"Crop elicitation": approccio innovativo per la valorizzazione delle proprietà funzionali in leguminose da granella


Crop elicitation: innovative approach for the valorization of grain legume functional properties. In Italy grain legume cultivation has encountered a drastic decrease due to several causes (productive, economic, social). In this regard, studies aimed at the setting up of agronomic techniques able to guarantee high and constant in planta yields of health-promoting compounds may concur at re-launching legume production. In this context, 22 accessions of grain legumes (17 Phaseolus vulgaris, 3 Phaseolus coccineus, 1 Vigna unguiculata and 1 Glycine max genotypes) were screened with the aim of identifying genotypes rich in health beneficial phytochemicals (α-amylase inhibitors, α -glucosidase inhibitors, polyphenols) and with low anti-nutritional compounds (lectins). A wide variability was observed among investigated accessions. Four genotypes (Verdone, Kidney Cina, Roviotto and DG) showed a α -amylase inhibitory activity significantly higher (approximately 30% more) than all other tested accessions. The α -amylase inhibitory activity was not correlated neither with the protein nor with the polyphenol contents. Conversely, the α -glucosidase inhibitory activity was positively correlated with grain color and polyphenol content: dark-colored seeds had a mean inhibitory activity of 83.64 ± 22.07%, whereas light-colored seeds had mean values of 21.11 ± 9.36%. As regards the anti-nutritional compounds, out of all common bean accessions, only DG showed no erythro-agglutination activity (lectins). Preliminary experiments, performed in controlled environment, permitted to highlight that different germination conditions markedly affect the synthesis and accumulation of functional compounds in legume seedlings. Those findings were confirmed with field trials performed in two different locations (Bologna and Pisa), on two bean genotypes (Verdone and Zolfino), during the 2004-2005 cropping season. Results showed that the application of abiotic stresses (no fertilization and /or no irrigation) lead to a significant increase of flavonoids in grains, but a decrease (up to 50%) in legume yields was also observed. Crop elicitation, even if valuable for boosting health-promoting compound synthesis in crops, must necessary cope with economically acceptable crop yields.