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DKK 60 M for legume innovation to drive future food production

Legume protein will play a major role in future food production, but legumes have long been overshadowed by cereals in terms of research and development investments. The Novo Nordisk Foundation has now supported the N2CROP center for legume innovation with DKK 60 million to accelerate the optimization of legumes as food crops.

Faba bean field trial. Faba bean is a legume that researchers have received DKK 60 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation to optimize as a food crop (photo: Marcela Mendoza Suárez)

The vast majority of grain crops are grown as nitrogen-fertilized monocultures to achieve high yields and processing efficiency. The downsides are the large energy input required for the production of chemical nitrogen fertilizers and the risk of severe crop losses due to pests and diseases that have to be chemically controlled. 

In contrast, mixed- or intercropping systems have successfully taken advantage of legumes and nitrogen fixing bacteria. For example, perennial clover-grass pastures represent a biodiverse growth system that offers strong resistance against diseases and pests. The biomass and protein produced in these systems is not, however, suitable for food use without application of complex processing methods that are still being established.  

Developing legume-based mixed cropping systems for grain crops – such as faba bean and cereals – holds significant potential for reducing dependence on chemical nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides. The challenge is that legumes and legume-based mixed cropping systems are not generally economically competitive.

Center leader Stig U. Andersen states: “We are thrilled to bring diverse expertise together within N2CROP to tackle a major challenge in food production and look forward to broad collaborations with all parties interested in legume innovation.”

About the N2CROP research project

The mission of N2CROP is to establish an international hub for cutting-edge grain legume research and innovation and, ultimately, achieve sustainable agri-food systems powered by biologically fixed nitrogen to deliver high-quality plant food protein.

N2CROP connects various disciplines, including nutrition (bioavailable legume seed protein and plant cell walls), microbiology (optimization of nitrogen fixation through customized rhizobium inoculants), genetics (targeted mutations to enhance key legume traits), and agronomy (field trials and crop modelling) with the ambition to improve legume mixed crop performance to a level where legume-cereal intercropping will generally outcompete cereal monoculture.

N2CROP – funding and participants

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has granted DKK 60 million over six years. The grant reference number is NNF23OC0081220 in the call "Challenge Programme 2023 - Future Agri-Food Systems".

Project title: N2CROP - Legume innovation for future agri-food systems

Center leader:

  • Stig Uggerhøj Andersen - Aarhus University – Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.


  • Esben Skipper Sørensen, Kasper Røjkjær Andersen and Marcela Mendoza Suárez - Aarhus University – Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.
  • Martin Weih and Katharina Meurer - Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences - Department of Crop Production Ecology.
  • Jesper Holck and Kristian Barret – Technical University of Denmark - Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine.
  • Dugald Reid – La Trobe University.
  • Dorte Bodin Dresbøll – University of Copenhagen – Department for Plant and Environmental Sciences.

For further information, please contact

Professor Stig Uggerhøj Andersen - sua@mbg.au.dk
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Aarhus University, Denmark