Grain Legumes under the microscope: On-farm research in Luxembourg
On 12th June 2014, the Institute for Organic Agriculture Luxembourg (IBLA) invited the Luxembourgish Minister of Agriculture Fernand Etgen and the Secretary of State Marc Hansen to an official tour of the IBLA-research fields at the organic farm of Jos Johanns in Bous (L). The tour started with Jos Johanns greeting the 60 visitors in the name of his whole family. He spoke of the good collaboration with IBLA and how he enjoys providing his fields for research. Raymond Aendekerk (Director of IBLA) continued by presenting IBLA and their different projects. Mr. Aendekerk pointed out the importance of the cooperation between IBLA and the farmers as well as IBLA and other actors in the agricultural research field in order to push forward agricultural research. Mr. Aendekerk went on introducing the new president of IBLA, Jean-Louis Colling-von Roesgen. Mr. Colling-von Roesgen emphasized the great relevance of applied research with farmers and for farmers for agriculture. He also stressed upon the pertinence of the neutrality of research and research institutes.
Many farmers found their way to Bous (L), which shows that local and domestic protein production is also an relevant and current subject for Luxembourgish farmers.
Then Steffi Zimmer and Evelyne Stoll (IBLA) presented the grain legume trials of the COBRA project. Here in Luxembourg, IBLA and the Luxembourgish public research centre – Gabriel Lippmann (CRP-GL), with the financial support of the National Research Fund (FNR), test different grain legumes for their sustainability, their previous crop value and their fodder value for domestic protein production. MS Zimmer talked about the good partnership between the two institutes and thanked the FNR, the lab of the administration of the technical services for agriculture (ASTA) and the technical services of the LTA (Technical School of Agriculture) as well as the Johanns Family for their support.
Due to the protein deficit in Europe, the trial in Luxembourg focuses on grain legumes. Only 3% of arable land in the EU is being used for protein production, which results in fodder import of around 40 Mio. t/year, so 80% of protein needed for fodder. The many negative effects of these imports, e.g. destruction of the rainforest, long transport pathways, mixing with GMO-soybean and huge dependence of the farmers on import-soybean, are well known. In the past, cheap soy imports and low mineral fertilizer prices resulted in a loss of interest in domestic protein production and thus in the processing, breeding and research. A huge decline in grain legume cultivation was seen.
An increase in grain legume cultivation for domestic protein production could offer a solution for this problem. Furthermore, the ability of legumes to fixate nitrogen through their symbiosis with rhizobia bacteria can thus be used.
The Minister Etgen and Secretary of State Hansen, as well as all the visitors, were able to inspect the nodules on the roots, which form through the symbiosis between rhizobia bacteria and legumes (here on the white lupin).
To this aim, on-farm trials with faba bean, peas, lupins and soy bean were set up at two locations in Luxembourg. In addition to the on-farm trial, a plot trial with faba bean and peas in pure stand as well as in mixture and a line trial with breeding lines of faba beans and peas were also cultivated. At the field day, farmers were able to bear witness to the great potential of grain legumes. In the whole of Europe only 5 breeders are still focusing on legumes (not counting soy bean), which has as a result that often only old and disease susceptible varieties are available. It is therefore of great importance, that faba bean and pea breeding is pushed again in order to increase regional protein production.
E. Stoll (IBLA)