One of the keys to better nutrition and health for the people of Rwanda fits in the palm of a hand: legumes. But despite their nutritional punch, legumes—including common beans, cowpeas, and lima beans—are highly susceptible to drought and disease. That’s what brought MSU scientists to Rwanda, which has the world’s highest bean consumption per capita, to work on breeding heartier varieties that can sustain the people and economy of the country.
To increase yields, MSU’s Jim Kelly, a professor of crop and soil sciences who has been developing bean varieties for more than 30 years, is introducing new varieties as well as educational materials to help farmers grow them successfully. Using traditional methods that don’t require genetic manipulation, Kelly has bred climbing beans, as opposed to bush-like beans, that already have improved yields from a quarter ton per acre to four tons per acre in the country’s high-altitude, steep, hilly terrain. (more…)