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New project to curb the spread of Faba Bean disease

Plate of Faba beans

A new project in Ethiopia is working to protect Faba Beans from a devastating disease threatening ongoing production.

Faba Bean Gall (FBG) has been contaminating the highlands of Ethiopia since 2012 but is still considered a relatively new disease with little known about how it spreads and what management is required.

The legume crop, also commonly referred to as ‘Broad Bean’, is widely consumed by Ethiopians as a major source of protein in their diet. The management of FBG is, therefore, a priority for the Government of Ethiopia.

The five-year project, funded by ACIAR and partnering with the University of Western Australia and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, hopes to fill the knowledge gaps around the disease.

Specifically, the project is aiming to:

  1. Map the spread of Faba Bean Gall (FBG) and identify the conditions and practices driving its spread and its impact on farmers in Ethiopia.
  2. Identify the causal agent of FBG, determine the diversity of the pathogen’s isolates, and establish the pathogen’s life cycle, host range and spreading mechanism.
  3. Design and evaluate disease management options using fungicides and cultural practices.
  4. Identify sources of genetic resistance to FBG and other relevant Faba Bean pathogens and introduce resistance into adapted Faba Bean lines.
  5. Establish whether the FBG disease agent is present in Australia on Faba Bean or alternative hosts.

ACIAR Research Program Manager for Crops, Dr Eric Huttner, commissioned the project and hopes it will have direct benefits to food and nutrition security in the country.

‘Faba Bean is important to Ethiopia, with legumes providing up to 15 percent of protein consumption,’ says Huttner. ‘The crop has also been used to break the continued cereal production like wheat and barley, helping to reduce pest and disease problems of the cereals while also maintaining soil health.’

‘With FBG capable of completely wiping out production, it’s important we understand how it spreads and devise methods to prevent further contamination.

‘The knowledge gained from this project could underpin a broader longer-term program supporting legumes in Ethiopia and potentially elsewhere in Africa.’

It’s anticipated the newfound knowledge will provide valuable data to plant pathologists around the world, as well as the international Faba Bean breeding community.

The Australian Faba Bean Industry, which produces 300,000 tonnes each year, is also set to benefit, with risk assessments to domestic production to be carried out and additional expertise developed in Australia. Farmers will also have access to sources of genetic resistance to FBG should the disease make its way into Australia.

Faba bean occupies nearly 3.2 million hectares worldwide and is believed to have been introduced to Ethiopia from the Middle East around 5000 B.C. Currently, China leads the world in both area coverage and production, followed by Ethiopia, Egypt and Australia.

The project is scheduled to run until 2023.