A project coordinated in Lusignan aims to develop legume crops in Europe and China

The Eucleg project seeks to reduce Europe’s and China’s dependency on imported plant proteins by developing legume crops. It is coordinated by the Multidisciplinary Research Unit for Grasslands and Forage Crops (URP3F) and supported by the European Union.

Alfalfa in bloom. © INRA, CAUVIN Brigitte
Updated on 03/06/2017
Published on 02/09/2017

Since January 2014, the Horizon 2020 programme has allocated EU funding to research and innovation, including the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Its €70.2 billion budget supports three major priorities: excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling seven societal challenges, one of which is sustainable food security. To address this social challenge, Horizon 2020’s third call for projects selected the Eucleg legume project, coordinated by the URP3F. This four-year project unites 38 public and private partners across France (INRA, INRA Transfert, Jouffray-Drillaud, RAGT and Barenburg), twelve other European countries and China.

Growing legumes to produce our own plant-based proteins

Neither Europe nor China grow enough plant proteins to meet all their animal and human dietary needs. In 2013, China imported 60 million tonnes of soybean (i.e., 60% of the world market), a figure that is continuing to rise. Europe imports a steady 70% of what it consumes. Eucleg aims to reduce this dependency by developing the cultivation of legumes that play a major economic role in animal and human diets. Its objectives are to improve crop diversity and yields, ensure yield stability and enhance protein quality for forage crops (alfalfa, red clover) and pulses (pea, faba bean, soybean).

1,000 alfalfa populations under the microscope

To help assess genetic resources, INRA will lend its expertise in quantitative and molecular genetics of legumes and in the development of new phenotyping and genotyping methods. URP3F will study a wide range of alfalfa populations in Europe and China. It will evaluate the genetic variability as well as genetic and environmental interactions in 150 populations; it will look for marker and phenotype combinations in 400 populations; and it will measure the potential that genomic selection offers for those same 400 populations and for another 600 populations that have already been phenotyped by breeders.