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Attendance at Major Conferences by Alberta Researchers Ultimately Benefits Alberta Pulse Farmers (PCN Winter 2016) JAN 11 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Alberta researchers working on pulse projects to benefit APG members met with their peers working on similar issues from around the world at two major conferences in early November.

The Biennial Meeting of the Bean Improvement Cooperative (BIC) was held in Niagara Falls, ON from Nov. 2 to 4, 2015.  The BIC is a voluntary and informal organization and its members include researchers, organizations and others who work with dry bean crops.

“It is the only meeting that I know where the focus is primarily on dry bean,” said Dr. Parthiba Balasubramanian, an AAFC Research Scientist (Dry Bean Breeding) at the Lethbridge Research Centre.

“All of the presentations were research oriented,” he added, “with the findings being immediately applicable in dry bean breeding programs, such as discovery of new genes for disease resistance and identification of new molecular markers that may be used to select disease resistant lines in a breeding program.”

Dry bean researchers including students from around the world shared their expertise and knowledge through oral and poster presentations, and informal gathering during breaks. The BIC meeting included 41 oral presentations and more than 70 poster presentations on a wide range of topics in bean genetics, genomics, breeding, disease resistance, abiotic (drought and heat) stress resistance, and bean quality and effects on human health.

“It was important for me to attend the BIC meeting in order to stay current in dry bean research,” Balasubramanian explained, “and to exchange information with other researchers who are also working on dry bean improvement especially for resistance to white mould and common bacterial blight.”

The next Biennial Meeting of the Bean Improvement Cooperative will be in East Lansing, Michigan in 2017.

Meanwhile, Pulse Research Scientist Robyne Bowness was one of several Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) delegates attending the North American Pulse Improvement Association (NAPIA) Biennial Meeting also in Niagara Falls.

“As a pulse researcher in Alberta, it’s very important for me to be there because there are great pulse researchers from around the world in attendance,” Bowness noted. “I was able to find out what issues they are facing in their industry and have discussions about how we can work together. It’s an exchange of information and also a future exchange of breeding materials.”

Bowness said that Europe has been growing faba beans far longer than Alberta producers, so it is interesting to see what the European researchers are doing and what methodology is being used so that she can keep that in mind when conducting her own faba bean research. The Lacombe-based researcher said that making these connections to people is particularly important when it comes to pulse diseases, such as root rot in peas which European researchers have been battling for years but started showing up in Alberta only recently.

“As a relatively new researcher, I’ve got a lot to learn and these are the people to learn from,” she explained. “It’s a good opportunity to catch up with some of the Canadian researchers too. We’ve got all of the pulse people in the same place, so it’s a terrific place to learn, talk to people and exchange ideas.”

Bowness noted that connecting with people at a conference like NAPIA makes it easier to pick up the phone to call those experts in other countries for advice or insights in the future. Ultimately, this is a benefit for Alberta Pulse Growers members.

“I will take this information and incorporate it into my research and when I extend my research, producers will benefit from it,” Bowness said. “Research isn’t only Robyne, Mark (Olson, AF Pulse Crops Unit Head) and Manjula (Bandara, AF Research Scientist) doing research. The three of us are tied into these networks and we can bring breeding material from other areas and growers will benefit from that.”