Legumes represent the most valued food sources in agriculture after cereals. Despite the advances made in breeding food legumes, there is a need to develop and further improve legume productivity to meet increasing food demand worldwide. Several biotic and abiotic stresses affect legume crop productivity throughout the world. The study of legume genetics, genomics and biology are all important in order to understand the limitations of yield of legume crops and to support our legume breeding programs. With the advent of huge genomic resources and modern technologies, legume research can be directed towards precise understanding of the target genes responsible for controlling important traits for yield potential, and for resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses. Programmed and systematic research will lead to developing high yielding, stress tolerant and early maturing varieties. This issue of Functional Plant Biology is dedicated to 'Legume Biology' research covering part of the work presented at VI International Conference on Legume Genetics and Genomics held at Hyderabad, India, in 2012. The 13 contributions cover recent advances in legume research in the context of plant architecture and trait mapping, functional genomics, biotic stress and abiotic stress. © 2013 CSIRO.