Harsher drought impacts forecast for California agriculture

what could be the contribution of new varieties that need less irrigation water? Example: For summer crops, from 3 to 2 irrigations in common bean? In lima beans? For a winter crop, like garbanzo (chickpea), no spring irrigation? what is the effect on seed weight, a key element of consumer quality?

California WaterBlog

Ground view showing drought conditions in agriculture field.Drought conditions in crop field near Woodland, Calif. Source: California Department of Water Resources

By Richard Howitt, Duncan MacEwan, Josue Medellin-Azuara, Jay Lund and Daniel A. Sumner

The drought is expected to be worse for California’s agricultural economy this year because of reduced water availability, according to our preliminary estimates released today.

The study, summarized below, estimates farmers will have 2.7 million acre-feet less surface water than they would in a normal water year — about a 33 percent loss of water supply, on average. The impacts are concentrated mostly in the San Joaquin Valley and are not evenly distributed; individual farmers will face losses of zero to 100 percent.

Expanded groundwater pumping will offset more than 70 percent of this surface water deficit, according to our modeling of how farmers are likely to respond. This leaves a shortage of 2.5 million acre-feet — 9 to 10 percent of…

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Hispanic Life Expectancy

From the newspaper Sacramento Bee: Hispanics have a 8.2 years higher life expectancy than general population (87.7 years vs. 79.5).

From the article: “They eat a basic diet of rice, beans, meat and fresh produce. As I always say: “Eat more beans”. :>D (OK, there are factors involved as well: see the article below).

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/health-and-medicine/healthy-choices/article20470842.html#storylink=cpy

Hispanic life expect_20150508jpg Click on the image for a larger version.

Paper of note: Anthropogenic effect reduce biodiversity, which in turn limits ecosystem stability

Hautier Y, Tilman D, Isbell F, Seabloom EW, Borer ET, Reich PB (2015) Anthropogenic environmental changes affect ecosystem stability via biodiversity. Science 348:336-340


From the article: “Biodiversity protects grassland stability
“How biodiversity interacts with ecosystem stability and productivity is key to understanding the impacts of environmental changes on ecosystem functions. In a series of decade-long experiments in temperate grassland, Hautier et al. manipulated nitrogen, water, carbon dioxide, herbivory, and fire. In all cases, plant species diversity was important for preserving ecosystem function during environmental change. Hence, the preservation and restoration of biodiversity buffer ecosystems against anthropogenic assault.”

How to increase agricultural production?

Achim Dobermann, head of Rothamsted Research, via @AmeliaFrizell, reminds us that is 50% genetics, 50% field management. This is of course _on average_ and depends on which traits are selected.

Talk about Beans at the San Francisco Exploratorium, April 9, 7:00 pm

I have been invited to give a talk  at the San Francisco Exploratorium  on April 9 about beans as part of the Pairings program . I am excited about this opportunity: talking about my favorite crop, its origins, its evolution under domestication, its diversity and use in present day breeding, but also issues of conservation of crop diversity, ownership of biodiversity, diet diversity, and the relationship between crop diversity and cultural diversity.


I will be “paired” with Charlie Thierot of Rancho Llano Seco near Chico, CA, producer of heirloom beans. People attending will be able to taste bean salad and micheladas, a Mexican beer-based cocktail.

See you in San Francisco!

Exciting times in the bean world! Hot stuff! Literally and figuratively!

Yesterday, saw the announcement by researchers at CIAT (a Spanish acronym for International Center for Tropical Agriculture) in Cali, Colombia, that they have identified bean lines with significant tolerance to heat stress. Some salient points:

1) With current varieties, increased average temperature under the predictive global climate change models would cause a decrease in suitable bean growing surface of 50% by 2050. With the improved varieties, this loss would only be 5%, whether in East Africa or Central America.

2) Perhaps paradoxically, the crucial stage sensitive to heat stress is night temperature. Current varieties do not tolerate very well night temperatures above 18 C (= 64.5 F). Advanced lines identified by CIAT scientists can tolerate night temperatures up to 21-23 C (= 70-73.5 F).

3) So, where do these advanced lines come from? Many of them result from crosses made 3 to 4 decades ago between common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius). Tepary bean is a species native to the US Southwest and Mexico. It is one of the five domesticated Phaseolus bean species. It withstands high temperatures in its native habitat.

4) Crossing common and tepary bean is not easy. Once can obtain progenies by brute force [e.g., trying > 1,000 times ;>(( ] or a laboratory technique called embryo culture. The same tepary bean has also provided outstanding resistance to the pathogen Xanthomonas campestris, the causal agent of common bacterial blight, a major bean pathogen.

Related stories:

Developing Beans that Can Beat the Heat (pdf)

Turning down the heat: breeding beans for a changing climate 

New Climate-Smart Beans Set to Beat the Heat—and Improve Nutrition

Scientific American: 30 Heat-Tolerant Beans Identified, Poised to Endure Warming World

Science Magazine: Heat-beating beans resist climate change

Scientific article on increasing crossability between common bean and tepary bean:

Mejía-Jiménez, A., Muñoz, C., Jacobsen, H. J., Roca, W. M., and Singh, S. P. 1994. Interspecific hybridization between common and tepary beans: increased hybrid embryo growth, fertility, and efficiency of hybridization through recurrent and congruity backcrossing. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 88:3240331.

Early work in our group on heat tolerance in common bean:

Shonnard, G. C., and Gepts, P. 1994. Genetics of heat tolerance during reproductive development in common bean. Crop Science 34:1168-1175:

  • Most genetic control is quantitative, with the exception of a major factor linked to or at the fin (determinacy) gene, identified as a homologue of the Arabidopsis gene, PvTFL1y: Repinski et al. 2012; Kwak et al. 2012.
  • The most heat-tolerant lines were California varieties, presumably because they had been grown in California for several years and, thus, indirectly selected for heat stress tolerance.