Green leaves of red clover leaves and a flower

For the last three to four decades, Europe has imported 65% of its protein (about 35 million tonnes of soybean per year). China imported 74 million tonnes of soybean in 2014 (corresponding to 60% of world market trade), and since 2000, the Chinese protein demand has increased steadily because of increased demand in animal products. Projections suggest that the Chinese demand could increase moderately or steadily, reaching 75 to 112 million tonnes/year by 2023. Dependency on protein imports in European and Chinese agricultural systems originates from the insufficiency of protein production in Europe and China.

Plant products with high protein content can be produced by legume crops whose protein production is mostly based on symbiotic fixation of atmospheric nitrogen. This has a positive environmental impact as well as a number of other ecosystem services; such as energy saving, improvement of soil structure and composition, reduction of greenhouse gas emission and hosted biodiversity.

Aim of the project

The strategic goal of EUCLEG is to reduce Europe and China’s dependency on protein imports by developing efficient breeding strategies for the legume crops of a major economic importance in human food and animal feed. The objective is to improve diversification of crops, crop productivity, yield stability and protein quality of both forage (alfalfa and red clover) and grain (pea, faba bean and soybean) legumes.

EUCLEG will investigate the potential for new uses of forage species for human nutrition. Processed protein extracts have a good nutritive value for human consumption in terms of plant protein intake (amino acid composition close to that of dairy milk). It could be an alternative to meat and milk alleviating negative impacts of agriculture on the environment.

The partnership gathered in EUCLEG, combining public institutes and private companies of Europe and China, guaranties the transfer of knowledge from research to seed industry.

Funding for the project “EUCLEG – Breeding forage and grain legumes to increase EU’s and China’s protein self-sufficiency” has been granted from the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union for a three-year period.

For more information, please visit the project website.

Logo for the EU-project EUCLEG