Research project Legumes: indispensable element in agro-ecological crop systems for food production

In progress LEG-O
chickpea grain

Contact our expert

Main research question

The production of local Flemish protein crops has recently been in the spotlight. The increasing demand for vegetable protein sources, the economic opportunities and the numerous ecological advantages add to the attractiveness of the local cultivation of protein crops. One of the major challenges for the Flemish farmer who wants to start growing these new protein crops is stability. Both in terms of yield and quality, protein crops show lower stability scores in comparison to other crops.

Research approach

Within the Leg-O project we investigate strip cultivation. Recent research in the Netherlands shows that cultivation in strips results in reduced damage by pests and diseases in cauliflower and potatoes, for example, and in a more stable yield. A rotation of only arable crops for human nutrition in strip cultivation is the innovative core idea of this project. The crops we focus on are three dry-harvested legumes: field pea, field bean and red kidney bean, complemented by three cereal crops: baking wheat, durum wheat and malting barley. The choice of durum wheat is a response to the changing climate and the introduction of a potentially new crop in Flanders. We are targeting both organic and conventional arable farmers in order to work with them towards local, sustainable food production for the future. We also involve other partners in the chain including seed companies, agricultural contractors, drying and sorting operators, as well as food processing companies and retailers.

Relevance/Valorization

The overall objective of this project is to increase the yield, quality and stability of three protein crops (field pea, field bean and red kidney bean) and thereby reduce the risks for the farmer. At the same time, we investigate the possible positive effects of the protein crops on the following crop (e.g. additional nitrogen availability after growing legumes). For this purpose, the cereal crops of baking wheat, durum wheat and malting barley are sown. The first steps in chain development and extensive knowledge dissemination will also contribute to improved profitability for the farmer.