Crop diversification can improve the resilience of European agriculture, which currently relies on a few core crops according to Teagasc.

But this in turn can present a high risk of failure because of predicted climate changes and extreme weather events, the authority has highlighted.

Cool-season legumes, such as pea, faba bean and lupin, are well suited for growing in Ireland, often performing better here than most EU countries.

These crops are recognised as excellent sources of in-demand plant protein for both the feed and food markets, while rendering key ecosystem services.

Legumes are effective break crops in cereal rotations, interrupting the cycle of diseases such as take-all.

They promote biological nitrogen (N) fixation, which allows for lower inputs – no nitrogen application in legume crop plus potential to decrease input of N for following crop.

Legumes also improve soil quality through beneficial effects on soil biological, chemical and physical conditions; and increase biodiversity, especially insect pollinators.

Specific legume crops perform differently under unfavourable conditions.

Faba beans are considered the best performer under favourable conditions which includes heavier soils and no water stress plus agronomic practices to attain stable production.

Strategies for mitigation of bird damage, pests, such as bruchid beetle, and diseases including chocolate spot, are currently being assessed.

Work is also underway, courtesy of the Teagasc U-PROTEIN programme, to maximise the value of plant proteins grown in Ireland.

Research is already taking place which is examining the potential of seven different faba bean varieties under Irish conditions.

A key objective of the U-PROTEIN project is to maximise the bio-availability of the products derived from the original plant sources.

So in the case of proteins, the option of blending different sources to deliver the most effective combination is an option.

One physical parameter of protein, from an ingredients perspective, is the necessity to make it available in a wholly soluble form.

Blending a mix of plant and dairy proteins is also an option when it comes to developing new, nutritional beverages. 

From an agronomy perspective, peas tend to perform better than beans in sandy soils and/or water-deficit soils.

However, this crop is susceptible to lodging under northern European conditions, which is the main reason for the decline of its production over the last decades.

Intercropping with a cereal or another legume can reduce the risk of lodging, making it more viable in Ireland.

Recent studies of new varieties of narrow-leaf lupins have also demonstrated the high potential of this crop in Ireland.

While the crop would yield lower then both peas and beans, its higher protein content and suitability for sandy soils suggests the crop could be of interest in conditions where other crops are not viable.