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Cooperation and communication fuel dry bean breeding

Over the past 18-plus years, Dr. Parthiba Balasubramanian’s dry bean breeding program has delivered new variety after new variety to the province’s growers. For the past decade or more, he’s focused on combining high yield and early maturity. More recently, another criterion has entered the picture and influenced the program.

Balasubramanian is in regular contact with bean growers and Viterra, which contracts dry bean production in southern Alberta.

“We can implement changes based on what we hear from the industry,” explained Balasubramanian, whose program is based at AAFC’s Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. “One example is in yellow bean, the third largest bean class grown in Canada. There are cultivars with different levels of yellow colour and brightness. We learned that a brighter or more intense yellow is preferred by the consumer. Because breeding is a long-term endeavour, the sooner we get information like this, the better.”

Balasubramanian’s program developed the yellow bean variety AAC Y073. It has the brightest colour of any yellow bean cultivar registered in Canada. Chalk up another win for breeder-buyer-grower collaboration.

“It’s in everyone’s interest that we work together,” Balasubramanian said. “Viterra doesn’t have to work with this breeding program, they can work with anyone they like. Breeding brighter yellow beans directly translates into consumer preference – and ensures market access for Alberta-grown beans. In some cases, this could earn a premium for the dry bean industry in southern Alberta.”

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriScience Program, a federal, provincial, territorial initiative.