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Bean Breeding? Scarlet runner X common bean

 
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Location: Zone 5b
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Does anyone here have any experience breeding a scarlet runner bean with a common green bean?  I've read that it should be possible, if a bit difficult.  Also, how do you think the traits would differ depending on who the mother is and who the father is?  This would be my first experiment breeding plants, and I'm planning on crossing the aforementioned scarlet runner bean with the dragon's tongue bush bean.  I want the vines to be shorter than the scarlet runners, and the beans to be more similar to the dragon's tongue, while also aiming for some very pretty flowers.  Basically, ornamental plant meets delicious legume.  I've already read a book on general plant breeding, but I don't know anything about these bean specific questions.  Any insight is very appreciated!
 
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I'm growing interspecies hybrids between common beans and runner beans. I believe that the cross only works if the common bean is the mother, and the runner bean is the pollen donor. You can tell if attempts at crossing were successful in a number of ways... The cotyledons of runner beans stay below ground. The cotyledons of common beans are high in the air. The cotyledons of F1 hybrids are approximately at ground level. (photos below). Another way to tell, is that if scarlet flowers show up in the common bean patch, it may be because of cross pollination. Naturally occurring crosses are more likely if the two species are planted closely together. Also, if only bush beans are grown next to runner beans, and vines show up in the bush beans, they may be from a naturally occurring cross. In the F1, runner bean traits were dominant for seed coat color, flower color, and pod type.

beans-common-X-runner_640a.jpg
[Thumbnail for beans-common-X-runner_640a.jpg]
F1 hybrids between common beans and runner beans. Cotyledons at about ground level.
bean-interspecies-crossing-attempts_640a.jpg
[Thumbnail for bean-interspecies-crossing-attempts_640a.jpg]
Common beans, that self pollinated even though manual cross pollination was attempted.
 
Heiden Lentz
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I'm growing interspecies hybrids between common beans and runner beans. I believe that the cross only works if the common bean is the mother, and the runner bean is the pollen donor. You can tell if attempts at crossing were successful in a number of ways... The cotyledons of runner beans stay below ground. The cotyledons of common beans are high in the air. The cotyledons of F1 hybrids are approximately at ground level. (photos below). Another way to tell, is that if scarlet flowers show up in the common bean patch, it may be because of cross pollination. Naturally occurring crosses are more likely if the two species are planted closely together. Also, if only bush beans are grown next to runner beans, and vines show up in the bush beans, they may be from a naturally occurring cross. In the F1, runner bean traits were dominant for seed coat color, flower color, and pod type.


Thank you so much for this information!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Here's a photo of the F1 (common X runner) flowers. Seemed like the color wasn't quite as intense as pure scarlet runner flowers.
common-x-runner-F1.jpg
Interspecies hybrid: Common bean X scarlet runner bean
Interspecies hybrid: Common bean X scarlet runner bean
 
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Joseph,
I had a rough time with bean plants this year, due to the severe heatwave that hit my area in the middle of the growing season. I  wanted to try to crossbreed a bean I liked but was killed by heat stress with a scarlet runner bean, which is supposed to thrive in those conditions. I think I understand how to hand pollinate, but I wanted to ask you if the F1 hybrids from such a cross are more heat and humidity resistant than the common bean parent?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Rachel Stark wrote: I wanted to ask you if the F1 hybrids from such a cross are more heat and humidity resistant than the common bean parent?



My feeling is that Runner beans grow better with higher humidity and lower temperatures. Therefore, I would expect a Runner/Common bean cross to fare worse than the common bean in a high heat situation, but fare better in a high humidity situation. So it might end up being a wash if both high heat and high humidity were combined.
 
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Joseph,
How were the beans from your F1 cross? Did they produce well in Utah? Did you save any seeds? (asking for a friend...)
Thanks!

Ethan
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ethan Nielsen wrote:How were the beans from your F1 cross? Did they produce well in Utah? Did you save any seeds? (asking for a friend...)



The cross was made by a friend from far away. Therefore, neither parent was locally adapted. They didn't do very well, but they produced seed, which I replanted. It did fine, until a helpful family member chopped them out. I only planted half my seed, so I may try again .
 
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I found a couple plants labeled runner bean x pinto bean at ARDEC this fall. I stole a few partially mature pods and saved the seed.  I'll try growing them out this summer. I imagine they were from a USDA accession.
 
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I'm quite interested in this idea, and am additionally interested in Tepary beans and their inter-breeding potentials.  This is something I intend to devote time and space to starting next year.  I have a couple of questions for folks who know more than I do.  

First, there's an order-of-operations question.  If I want to grow out common, runner and tepary beans, and experiment with inter-species crosses, does it make sense to naturalize populations of each variety first for some years and establish some landrace or pre-landrace population of each species before actively trying in earnest to cross them (knowing that bees will, of course, do what they will)?

