Pea (Pisum sativum) is grown almost everywhere in the world, either as a spring crop in northern countries or as a winter crop elsewhere. This species has a large morphological diversity and is the subject of much research in genetics and plant breeding worldwide. This is the pea that was used by Gregor Mendel to form the basis of genetics, with the study of yellow or green, smooth or wrinkled seeds. We can distinguish three types of crop according to their uses:
- The garden pea (for freezing/canning), whose seeds are harvested "green" before they are filled with starch and nitrogen is remobilized from vegetative plant parts.
- Dry peas (or field peas) whose seeds are harvested at full maturity
- Peas called "forage" (note the confusion with the previous usage!), Harvested whole plant as a source of fodder for ruminants.
The seeds of peas are marketed under different names according to their visual appearance: yellow peas for human consumption, green peas (for poultry), both obtained from varieties with white flowers, marbled peas (very little grown , from grape varieties with colored flowers), "pea" for consignments intended for animal feed and where color is not a selection criterion. All of these types have the same average composition and nutritional value (these criteria are not correlated with the color), with the exception of seed coat color (due to tannins which reduce digestibility over seeds lacking tannins, green or yellow in appearance) and wrinkled peas (including starch synthesis is disturbed, low yield, and are never grown as pulses, only to produce garden peas).
In PeaMUST program, only the 'protein' pea type is studied. The majority are afila (leaflets are replaced by tendrils to better withstand lodging) with white flowers (so green or yellow seeds without tannins) and smooth seeds (in normal starch). However, all other genetic resources can be used, in particular to introduce stress tolerances from wild ecotypes. All outputs can potentially be used in breeding programs to produce other types of peas,notably garden peas.
Faba bean (Vicia faba) is less widely grown worldwide than pea, mainly in Western Europe and Australia. Its growing season is a little longer, extended by almost 3 weeks for the same sowing date and is a bit more exposed to water and thermal stress in continental regions. In Europe, it was used mainly for feeding draft animals before the development of tractors and as an ingredient in feed mills. In some North African and Near Eastern countries it is a major food, as well as chickpea, and it is used to make falafel, purees after shelling (fava beans) or cooked as whole seeds. More recently, after shelling, it has been used for fish and poultry feed in Europe.
There are two types of beans according to seed size: over 800 g of thousand-grain weight, it is called bean, below, faba bean. As for the pea, the seed is sometimes eaten green before maturity. There are also white varieties, yielding seeds without tannins, but they are much less cultivated than colored varieties due to agronomic problems. Finally, there are some varieties with low vicin-convicine (the causative agent of favism in humans - a form of severe anemia in genetically intolerant vicin individuals). Breeding programs are now geared mainly to creating varieties with colored flowers and low vicin-convicine.