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About Legumes Translated

What is a Legume? 

Legumes belong to the plant family Fabaceae. Most of the legumes of agricultural interest are in the subfamily Faboideae, characterized by papilionate (butterfly-like) flowers with an erect standard petal, two wing petals and two fused keel petals that protect the ovary. As seen in the featured photo of faba bean flowers, to the right.

This pattern may have co-evolved with bees because there are many examples in nature of dependency between bee species and legume species. While some crop legumes do not rely on bees for pollination anymore (soybean, pea, chickpea, lentil), others remain partly (faba bean) or strongly (red clover) dependent on them.

Most legumes support biological nitrogen fixation via a symbiotic relationship formed with soil bacteria, Rhizobium spp. These root nodules can be seen in the featured photo to the right of a soya plants roots with well-established nodules. They supply themselves with a large share of the nitrogen they need. They also further enrich the soil with fixed nitrogen. This renewable source of nitrogen supports the formation of protein in the seeds. Thus legumes are very valuable crops. They produce high protein seeds for food and feed, high protein forages, and contribute to soil fertility. Legumes are the cornerstone of many sustainable cropping systems.


Legumes Translated supports production and use of grain legumes (‘protein crops’). As a thematic network, it helps farmers benefit from relevant research, particularly research funded by the European Union. This addresses how we obtain and use protein which is a fundamental factor in  the resilience, performance and acceptance of our farming systems. Legumes Translated is part of the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP Agri). The consortium comprises 17 partners in 9 countries with 14 local innovation groups (Actor groups).

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