Food legumes are annual and multifunctional crops with extraordinary historical importance for the agriculture and the environment of the Mediterranean basin. Besides, they are used for animal feed and fodder, contributing to a sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture in the region. Despite the importance of food legumes and the history of their recent breeding, the progress achieved in the Mediterranean region remains modest and their cultivation is decreasing. As an example, Spain imports 85% of the beans, 60% of the lentils and 75% of the chickpeas that are consumed. A similar trend is also observed in all Mediterranean countries. There is an urgent need to rehabilitate legumes in the cropping systems in order to improve productivity and sustainable exploitation of agricultural lands in these regions, as well as people’s quality of life. Development of cultivars with stable yields, adapted to peculiarities of Mediterranean climates will offer significant market opportunities for seed companies and farmers.
The TRUE Case Study performed by Solintagro aims to promote grain legume cultivation in Mediterranean rain fed low-input farming systems. The aim is to evaluate currently and previously grown grain legume cultivars and landraces for characteristics of importance to sustainable agriculture, giving priority to the best combination of increased yield and resistance to stresses and integrated management. Towards this aim, we tested 69 legume accessions belonging to 6 crop species (chickpea, grass pea, lentil, white lupin, pea and faba bean) covering from elite, traditional and/or local legume varieties of agronomic importance that the enterprise (in collaboration with researchers from the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture) previously selected principally for pathogen resistance.
Legumes were sown by Solintagro during seasons 2017/18 and 2018/19 in collaboration with local farmers at 3 different locations. Crops were phenotypically and agronomically evaluated (% of seeds germination, plant density, resistance to naturally occurring stresses, time to flowering, to pods formation and to pod ripening, lodging and plant height, as well as biomass and seed yield) in order to select the most well-adapted to each location.
In the first cropping season (2017/18), plots were established in December using minimum tillage techniques. The season was characterized by wet winter and spring, and a hot, dry summer with drought conditions. The second cropping season (2018/19) was characterized by a general lower rainfall conditions and early-spring increased temperature which accelerate crop maturation and, in general, limited the disease development. We started harvesting by mid-May and we are actually at the midpoint. The whole dataset including pedoclimatic data conditions, phenotypic and agronomic crop values, as well as nutrient seeds contents will be completed by mid-summer.
Pedro Luna Casado