Rapid breeding for reduced cooking time and enhanced nutritional quality in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)

Project code
AUD 2,319,803
Research program manager
Dr Eric Huttner
Project leader
Wallace Cowling - University of Western Australia
Commissioned organisation
University of Western Australia
AUG 2019
JUN 2024
Project status
Legally committed/Active
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This project aims to deliver new genotypes of common bean with 30% shorter cooking time, 15% higher iron and 10% higher zinc content than current varieties, and to train African plant breeders in a new rapid method of plant breeding based on optimal mating designs. 

Long cooking times (between one to three hours) of the common bean is a disincentive to consumption since it demands large amounts of water, fuel and time. Moreover, firewood or charcoal is normally collected by women and children at great personal risk and cost to the environment, and imposes a health risk through prolonged exposure to smoke during cooking.

The recent development of new breeding methods based on pedigree and genomic selection together with optimal contribution selection offers an opportunity to accelerate breeding of the common bean for rapid cooking time and higher iron and zinc content.

This project will undertake capacity building in the new breeding methodology in east Africa through gender-inclusive training programmes, and for new marketing approaches that ensure equitable access to new varieties developed in the project. 

Expected Outcomes

  • Incorporate new breeding methods based on pedigree and genomic selection methods and optimal contributions selection into the CIAT/PABRA bean breeding programme to rapidly reduce cooking time in beans, improve micronutrients over five years, while improving seed protein, Bruchid resistance, disease resistance and agronomic traits.
  • Share data across project partners through a common database system and to make use of data on yield, drought tolerance, Pythium root rot resistance scored in Kenya, Bruchid resistance scored in Ethiopia, and other traits from partners in future breeding decisions.
  • Include smallholder women and men in selection of new varieties and ensure that appropriate gender-preferred value is placed on short cooking time, iron and zinc content in breeding and selection of new varieties.
  • Integrate the breeding component into the PABRA Wider Impact Initiative and Bean Corridors approach, catalyse sustainable investments in the seed system and facilitate access to quality seed of improved bean varieties to East African farmers.
  • Train African breeders in the new methodology of pedigree and genomic selection and optimal contributions selection in beans and in gender responsive plant breeding.


Key partners
Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research
Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi
International Center for Tropical Agriculture
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation
Maruku Agricultural Research Institute
National Crops Resources Research Institute
Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board
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Fact sheet CROP/2018/132