Ont. researchers to tackle dry-bean genome project

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A team of nine researchers at three Ontario universities plans to come up with a draft genome sequence for dry beans and, as a boon for growers, develop genetic markers for disease resistance in the crop.

The new multi-university research project is to be led by Peter Pauls, chair of the department of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), and University of Windsor biology professor William Crosby.

The project so far has picked up $11 million in funding from industry and other sources including a $3.7 million grant from the province’s research and innovation ministry.

About 18 million tons of dry beans are harvested in Canada and around the world, OAC said in a release Friday. The industry generates more than $100 million per year in Ontario alone and an estimated $11 billion worldwide.

But the industry so far lacks genomic information for the dry bean, which Pauls said is unusual for such an important crop.

Researchers hope to learn more about genes that help beans resist a “serious bacterial pathogen” and to promote nutraceutical production, more antioxidants and seed storage proteins.

They also plan to develop molecular markers to select new bean varieties with more disease resistance, more antioxidants and novel proteins for making biofilms.

“This represents an important opportunity for an Ontario genomics effort to have major international impact and will put Canadian bean researchers at the forefront,” Pauls said.