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Graduate student honored at Central American agriculture conference

Photo of Maria Tobar Pinon

Tobar Piñón

NDSU plant sciences master’s student María Tobar Piñón was awarded first place for her presentation in the legumes section at the Central American Cooperative Program for the Improvement of Crops and Animals held in El Salvador, May 16-19.

She presented her research, titled “Genetic Diversity of the Guatemalan Climbing Bean Collection.” Guatemalan climbing beans have been suggested to represent the race “Guatemala,” a new race in the Middle American gene pool of common bean. Tobar Piñon’s research confirmed the existence of the race “Guatemala” after evaluating the genetic differentiation and genetic diversity of a Guatemalan climbing bean collection. The group is a potential source of new alleles that can be used in breeding programs.

“María’s results are an important scientific breakthrough in bean genetics,” said Tobar Piñón’s co-adviser Juan Osorno, associate professor of plant sciences and dry bean breeder. “Her results confirm something that has been suggested before based on results obtained from a few samples, but nobody has done it at the scale and resolution we did. These results may change the way in which the organization of bean genetic diversity will be presented in future papers.”

Tobar Piñón is working on her master’s degree in plant sciences advised by Phil McClean, professor and director of the genomics and bioinformatics program, and Osorno, Her home country is Guatemala.

She is supported by a grant titled "Genetic Improvement of Middle-American Beans for Guatemala" from the USAID Legume Innovation Laboratory. Osorno leads the project, and McClean is a co-principal investigator.

The Central American Cooperative Program for the Improvement of Crops and Animals is an annual meeting of researchers, students and professionals related to agriculture, livestock and forestry in the Central American region, Mexico and the Caribbean. The meeting location rotates among the founding countries of the program.

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