Phaseolus vulgaris: adapting the missing link for sustainable production and consumption in the UK

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: School of Life Sciences


Dietary choices can reflect how the food system affects our health personally and as a society, our environment and ultimately contributes to climate change. Essentially, sustainable food production is contingent on sustainable diets. Pulse crops can play an important role in sustainable food systems as they (1) are an excellent source of plant protein with numerous additional health benefits; (2) have the well-known environmental return of biological nitrogen fixation - reducing the need for synthetic fertilisers and as such indirectly reduce GHG emissions; and (3) are excellent crops to include in crop rotations to break cycles of pest and diseases.
This project will apply a transdisciplinary approach to the current common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) molecular breeding programme at Warwick Crop Centre. Specific objectives will aim to identify molecular markers for elite breeding material that capture disease resistance and harvestability traits for growers, as well as culinary traits for consumers. Consumer participatory research will be used to examine explanations for food (pulse) selection. Psychology research methods will enable examination of whether pulse intake can be increased by providing a norm of appropriate food selection and information on food preparation.
Ultimately, this project aims to enhance the understanding of users' and society's needs for delivering a full range of UK pulse breeding impacts. Specifically, impact is aimed at adapting common bean to the UK food system by providing UK consumers with a healthy source of home-grown plant protein and UK farmers with a profitable short-season legume break crop. In other words, home-grown haricot beans are a missing crop and ingredient that links sustainable food production and sustainable food consumption in the UK.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1782644 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 03/10/2016 05/03/2021 Rosanne May Maguire
Description The current project is focusing on two complementary aims to support the UK breeding programme of haricot beans. One aim is to advance the molecular genetics of production-related and culinary traits to enable breeding of distinctive varieties, which are adapted for the UK food system. The second aim is to initiate consumer research to identify interest in adding homegrown white haricot beans to the UK diet.

A method called genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) has been combined with whole genome (re)sequencing (WGS) to investigate traits targeted to have greatest impact for grower adoption and scalability. This includes further investigation into a previously mapped source of race non-specific or 'broad spectrum' resistance to halo blight (an important disease for dry bean production caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas syringae pv phaseolicola). By combining the GBS and WGS datasets, we have been able to verify markers identified previously, as well as investigate in greater resolution differences that may be responsible for this resistance. A second source of race non-specific or 'broad spectrum' resistance to halo blight has been identified, with ongoing mapping using new GBS data. A novel source of virus resistance has also been investigated. During the summer 2017 field trial, an outbreak of a mosaic virus occurred in a Bean Common Mosaic Virus resistant parent variety. The novel virus was identified as Bean Yellow Mosaic virus (BYMV) using total RNA sequencing, and was likely to have transferred from Faba bean. Resistance to BYMV has been mapped in our breeding programme using the GBS data, with follow on work using the WGS to add resolution for comparative analysis between parent lines.

For the second aim, consumer research questions have been developed from a systematic literature review investigating attitudes and perceptions to pulses. Research gaps exist in multiple areas relative to the development and uptake of UK adapted haricot bean varieties. Messages communicated on food products can influence consumer perceptions and product acceptance, and by manipulating messages on packaging we can gain insight into the resulting consumer inferences. An online experiment has been designed to test whether a provenance message or a cooking time message influence consumer inferences and willingness-to-try white haricot beans. Whether cooking time or provenance affects consumer inferences about products that are non-perishable (i.e., any dry bean market types) has not been studied before. Evidence is also required that investigates UK participants, as studies investigating barriers to pulse consumption in Western populations have not been undertaken in the UK before. Our pilot data indicates that messages do have effects on measures used. Once complete, the results will provide a blueprint for investigating additional consumer traits of interest, as well as provide evidence for stakeholders wishing to add homegrown haricots to UK diets. Engaging consumers with breeding programmes is a requirement for increasing consumer demand (and uptake) of healthy foods, rather than merely maintaining existing markets.
Exploitation Route In progress (the award is still active).
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description BBSRC IAA University of Warwick
Amount £300,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/S506783/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2021