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Final Report Summary - GRAIN LEGUMES (New strategies to improve grain legumes for food and feed)

The principal objectives of the GRAIN LEGUMES project were to:
- align research into grain legume crops in Europe and integrate it with related activities worldwide;
- associate research into grain legume crop traits with biological studies in model systems;
- develop genetic and genomic tools for improving the understanding of grain legumes;
- disseminate knowledge to all interested parties

Grain legumes were underused by European farmers mainly because of yield inconsistency; therefore the project sought to mobilise and integrate European scientific research into grain legumes in order to underpin the redress of this deficiency by:
- optimising parameters for legumes in feed quality and safety, while using legumes to develop healthy and sustainable agriculture;
- investigating variation in grain legume seed composition and the factors which affect it;
- developing new genetic, genomic, post-genomic and bioinformatic tools to improve and sustain grain legume production and quality.

To achieve these specific objectives, the project sought to integrate a combination of approaches, including biochemistry, plant and crop physiology, agronomy, plant genomics and breeding, as well as animal nutritional studies. Particular emphasis was laid on the generation and use of state-of-the-art methodologies including systematic mutagenesis, genomics and bioinformatics together with transcriptomics and metabolomics.

The project was divided into Work packages (WPs) which were grouped into seven modules. The objectives and main results of the modules are stated below:

WP 1.1 - Grain legumes in feed
This WP has focused on the improvement of knowledge concerning the nutritional value of European legume seeds, specifically peas, as well as the evaluation of functional characteristics of European grain legumes to support health in pigs and poultry. For this purpose, tools were developed to assess the effects of grain legumes on nutritional value to determine the grain legume effects on the microbial activity in different parts of the digestive track of pigs and poultry by measuring the non-enzymatic digested fractions which could potentially be used as substrate for growth of intestinal microflora. In vitro studies into the binding characteristics of grain legume fractions towards pathogenic microbial species in the gut were performed, as well.

WP - 1.2 Feed processing and nutritional value
The aim of this WP was to examine the potential of processing crude grain legumes to improve the nutritional value of legume-based products. The processes examined were hydrothermal treatment, germination and air classification. The efficacy was evaluated in-vitro, in digestibility trials and in feeding trials with salmon and piglets.

Module 2 - Economic and environmental impact
This module was designed to comprehend agronomic approaches that maximise the benefits of grain legumes in crop rotations, while minimising any potential for adverse effect. The lower input farming WP focused on the new cropping technologies for grain legumes in European arable rotations and an improved understanding of the beneficial and the potential risks associated with grain legumes while the results of the economic and environmental analysis WP showed that the European deficit in protein concentrates could be reduced by increased grain legume production in Europe, but the situation varied greatly amongst the countries.

Module 3 - Seed composition and quality

WP 3.1 used a systems approach to analyse seed composition and quality. It used natural diversity as a source of genetic variation. Marker-assisted breeding in a crop plant was combined with the use of modern analytic tools in genomics and metabolomics, to analyse the biochemical and molecular mechanisms that underlie traits that are relevant for nutrition. Genetically well-characterised pea lines with improved protein levels or composition were considered as the starting point. They were subjected to a broad analysis to gain insights into the underlying causes of the changes, to assess any negative impacts these changes have, and to screen for patterns and clusters in metabolites and transcripts that could allow nutrition-related traits to be monitored by proxy.

WP 3.2 adopted genomics approaches to identify key genes that may regulate seed composition. The ultimate aim was to identify key regulatory genes that control pea seed development and composition. It carried out a detailed analysis of events during seed filing in the premier model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, and in a model legume, Medicago truncatula, to discover possible candidate genes. The analysis was supplemented by some specific studies to test the effect of altering the expression of a small number of candidate genes in pea.

Module 4 - Identification of factors affecting grain legume seed composition and supply
This module aimed to comprehend the factors which affect the growth and productivity of grain legumes. It adopted various approaches and it put a substantial effort concerning the understanding of the relationship between corresponding biological processes in crops and models by exploiting technical developments in the model system Medicago truncatula.

Module 5 - Genetic and genomic tools
The objective of this module was to devise a series of innovating genetic and genomic tools to facilitate studies and breeding of legumes. Major European legume crops, pea, broad bean, chickpea, lentil, lucerne and clover are evolutionarily and genetically closely related to Medicago truncatula. The driving idea of this module was thus to exploit this genome conservation between model and crop species to develop a series of diverse and complementary novel tools.

Module 6 - Bioinformatics
The objectives of this module include the development, implementation and population of variety of databases used to organise, store and communicate data generated, as well as the development of different types of bioinformatics analytical tools to address genome scale and comparative analysis in grain legumes.

Module 8 - Dissemination and transfer
This module facilitated the GLIP interface and strengthened networking and the dissemination of knowledge amongst scientists and stakeholders related to legume production and uses in Europe and worldwide.

Informations connexes

Reported by

Norwich Research Park, Colney
United Kingdom
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Agriculture - Food