Everything you wanted to know about Tarwi

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    We love tarwi so much here at Backyard Seed Savers! Check out this publication (original found here) to know more:

    Geographical distribution of the Andean lupin (Lupinus mutabilis Sweet)

    By Sven-Erik Jacobsen   Angel Mujica



    Tarwi, tauri, chocho or pearl lupin (Lupinus mutabilis Sweet) is a legume cultivated in the Andean area of South America, and is of great importance in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. The countries where the species is regarded as of first priority are Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile, while in Argentina and Colombia it is of medium priority (FAO 1986). We estimate that the total area of tarwi is about 10 000 ha (Jacobsen and Mujica 2004).

    The Andean lupin, described in Jacobsen and Mujica (2007), has less importance in South America than other Andean grain crops of increasing potential for production and commercialization on the national and international markets, compared with quinoa (Jacobsen and Mujica 2002) and amaranth (Jacobsen and Mujica 2003).

    Lupin (Lupinus spp.) is a globally important crop. Tarwi (Lupinus mutabilis Sweet) originated in the Andean area of South America (Dávila 1987). It is the only American member of the genus Lupinus that has been domesticated and cultivated (Blanco 1982). It is distributed from Colombia to the north of Argentina, although currently it is only of agricultural importance in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Recently, interest has increased in Europe due to its high nutritional quality, as a valuable source of protein and oil, with an oil content of 14-24% and a protein content of 41-51% (Gross et al. 1988).

    Research has been carried out for 40 years on the Andean lupin in Peru and other Andean countries (Mujica et al. 2001, 2002). The germplasm collection in Peru consists of 1200 accessions, with vegetative periods of 140-230 days, seed yields of 800-2700 kg/ha, protein contents of 35-45% and oil contents of 15-23%. Tarwi fixes 160-220 kg N/ha, for a water consumption of 656 mm, according to Penman (1948). The main pests affecting the crop are Copitarsia turbata H.S., Agromyza sp., Frankliniella tuberosi Moulton and Myzus sp., while major diseases are Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, Uromyces lupini and Fusarium oxysporum (Mujica et al. 2002).

    Although institutions in several countries maintain Lupinus accessions, cultivated material, and especially wild types from many areas, remain uncollected (Table 1).

    In Peru, tarwi is mainly grown around Lake Titicaca, from Ilave to the border with Bolivia in Desaguadero, and in small areas in Cajamarca in northern Peru and Cusco in the south. The main production centres in Ecuador are Cotopaxi, with 2150 ha and 484 t (225 kg/ha); Chimborazo with 1013 ha and 230 t (227 kg/ha); and Pichincha with 585 ha and 190 t (325 kg/ha) as annual averages. In addition, in Ecuador, chocho, as tarwi is known locally, is produced in the provinces of Carchi, Imbabura, Tungurahua and Bolivar. The yields are low, only about 250 kg/ha (INIAP 1997).

    It is estimated that Ecuador has almost 32 000 ha suitable for production of chocho, 17 000 ha have certain limitations, and a further 55 600 ha have major limitations (Table 2). The limitations refer in general to the presence of biotic and abiotic adverse factors, including pests, frost and steep slopes. (INIAP 1997).

    Studies have been initiated to evaluate the potential of L. mutabilis in Europe. Cultivation of the Andean lupin under European conditions has often been characterized by a low seed yield and a long vegetation period (Sawicka-Sienkiewicz and Augiewicz 2002). Interspecific hybrids were studied in order to evaluate the chromosome number, which is 2n=48 for L. mutabilis and 2n=50 for L. albus. Hybrids mostly had 48 chromosomes, independent of the mother, and they were usually morphologically similar to the mother. The first hybrids between L. polyphyllus and L. mutabilis have been developed, with dominant characters of pod shatter, bitterness and colour (von Baer 2002). The challenge is to achieve early varieties that are sweet, with high protein content (up to 50%) and high oil content (up to 25%), but there is a negative correlation between protein and oil content. Determinate types should be used in crossings to secure earliness.

    In Spain, work has focused on the species L. albus, L. angustifolius, L. luteus and L. mutabilis (López-Bellido et al. 1982; Guerrero 1982). Andean lupin did not function as a winter crop under the conditions in Córdoba (López-Bellido and Fuentes 1990).


