Plant Breeding for Regional Food Systems: Investigating Craft Malt, Disease Resistance and Production Potential of Barley and Dry Beans in Western Washington
Brouwer, Brook Oliver
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Regionally focused plant breeding has the potential to increase the productivity and profitability of dry beans and barley in western Washington, strengthening the local food system. Achieving this will require an interdisciplinary approach rooted in an understanding of social context, unique end-use potential, contemporary genetic techniques, and crop production methods, combined with the art and science of classical field-based breeding. Approaches to plant breeding for local food systems are reviewed emphasizing the potential of engaging diverse stakeholders in the selection process. Barriers to local dry bean production include access to scale appropriate equipment and drying the crop, however dry beans are being successfully grown in the region. Twenty-four varieties of dry beans, which have been cultivated in western Washington for 20 to 130 years, were collected. Utilization of these local heirlooms will require respectful engagement with the seed savers responsible for their maintenance and selection. Information on dry bean variety selection, production methods, pest management, harvesting and drying is presented. Growers producing malting barley may receive a premium for their crop, but require traits unique to that market. Locally adapted varieties were identified with stable yield and grain quality, as well as resistance to leaf rust (Puccinia hordei), powdery mildew (Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei) and pre-harvest sprouting. Custom malting of these varieties has the potential to contribute to the emerging craft malt industry. Continued development of regionally adapted varieties is supported through a genome wide association study of a foundational panel of two-row facultative malting barley. Significant markers associated with heading date genes were identified as well as resistance to stripe rust (P. striformis f. sp. hordei), leaf rust (P. hordei), and scald (Rhyncosporium commune). The concepts and methods presented here can be transferred to other regions and crops where producers and researchers wish to leverage variety selection and breeding to achieve a resilient and productive food system with its own distinctive place-based character.