Nutritional quality of food legumes: research update

April 15, 2010 at 9:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dr Maarten van Ginkel, DDG-Research, with Dr Shiv Kumar Agrawal (right), lentil and grasspea breeder. ICARDA’s legume breeding program benefits from the hugely diverse genebank collections

Food legumes are the main source of dietary protein for at least 840 million poor people worldwide. ICARDA’s research is helping to improve grain quality and nutritional value in four legume crops: lentil, chickpea, faba bean and grasspea. The breeding program aims to improve protein content and digestibility, and balance the amino acid profiles in legumes to make the traditional cereal-legume combination even more of a balanced meal. Additional research targets are to increase the content of micro-nutrients such as iron and zinc in lentil, and reduce anti-nutritional factors such as ODAP in grasspea to make it safe for consumption. More than 1600 genotypes were screened. Several have been identified with these traits, and will be used in breeding programs. These include, for example, a wild lentil with extremely high iron content (132.5 mg per kg), and grasspea genotypes with ODAP content as low as 0.073%.

ICARDA breeders also screen several thousand lines each year for physical parameters such as seed size, seed weight and seed coat hardness; cooking parameters such as cooking time and hydration capacity; and milling parameters such as recovery percentage. Wide genetic variability in these parameters creates opportunities for selection and genetic improvement. For example, cooking time in different lentil varieties ranges from 18 to 45 minutes, depending on seed size, seed coat hardness, and chemical composition of the cell wall. Breeding quick-cooking varieties would save time as well as cooking fuel. ICARDA and its partners are working together to identify genotypes with specific traits, for use in breeding programs.

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