    While seed quality of L. mutabilis is well documented, little information exists on morphological characters, growth duration, dry matter (DM) production and seed yield. L. mutabilis has an indeterminate growth habit, where the plants produce a principal stem, ending in a terminal inflorescence, with branches appearing after flowering (Blanco 1982; Neves-Martins et al. 1992). Great variation has been observed in the number of branches (0 to 52; Blanco 1982) and in plant height (0.23-2.25 m; Neves-Martins et al. 1992). These morphological characters are influenced by genotype and climatic conditions. In years of drought or in dry regions, the plants are smaller with fewer branches, and mature earlier. The architecture of the plant seems to be closely related to earliness (Blanco 1982; Lenoble 1982; Huyghe 1992).

    L. mutabilis is adapted to a temperate, neither too dry nor hot, climate, and is relatively susceptible to frost. Temperatures below -2°C cause plant death, especially if occurring during the first growth stages (Blanco 1982). This susceptibility limits its use as a winter crop. With spring sowing, the problem is slow initial growth, so that flowering often coincides with the summer drought, as for instance in southern Europe and in Australia. At the same time, dry conditions reduce the problem of indeterminate growth, but also reduce yield potential considerably.

    In Europe, seed yield of Andean lupin is limited by competition between plants for nutrients, and the low DM yield. Despite the indeterminate growth of L. mutabilis, the leaf area is small. Leaf development is very slow during the early growth stages, and the crop does not cover the soil until by the end of the vegetative growth period (Hardy et al. 1997). The duration of the remaining period with a complete crop cover was too short to produce a satisfactory DM yield (Hardy et al. 1997).

    Despite the high oil and protein content, the potential for increased production of tarwi is limited due to its low yield and its indeterminate growth. Tarwi yielded less in Europe (ca 1 t/ha) compared with other legumes (Table 3). However, the results are based on two very dry years. Other studies have shown higher yields, for example in England, where Masefield (1976) found yields of 1.8 to 6.0 t/ha when sowing in March, while the same genotypes produced 0.5-3.5 t/ha when sown in April. In Germany, tarwi yielded 0.68-3.0 t/ha (Weißmann and Weißmann 1992; Romer and Jahn-Deesbach 1992). Rubenschuh (1997) reported yields of 1.8-6.5 t/ha in 1991 and 0.2-2.4 t/ha in 1992. In Spain, the yield was 0.2-0.5 t/ha (López-Bellido 1992), and in France 1.0-2.5 t/ha (Lenoble 1982). In the Andes, the yield varies from 0.5 to 3.5 t/ha, with an average of 0.9-1.3 t/ha (González 1986). These results show that the productivity of L. mutabilis is unstable and highly influenced by environmental conditions (Caligari et al. 2000). The relatively low yields are due to the low number of pods and the low number of seeds per pod (Lenoble 1982; López-Bellido and Fuentes 1990; Romer and Jahn-Deesbach 1992). Flower loss also causes yield loss, reaching 59-73% (Neves-Martins and Silva 1994). The flower loss can be related to development of lateral branches, as also seen in L. angustifolius, L. luteus and L. mutabilis (Porter 1982).

    Another problem with tarwi is the harvest index (HI), which was only 0.09-0.33 in several cultivars studied. In addition, 41-56% of pod dry weight was located in the pod walls (Hardy and Huyghe 1997).

    However, a number of characteristics make tarwi a promising crop. Among these are the high nitrogen fixation capacity—from 120 to 160 kg N/ha per year—and a grain of high biological value, with 40% protein and 20% oil. Moreover, the plant can be incorporated into the soil as organic matter.

    The DM and seed yield was studied in two genotypes of early (LM34) and late (LM268) maturity in 1994-95, at two sowing densities (35 and 55 seeds/m2) in Lusignan, France (Hardy et al. 1997). DM yield was on average 6800 kg/ha. The main stem and the first order branches contributed most to the biomass. Pods were only produced on the main stem. The maximum leaf area index (LAI) was 2.8. LAI did not correlate with DM production, which varied with genotype. LM34 showed better growth of pods, its harvest index was 0.32 and seed yield on average was 1.28 t/ha. LM268 had more vegetative growth, and both HI and seed yield were lower (0.16 and 1.13 t/ha, respectively). The yields were similar at the two plant densities. Neither genotype showed translocation of assimilates from stem to pods (Hardy et al. 1997). LM34 gave a relatively stable seed yield, and its HI was equivalent to that of other indeterminate lupins. LM268 had better growth of pods and seeds, but vegetative growth stopped, so the plant did not mature. In hot and dry conditions, growth and formation of pods were reduced due to abortion of flowers and seeds (Hardy et al. 1997).

