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Periodic Report Summary 2 - LEGATO (LEGumes for the Agriculture of TOmorrow)

Project Context and Objectives:
The LEGATO project was conceived to promote the culture of grain legumes in Europe by identifying priority issues limiting grain legume cultivation and devising solutions in terms of novel varietal development, culture practices, and food uses. LEGATO is developing tools and resources to enable state of the art breeding methodology and to exploit fully the breadth of genetic resources available. The project has focused on selected key characters not previously explored in depth and complementary to other ongoing European and national projects. These topics covered include disease and pest resistance, where in addition to marker development for major fungal and viral pathogens, a focus on emerging insect pests has been made. The impact of end-of-season drought and heat stress on the rhizobial symbiosis, and its consequences for plant performance, is under study. Two characters that can influence grain legume yield, autofertility and number of flowering nodes, are being genetically and functionally dissected. The potential for improving legume nutritional and organoleptic quality by identification of desirable traits and innovative selection methods is being investigated on a wide range of legume accessions. LEGATO has conceived and is evaluating sustainable legume-based cropping systems adapted to different pedoclimatic zones, and respecting local constraints. The participation of commercial partners including SMEs in the areas of marker development, plant breeding, and legume food processing, assures their integration and potential benefit from the advances made in these areas in LEGATO. Promising legume varieties (Pea, faba bean, grass pea, white lupin and lentil) selected by breeders have been tested at a series of pan-European sites to favour the widest possible take-up in agriculture, and the partners potentially concerned participate in stakeholder fora convened regularly during the project.
Project Results:
In WP1, three main aspects have been addressed: yield trait evaluation, drought tolerance selection, and marker generation for exploiting genetic resources. LEGATO has focused on genetic control of two traits that may improve yield, the influence of the more flowering node (MFN) gene(s) in pea, and autofertility in Faba bean. Crossing work for introgressing mfn alleles into 4 elite pea varieties has reached BC3 to BC5 stages. The autofertility potential of lines of a RIL population have been screened, and related QTLs identified.
Drought-response trait selection has been pursued in pea using GBS genotyping on a previously field-phenotyped population. Mutants in candidate genes for contributing to drought tolerance have been isolated and are being characterized. Progress was made on mapping antinutritionals in faba bean and grasspea.
To exploit the sequenced pea genome, a large RIL population (760 lines) has been developed for producing a high-density map, and two backcross populations that introgress P. fulvum or P. elatius into P. sativum, are under development. A new white lupin linkage map was constructed using GBS data from a RIL population.
In WP2, several promising sources of biotic stress resistance have been identified, including to Bruchus species and aphids attacking pea and faba bean. The cellular mechanisms contributing to resistance to Fusarium oxysporum have been investigated using bioassays of possible phytoalexins, and a unique collection of MACE libraries is being made following production of RNAs from susceptible and near-isogenic resistant lines for Ascochyta and Aphid infestations. mlo (powdery mildew resistance gene) homologues have been characterized by translational genomics in six legume crop species.
In WP3 the interaction of abiotic stress and nitrogen management strategies has been studied using High throughput rhizotrons (RhizoTubes) and phenotyping cabins (RhizoCab) set up during project years 1 and 2. . Detailed root and nodule development and C-allocation were assessed by 3D MRI and PET, under various abiotic treatments. Several approaches towards identifying loci involved in drought stress responses were pursued. A detailed characterization of more flowering node (mfn) lines revealed extended flowering, more pods, and higher yield than wild-type.
In WP4 a representative collection of 500 grain legume accessions, (plus 100 harvested from a network of field trials in WP6), is under analysis. To date, basic chemical composition, RFO and cell wall polysaccharide contents have been measured. Legume flour-fortified breads have been evaluated in sensorial analyses and in an experimental auction in parallel.
In WP5, the MASC tool has been used to conceive legume-based cropping systems in France, Sweden and Spain. Crop mixtures of grain legumes reduced lodging, weed infestation, and disease incidence, and increased yields and resource use over sole crops. In order to determine the need for rhizobial inoculation of pea and faba bean, the QQAD (quantitative qualitative amplicon diversity) method was applied to characterize Rhizobial populations of 66 soil samples. From this data, representative Rlv strains isolated were selected and tested for their N-fixing efficiencies.
In WP6, a network of field trials of recently registered varieties was set up, and two years of trials were carried out on 17 sites, covering three climatic zones across Europe. In WP6, Four plant breeders are practicing MAS on pea and faba bean, using disease tolerance and anti-nutritional markers derived from the project. Two stakeholder meetings have been held in Spain and Portugal respectively, allowing a fertile exchange between LEGATO partners and European legume practitioners, and the outreach WP7 has produced 2 Newsletters, brochures, press releases, and maintained the Website.
Potential Impact:
The project has focused on the main bottlenecks for grain legume cultivation, which are low and variable yields, mainly due to certain abiotic and biotic stress factors. By smart breeding based on NGS sequence data for pea, and the introduction of previously unexploited germplasm, the development of new varieties that are more competitive will be accelerated. In addition, cropping systems will be re-designed to profit from the ecological services they provide, in terms of weed suppression, reduced disease incidence and reduced fertilizer and pesticide use. The cropping systems are expected to have diverse end-users: initially bio/organic farms, zones of limited area of production (short circuits), and ecologically sensitive zones such as water catchment areas, but with the expected evolution of agricultural policy rendering them more economically competitive, to see more general application.
LEGATO will help to increase the availability of locally-produced legumes in Europe and diversify protein supply for food and feed purposes. By evaluating the factors affecting acceptability of legume varieties for human consumption, the project will help to diversify local protein supply and promote domestic legume use. Work on legume-based cropping systems and novel disease resistance loci in will secure a position for legumes as a protein source on the feed market. Collectively, these actions will contribute to reduce the geopolitically sensitive deficit in European plant protein production.
The project results will help to take advantage of the “ecological services” which legumes provide including atmospheric nitrogen fixation. LEGATO investigates and optimizes the legume-Rhizobium symbiosis, including the option of inoculation according to the need in different soil-climate zones in Europe. The results will lead to a reduction in synthetic N-fertilizer use, and in the incumbent energy costs. By carrying out a Europe-wide network of trials of major grain legume crops, the most promising ideotypes adapted to various soil-climatic zones, will be identified and with the involvement of local panels, can be incorporated into recommended cropping regimes.
In order to translate LEGATO research and innovation into market applications, the project is driven by nine SMEs. GXP is at the forefront of novel genome analysis techniques and is applying its expertise to a =high-throughput analysis of gene expression in a population derived from a wild pea relative. AMBIS Ltd carries out marker-assisted selection for various traits and directly supports commercial plant breeders. Two associated SMEs, Decollogne and Patrimvs produce and evaluate legume-enriched bakery products. The outcome of their projects should promote the use of grain legume flour as a protein source in the bakery industry. The remaining SME partners, Agrovegetal, Agritec, SZG, PGRO-RL and NPZ are involved with breeding and will benefit directly from the availability of information on markers for key traits and the agronomic data produced by variety trials across Europe as single stands, in rotations and intercropping.
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