Pulse Science Cluster

Ontario Bean Growers makes five year research investment

Ontario Bean Growers (OBG) has invested nearly $1.4 million, over the next 5 years, into bean research projects that seek to improve productivity and reduce threats to pulse crop production, as well as one project that is collecting evidence for a health claim.

Under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, AgriScience Cluster program, OBG will be leveraging their grower dollar investment with $2.6 million of Government and other industry partner funding.

OBG is contributing to five out of the sixteen Pulse Science Cluster projects.

Identification of dry bean lines in Ontario and the Prairies with improved canning and cooking quality
Principal Investigator: Parthiba Balasubramanian, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The objective of the study is to identify dry bean lines with improved canning and cooking quality traits in the

Ontario Registration Trial, Ontario Advanced Yield Trial, and three (MB, SK and AB) Prairie Registration Trials.

Dry bean cultivars of various market classes including navy, pinto, black, light red kidney, dark red kidney, white kidney, great northern, red, pink, yellow, and cranberry bean are grown in Canada. More than 75% of the dry bean production is exported to other countries where the bean seeds are either cooked or processed in cans prior to consumption. Acceptance of dry bean cultivars by consumers and processors is dependent on both dry seed (seed size, shape, colour, colour retention and seed coat integrity) and processed seed (canning and cooking) quality traits. Percentage hard-to-cook seed, hydration coefficient after soaking and blanching, washed drain weight, texture, colour, clumping and appearance of seeds are important to processors and consumers. Dry seed quality traits such as colour, size and shape are routinely evaluated in dry bean breeding programs. Assessment of canning and cooking quality traits is essential to obtaining support for registration of dry bean lines in Ontario. The objective of this research project was to assess dry bean lines grown in Ontario and the Prairies for canning and cooking quality traits in the Bean Pilot Plant at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. For the registration trials, 48 dry bean lines from three locations in Ontario and 11 dry bean lines from three locations in Alberta were assessed for canning and cooking quality traits. Bean seeds were soaked and blanched in deionised water, filled in cans with tomato sauce (navy bean) or brine (other bean types), and processed under high temperature and pressure in a retort. Cans were cooled and stored for two weeks prior to assessing the contents for clumping, appearance, drain weight, colour and texture. For cooking quality assessment, 200 seeds per genotype per location were soaked and cooked in deionised water, and percentage of hard seed and partially hydrated seed were assessed after soaking and after cooking. The experimental design was a randomised complete block, and locations were considered as replications. Data were subjected to Proc Mixed of SAS. Data summary and recommendations on each of the dry bean experimental line for their acceptability for canning and cooking quality traits were provided to the Ontario Pulse Crop Committee, and to the breeders in Ontario. Data for the lines in Alberta was also provided to the breeder. Recommendations on canning and cooking quality were considered by the Ontario Pulse Crop Committee when supporting “six candidate cultivars” and by the Prairie Recommending Committee for Pulse and Special Crops when supporting “a candidate cultivar” for registration in Canada. Dry bean lines from the 2018 Ontario Advanced Yield Trial (76 lines) were assessed for canning and cooking quality attributes in April 2019. Data will be used by breeders when selecting lines to advance to the next generation, and for use as parents for crossing in the breeding programs. Assessment of canning and cooking quality attributes of experimental dry bean lines will ensure Canadian dry bean meet the preferences of consumers and processors.


Dry bean disease screening and development of germplasm with disease resistance
Principal Investigator: Jamie Larsen, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Co-Investigator: Owen Wally, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

This research study will:

  1. improve our knowledge and understanding of diseases affecting dry bean production in Ontario
  2. leverage expertise in dry bean genetics by developing germplasm that integrates tolerance to specific diseases, such as halo blight and white mold.

Common bacterial blight is primarily a seed borne disease that hampers the dry bean industry in Ontario through damaged seed that is not acceptable in the marketplace and the ability to complete pedigreed seed production in Ontario, which leads to an added expense to the Ontario producer. Bacterial diseases halo blight and bacterial brown spot may also cause significant issues in Ontario dry beans and it is suspected that these three different bacterial pathogens form a bacterial blight complex, further complicating resistance in dry beans. The goal of this research project is to understand common bacterial blight (CBB), halo blight and bacterial brown spot resistance in dry beans. In 2018, surveys of Ontario dry bean production fields were completed to collect leaves from infected plants. Although there were limited diseases symptoms observed, seven isolates were obtained. Further efforts will be put into surveys for the 2019 field season. To build capacity for indoor testing, the researchers retrofitted existing growth room facilities which will allow for indoor testing and the ability to differentiate between bacterial pathogens that cause bacterial blight diseases. Preliminary testing analysis indicates no correlation between CBB and bacterial brown spot resistance in Ontario-adapted navy bean cultivars. In the field at Harrow, common bacterial blight, white mold and root rot nurseries were completed, with additional testing for white mold taking place at AAFC-London. Associated with this project are general breeding program activities. The breeding program has produced over 50 new crosses in small and large seeded market classes to incorporate bacterial blight resistance broadly into new material. This newly generated germplasm will be useful to study resistance to the bacterial blight complex. Breeding activities also included generation advanced material towards commercialization, some of which will have resistance to bacterial blight diseases.


