The answer to future global food challenges may well come from the past.
The Maya and Inca civilisations were familiar with plants such as quinoa and amaranth, and these plants are now back in style in a move to find sources of high-quality proteins. Such sources are required as the global food demand is set to soar by 70 per cent by 2050.
Investigators at the National Research Centre (CNR) are studying these ancient crops as part of the EU-funded ‘PROTEIN2FOOD’ project. The project aims to develop high-quality food protein from several kind of seed crops (such as quinoa and amaranth), grain legumes (lupin, faba bean and lentils), by means of a multi-disciplinary approach that involves genetics, agronomy, and food-processing engineering.
One of its primary goals is to accelerate consumers’ shift from animal-based proteins to plant-based proteins. In Italy and the further countries that form part of the ‘PROTEIN2FOOD’ project (a consortium of 19 partners ranging from breeders to farmers, food producers and product manufacturers from 13 different countries of which 11 are from the EU, plus Peru and Uganda) – investigators are examining various crops to see which ones are best suited to specific soils and weather conditions.