Second, and specifically relevant to the thread's title is the closely-related species, Phaseolus dumosus, which is native to Guatemala and is called the "year bean" or "year-long bean".  Scientists now think that this species was a natural cross between the runner and common beans.   Here is a recent study.  Crosses between both runner and common with dumosus are more common, and that might facilitate the flow of traits between species.  The question is: has anyone tried this species, especially with the express intention of inter-breeding?  I have never seen any available for purchase.  I will note that the above mentioned study also discussed the fact that the species seems to have very little genetic diversity, so it might be difficult to grow in non-tropical environments.

Finally, I'd like to manage expectations.  With a a "home garden" sized population (say, maybe 30-50 individual plants per species) and home gardener levels of effort, should I expect successes (defined, say, as successful interspecific crosses which result in viable F2 and later populations which are interesting), or should I just expect to have fun getting up close and personal with some bean flowers?
 
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Chad, you are in northern NM according to your profile? How close is your garden to a natural area with wildflowers and what native legumes are there in your area?

What I am getting at is pollinator complex. Some bees are legume specialists. Western States tend to have awesome pollinator complexes. I'm in MT and we do.

The bumble bean from the Podolls in ND originated ad perhaps an interspecies cross.

So I would work on my pollinator habitat in general and in particular plant a few native legume plants in the hopes of attracting legume specialist bees. If these bees come- they might do the work for you.

Personally I would grow a few plants of each of several bean species and known interspecies crosses. That way a single original packet would last me a long time. Then I would just grow out some beans from the seeds I grew and see if any new colors show up.

However my garden is large and I have little time to make intentional crosses.
 
Chad Meyer
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We're not far from the wilderness (we're about a block from the edge of town), but I'm not sure what the native legume species are; I'll keep an eye out on the next walk!

What I do know is that I've often seen bees coming to my (P. Vulgaris) bean trellis.  I have not (yet) grown either runners or teparies, but I expect the runners to need more care to get growing in the desert and the teparies to simply do well.  Hummingbirds like runner beans and we have a lot, so I would hope they would enjoy them as well (but they won't visit the common beans).

My principle goal is just to have various beans that grow well here.  If I wanted to enhance the odds, I could interplant along the trellis, but I expect that I would rather keep them separated, at least until I am confident that I can clearly and immediately tell them apart and perhaps have a more stably diverse population of each species.  At some point I'll post about my intentions of building up my locally adapted populations of the beans for some peer review.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Chad:

If you are going to do either manual or natural cross pollination, looking for something that does well in your ecosystem, it makes a lot of sense to start with parents that are known to do well for you. Offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents. Because beans are mostly selfing, that initial screening can be done in a single growing season.

An easy way to make hybrids between common bean varieties, is to plant pure varieties side by side. Collect the seed separately. Plant it, and watch for anything different that shows up. For example, a black bean showing up among a population of white beans.  

Another easy natural cross to screen for would be common beans planted next to runner beans. Collect the common bean seed, then it could be screened by planting the seeds about 2" deep. The hybrids would be those sprouts with cotyledons that didn't emerge from the soil. Common bean cotyledons are carried way high up on the stem. Runner bean cotyledons stay underground. Hybrids are mid-way between. Another way to recognize [common X runner] crosses would be if scarlet flowers show up in the common bean patch.

Tepary beans are more distantly related, and seem less likely to cross. But in general, landraces and segregates cross more readily than highly inbred varieties.

My [tepary X tepary] and [common x runner]  hybrids came from a basement window garden. There is a lot of fascinating work that can be done on very small scales. The natural cross pollination rate of common beans is around 1% to 5% depending on pollinators and ecosystem. Therefore with a population of 40 plants, you might expect 0 to 2 natural hybrids per year. For plant breeding purposes, plants can be quite crowded. In general, the more crowded together different varieties are, the more likely the are to be cross pollinating.
 
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You need to get hold of a copy of Carol Deppr’s great book “Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties”.

It covers this stuff in great detail.
 
Chad Meyer
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Joseph,

That gives me more confidence that I could see something interesting, eventually.

I've seen such a wide range of outcrossing rates for beans cited (between 1 and 15%) and I suppose that's due to variations in flower structure of individual varieties and the type of pollinators, and the fact that most studies look at "standard agricultural practices" meaning row planting with varieties not sharing a row, etc., but mine will all be sharing the same long trellis.

I think I will probably focus more of my efforts on establishing my single-species populations for now and just watch to see what the bees do.
 
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I was gifted a couple different common x runner hybrids and also have found two or three in my own garden. I'v been disappointed when I planted them. All grew into very, very, large vines, probably easily 20 feet if my trellis had been that big. They all bloomed a LOT but not one produced much at all as far a harvest of beans.

Does anyone know if this is ordinary or had similar experience? I still have the seeds that were produced, might this next generation yield something more productive? I don't have enough space for everything I'd like to grow so wouldn't be till next year I could try it out.

Common bean crossing in my garden I think is easily 15% or higher, if certain conditions are met.  I'm blessed with a lot of bumblebees which are aggressive feeders on the bean flowers. The bees don't fly around at random, instead they methodically move from one flower to the next one near by. If I plant for example a single KY Wonder pole bean and a single plant of some other bean on the same pole so the flowers of each are immediately adjacent to one another I'm sure there will be crossing.

