Lupine cultivation is at least 2,000 years old and most likely began in Egypt or in the general Mediterranean region. The lupine plant, like other grain legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) fixes atmospheric nitrogen, and produces seed high in protein. There are over 300 species of the genus Lupinus (L.), but many have high levels of alkaloids (bitter tasting compounds) that make the seed unpalatable and sometimes toxic. Historically, lupine alkaloids have been removed from the seed by soaking. But plant breeders in the 1920's in Germany produced the first selections of alkaloidfree or "sweet" lupine, which can be directly consumed by humans or livestock. White lupine (L. albus L.), yellow lupine (L. luteus), and blue or narrow-leafed lupine (L. angustifolius) are cultivated as crops. Lupines are currently grown as a forage and grain legume in USSR, Poland, Germany, the Mediterranean, and as a cash crop in Australia, where it is exported to the European seed markets. Both winter-hardy and non-hardy types are available.
II. Uses: A. Nutritional Value:
Sweet white lupine is high in protein (32-38%), low in oil (10%), TDN (75-80%), and does not contain trypsin inhibitors. The seed can be fed directly without heat treatment and has been successfully fed to turkeys, calves, lambs, swine and lactating dairy cattle. Methionine is a limiting amino acid and may be required in rations for poultry and swine.
When animals graze lupine stubble, a disease called lupinosis can develop. It is caused by a mycotoxin. Symptoms are loss of appetite and jaundice. Lupinosis has been a problem in sheep grazing in Australia and in Europe.
In Minnesota trials, a complete replacement of soybean meal with lupine meal for dairy cows resulted in a reduced feed intake and a slight reduction in milk production. The current recommendation is that lupine can replace up to 65% of the soybean meal (10% of the total mix) in a diet. Calves fed ground lupine as the only supplemental protein source in starter diets showed no decrease in production compared to a soybean meal diet.
Lambs fed whole lupine seed grew at the same rate as lambs consuming soybean meal at the same level of protein, indicating that lupine can replace up to 100% of the soybean meal in lamb diets.
Current Minnesota recommendations are that white lupines are unacceptable for growing pigs (under 225 lbs). A 1988 Minnesota study reported a 2% reduction in feed intake for each 1% lupine in the diet. This translated directly into a reduction in gain. Pigs are quite sensitive to alkaloids and palatability can be a problem when alkaloid levels exceed 0.04% of diet dry matter (most sweet lupines are less than 0.03%). Even at this level, feed intake of lupine diets can be severely reduced due to a problem with palatability. Better feeding has resulted from using the yellow and blues lupine species.
Turkey rations containing up to 15% lupine in the diet have not decreased production compared with soybean meal diets. Larger quantities result in reduced feed intake and gain, probably because of fiber content. Methionine should be added as a supplement.
F. Food for Humans:
The United States has a developing specialty human food market for lupine in the form of lupine flour, lupine pasta, and hulls for dietary fiber. Sweet lupines have been shown to increase the protein and fiber crops in conjunction with durum wheat in specialty pastures, and to be an excellent source of white-colored fiber, as an additive to breads and cereals.
Note: Allergic reactions to eating lupine seed flour, particularly in patients sensitised to peanut, have been reported but there has been little evidence in respect of problems arising from inhalation.
Crespo et al set out to evaluate the clinical and immunologic reactivity to lupine in employees at an agricultural research centre working with lupine seed flour. Their findings led them to conclude that the inhalation of lupine flour could be an important cause of allergic sensitisation in exposed workers and might give rise to occupational asthma and food allergy.
III. Growth Habit:
The growth habit of lupine is different from other grain legumes. Emergence is epigeal (cotyledons emerge above ground before development of true leaves), and early seedling growth is considerably slower than later vegetative stages. Maximum vegetative growth rate occurs during flowering. The main stem and each branch usually terminate in an inflorescence, which is a simple raceme with varying numbers of flowers. Even aher the main stem flowering has ceased, the plant can develop lateral secondary as well as tertiary flower sets from a sequence of lateral branches. Species and cultivars differ in ability to set pods on these secondary and tertiary branches. The process is highly influenced by environmental conditions.
IV. Environment Requirements: A. Climate:
Lupine is a cool-season crop, and is relatively tolerant of spring frosts. The flowering process is affected by high temperatures which cause blasting of flowers and a subsequent yield reduction. In areas which normally experience high temperatures in early summer, such as many parts of southern Minnesota and Wisconsin, the risk to the crop is great.
Lupine is adapted to well-drained, coarsely textured, neutral to acidic soils. Iron chlorosis and disease problems often result from plantings on poorly drained, higher pH soils. Reports from Minnesota, New York and parts of New England indicate that many lupine production problems are due to planting on soils too heavy, too wet, or too high in pH. An area of adaptation in central Minnesota on the more acidic, better drained soils has been identified, as have other localized areas in the state. Many alkaline soils with high clay content are considered inappropriate for lupine production.
Several varieties of white, blue, and yellow lupine have been developed worldwide. Experimental selections are currently being evaluated in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. In 1988 the most commonly grown variety in Wisconsin and Minnesota was Ultra, however seed of Primorsky, Kiev, and other varieties were available.
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