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Terres Inovia, ICARDA, and French breeders join to broaden the genetic base of lentils and chickpeas

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Objective: to promote the development of lentils and chickpeas in France through research collaboration

05 September 2023, Paris: Terres Inovia, ICARDA and three French crop breeding companies – Agri-Obtentions SA, Pro’Pulse and Semences de Provence – signed a three-year research agreement to develop more nutritious, climate-resilient lentil and chickpea crops via natural breeding methods. By Increasing the pool of plant genetic resources, the project will also make more lentil and chickpea varieties available in France.

Initiated as a part of the Cap Protéines program’s project “Evaluating and disseminating varieties of legumes and oilseeds with a high protein content”, this research collaboration will pool investment for lentil and chickpea varietal creation and promote genetic diversity.

Developing and evaluating a new gene pool

The project will run until 2025 and sets up two main areas of collaborative work focused on improving the pool of plant genetic resources and the identification of key traits. Firstly, the development of a new source of plant genetic resources adapted to, and evaluated under, French conditions. Secondly, the cooperation and sharing of scientific and technical information between the partners to rapidly assess relevant genetic resources currently existing in global genebank networks and research institutions, and to create a critical mass of genetic diversity available for chickpea and lentil development in France.

A wider gene pool means better crops

Due to a lack of research investment in pulses, there is a low supply of related genetic resources from which variety can be drawn. But growing consumer demand for legumes and pulses in France, along with the impact of climate shocks on agriculture, now means genetic diversification of legumes and pulses is vital to increase future production resilience and productivity.

“This new research agreement signed between Terres Inovia, ICARDA, Agri-Obtentions SA, Pro’Pulse, and Semences de Provence, is a major step forward for the future of lentil and chickpea crops. Not only will it allow the sharing of scientific and technical knowledge between partners, but it will also expand thegenetic diversity available to ensure the future resilience of lentils and chickpeas under the climate crisis. Upcoming new lentil and chickpea varieties will ultimately increase added value on farms,” says Gilles Robillard, President of Terres Inovia.

“By expanding the genetic pool of lentil and chickpea crops, we are not only creating more nutritious and climate-resilient varieties, but also offering farmers in France and around the world better options for successful yields in the face of the climate crisis. This multi-partner collaboration marks a significant step towards ensuring the future resilience of these crops, and we are proud to be a part of it,” says Dr. Shiv Kumar, ICARDA Chief Lentil Breeder.

“We are happy to take part in this innovative collaboration, which shows the motivation of French breeders to work together to offer more suitable varieties for the market. Partnership with ICARDA, specialist of crops grown in arid zones, which are more water efficient and tolerant to drought, will allow us to better adapt our genetic pools to the climate changes that our farmers are living today”, says Julie Toussaint, manager of Semences de Provence.

“ “The range of pulses offers diversified options to help the resilience of our agricultural production in a context of climate and food transition. And it depends on our ability to use most of the diversity of our genetic resources. We are delighted to be working with ICARDA, the reference institute for the conservation and use of the genetic diversity of Mediterranean agricultural species, particularly lentils and chickpeas, which are essential resources for the agro-ecological transition of our food production systems,” says Vincent Béguier, Managing Director of Agri-Obtentions.

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