Reliable estimations of drought tolerance in wild plant populations have proved to be challenging and more accessible alternatives are desirable. With that in mind, an ecological diversity study was conducted based on the geographical origin of 104 wild common bean accessions to estimate drought tolerance in their natural habitats. Our wild population sample covered a range of mesic to very dry habitats from Mexico to Argentina. Two potential evapotranspiration models that considered the effects of temperature and radiation were coupled with the precipitation regimes of the last fifty years for each collection site based on geographical information system analysis. We found that wild accessions were distributed among different precipitation regimes following a latitudinal gradient and that habitat ecological diversity of the collection sites was associated with natural sub-populations. We also detected a broader geographic distribution of wild beans across ecologies compared to cultivated common beans in a reference collection of 297 cultivars. Habitat drought stress index based on the Thornthwaite potential evapotranspiration model was equivalent to the Hamon estimator. Both ecological drought stress indexes would be useful together with population structure for the genealogical analysis of gene families in common bean, for genome-wide genetic-environmental associations, and for postulating the evolutionary history and diversification processes that have occurred for the species. Finally, we propose that wild common bean should be taken into account to exploit variation for drought tolerance in cultivated common bean which is generally considered susceptible as a crop to drought stress.
Cortés, A.J.; Monserrate, F.A.; Ramirez-Villegas, J.; Madriñán, S.; Blair, M.W. Drought Tolerance in Wild Plant Populations: The Case of Common Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). PLoS ONE (2013) 8 (5) e62898. [DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062898]