Breeding for sustainable and profitable bean production in Ontario
Principal Investigator: Peter Pauls, University of Guelph

The objectives of thestudy are to:

  1. Develop high yielding, disease resistant, novel bean lines for commercialization and utilization by bean producers in Ontario, Canada, the rest of the world,
  2. Discover new knowledge about: a) the diversity of the bean breeding germplasm in Canada, b) genes that control of yield; c) the sources of disease resistance, d) variability for N2 fixation capacity and e) determinants of bean quality (nutritional value, health promoting properties and visual appeal), and
  3. Educate highly qualified personnel for the pulse industry in Canada

The common dry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is the staple food for more than 300 million people, worldwide. Eighteen million tons of beans are harvested globally with a value of $11 billion. In 2015 the Canadian bean production of 250,000 tons was worth more than $150M and in the last 4 years, Ontario produced more than 40% of that total. Beans also contribute to Canadian society through their beneficial effects on human health and their positive effects on the environment through their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. The challenge for global crop production is the need to produce more food on the same amount of land to meet the needs of the increasing population, especially under climate change scenarios.

The work in the current proposal continues to focus on selecting lines with superior yield, disease resistance characteristics and quality traits, across a range of maturities suited to Ontario bean growing areas. The objectives of the proposed project are to:

  • develop high yielding, disease resistant, novel bean lines for commercialization and utilization by bean producers in Ontario, Canada, the rest of the world,
  • discover new knowledge about the diversity of the bean breeding germplasm in Canada, genes that control of yield, the sources of disease resistance, variability for N2 fixation capacity and determinants of bean quality (nutritional value, health promoting properties and visual appeal), and
  • educate highly qualified personnel for the pulse industry in Canada.

The bean breeding program at the University of Guelph, utilizes a population breeding strategy with extensive field evaluation of phenotypes and productivity, supported by increasingly informative molecular evaluation of genetic diversity. In total, over 3,500 families and lines were evaluated in research plots at the field stations in Elora and Woodstock, including 28 lines that were tested in the registration and performance field trials.  The Ontario Pulse Crop Committee (OPCC) Variety Subcommittee, supported a light red kidney, two cranberry beans a black bean, and a white kidney bean for registration by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Four lines were licensed by the University of Guelph, including: OAC Vortex, a black bean resistant to CBB, OAC Rosito, a small red bean, 16-D2, a dark red kidney bean, and a white bean resistant to CBB.

New methods are required to maintain the current rate of genetic improvement in beans. This will come from increased understanding of the molecular bases of yield components. Therefore, the current work includes studies of the genetic control of a variety of agronomic and seed quality traits, which resulted in the identification of a molecular marker linked to a common bacterial blight resistance gene that is superior to the current molecular marker for the disease and identified the genomic location of the nondarkening gene on chromosome 10 in a pinto bean population. These results allow us to develop molecular selection methods and advanced marker assisted selection tools that can be applied to make bean breeding more precise and efficient.

The program also provided opportunities for training 1 MSc and 4 PhD students.


Applied pest management in dry bean production systems
Principal Investigator: Chris Gillard, University of Guelph
Co-Investigators: Francis Larney, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Syama Chatterton, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Objectives of the study are to:

  1. Identify seed treatments that are efficacious for SCN, potato leafhopper, anthracnose and root rot
  2. Develop long term efficacy data for control products for SCN, root rot, white mold, anthracnose and common bacterial blight (i.e. determine the consistency of performance over environments)
  3. Determine the economic returns of pest management control products to growers
  4. Identify specific pest management issues and fill the knowledge gap
  5. Evaluate new technology (e.g. remote sensing) and determine its role in disease management
  6. Build a pest management strategy for new pests (e.g. SCN and western bean cutworm)
  7. Collaborate with other pulse researchers and provide expertise in pest management

There are a number of important pests that impact dry bean production in Canada. Growers typically use chemical controls a key management tool for pests. These tools are costly, and growers need independent advice on product performance and the economic returns on investment (ROI). My research program focuses on this aspect, and my program’s applied research uniquely fills this gap. Environmental conditions, including temperature and rainfall patterns, can have a dramatic impact on the development of fungal pathogens and the effectiveness of chemical controls. To account for this, the research is conducted over multiple years to provide long term data, which determines the consistency of product performance over a range of environmental conditions.

