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NDSU Close to Hiring New Dry Bean Breeder
March 29, 2006

NDSU is close to hiring a new dry bean breeder, although the university came close to not having one at all.

Ken Grafton started his career at NDSU, arriving in 1980.  He built up the dry bean breeding program, releasing a number of varieties, including Maverick, Norstar, and Eclipse.  However, when he moved into administration  as director of the N.D. Agricultural Experiment Station in 2002, and as dean of the College of Agriculture last year  the dry bean breeding position became vacant, and the N.D. Legislature actually eliminated the open slot as part of a budgetary move.

I was really pleased to see the effort the
Northarvest Bean Growers placed this past legislative session to get that position reinstated, Grafton says.  In fact, a search committee was formed to find Graftons replacement at NDSU as dry bean breeder, which attracted 31 applicants, and narrowed to six finalists.  The new NDSU dry bean breeder will be announced late winter/early spring. A new pulse crop pathologist will be named as well, who will focus on diseases that affect dry beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils.

Developing varieties adapted to the Northarvest region, as well as coordinating performance trials, will continue to be the dry bean breeding emphasis. Yield, maturity, growth habit, seed traits, and canning quality are key selection criteria, as is resistance to the diseases that can affect dry beans.

Working collaboratively with USDA and other public breeding programs, Grafton says rust, blight, and BCMV have been easier to breed genetic resistance to than white mold.

We do have resistance sources for were trying to incorporate into varieties as rapidly as we can, particularly in pintos, but white mold is so environmentally dependent, and the genes for resistance should not be mistaken for immunity, Grafton says.  We would probably still see some disease if conditions are right for white mold, even in a highly resistant line.

Grafton says NDSU is placing more emphasis on developing resistance to anthracnose, as well as root rot.  Especially with the growth of kidneys in central
Minnesota. Root rot has historically been a problem in kidney beans, says Grafton, adding that it can affect other bean types as well.  Its an unseen yield eliminator, and we probably have more root rot than we think.

White mold, root rot, and anthracnose are three key diseases of genetic resistance emphasis in the NDSU dry bean breeding program.


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