He and two colleagues published an important paper about this work in 2006, while he was employed at Ohio State University.

A challenge Pratt is poised to address with local colleagues is the susceptibility tepary seems to have to certain viral pathogens, such as bean common mosaic virus infection. Bean samples from the field lab are among those he is sending to a University of Arizona virologist colleague for testing. It is important to know that his seed stocks are BCMV free before he shares them with colleagues elsewhere.

"I am also working with other researchers in the area to develop a collaborative proposal aimed at eliminating accumulated viral

pathogens in heirloom (traditional) tepary and common bean varieties to foster their adoption and/or increased production," he said.

Expanding the production of tepary in ways that are of benefit to

producers and consumers is really what Pratt's tepary efforts are all about.

Part of his enthusiasm is health related. Tepary beans are now known to be higher in protein and fiber than common beans and to have a lower glycemic index, which suggests they are a healthy food choice for people prone to diabetes and heart disease.

Also on the health front, there have been suggestions that lectin, a chemical compound found in tepary, might have cancer-fighting properties.

Pratt sees teparies, one of several examples of traditional native foods of the region, as a weapon in the fight for better health and an improved economy in Native American communities.    

He cites the example of a farming enterprise south of Phoenix that is marketing their tepary beans and tepary products as a traditional Native American food, with fair success.

"I think we can say that tepary is now sort of breaking out of the minor crops category and is receiving more attention from breeders and researchers," he said. "I think it has a pretty bright future."