Scenarios for legume protein in European agricultural and food systems

I Mouratiadou*, Moritz Reckling, Hermine Mitter, Frederick L. Stoddard, Sonoko Bellingrath-Kimura, M Schönhart, Nynke Schulp, Evgenia Vinogradova, CA Watson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Refocusing diets and agriculture to provide a growing world population with healthy diets from sustainable food systems is considered an immense challenge, placed high in the policy and scientific agendas. In addressing this challenge, legumes can be an important lever of change towards nutrient-rich, varied, and sustainable consumption and production patterns. Legumes are used for a wide range of food and feed products and can contribute to novel food systems and diversified diets. Crop diversification with legumes can reduce fertilizer and pesticide use while increasing domestic plant protein production along with European protein self-sufficiency. It can improve the resilience of European farming systems to socio-economic and climatic variability, enhance local biodiversity and ecosystem services, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation in other parts of the world.
Yet currently, farmers in the European Union (EU) devote less than 2% of their arable land to grain legumes and more than 70% of the EU supplementary vegetable protein supply is imported (Watson et al., 2017). This is due to several factors, such as low yields and high yield variability, sub-optimal management practices, low investments in breeding, limitations in farmers’ experience in, knowledge of, and attitude to growing grain legumes, as well as the predominance of meat-based diets.
Within this complex system, what is the future of production and consumption of legumes in Europe and their contribution to diversification of agricultural and food systems as well as landscapes? What are the economic, technological, and policy drivers of change? How are diets and legume demand going to develop? What are the benefits, challenges, and limitations for the producers? What are the anticipated impacts on human and ecosystems health, value chains, and EU’s protein self-sufficiency?
To explore these questions, we develop a set of novel scenarios for legume protein in European agricultural and food systems. The scenarios are developed in consistency with narratives on future European agriculture, namely the Eur-Agri-SSPs (Mitter et al., 2020), which, in turn, are consistent with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (Riahi et al., 2017). To develop the scenarios, first, we used the Drivers-Pressures-State-Impact-Response framework to improve systems understanding and causalities within the consumption-production-global markets nexus of legumes. Second, we developed five narratives across this nexus in an interactive workshop with experts. The narratives cover highly sustainable, fragmented, unequal, high-tech, and business-as-usual developments. Third, we substantiated the qualitative narratives with literature and data analysis.
Here, we present the results of these different methodological steps and a summary of the developed scenarios, with a focus on how diversification plays out within agricultural and food systems under the five diverse futures. The exercise allows us to better evaluate the potential of legumes to enhance sustainability and diversification under different framework conditions and consequently stir robust developments with respect to the future of legumes in Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusFirst published - 20 Sept 2021
EventLandscape 2021: Diversity for Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture - Online
Duration: 20 Sept 202122 Sept 2021


ConferenceLandscape 2021: Diversity for Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture


Dive into the research topics of 'Scenarios for legume protein in European agricultural and food systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this