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March 27, 2008

Ugandan bean varieties show resistance to diseases

Two Ugandan bean varieties have been identified by plant breeders as sources of lines that are resistant to diseases. They have also been used to produce the high-yielding NABE 14 and NABE 13 varieties, which are being grown by some farmers.

Marble Tumwebaze, a member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and farmer from Kabale district, said she decided to multiply and sell the seeds after realising that the varieties were doing well on her field. "Previously, I was not getting any good yields from beans due to root rot disease, but now, I harvest more than 100kgs a season with the new varieties."

Two of the main diseases that limit bean yield in Uganda are root rot and a fungus called anthracnose that thrives in the cool rainy highlands like Kabale. The two diseases can destroy up to 70% of a crop.

The AGRA programme aims to make the most popular bean varieties resistant to the diseases and establish a sustainable programme that provides seeds to women's groups, primary schools and community seed projects. AGRA has earmarked $310,000 for research in beans.

Stanley Nkalubo, a bean plant breeder at the National Crops Resources Institute in Namulonge and PhD student, said they had crossed the bush and climbing beans to improve on the resistance. "The bean offspring lines are being screened for other diseases. So far, about 54 lines have been tested by the farmers and 18 have been selected for further analysis. By referring to lines, it means the plants are still undergoing research," he explained.

AGRA helps small-scale farmers and their families in 13 countries in Africa to uplift themselves out of poverty and hunger. These are Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mali, Malawi and Senegal. Others are Ghana, Nigeria and Niger.

"AGRA programmes develop solutions to boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safe-guarding the environment.

AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of agriculture from seeds, soil health and water to markets and agricultural education," said Dr. George Bigirwa, AGRA programme officer for seed production and dissemination.

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