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USDA Dry Bean Nutritional Evaluation

Evaluation of the nutritional components of the USDA dry bean collection from diverse market classes and centers of diversity.

Internship Details


Beans (Phaseolus spp.) are one of the most economically and nutritionally important crops world-wide, with a value of over $20 billion harvested annually. They are a source of high protein, high amounts of starch, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins, an array of healthy phytochemicals, and are associated with health benefits such as reduced cardiovascular disease, the prevention of diabetes, and even the prevention of cancer.

The nutritional and health beneficial components in common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) have been investigated and reports strongly support that beans have characteristics that make them a dietary alternative to prevent obesity. Beans are a source of bioactive compounds including fiber which resists digestion and absorption in the small intestine, antinutritional factors that decrease significantly the rate and degree of starch digestibility, and phytochemicals including phytates and phenolic compounds which have shown to exert health benefits mediated by their antioxidant properties.

However, recent analyses of several market classes of beans have shown a wide range of nutritional qualities, from extractable and non-extractable polyphenols, total antioxidant activity, phytates, protein, and sugars even within market class. Characterization of this diversity needs to be available in the Germplasm Resources Information Network. to assist plant breeders in the development of nutritionally enhanced food products.

This is an opportunity to learn techniques of analysis of nutritional components of beans, such as extractable and non-extractable polyphenols and protein. Additionally, the student will briefly learn operational procedures of maintaining a national germplasm collection, including acquisition, maintenance, regeneration, and characterization of more than 13,000 accessions of Phaseolus germplasm.

Learning Outcomes

The student will begin grinding and weighing 117 accessions of yellow beans and 86 accessions of navy beans for protein and phenolics analysis. Phenolics analysis will then be completed in the WSU FSHN lab, and protein analysis will be completed in the USDA-ARS Wheat Quality Lab. As time allows, the student will have ample opportunity to become familiar with maintaining a national seed bank, including maintenance, regeneration and characterization of 47 species of beans from all over the world. Additionally, the student will have the opportunity to mentor an intern from the Upward Bound program in the month of July. The student will also participate in an Outreach Program at the local Farmers Market in Moscow, Idaho on the importance of seed banks for agriculture.

The position of a Curator in the National Plant Germplasm System, especially for nutrient-rich pulse crops, can relate to a broad range of scientific fields, including Food Science, Nutrition, Botany, Plant Breeding, and Genetics. Since the major topic of this project will be studying nutrients in beans, it would most likely attract students in Food Science and Nutrition. However, characterization of genetic traits for nutrition, and the maintenance of a diverse seed bank could interest students of botany, plant breeding, and genetics.