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“Beans with Benefits” begins

Mungbean contributes to soil fertility, has potential for income generation, and is rich in protein, minerals and vitamins.

The inception workshop for the project “Beans with Benefits: Integrating improved mungbean as a catch crop into the dryland systems of South and Central Asia for increased smallholder farmer income and more sustainable production systems” was held on 6-7 May 2015 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The project, funded by Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), aims to diversify local production systems with mungbean for its contribution to soil fertility and potential for income generation. Twenty participants from AVRDC; GIZ; University of Hohenheim; International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA); International Water Management Institute (IWMI); the Uzbek Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources; Scientific Production Center of Agriculture; Research Institute of Plant Industry; and Microbiology Institute attended the workshop.

Smallholder farmers in dryland areas of project countries Pakistan and Uzbekistan typically depend on a narrow range of crops (cereals and/or cotton), which fetch low market prices and deplete nitrogen and organic matter in the soil. Farmers have limited access to rotation crops that could generate additional income and reverse the nutrient depletion of soils. In some regions, salt accumulation in soils as a consequence of inappropriate irrigation restricts crop diversification options and contributes to low farming productivity and environmental degradation. Farmers find themselves trapped in production systems that are unprofitable and unsustainable; the outcome of this is a downward spiral to poverty.

Mungbean is a nutritious warm season legume crop. The grains are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins, and are a popular ingredient in Uzbek and Pakistani cuisines. The leaves of immature plants can serve as animal feed. Due to its short duration, it easily fits into established cropping calendars. Mungbean fixes nitrogen in the soil, requires less water, and tolerates more heat than other legumes.

Workshop participants discussed recent mungbean research, improved varieties and production technologies, trial designs, nitrogen fixation and soil quality studies, and microbiology and seed inoculation studies. Pathways for improved mungbean uptake were reviewed, and work plans, responsibilities and tasks agreed among partners. The group also took a field tour to the Research Institute of Plant Industry, Kibray district, Tashkent.

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