‘Looks’ might be as important in Common Bean selection as in Humans!
July 9th, 2012
The conservation and use of crop genetic diversity to control pests and diseases in support of sustainable agriculture project brought to the surface many common bean varieties that were becoming rare in Uganda especially in Kabwohe, Rubaya and Nakaseke project sites. In the on-farm trials for screening the resistance of the common bean varieties to Anthracnose, Angular Leaf Spot and Bean fly, over forty varieties were involved. Host farmers were the key researchers as they are in constant touch with their fields. Different attributes were noticed on the varieties which include: habit (some are bushy, others climbing), taste, maturity periods, resistance levels as well as marketability.
Four years down the road, farmers in the different sites have made choices of varieties they like basing on the attributes. In the two project sites which are flat; Kabwohe and Nakaseke, farmers are not interested in the climbing varieties because they impose an extra cost of stakes which reduces their profit margins. In these same sites, land is not as scarce as in Rubaya which is a mountainous site, therefore farmers can still afford to grow the bushy beans that require more land. In Rubaya, farmers have no option other than climbing beans that do not require a lot of land to grow. However, the small sized common bean varieties are not popular in all the project sites because one needs more seeds to get one kilogram than would be required for the big sized bean varieties. The medium sized and big sized varieties are desired because they are more marketable, tasty, high yielding and are also more resistant to pests and diseases.
Colour is another attribute that determines choice; the black and green ones are not liked because the colour of soup corresponds to the colour of seed. I could not imagine that looks are very important in beans as they are in human beings! The period a variety takes to mature is also very important especially these days where climate change is becoming a problem in many parts of the world; farmers prefer early maturing varieties which take two to three months just in case rains stop early. Since attributes on which farmers base to select varieties are not so unique to specific areas, the breeder’s job is quite easy in that a variety produced with desirable attributes can be taken on in many areas, save for the different climatic conditions that may require a bit more thinking. The undesirable varieties can have the hated attributes changed to suit the market tastes as well.