Protein content vs yield in legumes: releasing the constraint

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


The demand for vegetable protein in the UK feed industry, coupled to supply constraints, creates a market opportunity for sustainable farming in the UK. To take advantage of this opportunity, farmers need a high yielding, protein rich product. Legume seeds (pulses) have high protein content and so are the product of choice, and they also contribute to environmental sustainability. There is a negative correlation between seed yield and protein content in legumes, and within and between other crops, and so breeding for yield does not ensure increased protein production. Within this project, we will establish the protein content required by feed compounders and relate this to accurate seed compositional analysis of genetic variants in pea. The project will identify the genetic determinants that sustain this or higher production without detriment to seed yield. We will deliver novel plant genotypes to breeders to benefit feed industries, sustainable agriculture and the environment, through a combination of three approaches:
1. Identifying mutagenised Pisum sativum (pea) lines with improved protein digestibility and yield. Mutations will be identified and characterised, and variant lines analysed for yield traits.
2. Analysing current variation for yield and protein in commercial pea cultivars. The genetics of yield traits will be explored in recombinant inbred lines, derived from contrasting parents that reflect the UK pea breeding pool.
3. Establishing a novel source of variation in Vicia faba (faba bean) through mutagenesis to broaden genetic variation within this crop.


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