Plant-based proteins: Peas as a source of necessary amino acids for human nutrition

In a series of articles, we introduce research from the PSC network that support increases of ecological plant-based protein production for human nutrition in Switzerland and worldwide.

Peas, for example the yellow pea, have a high concentration of almost all essential amino acids. Compared to soy, they have no allergenic potential. They are particularly interesting for human nutrition, both in cooking and as a basis in the food industry for meat substitutes or protein-rich drinks.

A challenge, however, is their cultivation. Here it is necessary to maintain a crop rotation that allows up to 8 years break between cultivation on the same land. Why? Soil legume fatigue is caused by various harmful soil organisms and affects pea roots to the point of total crop failure.

Resistant and high-yielding peas were the focus of a collaboration between ETH Zurich and FIBL. Research was conducted to see if peas resistant to soil legume fatigue could be grown with shorter crop rotations. In fact, resistant pea plants were found whose roots were heavily colonized by helpful soil organisms. Do these soil organisms help repel the harmful organisms?

With a newly established resistance screening reproducible distinction between susceptible and resistant pea lines is possible. The screening system allows to predict PRRC resistance for a given field site and offers a tool for selection at the seedling stage in breeding nurseries.


Lukas Wille, Mario Kurmann, Monika M. Messmer, Bruno Studer and Pierre Hohmann (2021). Untangling the Pea Root Rot Complex Reveals Microbial Markers for Plant Health. Front. Plant Sci.:

Some of the researchers

Dr. Lukas Wille, researcher at FiBL, Switzerland and former researcher at ETH Zurich is working on complexes of root rot pathogens, resistance of pea against root rot disease and the role that microbial diversity and plant-microbe interactions play in shaping the pathobiome and plant resistance. Bruno Studer is professor for Molecular Plant Breeding at ETH Zurich

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