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The University of Southampton

Can chickpeas and lentils grow in the UK? Scientists calling for schools to help find out

Published: 19 February 2024
A variety of legume seed

School children are being invited to help scientists find out if chickpeas, lentils, and other types of legumes could be grown in the UK.

Scientists at the University of Southampton say that growing legumes in the UK could help to boost food security as our climate warms.

Climate change is already impacting food staples like wheat and maize in the UK and other countries. Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and the lablab bean (currently grown in sub-Saharan Africa and India) could help to diversify our food supply, making it less susceptible to extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.

“Over the coming decades, humans will need to grow more food, on less land, under a warming climate, and these are significant and inter-related problems,” says Dr Mark Chapman, who is leading the project. “Legumes like chickpeas and lentils as well as underutilised crops such as the lablab bean are rarely, if ever, grown here in the UK. Legumes are unique in that they don’t need fertilisers because they use nitrogen from the air. This makes them better for the environment than other crops which require a lot of fertilisers.”

Researchers are inviting up to 100 schools to take part in this ‘citizen science’ project. Packs including seeds, measuring tape and pH testing kits will be sent to participating schools. Students will be asked to report back on growth, flowering and seed production, and the results will be updated live on an online map. Researchers will then be able to see how the plants are faring around different parts of the country.

Beaulieu Convent School on Jersey is already on board and carrying out a more in-depth project alongside the 100-school project. Their GCSE and A Level biology, chemistry, physics, art, food science and computer science students will all be working on the project, with help from University of Southampton researchers.

Jon Hale, Head of Biology at Beaulieu Convent School said: “We are really pleased to be part of this exciting project. The students learn first-hand how big challenges like fighting food insecurity and reducing the negative impacts of climate change require people with a range of skillsets to work together as a team.”

If you are a teacher and you would like your school to take part, please contact Sarah Ryles by emailing

The project is funded through the Higher Education Innovation Fund led by Research England.

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