The levy-funded body's technical director Anthony Biddle said that the Optibean project - funded by the Government's Technology Strategy Board(TSB) - will try to establish the genetic basis of bean yield to assist breeding higher-yielding varieties.
Agronomic aspects of bean cultivation will be studied, including sowing date, row widths and soil nitrogen supply to following crops. Details will be available to growers via a forthcoming Optibean website.
Meanwhile, the genetic basis of pea quality, including colour and texture, is being investigated at the John Innes Centre, thanks to Biotechnology & Biological Science Research Council and Defra funding, with a view to improving pea breeding.
The PGRO is also part of a consortium looking at agriculture's output of nitrous oxide, a significant greenhouse gas. A study supported by Defra will look at whether legumes contribute to a lowering of nitrous oxide emissions within arable crop rotation.
The TSB is also funding BruchidCast, a monitoring and forecasting system to warn growers of likely outbreaks of bruchid beetles, and hence of the need to spray against these damaging bean pests. Beans will also be trialled as an alternative animal feed to imported soya.
Variety trials and the resultant lists of recommended varieties remain major parts of the pulse levy, Biddle added, with more work planned to provide bean disease data.
The PGRO has announced six dates for pulse briefings in the new year. Contact Sue Bingham on 01780 782585.