Lab Canada

Partnership to commercialize newly developed bean

Saskatoon, SK – A whiter strain of pinto beans developed by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan is the subject of an agreeement recently signed by Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Walker Seeds, the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan and Keg Agro.

“This agreement will put Saskatchewan on the map as a pinto bean exporter because the new variety will only be grown and processed in Saskatchewan,” says Dean Corbett, chairman of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. “This is Canada’s first pinto bean variety that stays fresh looking and lighter coloured longer than conventional pinto bean varieties, which tend to darken over time.”

Under the seven-year agreement, Walker Seeds and Keg Agro will be licensed to produce, process and market all slow darkening pinto beans developed by the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre, including variety 1533-15, which is currently in its first year of pedigreed seed production.

“We want to keep them completely separated from other pinto bean varieties so that their identity is preserved and the end market can take full advantage of their unique characteristics,” says Dr Bert Vandenberg, the CDC breeder developing the varieties. “Walker Seeds and Keg Agro are providing the key – a direct link from the breeding program to the marketplace.”

Dr Kirstin Bett with the University of Saskatchewan’s department of plant sciences and graduate student Donna Junk have shown that the slow darkening beans can maintain colour for more than one year. Most other pinto varieties show noticeable signs of darkening by six months and sometimes much sooner than this depending on harvest and storage conditions.

One of the biggest market opportunities for pinto beans is in North America. When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) comes into full effect in 2008-09 and Mexican tariffs on pinto beans are removed, Canada will have an opportunity to compete because of lower land and production costs. The NAFTA pinto bean market is very sensitive to quality, with colour and freshness as the biggest quality concerns.

“Pinto beans are the most widely consumed bean variety in the USA and a major consumer group is Hispanic Americans,” says Gildardo Silva, Walker Seeds’ sales manager for Latin America and Europe. “Pinto beans are also one of the most popular varieties in northern Mexico. Because product freshness is associated with a white shiny colour, CDC’s new slow darkening pintos will be an ideal fit for these markets.”