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Review article2017Peer reviewed

Grain Legume Production and Use in European Agricultural Systems

Watson, Christine A.; Reckling, Moritz; Preissel, Sara; Bachinger, Johann; Bergkvist, Goran; Kuhlman, Tom; Lindstrom, Kristina; Nemecek, Thomas; Topp, Cairistiona F. E.; Vanhatalo, Aila; Zander, Peter; Murphy-Bokern, Donal; Stoddard, Fred L.


There is a great demand for high- protein materials for livestock feed in Europe and European agriculture has a deficit of about 70% high- protein materials of which 87% is met by imported soybean and soy meal. This reflects the fact that grain legumes are currently under represented in European agriculture and produced on only 1.5% of the arable land in Europe compared with 14.5% on aworldwide basis. Several grain legumes have the potential to replace at least some of the soya currently used in the diets of monogastric animals, ruminants, and fish. There are also opportunities for greater use of legumes in new foods. Here we review the contribution of ecosystem services by grain legumes in Europeanagriculture startingwithprovisioningservices intermsof foodandfeedandmoving on to the contribution theymake to both regulating and supporting serviceswhich are in part due to the diversity which these crops bring to cropping systems. We explore the need to understand grain legume production on the time scale of a rotation rather than a cropping season in order to value and manage the agronomic challenges of weed, pests, and diseases alongside themaintenance or improvement of soil structure, soilorganicmatter, and nutrient cycling. A review of policy interventions to support grain legumes reveals that until very recently these have failed to make a difference in Europe. We contrast the European picture with the interventions that have allowed the development of grain legume production in both Canada and Australia. Whether farmers choose to grow more legumeswill depend onmarket opportunities, the development of supply chains, and policy support aswell as technical improvementsofgrainlegumeproductionsuchas breeding of new varieties and management development to improve yield stability. However, to really increase the production of grain legumes in Europe, the issues are far more wide reaching than agronomy or subsidy and require a fundamental rethinking of value chains to move grain legumes from being niche products to mainstream commodities.

Published in

Advances in Agronomy
2017, Volume: 144, number: 144, pages: 235-303 Title: Advances in Agronomy
ISBN: 978-0-12-812419-2
Publisher: Academic Press