U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Genetic improvement of grass pea for low neurotoxin (β-ODAP) content

Kumar, Shiv, Bejiga, G., Ahmed, S., Nakkoul, H., Sarker, A.
Food and chemical toxicology 2011 v.49 no.3 pp. 589-600
Lathyrus sativus, breeding, climate change, cross pollination, cultivars, drought tolerance, flooded conditions, genetic improvement, genetic variation, heirloom varieties, humans, insect pests, nervous system diseases, neurotoxins, planting date, risk, salinity, seedlings, seeds, soaking, soil treatment, toxicology, zinc sulfate, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India
Grass pea is a promising crop for adaptation under climate change because of its tolerance to drought, water-logging and salinity, and being almost free from insect-pests and diseases. In spite of such virtues, global area under its cultivation has decreased because of ban on its cultivation in many countries. The ban is imposed due to its association with neurolathyrism, a non-reversible neurological disorder in humans and animals due to presence of neurotoxin, β-N-oxalyl-l-α,β-diaminopropionic acid (β-ODAP) in its seedlings and seeds. The traditional varieties of grass pea contain 0.5–2.5% β-ODAP. Exploitable genetic variability for β-ODAP has been observed for development of low ODAP varieties, which along with improved agronomic and detoxification practices can help reduce the risk of lathyrism. Collaborative efforts between ICARDA and NARS have resulted in development of improved varieties such as Wasie in Ethiopia, Ratan, Prateek and Mahateora in India, and BARI Khesari-1 and BARI Khesari-2 in Bangladesh with<0.10% β-ODAP. Soil application of 15–20kgha⁻¹ zinc sulphate, early planting, and soaking seeds in water have shown significant effects on β-ODAP. Because of the often cross-pollination nature, the current breeding procedures being followed in grass pea requires paradigm shift in its approach for a possible genetic breakthrough.