The world population depends for its nutrition on agricultural crop products, mainly seeds and fruits. Improvements of crop plants to achieve better yields as a consequence of climatic change conditions will be essential to keep up with the increase in world population and to reduce the impact of high yield farming on the environment. Most agricultural products, such as seeds and fruits, are derived from the reproductive process of flowering plants. Among the cultivated plant species, legumes represent an important source of food, and grain legumes as common beans are essential in the human diet. Common bean phenology is uniquely flexible, where events as flowering time is often also important and present significant opportunities to improve adaptation of this species to a range of environments. In addition, photoperiod is known to affect other vegetative and reproductive traits in the common bean, such as the growth habit, branching, leaf morphology, floral architecture and pod filling. This variation is interesting from an agronomic point of view, and presents a challenge for matching flowering time to environment and planting time, and generally for improving common bean production in temperate regions.
BEANFLOW will study how environment and genetics interact to affect the flowering time variation and as it can be exploited for the genetic improvement in one major high-value pulse crop; common bean. Precise genetic materials and broad germplasm diversity panels varying in flowering time and subjected to genomic analyzing and characterization for key flowering time genes will be used to test this hypothesis. These will be studied at the molecular (genomic analysis), morphological (meristem stage dissection) and agronomical (flowering and plant architecture components) levels. The variation in flowering time will be analyzed across the closely related beanspecies, in order to identify the gene variants contributing to phenotypic adaptation, and to know other loci implicated in the regulation of flowering and whether might differ in each species. Controlled environment experiments will investigate specific environmental interactions including day length and temperature. Data analysis will aid to understand genetic differences that have allowed common bean to be tailored to location-specific seasonal patterns. BEANFLOW will describe the useful variation across the bean species in order to guide conservation and utilization through introgression within and across species, and to be deployed more efficiently in common bean breeding programs.
For this purpose, BEANFLOW project will bring together an interdisciplinary consortium with research groups and companies from Spain, USA and Australia. Consortium members have a strong CV and probed expertise on crop agronomy, morphology, and molecular biology. To the end, knowledge will be used to develop and provide growers with a better range of high-yielding bean varieties for different locations and management approaches, and help to expand bean production and improve profitability across Europe. Novel genetic variation and new diagnostic biotechnological markers will be useful for breeding selection programs and SMEs who will exploit the tools developed.