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Developing drought-resistant beans in Costa Rica through genetic improvement

As Costa Rica gets dangerously warmer and drier due to the onslaught of climate change, bean breeders here are at the front lines of the fight to protect food security. Beans are not only a food staple with cultural significance in the country — as seen in classic dishes such as gallo pinto and casado — but they are also the second most commercialized agricultural product in the domestic market, accounting for 8.94% of the domestic economy ($93.5M).

At the Central American and Caribbean Crop Improvement Alliance (CACCIA), scientists are dedicated to building a food-secure future for the region. CACCIA — one of four centers of innovation through the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement — is confronting drastic changes in rainfall patterns by developing bean varieties that are resistant to drought and high temperatures, according to Roberto Camacho, principal investigator of CACCIA-Costa Rica and breeder at the National Institute for Innovation and Transfer of Agricultural Technology (INTA).

By performing genetic assessments and collaborating with smallholder farmers, CACCIA can better understand which bean varieties are most resilient to climate change, and which varieties are preferred by the farmers who will ultimately transfer beans into the market.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement is a project in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Global Development.

This article originally appeared on the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement website. It was written by Luis Alfonso Sánchez Chacón, (agricultural economist, INTA), Juan Carlos Hernández (breeder, INTA), Roberto Camacho Montero (PI of CACCIA-Costa Rica and breeder, INTA), Oscar Bonilla Arrazola (agricultural economist, INTA). It was translated and edited by Kelly Merchan, communications specialist at ILCI/Cornell Global Development. 

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