Pea is an important source of protein, starch and micronutrients and importantly has one of the smallest carbon footprints of all crops. Pea is a nitrogen fixing crop which reduces the need for fertilizer in rotations and is now in high demand as an alternative and plant-based source of protein. At Church Farm, different types of pea are grown within a large cage to protect against predation by birds and animals.
Professor Claire Domoney’s group focuses on seed composition influencing nutritional quality. Claire leads the Pulse Crop Genetic Improvement Network (PCGIN). The results of genetic studies of agronomic and seed quality traits are made available for UK pulse breeding. As part of this network, Dr. Sanu Arora is looking at genetic sources of resistance to pea diseases, such as downy mildew.
Seeds are being bulked up for more trials with the wrinkled ‘super pea’ that could be added to foods to reduce diabetes risk (jic.ac.uk). They are wrinkled seeds with high amounts of resistant starch and are high in protein.
Tracey Rayner (Domoney’s group) is studying pea proteins by looking at plants that can no longer make certain seed proteins. This information can be used to determine which proteins are important in protecting the plant against insect pests and at improving protein digestibility for human and animal consumption. The results of this will assist with pea crop improvement.
Dr. Julie Hofer (Domoney and Ostergaard groups) is studying the genetics of diverse pea lines to understand more about traits such as pod colour and pod parchment. These traits determine the suitability of pea varieties for use within the vegetable industry as edible pods.
Several hundred pea lines representing diverse pea germplasm are being multiplied to generate seeds that will support many future projects. This is a collaboration with the John Innes Centre and colleagues at the Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen and managed by Noam Chayut; Germplasm Resource Unit (GRU)