Developing beans that can beat the heat

Developing beans that can beat the heat

In Africa and Latin America, the production of beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris ) is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, which include higher temperatures and more frequent drought. Within the last 15 years, CGIAR researchers have registered key advances -€“ particularly the development of drought-tolerant and disease-resistant varieties -€“ that will help make production more resilient in the face of future threats.

Just within the last few years, however, climate modeling has suggested that, over the next several decades, higher temperatures will become the primary threat to bean production. According to recent projections, the area suited for this crop in eastern and central Africa could shrink up to 50% by 2050. Affecting mainly lowland areas, heat stress will pose a particularly serious problem for bean crops in Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), followed by Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. Across Latin America, the situation is also dire. Bean production in Nicaragua, Haiti, Brazil, and Honduras, as well as Guatemala and Mexico, would be most impacted.

In response to this concern, CIAT researchers have recently identified elite lines that show strong tolerance to temperatures 4°C higher than the range that beans can normally tolerate. Many of these lines come from wide crosses between common and tepary beans ( Phaseolus acutifolius ), a species originating in the arid US Southwest and northwestern Mexico. This document reports findings from research conducted over the last year, which confirm heat tolerance in selected bean lines and show their potential for adapting bean production in Africa and Latin America to future climate change impacts.

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