The growth, phenology, grain yield and neurotoxin (ODAP) content of Lathyrus sativus, L. cicera and L. ochrus were compared with a locally adapted field pea (Pisum sativum L.) to examine their potential as grain legumes in Western Australian farming systems. About 17 lines of each species were obtained from ICARDA, Syria, and grown at 3 agro-climatically different sites.
In general, the 3 species were later flowering than field pea, especially L, cicera and L. ochrus; however, L. sativus was the last species to mature. The best Lathyrus lines produced biomass near flowering similar to field pea. At the most favourable site, grain yields were up to 1.6, 2.6 and 1.7 t/ha for L. sativus, L. cicera and L;. ochrus respectively, compared with a field pea grain yield of 3.1 t/ha. There was considerable genotype and environmental variation in ODAP concentration in the seed. On average, the ODAP concentration of L. ochrus (6.58 mg/g) was about twice that of L. sativus, and L. cicera had the lowest ODAP concentration (1.31 mg/g). Given that Lathyrus spp. have not had the same breeding effort as field pea and other grain legumes in Australia, these results encourage further selection or breeding. in the short-seasoned, mediterranean-type environment of Western Australia, harvest indices and grain yields could be improved with early flowering. Low ODAP concentration should also be sought.