Legumes are a very special type of crop; they are not only a source of highly nutritious food and feed but legumes require no inorganic nitrogen fertiliser, which means they have major advantages as a more sustainable crop. Despite their benefits, legume-based farming systems have not become common practice as they are seen as being less profitable.
The small but mighty chickpea packs a dietary and environmental punch. They are an important source of nutrition, especially protein, for billions of people across the world. Additionally, bacteria that live in root nodules of chickpea plants pull in atmospheric nitrogen, increasing soil productivity.
But breeding new varieties of chickpeas with desirable traits – such as increased resistance to diseases and pests – is difficult. In fact, it is “tedious and inefficient,” says Thomas Stefaniak, a researcher at North Dakota State University (USA).