Expanded genetic pool of forage legumes for sustainable systems

Call for Proposals
USD 424.035
Counterpart Amount:
USD 1.022.851
Execution time
36 Months
Total Amount:
USD 1.446.886
Participating countries:
Uruguay Uruguay Chile Chile
Funding source:
FONTAGRO Amount 29% Other agencies 0% Counterpart Amount 71%

Executive Summary

• Economic impact of these processes The LESIS Project (Legumes for Sustainable Systems) was set to improve the productivity and sustainability of livestock systems of Uruguay and Chile (Bolivia also joined, after the project´s inception). The goal was to expand and enhance the genetic resources of forage legumes of the Lotus and Trifolium genera, and their associated rhizobia, aimed at their improvement and agronomic use in limiting environments. It involved both the participation of producer associations, seed companies and inoculants in the research and dissemination of results. LESIS carried out systematic and intensive work in a number of fields, as indicated below:  

  • • Collections of germplasm  
  • • Database development  
  • • Conservation of germplasm  
  • • Morphological, phenological and productive characterization  
  • • Biochemical and physiological characterization of germplasm in response to water stress  
  • • Tolerance to soil acidity and low phosphorus availability  
  • • Molecular characterization  
  • • Identification of superior populations of legumes  
  • • Rhizobia collection and isolates 

Finally, LESIS strongly promoted technical and scientific outreach activities; the training of human resources and pursued research continuity by using stakeholders own resources and by means of negotiation and proposals submitted to other sources of funding. 


The technological solution

The technological solution was aimed at obtaining superior germplasm from forage legumes that can have a positive impact on the design and development of sustainable production systems. Strategic research is the main tool and the first step involves the collection of existing, introduced and naturalized genetic material. These resources are then subjected to phenotypic, genotypic and molecular characterization and conserved (cool storage) for future use. 

 Subsequently, the materials that present initial advantages are evaluated in the field for specific traits such as tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses and then incorporated into improved production systems. The fact that the research is done in conjunction with producer cooperatives, seed and inoculant companies, and national research institutes ensures that the adoption of the new knowledge is more expeditious. 


The germplasm collection was enriched with 162 accessions of Lotus corniculatus, Trifolium pratense, T. repens and Medicago sativa, complementing the 189 from previous collections and exchanges. All are kept in cool storage in each country. Passport information is maintained by each institution and basic information is available in fixed tables on the project´s website. 

The morphological, phenological and productive characterization of germplasm was conducted through 16 research and development activities and concluded in the 2nd year. Other relevant studies included biochemical-physiological characterization in response to water stress, tolerance to soil acidity and low availability of P, molecular characterization, identification of superior legume populations, and collection of rhizobia and isolates. 

The participatory evaluation of seed quality included activities in 71 lots of producers, cooperatives and companies. The evaluation of inputs and processes reached the conclusion that the link between seed quality and productivity is consistent and translates into a model to be transferred to producers and extension agents. 


Although the project did not provide a quantification of direct and indirect beneficiaries, the number is certainly considerable. A total of 35 outreach activities and others such as popular and formal publications were carried out and a website was also created. The results were directed at producer cooperatives, seed and inoculant companies, national research institutes and universities. 

 Some 45 specific activities were registered and carried out in regional Congresses and Meetings, with 3 regional interdisciplinary workshops on the scientific topics of the project. In addition, 3 undergraduate theses, 4 master's and 1 doctorate were completed. 

Sustainable Development Goals

Responsible consumption and production Climate action Life on land Partnerships for the goals

Main donors

Participating Organizations

  • Instituto Nacional de Investigación Agropecuaria (INIA) - Uruguay
  • CAF - Uruguay
  • Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) - Chile
  • UdelaR - Uruguay
  • BIOS - Chile
  • CALI - Uruguay
  • UACH - Chile

Graphics and data

Financing by country (in USD)
FONTAGRO Amount Other agencies Counterpart Amount

Geolocated Map


With the support of
Fondo Coreano de Alianza para el Conocimiento en Tecnología e Innovación (KPK)