Enhancing grasspea (Lathyrus sativus) production in problematic soils of South Asia for nutritional security
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Grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.) a multi-purpose, climate smart legume crop which can sustain drought, waterlogging and salinity, and can be grown under minimal external inputs. It is grown on about one million ha area in South Asia mainly in rice-based cropping system. Global area under its cultivation has decreased because of ban on its trade in many countries due to its association with neurolathyrism, a non-reversible neurological disorder in humans and animals due to consumption of a neurotoxin, β-N-oxalyl-L-α, β-di amino propionic acid (β-ODAP) present in its plant parts. Resource-poor farmers and tribal people are still growing to supplement their diet with traditional varieties. Traditionally, its seed and twigs are used for human consumption and fodder and plant residues as animal feed. It has a great potential for cultivation in areas where other field crops cannot be grown due to soil problems. It provides an excellent opportunity for sustainable agriculture and nutritional security to resource poor farmers and consumers of South-Asian countries. Breeding efforts are underway on reducing ODAP content in its plant parts and yield improvement to provide a remunerative crop for safe consumption. The crop has a specific production niche where it is grown as a relay crop in rice fields, thus no tillage operations are required which reduces its cost of production.