S01.A3–MSU Improving Genetic Yield Potential of Andean Beans with Increased Resistances to Drought and Major Foliar Diseases and Enhanced Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF) 

Michigan State University as Lead University

U.S. PIs and Institutions and Collaborating Host Countries

Lead U.S. PI

  • James D. Kelly, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

Collaborating Scientists: U.S.

  • Wayne Loescher, Dept. Horticulture, MSU
  • James Steadman, Carlos Urrea, - University of Nebraska, Lincoln and Scottsbluff
  • Karen Cichy, USDA-ARS, East Lansing, MI

Collaborating Scientists: International 

  • Stanley Nkalubo – NaCCRI, Uganda
  • Kennedy Muimui – ZARI, Zambia


Project Problem Statement and Justification (Brief)

 Zambia ranks 164 out of 184 countries in the Human Poverty Index. Beans are the second most important food legume crop after ground nuts in Zambia and are a major source of income and cheap protein for many Zambians. Most of the bean crop (62%) is produced on 60,000 ha in the higher altitudes of Zambia. Bean production is constrained by several abiotic and biotic stresses that include diseases, pests, low soil fertility and drought, reflected in the very low national yields ranging from 300 to 500 kg/ha that result in annual deficit of 5,000MT. All the popular local landraces in Zambia are highly susceptible to pests and diseases that severely limit their productivity. To avert future food shortages and feed the growing population of Zambia (13 million people), there is critical need for increasing the productivity of most food crops, including beans.

Beans are an important crop in Uganda and are grown on more than 660,000 ha of land and consumed throughout the country. Beans are a major source of food and income for the rural smallholder farmers, especially the women and children. The majority of bean production in Uganda is dependent on the use of inferior landrace varieties, which are generally low yielding due to susceptibility to the major biotic (ALS, ANT, root rots, BCMV) and abiotic (drought, low soil fertility) stresses. These stresses gravely undermine the potential of the bean as a food security crop, a source of income, and as a main source of dietary protein for the majority of Ugandans.

Drought affects 60% of global bean production and the severity of yield reduction depends on the timing, extent, and duration of the drought stress. The presence of other stresses such as high temperature, root diseases, shallow infertile soils and climate change all contribute to intensify the problem. Improvements in current understanding of the physiology of drought and evapo-transpiration and the genetics of drought tolerance in common bean and the development of effective molecular and quantitative methods for the selection of drought tolerance are therefore needed. The development of improved varieties and germplasm with high yield potential, healthy root systems, improved BNF with resistance to multiple diseases, and sustained or improved water use efficiency under limited soil water conditions are needed to increase profit margins, lower production costs. The project will use QTL analysis and SNP-based genome-wide association mapping to uncover regions associated with drought tolerance, disease resistance, enhanced BNF and faster cooking time. Results of this project would contribute to improved yield, farm profitability and human resources in the host countries and indirect benefit to participating U.S. Institutions and bean producers.


  1. Integrate traditional and marker-assisted selection (MAS) approaches to combine resistances to economically important foliar diseases, drought and improved biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) and  assess acceptability of fast cooking, high mineral  content in a range of large-seeded, high-yielding Andean bean germplasm for the Eastern Africa highlands (Zambia and Uganda) and U.S.
  2. Characterize pathogenic and genetic variability of isolates of foliar pathogens collected in Uganda and Zambia and identify sources of resistance to angular leaf spot (ALS), anthracnose (ANT), common bacterial blight (CBB), bean common mosaic virus (BCMV) and bean rust present in Andean germplasm.
  3. Use single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based genome-wide association mapping to uncover regions associated with drought tolerance, disease resistance, cooking time and BNF to identify QTLs for use in MAS to improve Andean germplasm.
  4. Develop phenometric approaches to improving the efficiencies of breeding for abiotic stress tolerance, especially drought
  5. Institutional Capacity Building

 Target Outputs:

  1. The development and release of locally adapted, acceptable, drought and disease resistant bean cultivars for the major production regions in Uganda, Zambia, and Michigan.
  2. Increased sustainable productivity and profitability of bean production due to increased yield and reduced inputs.
  3. Improved grower income and stability of bean production will contribute to better nutrition and health of farm families.
  4. Increased awareness and knowledge of genomic and phenomic research methods on drought stress, major foliar diseases, enhanced fixation and nutritional quality will further improve bean productivity, long-term land management, and environmental risk, thus contributing to sustainability of bean production and agricultural communities and improved dietary patterns.
  5. Identification of germplasm sources that are of benefit in the improvement of selected bean traits for the U.S. market.
  6. Enhanced human resource development, gender equity and improved infrastructure capacity of participating institutions in Uganda and Zambia.