Genetic improvement of pea to replace soyabean in the diets of poultry and monogastric livestock (PeaGen)

Project: Externally funded research

Project Details


Higher agricultural productivity and sustainability is critical to meeting the global challenges of food security in the presence of climate change. Legume crops are a critical source of plant-based proteins for people and animals. As the world demand for animal products increases, the demand for vegetable proteins as animal feedstocks also rises and the UK in common with other countries faces a shortfall in domestic vegetable protein production capability. In the EU 70% of the protein fed to animals is imported, mostly soyabean or soya meal with soya meal accounting for 33% of the protein in UK livestock feeds. In 2011-12 UK imports of soya products reached 1.83 million tonnes, the majority of this being transgenic soya imported from South America. Increasing the amount of UK grown protein to replace imported soya products is recognised as a major challenge for the UK animal feed sector.

In this LINK proposal we will develop and apply new genetic approaches to enhance the nutritional value (protein and water soluble carbohydrate) of the pea (Pisum sativum L.) seed, to increase the use of pea as a high quality feed in animal diets, reducing the UK protein deficit from the import of soya products and also delivering environmental benefits to livestock production systems. The proposal builds on knowledge gained in BBSRC, EU, Defra, Innovate UK and levy board-funded research on the genetics and agronomy of pulses that have led to the development of novel lines of pea with higher protein content. We will use our expertise in plant genomics, pea genetics and breeding, agronomy, plant chemistry and animal nutrition to integrate the germplasm with improved grain composition into improved pea varieties. With industry partners from the poultry and pig sector as well as crop developers, we will analyse the impact of replacing soya with these new pea varieties in feed rations on the growth of monogastrics and poultry and the economic and environmental impact of their inclusion. Although the focus is on poultry and monogastrics, the project will provide information on the value of including these new pea lines for other sectors (ruminants and aquaculture).

Key findings

Crosses of commercial pea lines have been made that incorporate the desired mutations as determined through marker assisted selection
Effective start/end date01 Oct 201730 Sept 2023


  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/P017517/1): £444,738.54

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


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