Pea – the key for future green protein

Last changed: 07 August 2023

The project in brief

The overall increased awareness of the climate effects of an animal-based diet and the need to reduce our import dependence on soybean drive the demand for locally produced plant-based protein for feed and food in Sweden. Increased cultivation and consumption of legumes such as peas and beans have been stated by several international reports as an important part of the solution for future sustainable food production.

There is a long tradition of growing peas in Sweden, but many of the cultivars available for the farmers are missing crucial traits that are important today. To meet future demands, the pea breeders need to focus on increased productivity as well as improved quality for human consumption. Within this project, new breeding programmes on the three types of pea; field pea (for animal feed), yellow pea (harvested dry) and fresh green pea (harvested immature) will be initiated and the project activities will lay the foundation for cost- and time-efficient development of new pea cultivars for Swedish farming conditions using modern plant-breeding methods.

Higher yields and climate-stable quality are traits that are in focus and prioritised by the breeding industry. Climate-stable quality involves earliness and timing of maturity as well as tolerance towards waterlogging and drought. One important objective of the project is to expand the use of peas in different food applications, which for instance will be done by evaluating what type of pea is most suitable as raw material for protein concentrates and protein isolates, as well as identifying limiting antinutritional agents. For dry yellow pea, there is a focus on cookability, which is related to starch and fibre content. For fresh green pea, a well-defined variation in maturity time is desirable.

The project will deliver new breeding tools for pea by developing DNA-based precision markers and new phenotyping protocols for the prioritised traits. This will provide requisites for the industry to establish a marker-based breeding programme for pea to speed up the development of new cultivars. Hence, the project will facilitate a transition from a conventional phenotype-based breeding programme to a more efficient genotype-based programme that uses modern breeding tools such as marker-based selection and genomic prediction. This transition is crucial for future competitive cultivar development with an expanding and sustainable pea production in Sweden.

The project will deliver:

  • breeding programmes on three segments of pea (for feed, dry yellow pea and fresh green pea);
  • a pea germplasm collection composed of cultivars, landraces and gene bank accessions that will provide the breeding programmes with genetic variation and potential parents for crossings;
  • genomic tools and precision markers for pea;
  • phenotyping methods for water congestion and drought stress;
  • identification of breeding targets for quality traits;
  • research-related education and scientific publications

Selected media features 


Project period: 2020-2024

Procejtcoordinator: Cecilia Hammenhag, SLU 

Participating organisations: SLU, Lantmännen, Foodhills, Kalmar Ölands Trädgårdsprodukter, Sveriges Stärkelseproducenter


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