The Legume Crop Genome Initiative is a coordinated effort for the development and application of research involving genomics across the legume family. Genomics is a major research area that can fuel not only scientific advances in our understanding of living organisms but also practical advances in human health and agriculture. Given the progress in the development of genomics in the model legumes Medicago truncatulaand Lotus japonicusand in soybean (Glycine max), there is a major scientific opportunity to translate the genomic advances from these species to other food and feed legumes. Conversely, it is also important to permit the sharing of the considerable genetic and biological information that already exists in many of the legume crops. The crops specifically identified in this Initiative include cool-season pulses [pea (Pisum sativum), lentil(Lens culinaris), chickpea (Cicer arietinum), field bean(Vicia faba)], and warm-season food legumes [peanut (Arachis hypogea), common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), soybean],and forage legumes [alfalfa (Medicago sativa), clover (Trifoliumspp.)].
In 2001 the legume community met in Huntsville, Maryland, to develop a strategy to advance genomics across legume species. The group of scientists published the U.S. Legume Crops Genomics White Paper that outlined six areas needed to make progress across all species, including: (i) genome sequencing of strategic legume species, (ii) physical map development and refinement, (iii) functional analysis, (iv) development of DNA markers for comparative mapping and breeding, (v) characterization and utilization of legume biodiversity, and (vi) development of legume data resources.This meeting was followed by a community-wide conference in Santa Fe, Nnew Mexico, to refine objectives and to develop a white paper for legume research entitled, Legumes as a Model Plant Family: Genomics for Food and Feed. This plan focused genomic resources toward two major thrusts: Crop Protection and Crop Product Quality; and served as the impetus for the development of a number of genomic initiatives in each of these legume crops.