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Reportage vidéo sur les recherches de l'unité Agroécologie sur les légumineuses © Bertrand Nicolas

Legumes: a breeding ground for innovation!

In the Bourgogne Franche-Comté region which benefits from a strong research and partnership dynamic focused on vegetable proteins and how they can be valorised, the Agroecology Joint Research Unit studies legumes and works on new varieties for agroecological cropping systems. The aim is to improve and stabilise yields and to guarantee the nutritional quality of the grain produced. The challenge is to make legumes competitive within diversified agricultural and food systems.

By Patricia Léveillé - Maya Press
Updated on 03/27/2018
Published on 07/10/2017

Pea, field bean, soybean or lentils: grain legumes are seeing a renewal of interest in both their cultivation and their uses which both respond to new societal demands for agriculture that takes better account of the environment.  The particular feature of these plants is their ability to establish symbiosis on their roots with rhizobial bacteria in order to utilise atmospheric nitrogen. This has several benefits for agriculture: a reduction in the use of nitrate fertilisers on crops and hence an attenuation of greenhouse gas emissions related to the production and use of synthetic inputs. Another advantage is that legumes enable the diversification and innovation of cropping systems, reducing pest pressure in different agroecological systems and improving soil quality. From a nutritional point of view, legume grains are rich in protein and high-quality nutrients and thus have acknowledged value for human foods or livestock feeds.

Major research programmes are currently under way on legumes and are being led by the Agroecology Research Unit at the INRA Centre in Dijon. They concern the breeding of new varieties, optimisation of the relationships between roots and soil micro-organisms and the inclusion of legumes in crop sequences (as a single crop or associated with a non-legume crop) in order to reduce pressure from weeds or certain parasitic insects. The Agroecology Research Unit has developed a high-throughput phenotyping platform to enable the characterisation of plants (and particularly their root systems), and to evaluate the impact of different microbial inoculums on the biological fixing of atmospheric nitrogen and ultimately on crop yields. The reference centre for genomics in this area, the Unit in Dijon can use its national genetic resource collections on pea, field bean and lupin for research programmes on sequencing of the pea genome, the “PeaMust” Investments for the Future project and the European “Legato” project. Nearly 5000 lines of pea, 1500 of field bean and 1000 of lupin are conserved and described by this reference centre. Recent advances in genomics will help to accelerate the selection process. High-throughput sequencing technologies have enabled the teams in Dijon to develop important resources on pea that will facilitate both the identification of genes of interest and marker-assisted selection.

Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Environment and Agronomy, Plant Health and Environment, Plant Biology and Breeding
Associated Centre(s):

2nd Francophone Symposium on Legumes

For both the land and for humans, legumes are crucial to innovation

17-18 October 2018, Toulouse

Legumes are an important lever if we are to address the global challenges of climate change and food security. This symposium will focus on all legumes – grain, forage or ligneous – and aims to cover all agricultural systems in which they are included, as well as the diversity of their uses for human foods, livestock feeds and non-food purposes.  > For more information (French only)

Report on plant proteins (French only). © science photo - Fotolia

Voir aussi

Plant proteins are coming back into fashion

Our blue planet is faced with a considerable challenge: to meet the protein needs of the humans who live on it and their domestic livestock, without exhausting its natural resources. One thing is already clear: vegetable proteins must play an important role in sustainable and equitable food systems. For this reason, the United Nations declared 2016 as being the International Year of Pulses. Lentils, chickpeas, field beans and green beans were thus given pride of place for a precise purpose: the raise the awareness of human populations to both the nutritional advantages of these protein-rich foods and their environmental benefits. > Read the dossier (French only)