Why Grasspea?

Grasspea (Lathyrus sativus) is a hardy crop, able to withstand extreme environmental conditions such as drought, floods and poor soils. For this reason, it is sometimes considered a famine food, eaten when other crops have failed. It is grown in pockets in South Asia, southern Europe and the Horn of Africa.

Grasspea is sometimes cultivated and consumed during famine periods thanks to its ease of cultivation and ability to grow under harsh conditions. However, the seeds contain a neurotoxin that can lead to paralysis in adults and brain damage in children when consumed as a major part of an unbalanced diets over long periods. Seeds can be detoxified by various processing methods, and low-neurotoxin varieties developed by exploiting the genetic diversity of the crop. Researchers at ICARDA have developed low-toxin and toxin-free grasspea varieties. This has been possible thanks to the wide genetic diversity available at the Lathyrus genebank collection.

Learn more about grasspea and current collections of genetic diversity at the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Crop Wild Relatives Project, which has supported the collection and use of grasspea wild relatives across the globe.