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The challenge

Transforming lupins from an animal feed to a high-value protein crop for human consumption

Current estimates predict that ~70 per cent more food will be required to feed the growing global population. Plant-based protein will constitute more than half of the total protein demand.

First domesticated over 50 years ago, lupin is currently Australia’s major grain legume by area grown leading to Australia being the world’s largest producer of lupin. Lupin, possessing high protein (35-40 per cent), are currently a good source of animal feed but have untapped potential as a human food to help meet the growing demand for plant-based protein.

Compared to other major grain legumes, such as soybean, lentils and chickpea, lupin offers numerous health benefits. It has high fibre, low starch and fat as well as a low glycemic index (GI) which help address major human health issues in areas such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and cancers. Consequently, there is rapid growing interest for lupin from food and pharmaceutical industries globally. 

However, as a recently domesticated grain legume crop, current lupin varieties contain a list of undesirable traits related to agronomy and seed quality which constrain lupin production, grower’s profitability, and consumer acceptance.

Our response

Targeted breeding for beneficial traits

Co-funded by GRDC, the CSIRO 'Lupin Breeder's Toolbox' team at Floreat, WA, are using the latest sequencing technologies and bioinformatic tools to decode the lupin genome that will greatly improve speed and efficiency of breeding.

The team is also creating a pan-genome that aims to capture the genetic diversity that exists in the species and will help identify key genes from wild accessions to improve domesticated varieties.

In addition, the team is developing a functional genomics platform to chemically introduce random mutations throughout the genome. When such mutations reside in a gene, it allows us to study its function. The overall aim is to use this approach to remove undesirable traits such as thick seed coat, high alkaloid content and allergenic proteins that are still present in Australian lupins.

The team is also using this approach in partnership with the Australian Grains Technologies (AGT) lupin breeding program to generate lupin lines with enhanced herbicide tolerance.

Furthermore, the team has established a lupin speed breeding protocol that reduces the generation time from ~4 months to 10 weeks, allowing them to rapidly introduce novel traits into current lupin varieties.

The 'Lupin Breeder's Toolbox' team forms an important part of CSIRO's Future Protein Mission which aims to meet the growing demand for high-quality protein to feed the growing world population.

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