Crops that feed the world 3. Investing in lentil improvement toward a food secure world uri icon

abstract

  • Lentils play a major role in the food and nutritional security of millions, particularly among low-income Asian families, because of the high protein content of their seed. As is the case for many pulses, lentils play an important role as a rotation crop, enhancing soil fertility and providing other environmental services in production systems. While its production has risen globally at 8.6 kg/ha/year from 1961 to 2008, the major challenge is to increase investment in lentil improvement (both research and outreach) in countries where the crop is part of the production system. Where currently grown the major abiotic stresses are low moisture availability and high temperatures in spring, and winter cold at high elevations. Among biotic stresses, rust, and vascular wilt are key, and resistance has resulted in improvements in performance. Additional production constraints include the agronomic problems of pod loss, lodging and poor crop management. Adequate variability for most genetic constraints exists within the gene pool allowing breeding. However, several key traits, such as biomass yield, pod shed, nitrogen fixation and resistance to aphids are not currently addressable by breeding because of insufficient variation. Among lentil-producing developing countries, policies have not yet focused on lentil development needs to enhance food security and provide a remunerative rotation crop for cereals. Looking towards a future in which there is likely to be less water available to agriculture, climate change, food insecurity, rising costs for inorganic nitrogen fertilizer, and an increasingly nutrition-conscious society-collectively these give a bright future for a highly nutritious food produced by a nitrogen-fixing crop such as lentil adapted to the farming systems of marginal lands.

publication date

  • 2011
  • 2011