    In Europe and Western Australia, L. mutabilis cannot compete in yield with other crops unless the seed quality has an additional value sufficient to compensate for the lower yield. In order to increase the potential for DM production of tarwi, an increase in LAI should be considered, for instance by increasing sowing density, which will cause an accumulation of green matter in stem and first-order branches, and little development of upper branches. Another possibility would be to modify the sowing date. It is not possible to sow before spring. A delayed sowing implies the development of more first-order branches; however, as flowering may also be delayed, it may coincide with a period of drought, so that maturity is delayed. A third solution would be to screen the available variability for intermediate genotypes, which develop sufficient, but not too much biomass. Such a genotype would require a vegetative development sufficient for capturing light over a long period, and thus optimizing biomass yield. Greater modifications of plant structure have little probability of increasing the yield of L. mutabilis, despite ensuring seed harvest, because it will also reduce the leaf area and limit the potential for biomass production. Modifications, such as a shorter phyllochron to reduce time to anthesis, could have an effect. This means that mechanisms that define plant structure, and the relationship between structure of the crop and the efficiency of light interception, should be analysed in order to decide whether L. mutabilis could be an alternative for areas outside the Andes (Hardy et al. 1997).

    It was demonstrated that seed yield of L. mutabilis was limited in Europe due to low DM production. Twelve genotypes were sown on eight dates in five locations (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and Portugal) in 1994 and 1995 (Hardy et al. 1998). The widest variation was observed for phenological and morphological characters. The variation in number of principal leaves was partly affected by temperature. Height and date of flowering were related to the number of leaves, but the time of flowering was also affected by environmental conditions. The number of branches was determined by the environmental conditions during growth. The number of leaves in the second branch of the first order was less susceptible to the environmental conditions than the number of leaves on the main stem. The heritabilities were high for all characters except for the number of leaves on the second branch of first order, and the interactions between genotype and environmental condition. It was concluded that it is possible to improve L. mutabilis by modifying its morphology (Hardy et al. 1998).

    However, unstable yield and indeterminate maturity are the principal factors that limit the introduction of L. mutabilis to Europe. Before beginning a breeding programme, it is important to study carbon partitioning and to analyse its consequences for maturity and seed yield (Hardy et al. 1997).

    A more fundamental analysis of the physiological mechanisms that define the structure of the plant and the function of the phyllochron, and a comprehension of the relationship between the main stem and branches, would lead to a better understanding of the optimal phenology of the plant for each environmental condition (Hardy et al. 1998).


    Andean lupin has a very long growth period, the reason for which is its indeterminate growth habit, with a continuous production of lateral branches. Selection of early maturing material of L. mutabilis began in Germany in 1983, and through conventional breeding a new variety, cv. Inti, was developed with 51% of protein and 16% oil (Gross et al. 1988). The most surprising result was the reduction of the alkaloid content to 0.0075%, which is even lower than the sweet lupin (0.02%) (Pearson and Carr 1977).

    For the purpose of obtaining early maturing material, variability was created through induced chemical mutations (Romer et al. 1996). The two populations in M3 showed genetic variability, with promising characteristics such as earliness and short plant stature. Plant height is related to earliness, so that short plants tend to be earlier. The selected plants had smaller seeds (Silva et al. 1996). Interspecific crossings were performed with a perennial lupin (L. polyphyllus), which is early, but no pods contained seeds. It seemed to be possible to use frozen pollen of L. polyphyllus (Romer 1995).

    If the Andean lupin were to be introduced to Europe, it would be necessary to select the most adapted genotypes, with resistance to diseases, and begin breeding programmes using interspecific hybridization. L. mutabilis has been crossed with L. termis, L. graecus and L. vavilovii. Twenty seeds were obtained from 198 crosses (11%). The species differ in the number of chromosomes (L. mutabilis 2n=48, the others 2n=50). The same genotypes of L. mutabilis were crossed with several wild types from the USA (L. elegans, L. pubescens, L. hartwegii and L. nanus), from which were obtained 11 seeds from 155 flowers (7%), even though the progenitors had the same number of chromosomes (2n=48). Interspecific offspring with the desired characters were obtained, such as hybrids between the line KW1, crossed with L. pubescens and L. elegans. Thus, interspecific hybridization in L. mutabilis seems to be possible, but with a low efficiency (Sawicka-Sienkiewicz and Brejdak 1996).