The anthracnose and white mold management strategy currently is comprehensive, with genetic, cultural and chemical controls available to growers. New chemicals are evaluated each year, and compared to existing industry standards. Holes in the current management strategy are identified and addressed. Current projects include the impact of plant population and row width on disease development, and the interaction in a fungicide x fertilizer tank mixes.

The management of common bacterial blight (CBB) currently relies on disease free seed, which is produced primarily in Idaho. This represents a significant cost to growers each year. Plant breeders are incorporating genetic resistance into new cultivars, but it is anticipated that it will take many years to develop CBB resistant cultivars that growers and end users desire. The current program continues to search for a seed treatment or foliar product that can provide season-long control of this disease. Success to date has been limited.

Root rot is caused by a complex of fungal species in the soil, and it is considered to be the largest pest problem of dry beans in Canada. Good crop production practices including crop rotation, tile drainage and minimizing soil compaction can help reduce the impact of this pest. Seed treatments can help to manage early season infection, when the plant is young and vulnerable. Seed companies are now regularly applying up to six different seed treatment chemicals to dry bean seed, to manage the complex of root rot species present in Canadian soils. There is a need to document the impact that each chemical has on the major fungal species, and the economic returns of seed treatment used to manage this pest.

Dry bean is an alternate host to soybean cyst nematode (SCN), and this pest currently impacts dry bean production in Ontario and Quebec. It is anticipated that SCN will colonize the Red River valley in Manitoba in the next few years, since soils in North Dakota and Minnesota are already infected. In soybeans, genetic resistance is the key management strategy, but a number of chemical and biological seed treatments are registered for use. Little is known about genetic resistance in dry beans, so this program has focused on evaluating seed treatments as a stop gap effort to manage this pest.

Western bean cutworm (WBC) is a very recent pest that has become established in Ontario in the last five years. It feeds on dry bean pods and seed in August, causing direct yield and seed quality issues for growers. A management strategy has been established which includes rudimentary thresholds and two insecticide controls. The damage to dry bean crops has been limited to date. Field scouting is done each year to reinforce our knowledge for damage thresholds and provide growers with sound advice on the need/timing of insecticide controls.


A bean efficacy study:  A dose response study to investigate the cholesterol-lowering effects of beans
Principal Investigator: Alison Duncan, University of Guelph
Co-Investigators: Dan Ramdath, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada  and Thomas Wolever, INQUIS Clinical Research Ltd (formerly Glycemic Index Laboratories)

  1. To determine the effect of multiple dosages whole mixed beans on fasting serum lipid profiles (total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (primary outcome), HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, cholesterol ratios) and apolipoproteins (apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein AI) in hypercholesterolemic adults.
  2. To determine the effect of multiiple dosages of whole mixed beans on on fasting serum and fecal short chain fatty acid (SCFA) profiles and fecal bile acids in hypercholesterolemic adults.
  3. To determine the effect of multiple dosages of whole mixed beans on the gut microbiota in hypercholesterolemic adults.

Beans are very nutrient-dense with high amounts of dietary fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, and low amounts of fat along with a low glycemic index. It then makes sense that people who consume beans have better nutrient intakes and overall diet quality than those who do not consume beans. Consuming beans has also been linked with lower risk of many diseases including heart disease. Studies have shown that beans can improve markers of heart disease risk such as LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, which are among the most established markers of heart disease risk and therefore often a target for medical nutrition therapy. In fact, the most recent recommendations from the Canadian Cardiovascular Society recommend a dietary pattern high in legumes (which includes beans) for the management of high blood cholesterol to prevent heart disease.

Despite this information, bean consumption is low and there is interest in advancing ideas to change this. Health claims on bean products would provide an opportunity to communicate the benefits of beans to the consumer at the time that they are grocery shopping and would help to improve awareness of the health benefits of beans and increase the likelihood of bean consumption. However, before health claims can be approved, there is a need for more evidence, especially related to how much beans are needed to improve blood cholesterol and how beans actually improve blood cholesterol.

This research will provide that evidence by first examining two serving levels of beans and second by including measurements that would help understand how beans lower cholesterol. This research will involve a high-quality human clinical trial conducted at two sites (Guelph and Toronto) in which 60 adults who have high blood LDL-cholesterol will consume three treatments for 4 weeks each separated by a 4-week break. The treatments will include 1 cup of canned mixed beans, ½ cup of canned mixed beans and a white rice control. Blood and fecal samples will be collected before and after each treatment for analysis of blood cholesterol profile and measures that could help understand mechanisms such as bile acids, short chain fatty acids and gut bacteria. Results of this research will generate needed evidence to help the approval process of a health claim that can be included on bean products to inform consumers about the health effects of beans.