bean seed yields significantly more than bean seed produced in those countries.
If this project is successful, Idaho bean growers and dealers would be able to offer Latin American growers a higher-yielding yellow bean variety that meets cultural standards and is also resistant to several major dry bean viruses.
“It’s a fairly significant opportunity if we can get them into Latin American countries and gain acceptance there,” Tolmie said.
As more people from Latin American nations have moved to the United States, yellow beans represent an increasing and potentially large market opportunity domestically as well, said IBC board member John Dean, president of Idaho Seed Bean Co.
“There is a good yellow bean market domestically,” he said. “There is potential there.”