S01.A1 - NDSU

S01.A1–NDSU, Genetic Improvement of Middle-American Climbing Beans for Guatemala

North Dakota State University as Lead University

U.S. PIs and Institutions and Collaborating Host Countries

Lead U.S. PI

  • Juan M. Osorno, North Dakota State University

Collaborating Scientist: U.S.

  • Phil McClean, Dept. of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University. Fargo-ND 58108

Collaborating Scientists: International

  • Julio Cesar Villatoro, ICTA-Guatemala
  • Fernando Aldana, ICTA-Guatemala
  • Julio Martinez, ICTA-Guatemala
  • Edgardo Carrillo, ICTA-Guatemala


Project Briefs

Annual Technical Project Reports

Workplans and Project Despriptions

Project Problem Statement and Justification (Brief)

Guatemala is mostly a rural country, with 60 percent of its 11 million people living on farms. Maize and beans compose the main staple food in most households, with a per capita consumption of 9.4 kg per year. Since few other sources of protein are available, this quantity is insufficient to acceptable nutrition, especially within poor households. As expected, the lack of protein intake has reduced the nutritional quality in many households, significantly affecting children.

Beans are grown on 31 percent of the agricultural land, mostly in the low to mid-altitude regions (0-1500 masl) in a monoculture system; intercropping, however, is the main production system in the highlands, where maize–bean is the most common crop association. The highlands system uses climbing beans that grow around the corn stalks. Unfortunately, on-farm productivity of these climbing beans is approximately one third of their genetic yield potential, mostly due to the lack of improved cultivars able to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses. Fungal and bacterial diseases as well as pests are the main cause for yield reductions. In addition, genetic and environmental interactions among species (maize, bean, squash, etc.) that affect crop performance and, hence, seed yield, are not well understood.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research has been involved in collaborative bean breeding research targeting lowland agroecologies in Central America, but research for the highland bean production systems is still lacking. A significant seed yield differential between the lowlands and the highlands can be observed, especially in Guatemala. An existing collection of approximately 600 accessions of climbing beans from across all bean production regions in Guatemala already exists. Kept by ICTA, this collection has been characterized morphologically and with few molecular markers (6 SSR primers). In addition, some field notes concerning disease resistance and other agronomic traits of economic importance have also been collected. Initial results suggest that ½ of the collection consist of duplicates. In addition, some initial crosses among climbing beans and selections have been made by Dr. Fernando Aldana (ICTA-Quetzaltenango) and the rest of the ICTA group. These lines will be used intensively in this study.


  1. Development of germplasm with improved disease resistance and agronomic performance
    1. Field testing of 10 selected accessions (ICTA)
    2. Genetic purification of selected material (ICTA)
    3. Field evaluation of Bolonillo-TEXEL (ICTA)
  2. Characterization of the genetic diversity of this unique set of germplasm.
    1. Evaluation of core collection with the 6k SNP chip (NDSU)
    2.  Assessment of the intra-accession variability
  3. A better understanding of the current socio-economic status and needs of bean production within the context of intercropping systems in the region.
  4. Capacity building: training the next generation of plant breeders for Guatemala and establishing a long-term breeding plan to increase the productivity of climbing bean in the region.
  5. Establish a long-term plan to increase the productivity of climbing bean in the region.

Target Outputs

  1. The development and release of improved climbing beans with better agronomic performance (four years).
  2. A better understanding of the organization of the genetic diversity within this unique set of germplasm (two years).
  3. Identification of genomic regions associated with traits of agronomic/economic importance (four years).
  4. An information database of the current market situation and production needs of climbing beans in the highlands of Guatemala (two years).
  5. Training of the next generation of plant breeders (four years).
  6. Establishment of a long-term breeding approach (four years).