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International Consortium Trumpets Bean Genome Project

NEW YORK, Nov. 2 — They're not just good for your heart. 

An international consortium is being formed with the goal of sequencing the genome of the common bean in order to better understand the genetic bases of drought resistance and nitrogen exchange, and ultimately to improve crop yields.

The bean, Phaseolus vulgaris,  is variously known as the common bean, kidney bean, haricot bean, or snap or string bean. It is an essential food crop in Mexico, Central and South America, and Africa, making it an important candidate for genomic sequencing, according to William Broughton, of the University of Geneva’s Department of Plant Biology and a project leader.

“We’re putting together a global proposal, and hope to have it finished by the end of the year,” said Broughton. “We have not seriously started yet to get the financing together, but we are hopeful.” 

He added that the coalition will seek funding for the project—which is estimated to cost $50 million—from the governments of various central American countries, as well as the European Union. Launched at a meeting held in Mexico last spring, the consortium now counts about 50 different labs as potential members.

P. vulgaris  is also a good candidate for genomic sequencing because its genome is relatively small—about 750 to 800 Mb—and straightforward, unlike many other commercially important plants, Broughton said. 

“We think it’s important for agriculture to have a food legume as a model legume to be sequenced,” he said. “The most produced legume in the world is soybean, but genetically, soybeans are a mess, with a very large genome.” 

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