Enhancing the nutritional value of Saskatchewan pulses through improved levels of folates and carotenoids

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. Carotenoids are a large group of naturally occurring lipophilic pigments, and at least 50 of them occur in plant foods. Out of all carotenoids, beta-carotene is the most widely distributed in plants, and the one most efficiently converted to vitamin A. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids present in the macula region of the retina where they are effective against senile macular degeneration. Folic acid is the most oxidized and stable form of folate that is rarely present in natural foods. Folate is importance for prevention of neural tube defects in the fetus, which is one of the major reasons for the folate enrichment debate worldwide. Therefore, the broad objective of this project is to determine the genetic variation of folate and carotenoid concentration in whole seeds, seed coats, and cotyledons in selected genotypes of pea, lentil, chickpea and dry bean germplasm and commercial cultivars grown in Saskatchewan. A preliminary study was conducted to identify carotenoids and quantify their accumulation in whole seeds, seed coats and cotyledons of five selected genotypes each from pea, lentil, chickpea and dry bean grown in Saskatchewan.  In this study we chosen three solvent extraction methods (methanol; dichloromethane, methanol: methyl-t-butyl ether and n-hexane) for estimation of carotenoid concentration in selected pulses. Of the three methods, methanol: dichloromethane had the lower volatility and highest recoveries of individual and total carotenoids. Each sample was extracted in duplicate and analyzed by HPLC. The results indicated that on average, pea, chickpea and lentil genotypes were highest in lutein followed by zeaxanthin, β-carotene and violaxanthin. Dry beans were very low in all carotenoids, with only trace amounts of lutein. The current study is being conducted to find the genotype X environment interaction for carotenoid accumulation in pea, chickpea and lentil whole seeds.  Green cotyledon pea cultivars (14-24 µg/g) had approximately 2X more total carotenoids than yellow cotyledon pea cultivars (approx. 7-12 µg/g).

Additional information about this project:
Property NameValue
TypeResearch Experiment
SpeciesPisum sativum
SpeciesCicer arietinum
SpeciesVicia faba
CategoryBreeding & Genetics
Species Lens culinaris
SpeciesPhaseolus vulgaris
Research Area
Breeding & Genetics

Plant breeding is the art and science of changing the traits of plants in order to produce desired characteristics. Plant breeding can be accomplished through many different techniques ranging from simply selecting plants with desirable characteristics for propagation, to more complex molecular techniques. ... [more]

Related Species

There are three main kinds of chickpeas: Desi, which has small, darker seeds and a rough coat; Bombay, which has slightly larger dark seeds; and Kabuli, which has lighter coloured seeds with a smooth coat. Chickpeas are an excellent source of the essential nutrients, iron, folate, phosphorus, protein and dietary fiber. Chickpeas are low in fat and most of this is polyunsaturated. Desi chickpeas have a markedly higher fiber content than Kabulis and hence a very low glycemic index which may make them suitable for people with blood sugar problems. The plant grows to between 20–50 cm high and has small feathery leaves on either side of the stem. Chickpea pods are short in length containing 2-3 seeds. ... [more]


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. ... [more]


Dry Bean are high in starch, protein and dietary fiber, as well as being an excellent source of iron, potassium, selenium, molybdenum, thiamine, vitamin B6 and folate. Dry beans take longer to cook then most pulses, although cooking time can be shortened by soaking dried beans before cooking. Dry Bean is a highly variable species with growth habits ranging from bush varieties growing 20-60cm tall to vine varieties growing 2-3m long. While dry bean varieties range in growth habit all have characteristic green or purple alternate leaves and long pods containing 4-6 kidney-shaped seeds.


Pea (Pisum sativum L.) is one of the first domesticated crops, and was the model crop for the foundational genetic studies by Gregor Mendel, which he first reported in 1865. Pea is grown in most temperate regions of the world with annual production over the past decade of 10-12 million tonnes of field pea and 14-17 million tonnes of vegetable pea. Pea belongs to the Leguminosae family and consists of two species, P. fulvum and P. sativum with several ‘wild’ subspecies of P. sativum. Canada is the leading producer and exporter of field pea in the world. Saskatchewan is the leading province in pea production followed by Alberta and Manitoba. ... [more]


Faba bean is an annual legume that thrives in relatively cooler growing climates. It is one of the best nitrogen fixers among the grain legumes deriving up to 74% of its nitrogen from the atmosphere and leaving soil nitrogen balances positive (Amanuel et al., Biol Fertil Soils 32:353–359). Nutritionally, it is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, copper and manganese, and a very good source of folate. It is also very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Faba bean has an erect growth habit with stiff stems and long pinnate, gray-green leaves. The pods are long with a downy interior and contain 3-8 seeds. Faba bean is still often grown as a cover crop to prevent erosion, because they can overwinter and because as a legume, they fix nitrogen in the soil. ... [more]

Sequences, Variants & Markers