Monday, 3 April 2017

Making the most of mungbeans

Last Tuesday, nearly 100 growers and advisers got the chance to see and taste improved strains of mungbean, a valuable but vulnerable crop, at the Mungbean Industry Field Day in Warwick, Queensland.

Mungbean (vigna radiata) is an important food and cash crop for South Asia’s rice-based farming systems, and has become an important export crop in Australia over the last twenty years.  Asian smallholder farmers can earn money growing this nutrient-rich food which is fast and easy to grow, in demand across the world, and increases their soil fertility.
However, there has been little attempt to improve the crop, and its narrow genetic base makes it vulnerable to mungbean yellow mosaic virus and other killers.
Mungbean Field Day setup with brownies made with Australian mungbean flour. Photo: ACIAR
Now Australia and Asian countries are working together to improve the crop’s resistance to pests, diseases, and seasonal variability, in a four-year initiative funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Dr. Eric Huttner, ACIAR’s Research Program Manager for Crop Improvement and Management, said:  “Preparing the future of industry requires new varieties with better productivity and performance – the traits farmers want.”

The Mungbean Improvement Network (IMIN), a collaboration between the World Vegetable Center in Hyderabad (India) and its international partners, will breed new mungbean lines with the hope of improving production.

ACIAR stall at the Field Day in front of the mungbean core collection. Photo: ACIAR
Breeder Col Douglas presented new varieties of the crop to the attendees at the Queensland event, organised by the Australian Mungbean Association, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pulse Australia and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). 

Douglas and other researchers in Australia and its partner countries Myanmar, Bangladesh and India grow the same experimental varieties of mungbeans.
The test Mungbean rows are grown in Australia, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar

Researchers in the four countries plant the same test rows, and study how different local conditions (including soil, water, light and pests) affect the crop.  This material will then be used to breed the varieties of the future.

“It is an enormous level of diversity,” said Dr. Huttner, “and the sum will be greater than the parts.  This is what ACIAR projects should do: in a context of mutual benefit, serve as an archetype of scientific collaboration over borders.”

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