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Food legumes are annual and multifunctional crops with extraordinary historical importance for the agriculture and the environment of the Mediterranean basin. They are protein- rich and integral part of the Mediterranean diet. Besides, they are used for animal feed and fodder. Grown in rotation with cereals, they improve significantly soil fertility and minimise the use of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, contributing to a sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture in the region. Despite the importance of food legumes and the history of their recent breeding, the progress achieved in the Mediterranean region remains modest.

In what can be considered as an EU-wide market failure, investment in advanced technologies for legumes lags behind that of the cereals and other major crops such as potato and tomato. Therefore, for food security and economic reasons, it makes strategic sense for the EU and Mediterranaen countires to set about improving its own capacity to grow legume crops. Improved sustainability can be achieved by identifying and providing germplasm to the legume breeding community that can enable increased productivity with a reduced consumption of natural resources. Advanced breeding techniques underpinned by modern post-genomic technologies promise to accelerate the production of novel germplasm for all crop species, but the means to do this for legumes lag behind crops such as the cereals.

Medileg is a collaborative interdisciplinary initiative proposed to promote grain legume cultivation in Mediterranean countries. It includes biotechnologists, agronomists, plant breeders, crop physiologists, organic chemists and phytopathologists from Algeria, Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunis.

In this project, our main objective is to stabilize the yield and production of major food legume cultivars adapted to different pedoclimatic conditions encountered in the Mediterranean region. For this purpose, we will use a multidisciplinary, integrated and participatory research including biotechnology, plant breeding, plant physiology, organic chemistry and crop protection in order to identify the best food legume genotypes that can resist disease infection and tolerate drought and salinity and to propose appropriate agronomic practices that may help different grain legumes crops to resist better to this limiting factors.
An ARIMNet project