Tropischer Pflanzenbau und Agrosystem Modellierung
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Lablab purpureus

Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet is an ancient domesticate widely distributed in Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, where it has been used as a grain legume and Lablab Blueten vegetable for more than 3,000 years. To date, it remains an important, but minor, crop in many of these regions. It is also used as animal fodder and green manure in mixed crop-livestock systems and, over the past 50 years, it has become an important annual forage crop in Australia and the Americas.

Despite its wide distribution in the tropics, its adaptability and diversity, L. purpureus is still considered a neglected crop with underused potential. However, its capacity to be used as a vegetable, pulse and/or forage crop in tropical regions with humid to semi-arid climates has resulted in reassessing its potential in tropical farming systems. An understanding of available genetic diversity is the first step in this reassessment of the species and its agronomic potential for future crop improvement.


Research focus in Lablab purpureus is on exploring available genetic diversity of this multiple purpose legume for existing and new uses as well as researching the domestication process occurred hitherto. A range of methods is being used, including ecogeographical morphological, physiological, and molecular approaches.
Germplasm studied has largely been aquired from the Australian CSIRO (the former Australian Tropical Forages Genetic Resources Centre - ATFGRC) and the ILRI genebank in Ethiopia. A core collection has been proposed by Pengelly & Maass (2001) based on morpho-agronomic characterization of the diverse germplasm from these two institutions.

Based on molecular markers (Maass et al. 2005) and seed studies (Maass 2006; Maass & Usongo 2007), it is maintained that L. purpureus is of African origin.

The use of Lablab as a vegetable is also investigated within the collaborative project ProNIVA in eastern and southern Africa.


Maass, B.L., Venkatesha, S.C., Knox, M.R., Tefera Tolera and Ramme, S. (2008). Lablab purpureus – a crop lost for Africa? Acta Horticulturae (Submitted April 2008).

Maass, B.L. 2007. Recent advances in research and development of Lablab purpureus diversity – a tropical multiple purpose legume. Seminar presented at the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia, 16 Aug. 2007. Available at: PDF

Maass, B.L., Ayisi, K.K., Bopape, P.M., Usongo, M. and Pengelly, B.C. 2003. Appropriate germplasm facilitates new interest in neglected crops – the case of Lablab purpureus in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. (PDF available)


M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses within the ProNIVA project

Usongo, M.F. 2003. Changes in seed attributes of Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet during the process of domestication. MSc thesis at Georg-August Universität, Göttingen, Germany. 55 p.

Ramme, S. 2002. An ecogeographic survey of Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet and six related Dolichos species from Africa. MSc thesis, in collaboration with ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, Germany. 134 pp.

Wiedow, C. 2001. Morphological and agronomical characterization of Lablab purpureus in Ethiopia. Diploma thesis (Dipl.-Ing. agr.), in collaboration with ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) and University of Rostock, Germany. 75 p.


PD Dr. Brigitte L. Maass (


The Kirkhouse Trust (KT) recently brought scientists with a scientific interest in Lablab purpureus (Dolichos) together for a one day meeting on Sunday 2nd March 2008 near Arusha, Tanzania. This event has been held in conjunction with the International Symposium on "Underutilized plants for food, nutrition, income and sustainable development", 3-7 March 2008, organized under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS). KT supports research projects on this crop based in India and Africa.

For further information, please contact Ms Emma Wilmore

Tel: +44 (0) 1865 856 838
Fax: +44 (0) 1865 841 263

Date: 12 March 2008


Molecular studies in Lablab purpureus (List of references available on request)

Germplasm sources Method applied Remarks regarding plant materials used Objectives and main outcomes Author (year) Contact
CSIRO: 40 accessions RAPD Germplasm characterization Liu (1996) Dr. Chunji Liu, CSIRO, Australia;
Bangladesh/Japan germplasm, CSIRO: ca. 60 accessions RAPD Liu’s accessions contained Germplasm characterization Sultana et al. (2000) Dr. Sultana, Bangladesh
Mapping population from cross of 2 CSIRO accessions RAPD, RFLP Konduri et al. (2000)
Mapping population RFLP Same accessions as in Konduri et al. (2000) Comparative mapping with mungbean (Vigna radiata) Humphry et al. (2002)
USDA: >30 accessions SSR Wang et al. (2004) Dr. Brad Morris, USDA-GRIN, USA;
CSIRO: 103 accessions AFLP Accessions largely overlap with Sultana et al. (2000); Liu’s accessions contained Germplasm characterization; high diversity, different types reflected in morphology Maass et al. (2005) Dr. Brigitte Maass, GAUG, Germany;
15 genotypes from India RAPD Characterization and relationship to morphological diversity Gnanesh (2005) MSc thesis Gnanesh Belaghihalli Nanjappa
Mostly core collection + E African germplasm AFLP Same primer pairs as in Maass et al. Diversity study Tefera Tolera (2006) PhD thesis Dr. Tefera Tolera, Univ. Western Australia, Perth;>
Chinese germplasm RAPD [information inaccessible due to language of publication] Xi and Tang (2006) XI Zai-xing and TANG Hui, China
Mostly germplasm collected from S India AFLP, SSR Few accessions from core collection contained Germplasm characterization Venkatesha et al. (2007) Dr. Maggie Knox, JIC, UK;
USDA: 47 accessions SSR Characterization and phylogenetic analysis Wang et al. (2007) Dr. Brad Morris, USDA-GRIN, USA;
Germplasm collection from AVRDC + Bangladesh ca. 200 accessions AFLP Few accessions from core collection contained Germplasm characterization M.T. Islam (Bangladesh) PhD thesis in process (2007) Dr. L.M. Engle, AVRDC, Taiwan; / Mr. Md. Tariqul Islam, BARI, Bangladesh;
Germplasm from Genebank of Kenya AFLP Germplasm characterization D. Odhiambo (Kenya) PhD thesis in process (2007) Mr. Daniel Odiambo, Moi Univ., Kenya;

Grisebachstr. 6

Department of Crop Sciences
Agronomy in the Tropics
(Tropischer Pflanzenbau)
Georg-August-University Göttingen
Grisebachstraße 6
D-37077 Göttingen


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