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Association, Councils want legislature to boost dry bean breeding program
June 17, 2004

The North Dakota Dry Bean Council and the Northarvest Bean Growers Association are taking steps to increase public support of a dry bean breeding program.

The groups recently asked the North Dakota State Board of Agriculture and Education (SBARE) for full funding for a position in the North Dakota State University Plant Sciences Department to conduct research in the area of dry bean germplasm enhancement.

This research involves production of genetically unique lines of dry beans that plant breeders use as sources of disease resistance, upright architecture and other characteristics in their variety development programs.

In a letter to SBARE - the board that often carries research requests to the North Dakota legislature for funding - Northarvest and the North Dakota Dry Bean Council made the following points:

" North Dakota dry bean production has grown while production in other states has declined. North Dakota is currently the leading producer of all dry beans in the U.S., with about 34% of the total U.S. production.

"  The dry bean industry in North Dakota is significant. More than 2,400 farmers and 45 elevators are involved in the business.

"  Producers have devoted substantial amounts of checkoff money to fund research programs. They helped NDSU create a plant pathology position in 1976 and a bean breeding/genetics program in 1980. The breeding program was funded during the first several years almost entirely from federal grants and commodity checkoff funds. The breeding program has remained the growers' top research priority. Over the past four years, they have allocated an average of $160,000 annually to the project.

"  The research investment has paid dividends. The NDSU breeding program has released one navy and three pinto varieties and 34 germplasm lines since its inception. The navy variety - Norstar , released in 1991 - became the dominant navy bean cultivar in the region and, for a time, was one of the mostly widely planted navy beans in the U.S. Three pinto varieties were released in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The most popular - Maverick - quickly became the dominant pinto bean grown in the U.S., occupying more than 65% of the pinto bean acreage in North Dakota and Minnesota. It remains the most widely grown pinto in the U.S. On-farm value of Maverick has been estimated to be more than $50 million/year since its release. The germplasm lines include sources of rust, white mold and bean common mosaic virus resistance.

"  There is growing pressure on North Dakota to do more to develop new varieties. Dry bean breeding programs in Michigan, Colorado and Idaho have declined as their commercial acreage of dry beans has declined. Several states stopped research on certain market classes. USDA-ARS has cut the size of its dry bean breeding programs in Maryland and Washington. Private companies have substantially scaled back or eliminated variety development projects.

"To maintain the integrity and vitality of the North Dakota dry bean industry, it is imperative that the germplasm position be created at NDSU to carry forth efforts that have been made during the previous years," says Mike Beltz, North Dakota Dry Bean Council board member and a Hillsboro, N.D. farmer. "We strongly encourage SBARE to place the dry bean germplasm enhancement position on a needs-based budget for the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, and [we] will work with SBARE throughout the legislative session to support the entire needs-based budget."


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Northarvest Bean Growers Association | 50072 East Lake Seven Road | Frazee, MN 56544
Ph: 218-334-6351 | Fax: 218-334-6360 | Email: