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Low altitude, high-flying beans to benefit Africa

Charles Wasonga, Ph.D. '10, evaluates the performance of green beans at lower altitudes in Kenya and selected those that combined heat tolerance and rust resistance. He is now a postdoctoral fellow with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Mbita Point, Kenya.

Slender green beans air-freighted from Kenya to markets in Western Europe are a profitable crop for high-altitude farms across sub-Saharan Africa. Breeding efforts at Cornell could help their lower altitude neighbors also harness the crop’s economic potential.

Green beans are Kenya’s most important horticultural export, earning farmers five to 10 times more than the dry beans they traditionally grow. However, there are two significant barriers to the expansion of this lucrative market: the varieties available are sensitive to high temperatures during flowering and susceptible to the common bean rust fungus.

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