Faba bean (Vicia faba L.), as well as being a protein rich animal feed, is eminently suitable for inclusion as a nitrogen-fixing break crop in arable rotations. However, breeding for Irish conditions has not been conducted since the closure of the UCD faba bean breeding programme in the 1980s, and the lack of suitable varieties and associated agronomic packages has led to a gross under-utilisation of this crop and over-reliance on imported soyabean meal. Based on germplasm available at University of Reading, we have assembled a set of faba bean lines that collectively possess all the characteristics required for better adaptation of faba bean to late autumn sowing in a temperate maritime climate under heavy disease pressure (i.e. Irish conditions) and we are generating an efficiently recombined population from the above components.

Multiple generations of this population are being subjected to selection over 3 consecutive field seasons (with continued outcrossing) under divergent conditions (spring versus autumn sowing). Phenotype and genotype of the population are being monitored on an individual plant basis over each generation and under each selection regime with the aim of establishing phenotypic and genotypic response to selection, and to map QTLs for relevant traits. In the fourth year of the project, the bulk yield and general agronomic characteristics of the divergently selected populations will be tested in relation to parents and appropriate control (elite) varieties in both autumn and spring-sown trials, and candidate varieties for Irish conditions will be identified.

Contact: John Carroll