    In vitro regeneration provides a powerful tool for creating disease-free genotypes, for application of genetic transformation, and for multiplying rare breeding material (Schafer-Menuhr 1985). Furthermore, in vitro techniques could rescue hybrid embryos that normally do not form roots (Schafer-Menuhr 1985; Gulati and Jaiwal 1990). This regeneration technique has been used in several lupin species (Sator 1985; Schafer-Menuhr 1985; Vuillaume et al. 1985; Sroga 1987; Podyma et al. 1988; Upadhyaya et al. 1992; Pigeare et al. 1994). However, the frequency of regeneration has always been low and with problems upon transferring the plants to natural condition.

    Regeneration was achieved by organogenesis of immature seeds of L. mutabilis, using the modified method of Schenk and Hildebrandt (1972), complemented with tidiazuron (2 mg/L). There were only successful crossings between two of the five lines evaluated, with a multiplication factor of up to 12.4. Very few offspring produced roots (Rahim and Caligari 1996).

    One possibility could be the use of L. mutabilis as a progenitor for interspecific crossings in order to improve seed quality of other cultivated lupin species (L. albus, L. angustifolius and L. luteus). However, such hybridizations have not succeeded so far (Hardy and Huyghe 1997).

    The optimal plant type has a determinate growth, with one or two lateral branch orders, with, for instance, eight primary branches. This type was called semi-determinate (Romer et al. 1996). It must be early, with a low alkaloid content. A semi-determinate plant, that is one with a determinate habit with additional primary branches, may be the most appropriate form for the future (Caligari et al. 2000).

    Incidence of pests and diseases

    The principal factor limiting production of Lupinus spp. is the disease anthracnose, which is now common in L. albus in Europe (Gondran et al. 1996), in North and South America (von Baer and Hashagen 1996), and recently in Australia (Dept. of Agriculture 1996). L. mutabilis is also very susceptible to this disease. It was previously reported that anthracnose was caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides (Gondran et al. 1994), but there is now proof that the causal organism is the fungus C. acutatum (Gondran et al. 1996). The disease spreads rapidly in the field if moisture is present. There is a need for strategies to control this disease if lupin production shall succeed. Blanco (1982) demonstrated genetic differences with respect to anthracnose in L. mutabilis in Peru, but such differentiated behaviour was not seen in the European material.

    In order to control the disease, it is recommended to use high-quality, disease-free seed, and to select for resistance. With no differences in behaviour against anthracnose, it could be necessary to treat the seeds with fungicides. Results from France showed that a mixture of Carbendazime and Iprodiona was effective (Gondran et al. 1990). A treatment with Landor C (Fludioxonil + Difenoconazole) was evaluated, but was only effective if the contamination of seeds did not exceed 2% (Romer 1997). Application of Landor C in combination with Harvesan (Carbendazime + Flusilazole) should begin in the four-leaf stage and be repeated every three weeks.

    A preventive fungicide application followed by continuous applications, especially under humid conditions, is efficient. However, this strategy is too expensive in commercial fields, and obviously not sustainable, and not possible in organic agriculture. The key to control the disease is seed production of good quality, which will give farmers the possibility of producing Andean lupin without the use of pesticides. Simultaneously, plant breeding programmes should include disease resistance. This is obviously a long-term process, and its success uncertain.

    In Japan, there were problems with blight and root rot in tarwi. Soil sterilization was recommended, and when sowing crops susceptible to this disease, it was done in colder seasons or areas (Sato et al. 1999). Root rot was also seen in the USA. Several pathogenic fungi were isolated from lupin grown in Minnesota. Fusarium sp. was associated with root rot symptoms; Rhizoctonia sp. attacked parts of the lower stem; and Ascochyta sp. caused a necrosis of the stem and pod lesions. Seed treatments were usually ineffective. The use of adequate cultural controls, such as crop rotation and clean seed, can reduce the risk of loss caused by diseases (Putnam 2001).

