1. Agrobiodiversity

Biological diversity of the crops is the basis of agriculture. For this reason, is it necessary to know which species are better adapted to different edaphoclimatic conditions. From the seed bank of the Misión Biolóxica de Galicia (MBG), the Operative Group PROTEINLEG has evaluated a total of 175 traditional and wild varieties of legumes in different growing environments, including pea, bean, chickpea, broad bean and lupin bean.

The trials were conducted to evaluate the agronomic adaption and the yield of these variaties in three different locations (Ourense, OU; Pontevedra, PO; Almería, AL). As a result of these trials, the best adapted varieties to a specific environment were selected for each legume. These 10 varieties (2 for each legume studied) came, in all cases, from the east of the Iberian Peninsula.

For each of the species evaluated, the following graphs show the results in terms of yield (kg/ha) and average production per species under the study conditions.

In general, the cultivation date has influenced the total yield of the crop for all species, benefiting in some cases the autumn cultivation and in others the spring. There are autochthonous varieties that show similar or even higher production yields than commercial varieties, which shows us the value of biodiversity as a resource that we must maintain in these crops.  

The purpose of this information is to provide the farmer with the plant material together with the necessary information on its agronomic behavior, in order to be able to make decisions on the choice of variety for a specific crop cycle and location.

2. Sustainability

Sustainability in agriculture implies increasing the production of quality food through environmentally respectful practices.  In a climate change scenario, it is necessary to identify legume varieties that present a better adaptation to different stresses, and therefore improve crop sustainability.

Within the framework of the project, biotic and abiotic stress trials were carried out by the Misión Biolóxica de Galicia (MBG), the Centro Tecnolóxico da Carne (CTC) and Semillas Ramiro Arnedo, in different locations inSpain, for pea, bean, chickpea, broad bean and lupin bean.

Regarding abiotic stress caused by low water availability, the following conclusions were drawn:

  • Pea: In regions of low pluviometry (Ourense), irrigation favors its production. However, in provinces with higher pluviometry (Pontevedra), irrigation did not improve yield.
  • Broad bean: Flowering irrigation helps to ensure a good development of flowers and fruit set.
  • Bean: Varieties with a good tolerance to water stress were identified.

Regarding biotic stress, caused by the presence of pathogens and pests, tolerance trials with and without phytosanitary treatment were conducted on pea, broad bean and bean. Except in the case of beans (where, due to the weather this year, there was hardly any incidence of inoculum or pests), both peas and beans suffered losses of between 36% and 58% of production.

3. Animal feed

3.1. Analytical characterization

Among the objectives of the GO PROTEINLEG is the search of high quality protein legume crops, developing new feed formulations and thus reducing dependence on products such as soybean for pig and poultry farming.

First, the Centro Tecnolóxico da Carne (CTC), carried out an analytical characterization of the legume varieties of greatest interest for the development of compound feed, limited to 9 varieties of peas and broad beans. In particular, it is vital to know the protein content and amino acid profile of the different varieties, since some of these compounds are essential for the correct growth and development of the animals, so they must be provided in the precise amount.

The graph on the left shows the amount of total amino acids present in each of the 9 varieties of broad bean (VIF) and pea (PSM) tested. This total amount of proteins translates into a concentration of between 22 and 27,8 g/100 g, depending of the variety.

However, both pigs and chickens require nine amino acids whose only supply is through the diet, since they are unable to synthesize by themselves (essential amino acids). We are, therefore, dealing with amino acids whose presence and quantity are vital in the formulation of feed. The analyses have shown that the highest averages of these amino acids are found in peas and, specifically, the variety with the highest nutritional quality is PSM 1112-50, a traditional Portuguese variety.

All in all, these trials seem to indicate that peas can be a sustainable alternative for the partial replacement of soybean in the production of compound feeds without causing nutritional deficiencies, especially protein deficiencies. It offers a balanced concentration of essential amino acids of high nutritional interest for animals.

3.2. Formulation development

In the case of the feed for slow-growing pigs of the Galician breed Porco Celta, it included a higher content of peas (20%) than of soybean meal (11,69%), and the amount of digestible crude protein was 13,4%.

On the other hand, a feed formulation for slow-growing chickens of the Galician breed Galiña de Mos was also formulated. On this occasion, taking into account the nutritional demands of poultry, the pea content included in the formulation was 6%, compared to 23,5% of soybean meal. The amount of digestible crude protein is 15%.

Another very important aspect to take into account in the production of this type of compound feed is the price. Apart from variations, the ton of peas costs around 100€, compared to 360€ for soybean meal. Therefore, the inclusion of pea in the formulation not only has a positive effect at the environmental and nutritional level, but also at the economic level. The price per ton of pig feed is 234€, and for poultry feed is 290€ (due to its higher soybean content).

In conclusion, feed with analytical characteristics similar to those of commercial feed and with more affordable prices has been developed. These feeds are currently being evaluated against other commercial feeds and the behavior of the animals will be analyzed, both in terms of meat quality and quantity, as well as animal welfare.

Both Centro Tecnolóxico da Carne (CTC) and Almacenes Gamallo participated in this activity.

3.3. Animal production testing

The objective of this last stage of the project was to evaluate the productive behavior of PROTEINLEG feeds formulated for the fattening phase of slow-growing broilers and pigs. For this purpose, the productive, animal welfare and meat quality parameters obtained after feeding the animals with PROTEINLEG feeds were compared with those of common commercial feeds.  

After the tests carried out in poultry production, it was found that slow-growing chickens (Galiña de Mos) fed with PROTEINLEG feed had a higher average daily gain in birds of both sexes.   

On the other hand, during the fattening of slow-growing pigs (Porco Celta), the administration of PROTEINLEG feed significantly increased the mean daily gain in pigs of both sexes. In addition, an improvement in carcass yield was observed.  

For both types of animals, when fed PROTEINLEG feed, the fatty acid profile improved, increasing unsaturated fatty acids and decreasing saturated fatty acids.

Finally, significant increases in the percentage of essential amino acids were observed in animals fed PROTEINLEG feed. 

4. Human food

Led by MIMIC Seafood, this activity developed new healthy, tasty and sustainable human food products from legumes.

As in the case of formulations for livestock, the legume with the highest nutritional value and most interesting for its physical-chemical properties was the pea. From it, a texturized pea protein was developed through a wet extrusion process, which provided the following characteristics:

  • Resistance to the frozen/unfrozen processes.
  • Resistance to cooking.
  • Adequate bite.
  • Good organoleptic profile.

After several tests, a prototype was obtained with a texture similar to fish and a flavor very similar to tuna. As for the nutritional value of this prototype, its high protein and omega-3 fatty acids content stands out.

In order to analyze the acceptance of this prototype, several tastings have been carried out recently, from which the conclusion was drawn that its introduction to the market is viable. It is also an appropriate product for industrial scale-up.