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Pushing the boundaries in legume breeding

The goals and objectives in legume breeding, the gaps, the gap opportunities and management of expectations.

Demonstrating the success of legume breeding. Highlighting the level of investment, the gaps, and opportunities for the market. Exploring the barriers to greater success and indicating where innovation can and is being successful in influencing feed and food value for the benefit of health, nutrition, and the environment. Introducing how breeding links with science and asking the question how can the whole value chain support research rather than just the farmer? - introducing the next webinar in the series, Legumes Science.

Register here.

To be recorded and posted here soon after the event.

Provisional programme: Starts at 10am CET (for 2 hours)

5'        Introduction "Challenges in breeding Legumes for Europe"   Roger Vickers / Frédéric Muel : PGRO / Terres Inovia UK

20'      "Gaps in legume availability, access and awareness of suitability for regional production in Europe. Opportunities presented from a retailer's perspective " - Josiah Meldrum - Co-founder and director Hodmedods UK

Hodmedod was founded in 2012 following a community project that asked whether a small regional city could feed itself in a manner that addressed climate change and resource constraints. Quickly Realising that the critical missing link was vegetable protein and specifically pulses, Hodmedod set about creating higher value, short routes to market that would incentivise production and consumption. Co-founder Josiah Meldrum will explain how that work came to involve varietal selection and agronomy as well as marketing, and the opportunity Hodmedod sees for plant breeding to better respond to growing demand for human consumption pulse crops

Recent advances in legume breeding breeding short overview by species:

10'       Faba bean Prof Donal O Sullivan - Professor in crop science Reading University UK

Donal will present preliminary results from a small, experimental faba bean breeding programme conceived to cater for peripheral agroclimatic zones where large plant protein demand remains unmatched by commercial breeding of protein crops. In essence, he will show that a very simple approach of intense recurrent selection on individual plant seed yield from a highly diverse, highly outcrossing population leads to rapid gains in yield potential. Furthermore, this basic scheme can be adapted to local needs across multiple neglected agroclimatic zones with the use of stochastic simulation to optimise scheme designs and enhanced by a common marker-assisted breeding platform.

10'     "Recent advances in pea breeding" - Prof Diego Rubiales - Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, CSIC, Córdoba, Spain

After decades of decline in dry pea cultivation in Europe we are facing a speedy recovery thanks to public awareness on environmental and health issues, which has directed policy measures to promote domestic legume cultivation. Parallel to the decline of pea cultivation in Europe there was a remarkable increase in Canada, made possible by a significant investment in breeding. Predicted increase in pea cultivation in Europe, reinforces the need for public-private concerted efforts on pea breeding to deliver cultivars adapted to more diverse cultivation areas, satisfying the needs of both the producers and the consumers.

Modern genetics started with pea experiments of Mendel. However, subsequent progress in pea genomics has lagged behind other species over decades. In spite of these delays, pea breeding science is flourishing, reaching very significant progress in genomics and phenomics. Success in selecting cultivars meeting the diverse needs will be facilitated by characterization and use of genetic resources, adopting existing tools, from speed breeding to marker assisted selection and genomics. Excellent achievements were already met, some of which will be illustrated in the presentation.

10'       Food legumes Prof Roberto Papa - plant genetics and crop evolution Univesita Politecnica della Marche Italy

10'     "The contribution of Donau Soja for developing soybean production and use in Europe" - Leopold Rittler, Head of Research & Innovation in Donau Soja. Austria

During the last 10 years, soybean production in the EU and its neighbouring countries has experienced an enormous upwards trend. Prolonging this trend as well as embedding other grain legumes in a holistic and sustainable protein strategy for Europe is a priority for Donau Soja. Donau Soja supports all its partners and members in progressing change to address social, environmental and economic challenges in soya production and consumption. This will increase efficiency, fairness and sustainability in European food and feed protein value chains.

EU projects on legume breeding EU projects:

10'       "EUCLEG: a foundation to boost legume breeding"Dr Bernadette Julier- Research Director, INRAE (National Research Institute for Agriculture, food and Environment), France

EUCLEG is a project funded by EU, from 2017 to 2021, entitled “Breeding forage and grain legumes to increase EU’s and China’s protein self-sufficiency”.  EUCLEG is developing improved breeding strategies for legume species that are commercially important, it focuses on two main forage species (alfalfa and red clover) and three grain species (pea, faba bean and soybean). Objectives and first results are presented illustrating the huge diversity available and the genetic progress that could be achieved through molecular breeding.

