Grain legumes research for the future
600 million of the world’s most vulnerable people depend on legumes for food
200 million hectares of grain legumes are grown globally
US$24 billion in market value at the farm gate per annum in the developing
rain legumes are protein rich foods that balance cereal-based diets and are the
least resource demanding option to improve the nutrition of poor people.
Grain legumes supply up to 60% of daily protein intake for the poor in parts of subSaharan Africa, and 13% for hundreds of millions of poor in South Asia.
Farmers both consume and sell grain legumes, benefiting from food and income gains.
Grain legumes can take their nitrogen from the air in place of fertilizer, contributing
enormously to sustainable intensification and raising food production.
With grain legumes’ large production and market, we are aiming for an integrated
approach to research for development (R4D) to ensure that current and future
generations of smallholder farmers and poor consumers will benefit.
We need to invest heavily in basic and strategic research, and involve innovative
research to chart new areas to enhance the genetic gain from crop improvement.
Science with a human face
The problem and opportunity
Production of grain legumes is being displaced by
cereals, leading to higher legume prices and negative
Inadequate seed production systems and the lack of
access to seed by distant smallholder producers are
particular bottlenecks to the adoption of improved
In some regions the per capita demand for
legumes is decreasing. As countries develop and
become wealthier, legumes confront competition
from other foods.
productivity. Developing new resilient varieties is
Overall demand for all grain legumes in low-income
food-deficit countries (LIFDC) is expected to double
from the current 30 million tons to 62 million
tons in 2050.
We need to elevate and strengthen our research for
development efforts to increase the productivity
and production particularly of chickpea, pigeonpea
and groundnut in the rainfed areas of Asia and subSaharan Africa.
Grain legumes are also susceptible to climate change
– both drought and heat can severely limit their
Our grain legumes R4D approach
We will use modern approaches to enhance
genetic gain to improve productivity of grain
- genome sequencing
- generating large-scale genotypic
information by developing/ accessing
analysis and decision support tools in
modern breeding approaches.
- phenotyping for drought adaptation traits,
and high-throughput phenotyping for
We will develop insect smart crop
production systems, particularly for
pigeonpea and chickpea, through the use of:
transgenic approaches of insect
introgressing insect resistance from wild
species using genomics-based approaches.
We will harness the potential of doubledhaploid (DH) and heterosis approaches in grain
legumes – promising tools to develop new
high-yielding crop varieties of crops such as
chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut.
These pro-poor technologies make possible
the selection of individuals with desirable gene
combinations and to propagate them as clones,
beneficial in developing countries, where farmers
would be able to save hybrid seed for the following
Partner with us in advancing the development
of high-throughput platform and deployment of
modern breeding approaches in crop improvement
Rajeev K Varshney, Director, Research Program on
Grain Legumes, ICRISAT.
A concept note for
Ensuring nutritional security in rural India