Detoxed grass pea: sustainable sustenance for stressful environments

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

Abstract

Grass pea (Lathyrus sativus) offers an excellent opportunity for sustainable agriculture and food security for the poorest of the poor, even in the face of predicted climate change, because it is a legume and performs well in marginal soils or under harsh climatic conditions. Grass pea has been grown for seed and fodder production in many countries, including large parts of India (one of the centres of its origin), Europe and China since it is a low input crop, a cheap source of protein and is particularly tolerant to drought, water logging, and moderate alkalinity. However, grass pea can cause a devastating disease called neurolathyrism believed to be due to its content of beta-N-oxalyl-l-alpha,beta-diaminopropionic acid (ODAP). Grass pea can also inhibit growth in animals when used as feed. Grass pea, therefore, presents as a Janus-faced crop since it provides desperately needed food for those on the edges of survival, but with the concomitant danger of delivering a highly toxic compound to its consumers. Grass pea would benefit from intensified breeding efforts to remove the anti-nutritional toxin and improve its nutritional quality, enhance yields and provide resistance to key pathogens.
We wish to exploit a genomics route to deliver safe technologies for improving this insurance crop. Many important crops, like grass pea, have become orphaned as they are less amenable to improvement because inherently they lack some of the attributes required, like tractable genomes or transformation systems. We propose to establish a TILLING platform, transcriptome sequences and screens for mutations/accessions with improved agronomic traits to improve grass pea as a stress-tolerant legume crop, during this project.

Publications

10 25 50