The future was looking bleak for common beans, a nutrition-packed protein source that includes everything from navies to pink speckled kidneys. Climate models project that the heat-sensitive crop—enjoyed by billions, but depended on by 400 million in Latin America and Africa for their daily protein—will falter if global temperatures rise. In some parts of eastern Africa, for example, the area devoted to beans could shrink by up to half by 2050.
Enter Stephen Beebe, a bean breeder with the CGIAR global agriculture research partnership. Alarmed by beans’ imminent demise, Beebe resolved to discover a bean that could take the heat. Much searching and testing later, he and his team had a Eureka moment. They found that crossing the common bean with a little-known legume—the tepary bean—that has thrived in desert-like conditions in the Southwestern U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica for centuries, could ensure the survival of the species.
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