Unfortunately you can't tell in the F1 but I would bet if I planted all  the resulting beans from one of those plants there is a near 100% chance of new ones showing up in the F2. Of course that isn't the same as the crossing rate I know. I really don't pay much attention to it anymore, when seeds that I don't recognize show up I just add them back into my landrace. I can't really tell for sure in the landrace because new ones might just be continuing segreations of older ones and also cause there are so many different ones already but I keep a few (pure) for canning as green beans and I find new ones in them too.

I still think the rate is higher than 15% though because most of my beans end up on the supper table but I still find new ones practically all the time.  

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I got low seed set on my F1 common X runner plants. Even with manually tripping the flowers.

The F2 were growing for me, until a "helpful" family member decided to assist by pulling up the scrawny beans.

 
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im interested to know if they are perennial like scarlet or annual like commons... also if hybrid vigor/cold hardy common genetics would make them not only perennial but perennial in zones 4-6 rather than just 7+
 
Andrew Barney
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Joseph,  did you lose all your runner bean hybrids? Or did you plant half?

My runner hybrids seems to be growing well,  but they got lost in the bean patch. I did see scarlett flowers which were different shade of red from the other red and white flowers from the common beans. Actually I think I would have described it as a light scarlet. But regardless it was a good sign!
 
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I have not grown them yet but last years crop I had a few runner looking beans in my green pole been patch.
I did plant both green pole beans and Scarlett runner beans but only one very very small runner ever came up in my garden. so I was quite surprised when harvesting my green pole beans in the fall for next years seeds to find a few pods with the purple beans inside of my green pole bean pods.
 
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My first post on permies..mostly because I try to read threads until I’m caught up and find myself traveling down the rabbit hole before too long. This is an interesting idea. I started growing runner beans for the first time this spring. I’m not really sure how to use them but I sure like the idea of crossing with another bean, and maybe even another, and another..
The local deer are pretty interested in any bean I have planted. Just when they start to stretch and fill out, Chomp! and I’m left with some stalks ripped from the ground, or more kindly just chewed down to the ground. This could take a while..
 
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C. West wrote:im interested to know if they are perennial like scarlet or annual like commons... also if hybrid vigor/cold hardy common genetics would make them not only perennial but perennial in zones 4-6 rather than just 7+

Two years ago, I protected my runner beans with straw to see if I could get them to overwinter (we're on the edge, but supposedly 7). The ones that made it and actually produced, I saved seed from. This year I planted that seed, so now you will have to wait in anticipation to see if I have any better luck having them survive overwinter than the first group. Our winters can be quite different, and the ground can get incredibly wet, so I may also need to try in a different location on my property, but the spot I chose has raspberries nearby that can help as a wind-break.
 
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Jonathon Hornock: The local deer are pretty interested in any bean I have planted. Just when they start to stretch and fill out, Chomp! and I’m left with some stalks ripped from the ground, or more kindly just chewed down to the ground. This could take a while..

Yes, beans are deer-magnets and I wouldn't even try growing them without protection in my eco-system! Fairly decent protection in fact. My local deer *really*, *really* like beans, so the trick of planting squash around the beans doesn't work here.
 
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I have 3 varieties of runner beans I am trying this year.  Two are mainly ornamental (Painted Lady and Black Coat)  that are listed as having good pod production and flavor and one is a white flowered version called Flavourstar that was developed for eating qualities more then flowers.  It will be interesting to see how they do in our climate this year.  
For those wanting a smaller runner bean Hestia is considered a dwarf that supposedly only grows up to 14 inches.  
Here in the US finding something other then the plain Scarlet Runner Bean can take time but there are some out there.  My seeds came from Pinetree and Vermont Bean Company.

 
Jonathon Hornock
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I do not ‘protect’ any of my plants, though I’m strongly leaning toward some sort of fence. This year I lost a bunch of squash vines and okra to the deer. The beans that are left are hidden among and wrapping around the tomatoes and those are generally left alone. They are probably out scouting more because it’s been so dry the past few months.
 
Jonathon Hornock
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Joseph, have you ever tried a runner with any other types of beans. I think I heard there are like 70 species of phaseolus. What about tepary or Lima? Do you think common beans would cross with those as well? There seems to be a distinguishing (maybe genetic) component that results in either a green/shelly/dry bean or some combination of those.
I do find the perennial nature of the runner to be quite appealing. Pretty cool you could recognize which plants crossed into which others! It’s Always amazing to see what you have discovered!
 
Chad Meyer
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Jonathon Hornock wrote:I think I heard there are like 70 species of phaseolus. What about tepary or Lima? Do you think common beans would cross with those as well?


Although they are in the same genius you can classify things being still more closely or distantly related. The common bean and runner being are quite close and I think scientists think the tepary bean is fairly close. The lima bean is significantly farther related. The runner beans and common been even have a (likely) naturally produced, stabilized hybrid which is a recognized species from Guatemala. Scientists in labs are working to produce hybrids between tepary and common beans with much difficulty and limited success.

That said, biology is messy and sometimes even intergeneric hybrids happen and sometimes they are viable. You never know! Just keep your eyes open for things that look different.
 
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