5'         "ProFaba - Developing improved Vicia faba breeding practices and varieties- Profaba Stig Uggerhøj Andersen - Associate professor - Plant molecular biology MBG Aarhus University, Denmark

Europe currently has a substantial deficit in plant protein production, especially when it comes to crops with high protein content. With an average protein content of 29%, faba bean (Vicia faba) is a prime candidate for a widely adapted protein crop that could substantially contribute to reducing soy imports by increasing the local and sustainable production of plant protein in Europe. ProFaba has brought together faba bean researchers engaged in a number of national and international projects, including NORFAB, Papugeno, BEANS4N.AFRICA, PeaMUST, EUCLEG and Abo-Vici. We carry out multi-site trials using two common germplasm collections. A broad, general panel, ProFaba200, and the Göttingen winter bean panel, which is dedicated to studying frost tolerance. The trials provide us with quantitative data on yield, disease and agronomic traits that are collected in a common Faba Base repository (, which we will use for analysis of genotype by environment interactions and phenological modelling. In addition, we conduct in-depth phenotyping and detailed genetic investigation of specific traits of interest, including autofertility, disease resistance, bruchid-, acid- and frost tolerance, rhizobium interactions and protein quality.

5'        " DiVicia: a PRIMA project to revalorize faba bean and vetches in Mediterranean agriculture"-  Prof Diego Rubiales - Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, CSIC, Córdoba, Spain

DiVicia (2020-2023) is a project funded by PRIMA (Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area. It is coordinated by ESA, France and aims at restoring agrodiversity by revalorizing faba bean and vetches in Mediterranean cropping systems. One major work package addresses characterization and increase of genetic diversity in Vicia faba and V. sativa. For this, a collection of 300 Mediterranean accessions of each species has been gathered, multiplied and distributed among partners for characterization. They are currently being field phenotyped in multiple environments to support modeling of GxE interactions to predict genotype responses under climate change scenarios. Dedicated screening for major diseases and drought responses will take place for both species. The project collections will also be genotyped by high-throughput genotyping-by-sequencing. Phenotypic and genotypic data will be used to realize Genome Wide Association Studies to deliver molecular markers closely linked to the traits of interest, to speed-up screening breeding steps

5          The LegumeGap Project:  Prof Fred Stoddard - Agricultural sciences, crop science research group Helsinki University Finland

LegumeGap is an ERANET SusCrop project on yield-limiting factors for soybean and faba bean in Europe. It employs crop modelling, data mining, field experiments and geographical information systems to estimate potential yield and the reductions due to management, adaptation and knowledge factors across the continent. Breeding-related results show the undiminished importance of resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses along with regionally appropriate phenology for these legumes to contribute to European crop and food systems.

10'       Current EU efforts in breeding legume species what,where,who Frédéric Muel

Illustration of breeding networks some illustration :

5'       "NORFAB and IMFABA – Public-private partnerships in faba bean breeding" -Stig Uggerhøj Andersen - Associate professor - Plant molecular biology MBG Aarhus University Denmark

NORFAB was established with the aim of developing a genomics-based breeding platform for faba bean through a collaborative effort by partners from Denmark, UK, Finland and Canada. Through this program, genetic and genomic resources were established, including a high quality reference gene set, a diversity panel and MAGIC populations. These new resources allowed the identification of the vc1 mutation, which is the only known source of low content of the antinutrients vicine and convicine. The Danish breeders Nordic Seed and Sejet Plant Breeding are central partners, and both initiated faba bean breeding programs as part of the NORFAB project. The public-private partnerships initiated in NORFAB are now being continued in IMFABA, which focuses on protein quality, drought tolerance, yield stability and selection of inbred parental lines for generation of synthetic varieties.

5'         Presentation of the GSP - “groupement des sélectionneurs de protéagineux” - GSP Dr Martine Leflon - Laboratory head and agronomist TERRES INOVIA, France

The GSP is an economic interest group, gathering the main seed companies, breeding pea or faba bean in France. It was created in order to facilitate and develop the research and breeding activities of its members on peas and faba beans. Currently, the GSP has 6 members (Agri-Obtentions, Florimond-Desprez, KWS-Momont, Limagrain, RAGT and Serasem) and receives financial and human supports from Terres Inovia, the French technical center for the oil and protein sector and Terres Univia, the French interbranch organization for oil and protein crops and products. Within the GSP, breeders jointly create and maintain pre-breeding populations in order to produce genetically improved donors ; they develop tools and methods and carry up field trials or tests under controlled conditions to characterize lines of peas or faba beans.

The GSP activities are organized in three axes : (1) the resistance of pea to diseases, and more particularly to aphanomyces; (2) the genetic improvement of winter pea : (3) the genetic improvement of faba bean.

5'         INCREASE Prof Roberto Papa - plant genetics and crop evolution Univesita Politecnica della Marche Italy "Intelligent collections and participatory research for Food Legume breeding" - I will introduce the project INCREASE highlighting the cutting-edge approach to develop multi-omic strategies to facilitate the use of Food Legumes genetic resources for breeding and in particular of chickpeas, common bean, Lentil and Lupins. At the same time the participatory approach with the stakeholder consortium and the Citizen Science experiment will be described and discussed.

5'         Conclusion and Introducing how breeding links with science (next) EU call on breeding (2022) Roger Vickers



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The Leg Value project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 727672.

European Union Legume Innovation Network