U of G Leads 'Bean-Gene' Project

February 25, 2011 - News Release

The University of Guelph today officially launched a multi-university research project intended to benefit the world's $11-billion dry bean industry.

Headed by Prof. Peter Pauls, chair of the Department of Plant Agriculture in the Ontario Agricultural College, the project involves nine researchers at three universities. The team plans to produce a draft genome sequence for dry beans and develop genetic markers for improved varieties, especially disease-resistant beans.

"This represents an important opportunity for an Ontario genomics effort to have major international impact and will put Canadian bean researchers at the forefront," Pauls said during today’s launch.

The project received a $3.7-million grant from the Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI), as well as industry and other funding support totalling $11 million.

Today’s event was attended by Reza Moridi, MRI parliamentary assistant; Guelph MP Liz Sandals; and William Crosby, a biology professor at the University of Windsor and the project’s co-principal investigator. It also attracted officials from industry and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and students and researchers from U of G, Windsor and the University of Western Ontario.

Kevin Hall, U of G vice-president (research), said the project shows how U of G works with government, industry and community to translate research knowledge into new technologies, products and services.

“We’re connecting great minds and great ideas with the resources and people who can help turn their innovations into solutions,” he said.

About 18 million tons of dry beans are harvested in Canada and around the world. In Ontario, the industry generates more than $100 million annually.

But Pauls said the industry lacks genomic information for the dry bean — unusual for such an important crop.

The researchers hope to learn more about genes that help beans resist a serious bacterial pathogen and to promote nutraceutical production, more antioxidants and seed storage proteins.

They will develop molecular markers to select new bean varieties with more disease resistance, more beneficial antioxidants and novel proteins for making biofilms.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982 or dhealey@uoguelph.ca.

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