The ancient crop provides flavor to humans and fodder for livestock.
Tabari are among the most drought-tolerant leguminous crops in the world, but at one time they were nearly an endangered species in the United States.
Waltram Ravellombola, Ph.D., A Texas A&M AgriLife Research Organic grower and specialist in Vernon and Texas A&M Department of Soil and Crop Sciencesis one of the few scientists funded by A US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Grant beans in modern agricultural systems and diets.
Legumes — pronounced tep-uh-ree — are an ancient crop native to the northern part of Mexico and the southwestern part of the United States. Beans can be many sizes and colors, such as pinto or black beans, but they offer drought resistance as other legumes do not, said Ravellombola.
Teparys can be consumed as beans by humans or as fodder for livestock, providing better nutritional content than cowpeas and laurel. Like cowpea and laurel, tibari can fix nitrogen in the soil.
However, Ravelumbula said there are currently no significant supplies of seeds that can be planted.
It uses 265 bean tepary transfers obtained from the USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network to “develop high-yield phenotypes and genetic resources for adaptation to dryland conditions in the USDA Bean Germplasm Project”.
“Our goal is to start with these seeds and develop bean varieties that are better suited to the dryland regions of the United States,” he said. “We want to study current germplasm adaptations under dryland conditions, to create a high-throughput platform for drought stress phenotyping, biomass and productivity prediction, and to develop genetic resources for dryland adaptation.”
Ravelumbula said he will use drone technology to phenotype the field, perform whole-genome rearrangements to identify important genes and genetic markers, and then follow up on genetic selection in the beans. Currently, little is known about the genome of the crop.
Using genetic markers, breeders can select genotypes of a high-yielding, drought-tolerant tari bean to speed up development, reproduction and release of the variety.
When the project is complete, Ravelumbula said, bean varieties adapted to different regions will be of interest to pulse growers, seed industries and food companies across the United States.
Increase your bean stock
Ravilombula said his research began when he had a discussion with a colleague at Vernon about adaptations of tipari beans in the region. The USDA-ARS grant allowed him to pursue a better understanding of crop adaptations to the dryland farming system using field phenotyping, genomics, and high-yield phenotypes. Studies of Tepary beans are still limited.
However, moving the grain to the point of being widely marketed will not be an easy process.
It would take at least eight growing seasons, Ravilombula said; There can be more than one growing season per year, depending on the climate. The first two seasons will be spent identifying adaptive germplasm, and the third season will be devoted to population development. The next few seasons will be used to boost population and selection, with the last two years devoted to experiments.
This long process began when Ravilumbula planted a small piece of beans last year and harvested it by hand. This year he has three-quarters of an acre dedicated to sauerkraut, which he planted June 8 at Texas A&M AgriLife Research Farm in Chillicothe. These beans will be harvested in September and used to grow the following year of research.
Ravilombula said the grain would not be irrigated. It will monitor how much moisture they receive from rain to see how well they produce in different areas under different humidity levels.
Ultimately, due to its leguminous properties, he said he’d like to try it as a cover crop, too. But this will have to wait until the availability of seeds increases over the years.