Growth, yield and seed composition of native Australian legumes with potential as grain crops
Background: Many Australian native legumes grow in arid and nutrient-poor environments. Yet few Australian herbaceous legumes have been investigated for domestication potential. This study compared growth and reproductive traits, grain yield and seed composition of 17 native Australian legumes with three commercial grain legumes.
Results: Seed yields of seven native legumes were > 40% of Cicer arietnum, with highest seed yields and harvest indices in Glycine sp. (14.4 g per plant, 0.54 g g−1) and Lotus cruentus (10.2 g per plant, 0.65 g g−1). Five native species flowered earlier than field pea (Pisum sativa) (109 days), though many were slower to flower and set seed. Largest seeds were found in Glycine canescens (17 mg), with seed of other native species 14 times smaller than commercial cultivars. Seed composition of many native legumes was similar to commercial cultivars (200–330 g protein kg−1 dry weight (DW), 130–430 g dietary fibre kg−1 DW). Two Cullen species had high fat content (>110 g kg−1 DW) and Trigonella sauvissima had the highest crude protein content (370 g kg−1 DW).
Conclusion: The seed composition and reproductive traits of some wild native Australian legumes suggest they could offer potential as grain crops for soils and environments where the current grain legumes are uneconomic. Further evaluation of genetic diversity, especially for seed size, overall productivity, and reproductive development is needed.