Improving legume crops by mapping stress resilience in wild relatives

Study assesses abiotic and biotic stress resilience in legume gene pools to uncover breeding potential of wild relatives

Data resources used via GBIF : 26,210 species occurrences
Vigna radiata
Mung bean (Vigna radiata) observed in Maharashtra, India by swanand kesari (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Vigna is a tropical legume with more than 88 taxa, including important crops such as mung bean and cowpea—cheap and excellent sources of proteins in human diets, but also attractive soil improvement crops due to symbiotic nitrogen-fixing properties.

With climate change and increased stressors, this study examines the Vigna gene pool to identify patterns of resilience in wild relatives in order to improve varieties that will better sustain legume crop production in the future.

Analysing intercrossing studies combined with genomic and phylogenetic data, the authors defined four delineated Vigna gene pools. Using GBIF-mediated occurrences they modelled the distribution of 84 taxa to score their levels of resilience against heat and drought.

While the study found high levels of pest and disease resistance in 75 per cent of taxa, abiotic stress resilience occurs in less than 30 per cent. Combined with poor germplasm conservation, the authors recommend prioritizing the collection of these rare, resilient species for breeding before they are extirpated.

Van Zonneveld M, Rakha M, Tan S yee, Chou Y-Y, Chang C-H, Yen J-Y, Schafleitner R, Nair R, Naito K and Solberg SØ (2020) Mapping patterns of abiotic and biotic stress resilience uncovers conservation gaps and breeding potential of Vigna wild relatives. Scientific Reports. Springer Science and Business Media LLC 10(1). Available at: