Regeneration guidelines for grasspea

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The information on this page was extracted from:
Hanson J. and Street K. 2008. Regeneration guidelines: grasspea. In: Dulloo M.E., Thormann I., Jorge M.A. and Hanson J., editors. Crop specific regeneration guidelines [CD-ROM]. CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resource Programme, Rome, Italy. 9 pp.

Before reading the regeneration details for this crop, read the general introduction that gives general guidelines to follow by clicking here.


Grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is a member of the Fabaceae family. The genus Lathyrus is large, with more than 150 species, of which only L. sativus is cultivated as a pulse crop. It is grown in the Mediterranean region, Ethiopia, West Asia, the Indian subcontinent and China. The plant is a short, bushy annual herb ranging in height from 20 to 90 cm depending on cultivar. It has pinnately compound leaves, normally with two leaflets, that terminate with tendrils. Flowers, which show a broad range of colours from white through pink to bright blue, are solitary, axillary and borne on peduncles. Pods are oblong, flat and slightly curved, with three to five white to greyish-brown seeds which are usually mottled (Duke 1981). It is a hardy crop, tolerant of extremely dry conditions but still able to tolerate waterlogging and poor soils and is commonly grown on heavy clay vertisols. It does not do well on acid soils. Grasspea is autogamous and considered predominantly self-pollinating. Rahman et al. (1995) report up to 30% cross pollination. In view of this relatively high amount of out-crossing, an isolation distance of at least 20 m (preferably 50 m) between accessions of cultivated grasspea is recommended to maintain genetic integrity during regeneration.

Grasspea flower. (photo: Jean Hanson/ILRI)

Preparation for regeneration

When to regenerate

Other precautions

A population size of at least 80–100 plants should be used for regeneration of landraces. Unimproved landraces and accessions showing a large variation in seed colour and size are likely to be more variable. Larger population sizes should be used in order to maintain genetic variation within the accession. There are no reported transgenes in grasspea.

Choice of environment and planting

Field selection and preparation

Planting season

Grasspea regeneration in isolation plots (photo: Jean Hanson/ILRI)

Method of regeneration

Planting layout, density and distance

Sowing method

Direct sowing for landraces

1. Count the number of seeds to be planted per row and place in separate envelopes/bags. Allow two seeds per hole if enough seeds are available because not all of them will germinate. If there are only a few seeds, plant one seed per hole.

2. Label the plot with the accession number and plot number.

3. Lay out the plots at the chosen row spacing.

4. Mark holes for sowing about 2–5 cm deep, 10–20 cm along the row.

5. Check that the accession number is correct and place the corresponding envelope/bag on the end of the row.

6. Open the envelope and place two seeds per hole at 10–20 cm along the row by hand sowing (see photo). Machine planting is not efficient for such small plots.

Hand sowing of grasspea. (photo: ILRI)

Grasspea pods (photo: Jean Hanson/ILRI)

7. Cover with soil and lightly compact the row.

Seedling transfer for accessions with small numbers of seeds

1. Germinate seeds in Petri dishes in an incubator at 25°C with 12-hour light (ISTA 2008).

2. As soon as the radicals start to emerge, plant the young seedlings individually in small pots filled with sterilized compost, peat or forest soil.

3. Label the plot with the accession number, planting date and plot number.

4. Keep the pots away from direct sun but with good light intensity or in a greenhouse.

5. Water carefully so the soil remains moist but not wet.

6. Once seedlings reach 10 cm tall, place pots outside for 1 week so seedlings can harden off; keep the soil moist.

7. Peg out the plots at the chosen row spacing and make holes at 10–20 cm along the row.

8. Transplant seedlings to the field, one seedling per hole, taking care not to damage the roots. Water after transplanting.



Crop management

Weed management


Common pests and diseases

Major fungal diseases that attack grasspea are grey mould (Botrytis sp.), rust (Uromyces fabae), powdery mildew (Erysiphe polygoni) and downy mildew (Peronospora lathi-palustris) (Duke 1981; Smartt et al. 1994). Grasspea shows resistance to ascochyta blight caused by Mycosphaerella pinodes (Skiba et al. 2004).

Pest and disease control

Grasspea rarely suffers attacks from pests and diseases when grown in dry rainfed conditions.
Spray with fungicide to control mildew during the rainy season or when using irrigation.

Mature grasspea pods at harvest stage. (photo: Yanpei Wu/ILRI)


Post-harvest management

1. Clean the seeds of debris by hand picking, hand winnowing or using a seed blower.

2. Hand pick over the seeds in trays to remove any shriveled, discoloured, infected or damaged seeds from each plant. Incinerate the waste to avoid spread of seed-borne diseases.

3. Compare the harvested seed with original seed of that accession for seed size, seed pattern and primary seed colour to check for mistakes/correspondence.

4. Take equal quantities of seed from each plant and mix in one paper bag labeled inside and out. Once you have all the seeds needed, discard any extra.

5. Retain the bags of each accession in temporary storage until seed drying.

6. Take a sample of the seeds for seed health testing. If the fresh seeds are infected with seed-borne diseases and more original seeds are available for a second regeneration, destroy the seeds by incineration. If no original seeds are available, schedule the seeds for a further regeneration in control ed environmental conditions using agrochemicals to obtain clean seeds.

7. If the seeds are free from pests and diseases, dry them in low relative humidity at 15°C until they reach 3–7% moisture content.

8. Remove the seeds from the drying room, weigh and pack directly into storage containers. Options for medium-term storage include plastic containers or cans with sealed lids for storage in environments with humidity control or laminated aluminium foil packets for storage in environments without humidity control. Use of laminated aluminium foil packets is more suitable for long-term storage. Seal the containers or packets immediately.

9. Sample and test the viability of the seeds and record the results fol owing standard germination methods (ISTA 2008). If viability is high, proceed to storage. If viability is low, reschedule the accession for a further regeneration from the original seeds.

10. Store grasspea seeds in the genebank at 5–10°C in medium-term storage or at -18°C in long-term storage.

Regeneration of wild species of grass pea


Growth type

Breeding system

L. annuus
L. aphaca
L. articulatus
L. cicera
L. hirsutus
L. latifolius
L. nissolia
L. ochrus
L. ordoratus
L. sativus
L. setifolius
L. sylvestris
L. tingitanus
L. tuberosus


Preferentially outcrossing

From: Brahim et al. (2001)

Diversity of grasspea flower colour. (photo: Yanpei Wu/ILRI)

Monitoring accession identity

Comparisons with previous passport or morphological data

Grasspea accessions are distinguished on the basis of flower, pod and seed traits (Jackson and Yunus 1984). Compare following traits in characterization data:

Documentation during regeneration

The following information should be collected during regeneration:

References and further reading

Asmussen CB. 1993. Pollination biology of the Sea Pea, Lathyrus japonicus: floral characters and activity and flight patterns of bumblebees. Flora 188:227-237.

Bioversity International, ICARDA. 2009. Key access and utilization descriptors for Lathyrus genetic resources. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy; International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Syria. Available here.

Brahim NB, Combes D, Marrakchi M. 2001. Autogamy and allogamy in genus Lathyrus. Lathyrus Lathyrism Newsletter 2:21–26.

Chekalin NM. 1972. [The evaluation of the degree of the selectivity of fertilization in peavine]. Sel’Skokhozyaistvennaya Biologiya 7 (1):103-107.

Chekalin NM. 1973. Selectivity of fertilization in the grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.). Soviet Genetics 9 (12):1501-1507.

Chekalin NM. 1975. Character of displaying selective fertilization in self fertilized lines and hybrids of Lathyrus sativus. Sel Semenovod Kiev 30:40-44.

Chekalin NM, Samorodov VN. 1975. Rate of growth of pollen tubes in mutant self pollinating lines of Lathyrus sativus. Sel Semenovod Kiev 29:94-97.

Chekalin NM, Zelenskaia LA. 1973. Inheritance of male sterility in Lathyrus sativus with crossing of sterile plants with fertile pollenizer lines. Sel Semenovod Kiev 23:51-54.

Chowdhury MA, Slinkard AE. 1997. Natural outcrossing in grasspea. Journal of Heredity 88 (2):154-156.

Duke JA. 1981. Handbook of Legumes of World Economic Importance. Plenum Press, New York, USA. pp. 199–265.

FAO/IPGRI. 1994. Genebank Standards. FAO and IPGRI, Rome, Italy. Date accessed: 16 August 2008.

Godt MJW. 1991. Genetic structure, mating patterns, and gene flow in Lathyrus latifolius L. [PhD thesis]: University of Georgia, 145 pp.

Godt MJW, Hamrick JL. 1991. Estimates of outcrossing rates in Lathyrus latifolius populations. Genome 34 (6):988-992.

Godt MJW, Hamrick JL. 1993. Patterns and levels of pollen mediated gene flow in Lathyrus latifolius. Evolution 47 (1):98-110.

Gorodnii NG, Fesenko AF. 1975. Opylenie chiny. [Pollination of Lathyrus pratensis]. 95(3):24-25.

Gutierrez JF, Vaquero F, Vences FJ. 1994. Allopolyploid vs. autopolyploid origins in the genus Lathyrus (Leguminosae). Heredity 73 (1):29-40.

ISTA. 2008. International Rules for Seed Testing. International Seed Testing Association. ISTA Secretariat, Switzerland.

Jackson MT, Yunus AG. 1984. Variation in the grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.) and wild species. Euphytica 33:549–559.

Kay D. 1979. Food legumes. Tropical Development and Research Institute (TPI). TPI Crop and Product Digest No. 3. TPI London, UK. pp. 26–47.

Piatitskaia LI. 1972. Biology of flowering and viability of pollen of Lathyrus vernus. In Rasteniia Prirodnoi Flory Sibiri Dlia Zelenogo Stroitel’Stva :166-169.

Rahman MM, Kumar J, Rahman MA, Afzal MA. 1995. Natural outcrossing in Lathyrus sativus L. Indian Journal of Genetics 55:204–207.

Skiba B, Ford R, Pang ECK. 2004. Construction of a linkage map based on a Lathyrus sativus backcross population and preliminary investigation of QTLs associated with resistance to ascochyta blight. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 109:1726–1735.

Smartt J, Kaul A, Wolde Amlak Araya, Rahman MM, Kearney J. 1994. Grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.) as a potentially safe food legume crop. In: Muehlbauer FJ, Kaiser WJ, editors. Expanding the Production and Use of Cool Season Food Legumes. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands. pp. 144–155.

Valero M, Youssef A, Vernet P. 1986. Is there polymorphism in the breeding system of Lathyrus latifolius? Kaul, A. K. and Combes, D. (Eds). Lathyrus and Lathyrism. Proceedings of the International Symposium 9-13 September France, New York: Third World Medical Research Foundation, pp. 105-117.

Yunus AG, Jackson MT. 1991. The gene pools of the grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.). Plant Breeding 106 (4):319-328.


These guidelines have been peer reviewed by Prem Mathur, Bioversity International, India; F.J. Muehlbauer, United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), USA; and William Erskine, Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA), University of Western Australia.

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