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Legume biofortification is an underexploited strategy for combatting hidden hunger

Rehman, Hafiz Mamoon, Cooper, James William, Lam, Hon‐Ming, Yang, Seung Hwan
Plant, cell and environment 2019 v.42 no.1 pp. 52-70
agronomic traits, amino acids, biofortification, dietary protein, grains, hunger, legumes, longevity, malnutrition, microbiome, nutrient content, people
Legumes are the world's primary source of dietary protein and are particularly important for those in developing economies. However, the biofortification potential of legumes remains underexploited. Legumes offer a diversity of micronutrients and amino acids, exceeding or complementing the profiles of cereals. As such, the enhancement of legume nutritional composition presents an appealing target for addressing the “hidden hunger” of global micronutrient malnutrition. Affecting ~2 billion people, micronutrient malnutrition causes severe health effects ranging from stunted growth to reduced lifespan. An increased availability of micronutrient‐enriched legumes, particularly to those in socio‐economically deprived areas, would serve the dual functions of ameliorating hidden hunger and increasing the positive health effects associated with legumes. Here, we give an updated overview of breeding approaches for the nutritional improvement of legumes, and crucially, we highlight the importance of considering nutritional improvement in a wider ecological context. Specifically, we review the potential of the legume microbiome for agronomic trait improvement and highlight the need for increased genetic, biochemical, and environmental data resources. Finally, we state that such resources should be complemented by an international and multidisciplinary initiative that will drive crop improvement and, most importantly, ensure that research outcomes benefit those who need them most.