Legumes. Clockwise from right:
Peas, lentils, fenugreek seeds, fava beans, tepary beans, scarlet runner beans,
lupini beans, tarwi beans. Click the image for more information about
Web Site Offers a Detailed Look at Legumes
Pons January 24, 2005
Legumes--beans, peas and other edible seeds that are enclosed in
pods--are celebrated worldwide for their edible oils, protein and essential
amino acids, as well as for their ability to convert airborne nitrogen into
useable soil nutrients for other plants. They constitute a multibillion-dollar
food industry and some also serve as important forage crops.
Since legumes' nutritional significance makes them scientifically
important, they're the subject of a flourishing web site. Called the Legume
Information System (LIS),
it's a collaborative effort between the Agricultural Research Service and the
National Center for Genome Resources (NCGR).
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency, while NCGR is an
independent, nonprofit research institution based in Santa Fe, N.M., that
develops and uses data for biological discovery.
According to geneticist
Shoemaker of the ARS
Insects and Crop Genetics Research Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, LIS addresses
a major problem stemming from the recent boom in genetic sequencing: It
integrates, compiles and delivers data to researchers in a readily
comprehensible form. LIS concentrates on the data collected on the genetics,
physiology and biochemistry of the organisms that help feed us.
The web site is a potentially long term project funded by USDA through
the Model Plant Initiative, which is still in development. The site, which is
marking its third year, specializes in genetic data from legumes such as
soybean, Lotus and a relative of alfalfa frequently used as a genetic
model of other legumes.
LIS integrates genetic and molecular data from multiple legume
species, making cross-species comparisons possible. Its libraries of gene
transcripts (messages produced by genes) are accessible through images of plant
organs in different developmental stages.
The Model Plant Initiative was established by the U.S. Congress to
translate information and discoveries from well-studied plant species to
economically critical legumes, such as soybeans, dry beans, peanuts and
LIS can be found on the Internet at