Lens culinaris

Common NameCultivated Lentil

Lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) is an important pulse crop with annual production of 3-4 Mt across 70 countries (Cubero et al. 2009. DOI 10.1079/9781845934873.0000; pg. 13). Lentils are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, micronutrients and vitamins for human nutrition and is consumed in more than 120 countries. Furthermore, their small seed size and flat shape make them relatively quick cooking and easily decorticated compared to most other grain legumes (Sharpe et al. 2013. BMC Genomics. DOI 10.1186/1471-2164-14-192). The Lentil plant has a bushy growth habit with a height of about 40 cm; the seeds are lens-shaped and usually grow two per pod.


Lentils offer many health benefits for human nutrition since they are high in fibre, protein, complex carbohydrate and low in calories and fat. The high level of soluble fiber and complex carbohydrates found in lentils can help people stabilize blood sugar levels. The high protein content can help people who want to boost their protein intake. Using lentils to replace meat can reduce saturated fat intake while supplying important nutrients for your daily diet since lentils are an excellent source of potassium, folate, iron, mangansese and other minerals. Also, they are naturally gluten-free can help people who are gluten intolerant. Therefore, lentils can be your perfect choice if you are looking for healthy food options.


Lens culinaris (cultivated lentil) is generally between 20 and 30 cm tall, but some cultivars can grow as tall as 75 cm and as short as 15 cm. Lentil is indeterminate which means growth habits of lentil can be considerable different: erect to semi-erect and compact growth to branched low bushy forms. Other morphological features, like number of leaflets, flower colour, seed size, cotyledon colour and days to maturity also exhibit a wide range of variations. The variations are mainly determined by genotypes but can be fairly affected by environmental conditions.

Property NameValue
Genome Size~4 Gbp
Plant breedingHigh Yield, Lodging Tolerance, Appropriate Size, Shape, Seed Coat Colour & Quality, and Resistance to Ascochyta Blight, Anthracnose, Stemphylium Blight & Botrytis.
Modal Chromosome Number2n = 14
Principal Investigator
  • Albert (Bert) Vandenberg Albert (Bert) Vandenberg: Breeding lentil varieties and conducting related research in collaboration with colleagues.
  • Kirstin E. Bett Kirstin E. Bett: Breeding lentil and dry (common) bean varieties and conducting related research in collaboration with colleagues.
Taxonomycellular organisms; Eukaryota; Viridiplantae; Streptophyta; Streptophytina; Embryophyta; Tracheophyta; Euphyllophyta; Spermatophyta; Magnoliophyta; Mesangiospermae; eudicotyledons; Gunneridae; Pentapetalae; rosids; fabids; Fabales; Fabaceae; Papilionoideae; Fabeae; Lens
Seed phenotypeLarge Green, Medium Green, Small Green, Small Red, Extra Small Red, as well as, a Few Minor Specialty Classes.
Germplasm Data
The following germplasm data is currently available:
Stock TypeCount
Single Cross2,473
Triple Cross1,503
Multiple Cross386
Double Cross138
Recombinant Inbred Line41
Sequence & Variant Data
The following sequence and variant data are currently present:
Feature TypeCount
Nutritional Facts

Lentils, raw (dry weight)

Carbohydrate, by difference
Fiber, total dietary
Sugars, total
2015 to 2019
Development of improved lentil cultivars well-adapted to the local environment is an on-going process in the breeding program and is critical for long-term genetic gain. Recent climate instability adds another layer of complexity to breeding efforts. Continued genetic improvement of lentil will, therefore, involve the introduction of new alleles that extend beyond the existing adapted pool of germplasm. Our goal in AGILE is to enhance the productivity and quality of Canadian lentils by expediting the expansion of genetic diversity of the Canadian lentil germplasm base with the use of genomic technologies.
2014 to 2017
This is an international project funded by the Global Crop Diversity Trust aimed at evaluating cultivated x wild lentil introgression lines for multiple traits in multiple environments.
2013 to 2016
Our approach to sequencing the lentil genome is two-fold. First, we are generating a high quality draft genome for a single lentil genotype (CDC Redberry), including bulk sequencing, assembly of chromosomal ‘pseudomolecules’, and gene prediction and annotation. Secondly, we are re-sequencing various lentil accessions from around the globe to reveal the breath of genetic potential present in our germplasm resources. The outcome will give us i) an understanding of how modern breeding has re-shaped the lentil genome, ii) identification of genes and genomic interval that control agronomic traits, and iii) discovery of many genetic polymorphisms for future marker development, that together will add considerable resources to the breeder’s toolbox for lentil genetic improvement. More importantly, the results of this project will allow us to leverage knowledge of important trait based on conservation of genome-based features with other legume crops (such as Medicago and chickpea).
2013 to 2016
Lentils are seen as a source for essential vitamins and minerals for human nutrition, but due to the high anti-nutritional factors of raffinose family oligosaccharides the consumption of lentils are being limited. Other methods to lower the levels of these RFOs are costly, and that is why an alternative strategy to develop varieties of lentil with lower levels is being implemented.
2012 to 2015
This group is involved in a wide range of biotechnology projects that accelerate the legume breeding process. Double-haploid technology has been achieved in both chickpea and field pea by the CDC group in collaboration with colleagues in France and Australia. Efforts are underway to adapt this technology to lentil. Improving efficiency and integrating these techniques into routine breeding programs to enhance genetic gain are important long-term goals.
A number of KASP markers were developed based on the genotypes identified under the Lentil 454 Sequencing Project. An initial set were used for validation of the SNP calling before developing the Illumina Golden Gate Assay (Lc1536). An additional 350 KASP primers were then designed for the SNPs that were successfully mapped using data from the GoldenGate array (see Fedoruk et al. 2013).
Lentil seed is a good source of phenolic compounds, which can have health benefits. This project will try to find how different seed coat colours in lentil can be related to the phenolics profile. A fast extraction method and an optimized LC-MS analysis were applied to compare green, gray, tan, and brown seed coat colour lentils. Also, the so called zero-tannin genotypes were compared with the normal ones based upon their phenolic profile. The effect of storage on phenolic profile of lentil seeds was investigated, as well.
2010 to 2012
The nutritional value of pea, lentil, chickpea and dry bean grains are highly important for human health. Biofortification, enriching the nutritional contribution of staple crops through plant breeding, is one option that is now widely discussed in the fields of nutrition and public health at the national and international levels.
2006 to 2011
In this research, we plan to investigate how lentil indeterminacy can be managed by four strategies. The first is to test if lentil maturity can be controlled by soil N supply in zero tillage and conventional tillage soils. The second is to test if a desiccant at low concentrations can trigger senescence and maturity under high N conditions. The third strategy is to test if nine lentil genotypes that are commercially grown vary in N uptake, N fixation, or N redistribution within the plant during reproductive growth. Finally, the fourth strategy is to identify earlier establishing and earlier senescing rhizobia strains so N fixation will only occur up to mid-reproductive growth. Together, all these strategies will give us a detailed understanding of how N is partitioned in lentil in order to have satisfactory crop maturity.
An Illumina Golden Gate array was developed using SNPs identified as part of the Lentil 454 Sequencing & Genotyping Project. Loci where chosen such that the SNPs should be distributed evenly across the genome based on comparison to Medicago truncatula.