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Front Plant Sci. 2018 Sep 19;9:1314. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.01314. eCollection 2018.

Harnessing the Potential of Forage Legumes, Alfalfa, Soybean, and Cowpea for Sustainable Agriculture and Global Food Security.

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School of Applied Biosciences, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, South Korea.
Department of Southern Area Crop Science, National Institute of Crop Science, Rural Development Administration, Miryang, South Korea.
National Center for Soybean Biotechnology and Division of Plant Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, United States.


Substantial improvements in access to food and increased purchasing power are driving many people toward consuming nutrition-rich foods causing an unprecedented demand for protein food worldwide, which is expected to rise further. Forage legumes form an important source of feed for livestock and have potential to provide a sustainable solution for food and protein security. Currently, alfalfa is a commercially grown source of forage and feed in many countries. However, soybean and cowpea also have the potential to provide quality forage and fodder for animal use. The cultivation of forage legumes is under threat from changing climatic conditions, indicating the need for breeding cultivars that can sustain and acclimatize to the negative effects of climate change. Recent progress in genetic and genomic tools have facilitated the identification of quantitative trait loci and genes/alleles that can aid in developing forage cultivars through genomics-assisted breeding. Furthermore, transgenic technology can be utilized to manipulate the genetic makeup of plants to improve forage digestibility for better animal performance. In this article, we assess the genetic potential of three important legume crops, alfalfa, soybean, and cowpea in supplying quality fodder and feed for livestock. In addition, we examine the impact of climate change on forage quality and discuss efforts made in enhancing the adaptation of the plant to the abiotic stress conditions. Subsequently, we suggest the application of integrative approaches to achieve adequate forage production amid the unpredictable climatic conditions.


alfalfa; cowpea; forage legumes; forage quality; forage yield; genetic manipulation; quantitative trait loci; soybean

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