The main objective of this project is to put forward an international and well-integrated plan to valorize the legume agrobiodiversity of the Mediterranean in biodiversity-based farming systems and consequently enhance agro-ecosystem functions and services in the Mediterranean basin. The successful completion of LEGU-MED will have the following impacts on Mediterranean legume-based farming systems: 1) improve water use efficiency, 2) reduce the use of anthropogenic inputs through the maintenance of soil fertility, 3) enhance pollination and improve ecological connectivity with flora and fauna, 4) protect close-by wildland ecosystems, 5) enhance other ecosystem services (e.g. pest, disease, and weed suppression), and 6) provide healthier and safer protein-rich food.

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Period of Implementation

Nov 1, 2020 - Feb 1, 2024
Total Budget

EUR 750,000.00



The project is structured in four work packages (WPs) and 2-3 activities within each WP, aiming at obtaining the following three major objectives (Obj): 1) Deeply characterize biodiversity of key legume species in Mediterranean basin 2) Enhance use and management of agro-biodiversity to improve the provision of legume-based ecosystem services and farming system sustainability in the Mediterranean basin 3) Evaluate trade-offs of proposed measures, with cost/benefit analysis performed by stakeholders.


The main objective of this project is to put forward an international and well-integrated plan to valorise the legume agrobiodiversity of Mediterranean in biodiversity-based farming systems and consequently enhance agro-ecosystem functions and services in the Mediterranean basin. The proposal will use lentils and chickpeas as models for all grain legumes. LEGU-MED aims at valorizing, restoring and managing Mediterranean legume biodiversity including neglected genotypes and wild crop relatives. We will also put efforts on improving traditional agricultural systems to overcome limitations of yields, and quality of productions through the use of innovative technologies and approaches such as: 1) highly diverse conservation agriculture systems, 2) plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), 3) next-generation sequencing, 4) advanced molecular markers, 5) diversity-based ecosystem services as substitute for external inputs, 6) precision agriculture and phenomics, 7) learning-support and participatory methods for stakeholder involvement

Problems and Needs Analysis

Legumes were chosen as case-study for their potential to enhance soil fertility (especially when in symbiosis with efficient rhizobia) while sustaining growers’ profits and producing healthy food. Food legumes (or pulses) are cultivated on 80.3 million hectares of crop area, producing 72.3 million metric tons of grain worldwide (Joshi and Rao, 2017, Ann. of the New York Acad. Sci. 1392 (1): 6-17). In addition, legumes are the backbone of the Mediterranean agro-ecosystems from ancient times, but their unique and wide biodiversity has not been sufficiently valorized, especially by North-African countries. Legumes are ideal crops for sustainable land use (greening) provided by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU).

Intervention Strategy(ies)

The proposal was structured through a logic process based on key questions (Figure 3). As requested by the call, we have identified some indicators that will be taken in our consideration to evaluate strenghts and weaknesses of our proposal such as the following: 1) soil structural stability, soil erosion or crusting; 2) organic matter characteristics (quantity, state, composition, role for bacterial community, microflora and macrofauna); 3) nutrient, water and input/energy use; 4) nutrient cycling (C/N ratio, nutrient removal ratio, nutrient balance intensity, and mineralization rate of crop residues); 5) amount of key nutritional components (N and proteins, anti-nutritional, antioxidants); 6) nutrient losses and leaching (nitrogen, nitrate, sulfate); 7) weed management via improved resource competition or allelopathy from crops; 8) control of main pests and diseases on different geographic Mediterranean areas; 9) stakeholder’s and consumer’s satisfaction value measured by surveys organized at events and meetings provided by the proposal; 10) presence of organisms beneficial for agro-ecosystems such as wild bees (pollinators, predators), earthworms).

Impact Pathway

The impacts of the proposed biodiversity-based crop systems on agroecosystem functioning and performances over time will be particularly analyzed and dissected in Act. 8 and 9 where we will use well-known methods of learning-support to maximize stakeholder’s participation, transfer of knowledge and technologies to all kind of stakeholders. New participatory methods for establishing and evaluating relationships with stakeholders will be developed and tested (Act. 8). In Act. 9 we will perform a socio-economic evaluation of the proposed biodiversity-based solutions together with stakeholders that have already shown their interest. In Act. 10, we will conduct a well-defined and integrated dissemination and exploitation plan thorugh the organization of one scientific meeting, one technical stakeholder’s meeting and one training school every year.

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