Skip to main content

Fostering sustainable legume-based farming systems and agri-feed and food chains in the EU

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - LEGVALUE (Fostering sustainable legume-based farming systems and agri-feed and food chains in the EU)

Période du rapport: 2020-06-01 au 2021-05-31

It is generally agreed that the reduction in grain-legume production areas from the early 1990s is explained by the widening gap in farmers’ annual margins between farmers growing legumes and those growing cereal crops. Indeed, the benefits from legumes are more appreciable at the cropping systems level, than on the sole crop. Thus, studying the ecosystem services provided by legume-based cropping systems in real farms will help to motivate farmers to grow these species. To support the introduction of legume crops in the European cropping systems, support should be proposed to farmers and other stakeholders, with data, references, and knowledge. To stop this decline, new outlets with higher added value based on these crops need to be identified. There is also a need to better share the added value in the legume supply chains and to promote institutional changes to optimize Europe’s access to supplies of plant protein based on legumes and to foster innovations in legume value chains. There is also a need for market transparency to overcome local and regional lock-ins. This aimed to find the ways enabling actors of legume production, trading, processing, to understand price-setting mechanisms and to gain access to specific and up-to-date market information. In this context, the policy is key to ensure legume production. However, there is no dedicated legume policy, but rather a complex policy mix providing incentives to farmers that reflect in a variables profitability of legumes cultivation. Practical policy options must be improved to develop sustainable and competitive legume-based farming systems and feed and food chains in the EU. To foster the development of a legume-based value chain, transition paths must be identified.
Ecosystem services have been measured on-farm, to provide knowledge on the benefits that legume-based systems can supply. A literature review showed that only a few ecosystem services were studied on a small number of legume species, opening research avenues for increasing this knowledge gap. Based on a large database built from legume yields, a model allowing to simulate the yields of 5 legume species, was developed and applied to simulate the legume yields achievable across Europe, for current and future climates. All the above results were used to design a decision-support system to help farmers and advisors to increase legume areas.
Current cropping systems, with and without legumes, were analysed and described, based on statistical data and expert knowledge. By using pieces of these cropping systems, scenarios of development of legumes were built with stakeholders, in 4 global socio-economic contexts, and assessed with common indicators, showing that the production of crude protein was not improved but was maintained with far lower use of N fertilizer and energy, showing the efficiency of the legume-based cropping systems.

LegValue observed various ways of organising value chains with legumes, and production contracts appear to be a way to sustain commitment between stakeholders, particularly for emergent outlets in food or feed with quality assets. LegValue helps to think about the stakeholder’s strategies to develop legumes, thanks to the analysis of the current potential of legumes for food and the food innovation on markets, as well as the quality parameters used for legumes and their compatibility between European countries.
The analyses of the existing legume markets heterogeneity from a marketing perspective allow defining the conditions that can facilitate the creation of a European legume market. LegValue has identified local and regional levers in the development of legumes and the potential of foreign trade of legumes in the EU. The influence of some stakeholders in this market, especially processors was highlighted. Furthermore, price determinants, price indicators, and market information scenarios to facilitate or support the decision of the actors have been produced.
Best practices and perspective improvements in policy instruments towards increasing the production of legumes in Europe were identified based on information and input from a series of national and EU level workshops, and on an in-depth analysis of a large body of documentation.
LegValue produced transition pathways in the four defined future scenarios using building blocks (interventions and incentives) that differed in timing and choice between the four diverging futures. The increase in legume production seems possible in any of the four future scenarios.
During the webinar series organized jointly with the TRUE project in April and May 2021, the launching of the LIN (Legume Innovation Network) brings the opportunity to connect innovators throughout the value chain with the common interests of developing the legume market for long lasting effect. All the project’s results are available here:
The studies implemented at the farm level give insights and technical solutions to grow legumes with higher satisfaction in various (and new) regions in Europe. Achievable yields for 5 legume species allow farmers to assess the performance that a new legume crop will reach in their farm. The Decision-Support System was developed to facilitate the design of legume-based cropping systems that can enhance the provision of targeted ecosystem benefits, for reaching agronomic & economic priorities as well as environmental services. This tool also raises awareness among farmers and advisors, through an economic calculator at the rotation scale, of the economic benefits of growing a new grain legume crop in their context. Concerning the legume value chains, various types of data were used in an original and novel way, requiring strong interdisciplinarity and innovative methodologies. The principle of data triangulation was applied to understand the stakeholders’ behaviors in the value chains under study: LegValue combined grid survey, open-ended interviews, direct insights from the stakeholders during workshops of the project. Specific data were collected from big data platforms such as MINTEL-GNPD for the analysis of food innovation on markets. The protocols and methodologies developed can be reused and are accessible from open repository.
LegValue allows a better understanding of the policy mix governing legume crops and how this can be improved: a) improvement of individual instruments; b) better coordination among instruments and policy areas (e.g. nutrition, environment, and agriculture). Results have already been fed into the policy process through the large effort in participatory activities (over 20 workshops) and are expected to be of high interest in the short term in connection to the country development of national strategic plans.
In each of the four diverging future scenarios, transition pathways lead to increased legume production if provided interventions are carefully timed and chosen. This shows that the increase of legumes in the EU is a policy choice that is robust in diverging socio-economic contexts in the different member states.
LegValue Logo