March 25, 2015
The use of soy as feed for land-based livestock and aquaculture in the UK may soon be rivalled by home-grown lupins, a genus of flowering plants in the legume family, Fabaceae.
The possibility is based on findings from a three-year project called "Lupins in UK Agriculture and Aquaculture" or LUKAA, and investigates the potential of lupins as concentrate feeds instead of soy.
Involved in the project are scientists from Aberystwyth University who found lupin to be a good source of protein.
"Our research findings have proven that we can increase the amount of protein that can be grown here in the UK, with proven practical and economic benefits to producers", said Professor Nigel Scollan, the Waitrose Chair of Sustainable Agriculture at IBERS and the principal investigator of LUKAA.
He explained that the three key types of lupins, white, yellow and narrow-leafed, provide raw protein levels of 28-42% as well as a more favourable amino acid profile than beans and peas.
In the LUKAA project, it is shown that rations containing lupins can promote equally favourabe and, sometimes, better performances in poultry and fishes, as compared to soy-based diets.
"There is clear evidence that lupins could help as a replacement for soy with no compromise to performance", Scollan added. He believes lupins can improve protein security in the livestock and fish sectors of the UK and Europe as both regions are apparently highly dependent on imported soy for feed.
However, inadequate infrastructures between farms and the feed-milling sector, limited numbers of permitted herbicides and skeptical attitudes towards cultivating lupins will pose challenges for the flower genus to be considered over soy.
Nevertheless, the lupin-cultivation industry may gain advantage with the help of political and economic factors discouraging the continual use of soy-based feed. These included a rising opposition and cost of importing soy, the falling numbers of non-genetically modified (GM) soybean, and an urgency to boost UK food security in the midst of tumultuous market conditions outside the state.
Lupin may benefit further from a Common Agricultural Policy in which its new and mandatory 'greening' rules apply to parties in receipt of a 'Basic Payment' that will be effected this year. These regulations could, in turn, help raise crop diversification.