Date of this Version
J. Agric. Univ. P.R. vol. 104, no. 1, 2020, pp 43-111
Most literature reviews focus on a specific topic. The purpose of this paper, however, is to review the contributions made by a multidisciplinary team of researchers at a specific location (Puerto Rico) over a period of several decades. This paper documents bean research of the University of Puerto Rico and the USDA-ARS Tropical Agriculture Research Station during the past century. The following illustrates the merits of continuity of effort in research and shows that research often follows a logical sequence of actions to solve problems related to genetic improvement as well as to study biotic and abiotic factors that affect common bean production in Central America and the Caribbean. Finally, this narrative demonstrates that the ongoing development of improved bean germplasm lines and cultivars is cyclical and builds upon previous research achievements.
The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is an important component of the traditional diet in Puerto Rico. The 1900 report of the USDA Puerto Rico Agricultural Experiment Station (USDA-PRAES) noted that rice and beans were staple crops in Puerto Rico and found on the tables of both the rich and poor. Smit et al. (2007) noted that annual per capita consumption of grain legumes, mostly dry beans, in Puerto Rico (6.4 kg) is almost double the per capita consumption in the U.S. (3.4 kg; US Dry Bean Council, 2019).
Common and lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus L.) have been produced in the Caribbean for at least 500 years. The grain legume fits well into rotations and is often intercropped with other longer season crops such as plantains and bananas. Small white beans, locally known as ‘Blanca del País’ and striped pink beans known as ‘Colorado del País’ are traditional market classes in Puerto Rico (Koenig, 1953). Consumers in Puerto Rico today consume a wide array of market classes including white, red, pink, pinto, black and kidney beans (Bean Institute, 2018). Although Puerto Ricans represent roughly 1% of the U.S. population, they consume 3.1% of the common and lima beans in the U.S. (Lucier et al., 2000).