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Evaluation of the interaction of bean genotypes, rhizobacteria and environmental factors in Cuba

Lara RAMAEKERS student laureate

°1983 Belgium
Bio-engineer in Cell and Gene Biotechnology, 2006

Evaluation of the interaction of bean genotypes, rhizobacteria and environmental factors in Cuba

The study of Lara Ramaekers deals with the improvement of the production of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), an edible legume commonly grown by many small farmers in Latin America and Africa, and a very rich, inexpensive source of protein. In traditional farming, where input is low, bean crops are small because of biotic and abiotic constraints, in spite of an original property: the plant's ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen thanks to its symbiosis with bacterial strains of the Rhizobium genus. Unfortunately, that symbiosis may be negatively affected by edaphic conditions, particularly low phosphorus concentrations, characteristic of many tropical soils. The objective of the present research, conducted in collaboration with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT, Colombia), the La Renée institute for soil, and the Center for Microbial and Plant Genetics (CMPG, KULeuven), is to improve nitrogen fixation by the bean under phosphorus-deficient conditions. This fixation may be affected by a number of factors such as bean variety, inoculation with strains of Rhizobium, or co-inoculation with Rhizobium and a rhizobacterium improving growth in the host plant (Azospirillum brasilense), and input of mineral nitrogen. These factors all interact, but optimization of treatments requires consideration of the environment and of farmers' limited resources. Trials were conducted in an experimental station and actual farms in two Cuban provinces. The results corroborate varietal differences in this legume's response to mineral nitrogen fertilization and microbial treatments. Findings show a potential for improving bean production by simultaneously inoculating seed with Rhizobium and Azospirillum, as well as the necessity of selecting genotypes that respond well to microbial inoculation. A survey of 95 local producers of this bean in three regions of the country shows, first, differences in producers' perception of microbial inoculation, and second, the importance of determining producers' varietal preferences, as well as their farming practices.
This study tends toward the objective of food security and the implementation of sustainable farming. The experimental method used is a harmonious combination of trials in an experimental station and on actual farms. This research deserves being pursued through trials in other parts of Cuba.

report: Prof. J.-P. Baudoin, Tropical Phytotechnology and Horticulture Unit, Faculté universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux, Belgium