It is proposed that the Consortium will achieve the following objectives over a 36 month programme:
1. to collate information on the composition of the starch, soluble carbohydrate and fibre fractions of grain legume seeds and to highlight problems with their chemical determination;
2. to identify and characterise those carbohydrates which act as anti-nutritional factors and should be reduced within the diet, and those which act in a positive way for improving health and should be enhanced within the diet;
3. to identify and characterise those carbohydrates which play a beneficial role in plant development, in particular those which protect plants and seeds from temperature stress and desiccation;
4. to utilise biotechnology expertise to develop strategies for genetically manipulating the pathways leading to the synthesis of the carbohydrates and to integrate these with breeding programmes;
5. to develop strategies for breeding grain legumes which maximise the positive roles of carbohydrates within the plant and in nutrition while minimising their anti-nutritional characteristics;
6. to identify processing techniques which reduce the anti-nutritional effects of the carbohydrates while having a minimal effect on other components of nutritional quality such as metabolisable energy;
7. to transfer information from national programmes across Europe to breeding companies for commercial exploitation.
As the result of a previous COPERNICUS Concerted Action Programme (LINE; CIPA-CT924020), the manipulation of carbohydrate (starch, soluble sugars and fibre) content and composition has been highlighted as being of paramount importance for the improvement of grain legume quality in both EU and CCE/NIS States. The proposed Concerted Action programme will allow discussions to take place leading to improvements in the carbohydrate quality of grain legume seeds by processing, breeding and, perhaps most importantly, by utilising biotechnological techniques. Strategies will be developed, using modern molecular techniques as well as conventional breeding methods, to manipulate the content and composition of these compounds according to their functions within the plant and as important sources of human food. The development of these ideas will capitalise on information from national programmes on the role of these compounds within the plant (e.g. the soluble carbohydrates have an important role in protecting the plant from environmental stress and starch is an important storage compound within the seed); as important nutritional components of the diet (e.g. starch and the mono- and di-saccharides); as important dietary compounds for improving human health (e.g. fibre and starch, the latter being important for diabetics because it is much more slowly digested than cereal starches); and as undesirable anti-nutritional compounds (e.g. the raffinose oligosaccharides and the galactosyl cyclitols, both of which have been implicated as sources of flatus in humans).
The Consortium comprises 29 participants from 9 CCE/NIS and 5 EU States divided within the programme into 6 Task Groups covering chemical analysis, nutrition, plant physiology, biotechnology, breeding and processing, respectively. In addition, 4 of the participants are part of commercial organisations (3 in CCE/NIS and I in EU States).