Fagiolo a Pisello’ di Colle di Tora

Crop: Phaseolus vulgaris L. (Common bean)

The landrace called ‘Fagiolo a Pisello’, is cultivated at Colle di Tora (Rieti Province, Italy) on the steep hillsides of lake Turano on the Apennine mountains by few farmers in small, separate fields. According to the farmers, this landrace originated from a seed sample brought to Colle di Tora at the end of the 19th century by a woman who returned from South America. Phaseolin analysis confirmed that the ‘Fagiolo a Pisello’ landrace belongs to the Andean gene pool (phaseolin ‘C’ type).

The landrace is sown in late spring and shows late flowering (August) and harvest (end of October). It is characterized by an aggressive climbing ability, which implies the use of high poles to sustain the plants, white flowers and a small whitish seeds characterised by optimal organoleptic qualities. The landrace is discriminated from other Italian landraces and commercial cultivars by molecular markers (Negri and Tosti 2002). Because of its very particular thermal, humidity and edaphic requirements, it cannot be succesfully grown in other areas (Negri and Tiranti 2010). In particular, farmers say that, when it is cultivated at lower altitudes than usual, it is highly infested by bruchids (Bruchidae).

Cultivation System: low-input conditions.

Geographical Information

Country: Italy

‘Fagiolo a Pisello’ is traditionally cultivated in the municipality of Colle di Tora (Lazio Region, Province of Rieti). The landrace is cultivated in small separated fields, for a total of a few hectares. The fields are located in the upper part of the land belonging to the municipality at different altitudes, ranging from 748 to 900 m a.s.l. (Tiranti and Negri 2007).

Farmer(s) description:

During the 90s, the landrace appeared to be in danger of extinction because it was only cultivated by five elderly farmers who were not interested in its potential development. The few young people still living in the cultivation area did not seem to be very interested in continuing its cultivation due to the heavy work involved and the inconvenient place where it is grown. Each farmer inherited this landrace from his parents and has always multiplied his seeds without exchanging them.

Currently, however, the number of farmers still cultivating ‘Fagiolo a Pisello’ increased up a dozen possibly also thanks to the provisions of the Lazio Region Law (n. 15, 1st March, 2000); eight of these farmers are part of the ‘Rete Regionale di Conservazione e Sicurezza’ (Regional Network for In Situ Conservation and Use of Genetic Resources) of Regione Lazio (see sections ‘Added value’ and ‘External support’ below).

Propagation system: Seed, self-pollination

Multiplication procedures and consequences on landrace diversity:

The common bean is a predominantly self-pollinating plant, but crosses do occur where presence of insects is high. Each farmer multiplies his own seed under slightly different agronomic conditions. The average number of plants multiplied by each farmer each year ranges from hundreds to a few thousands. At harvesting, each farmer selects seeds that will be used for the next season. While a farmer selects for ‘small seed size’ another selects for ‘large seed size’. Farmers do not usually exchange seeds. 

As a consequence of the farmer selection procedures and of microenvironmental selective effects, the landrace appears to be structured as a metapopulation in which a substantial differentiation is maintained at the subpopulation level. An appropriate on-farm conservation of a structured landrace like ‘Fagiolo a Pisello’ then requires that subpopulations be maintained on the farms from which they come (Tiranti and Negri 2007).

Management plan existence:

The landrace management relies completely on farming activities in the area.

Added Values

Market - existing and novel:

It has a rich, local niche market due to its smooth, doughy taste and very limited production. Most of the farmers sell the products directly or by using local distributors. While the market for ‘Fagiolo a Pisello’ could be expanded, no territorial or quality brand has been adopted until now.

Others (e.g. commercial/geographical brands or special traits):

In 2005 ‘Fagiolo a Pisello’ was included into the Regional Register of Genetic Resources of Lazio Region (Italy) following the implementation of the Lazio Region Law (n. 15, 1st March 2000 (http://www.arsial.it/arsial/wp-content/uploads/page/n.1-legge-regionale.pdf) which is aimed at safeguarding and promoting the cultivation of local genetic resources.

The Lazio Region, through its body called ‘Agenzia Regionale per lo Sviluppo e l’Innovazione dell’Agricoltura del Lazio’ (ARSIAL, the Regional Agency for Agricultural Innovation and Development of Lazio), established a Regional Network for In Situ Conservation and Use of Genetic Resources. The network gives implementation to the above-mentioned Lazio Regional Law. A small monetary contribution is provided to the farmers adhering to the network for maintaining landraces. The network is also aimed at facilitating the exchange of reproduction material within the network members.

Currently, no scientific support is given to landrace maintainers. In the past, several initiatives have been carried out in an attempt in order to save it. Among them morpho-phenological characterisation activities were initially carried out by University of Perugia to precisely describe the landrace and then allow its registration in the Lazio Regional Register of Genetic Resources.

Accessions of ‘Fagiolo a Pisello’ are kept, under long terms storage conditions in the germplasm bank of the Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Science of The University of Perugia (FAO ITA-363) and in the ARSIAL genebank.

Provisions set by Regione Lazio, the high quality of the product, the increased perception of the landrace value and a renewed interest in agriculture give hope of on-farm conservation in the next future.

Uncertain. To have access to the resource ARSIAL should be contacted (http://www.arsial.it/arsial/contattaci/)

Case study prepared by Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Alimentari e Ambientali (DSA3), Università degli Studi di Perugia (UNIPG), Italy. 

Most of updates have been communicated by Dr Paola Taviani (ARSIAL).

  • Negri V, Tiranti B (2010) Effectiveness of in situ and ex situ conservation of crop diversity. What a Phaseolus vulgaris L. landrace case study can tell us. Genetica 138:985–998. doi: 10.1007/s10709-010-9485-5
  • Negri V, Tosti N (2002) Phaseolus genetic diversity maintained on-farm in central Italy. Genet Resour Crop Evol 49:511–520. doi: 10.1023/A:1020902508166
  • Regione Lazio ARSIAL. http://www.arsial.it/arsial/biodiversita/. Accessed 25 Mar 2019
  • Tiranti B, Negri V (2007) Selective microenvironmental effects play a role in shaping genetic diversity and structure in a Phaseolus vulgaris L. landrace: implications for on-farm conservation. Mol Ecol 16:4942–55. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03566.x