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Stress Tolerant Orphan Legumes

Main Focus

The Trust's new programme on "Stress Tolerant Orphan Legumes" focuses on legumes that are heat and drought tolerant, as may be needed to provide a resilient response to a changing climate. A number of food legumes are grown in arid regions, often on marginal land unsuitable for major crop species. Most are neglected by the major funding agencies. The Trust is exploring the following crops because of their heat and drought tolerant qualities, nutritional value and use by subsistence farmers:
  • horsegram (Macrotyloma uniflorum),
  • moth bean (Vigna aconitifolia),
  • Dolichos (Lablab purpureus),
  • marama bean (Tylosema esculentum),
  • and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata).
The Trust’s research goals are to evaluate:
  1. the potential benefits of these crops in hotter,drier climates,
  2. existing germplasm collections and their accessibility,
  3. the need to conserve the crop diversity, and
  4. the need for genetic improvement
The Trust supports several research projects on these legumes. Within these projects student scholarships have been awarded and training provided in molecular breeding techniques.


Click here to view a larger map. Orphan legumes projects are denoted by blue markers.

UAS, Bangalore, India

"Genetic enhancement of Dolichos bean (Lablab purpureus) through integration of conventional breeding and molecular approaches and farmers participatory plant breeding".
PI: Dr M. Byre Gowda

The Trust continues to support a breeding programme focused on the development of determinate, photoperiod insensitive types, pioneered by the recent release of the variety "HA4". The release of a further two new lines is imminent. In support of this activity, a seed storage facility and greenhouse has been constructed. In association with the breeding programme, the Trust also supports the molecular work within the project. This aims to develop a genetic map of Dolichos (Lablab purpureus).

AAU, Jorhat, India

"Establishment of genetic transformation system for pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) for the deployment of gene technology including insect protection".
PI: Dr Sumita Acharjee

The project aims to genetically modify pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) to improve its resistance to insects, particularly pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera). The project also aims to develop a gene transfer system for pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) that will permit the incorporation of genes for traits of economic importance. It is hoped that if these objectives are met, it will reduce the need for the area to import food from its neighbouring states.

UNAM, Windhoek, Namibia

"Domestication of Marama bean: Agronomy and molecular genetic characterisation for its improvement".
PI: Dr Percy Chimwamurombe

The project involves the use of molecular marker assisted selection (MAS) to select for desirable agronomique traits in marama bean. Alongside this, work is being done to characterise the tuber starch and protein and protein inhibitors in the seed of marama bean.

ICRISAT, Hyderabad, India

"Benchmarking traits controlling the plant water budget in orphan legumes".
PI: Dr Vincent Vadez

The main objective of this project is to evaluate the plant water needs of several orphan legume species across seasons, and compare them to commonly grown legume species. This is done by analysing the plant water budget using lysimeters, under both fully irrigated and terminal water stress situations. The project will measure known traits contributing to water saving in rice bean (Vigna umbellata), moth bean (Vigna aconitofolia), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum) and Dolichos (Lablab purpureus).