    The area of the Peruvian-Bolivian altiplano, with its altitude of 3800 masl and its harsh climatic conditions, is regarded as disease-free for tarwi. Therefore it is an excellent area for seed production of disease-free seed (Lescano et al. 1991).

    Photoperiod response

    Photoperiod sensitivity to grain filling has an important function in the adaptation of plants to the Andean environment, which is a climate characterized by drought and by frost towards the end of the growing season. The sensitivity promotes accelerated grain filling when the daylength is short. However, this character can limit the adaptation of tarwi to higher latitudes. The adaptation to high latitudes should thus consist of a selection for less sensitivity to daylength effects on grain filling. Knowledge of the variation in the sensitivity to daylength and its genetic basis makes it possible to obtain genotypes for high latitudes with little or no sensitivity, and cultivars in the Andes with greater sensitivity.

    Oil content of tarwi cultivated in Europe was less than in its region of origin, due to climatic factors (FAO 1982). Hackbarth (1961) mentioned that L. mutabilis was neutral to daylength, but it was observed that 7 of 12 cultivars presented a higher oil content in short days. Two cultivars did not show variation and three cultivars had a lower oil content. It has been shown in several species and varieties of lupin that the effect of vernalization is a reduction in the growth period and a higher yield (Krasulina 1937; Silvester-Bradley 1980). In tarwi, no reaction to vernalization was observed.

    The environmental response should be quantified by a daily registry of maximum and minimum temperature and calculations of the daylength (Charles-Edwards et al. 1986). Data on the locality of origin, such as latitude, longitude and altitude, should be recorded, as well as historical data on precipitation, number of days without frost, intensity of frost, potential evapotranspiration, duration of growth season, and average temperature (FAO 1986). All these data will be useful to interpret specific responses of the genotypes (Bertero et al. 1999).

    The Andean lupin is adapted to a temperate climate and is strongly influenced by daylength. In its region of origin, the Andes, L. mutabilis is cultivated at altitudes up to 3800 masl. L. mutabilis is resistant to frost during the period of grain filling, while earlier in its growth it is sensitive. L. albus resists temperatures below 0°C (FAO 1982). In its area of origin, plant development is affected by low temperatures, especially towards maturity. However, in Europe, low temperatures affect L. mutabilis during the first growth phases, causing plant death (López-Bellido 1992). This limits the adaptation of L. mutabilis to latitudes different from the area of origin (von Baer and von Baer 1988). The economic viability of L. mutabilis in regions with winter crops would require improved tolerance to low temperatures during the initial growth stages.


    The slopes of the region of Cochabamba, Bolivia, between 2500 and 4000 masl, are characterized by a multitude of microclimates for crop production. The poor productivity of food crops in this region has been associated with a reduction in soil fertility. The time allowed for fallow has declined as more soil is demanded for crop production. The use of legumes as cover crops during the fallow period, in order to recover soil fertility, could be an option (Wheeler et al. 1999). For high elevations near 3800 m, only Vicia villosa subsp. dasycarpa and V. faba of Bolivia are potentially adapted. These two species, in addition to L. mutabilis and V. faba of Nepal, are crops of potential cover for use to around 3500 masl.

    The biological value of lupin protein was determined. In bitter varieties of L. albus, L. angustifolius, L. consentinii and L. mutabilis the seeds have to be boiled and washed in order to eliminate the alkaloids (Savage et al. 1982). A digestibility test varied between 95% in L. mutabilis and 80% in L. angustifolius, and the biological value of L. mutabilis was also the highest, at 75%. The biological value of all species was improved by the addition to 0.5% methionine to the diet. In Ecuador, new products have been developed, such as processed and washed seeds, to be sold as a delicacy for salads, snacks, etc.


    Lupinus mutabilis has been an important source of protein in human nutrition for more than 2000 years. Today its cultivation in the Andean region is restricted to small fields as a subsistence crop. The composition of the seeds, the almost neutral photoperiodic requirement, the white and large seeds, and the adaptation to harsh climatic conditions, makes an introduction to other parts of the world possible. A study of the adaptation of Lupinus mutabilis to Europe showed that it does not produce seed of a sufficiently high yield in order to become economically feasible. The reasons for the low yield are its low potential for accumulation of dry matter due to a low LAI, its indeterminate growth habit, and a high proportion of pod wall relative to seed.

    The characters requiring modification in order to adapt L. mutabilis to European conditions are a dwarf gene in order to reduce plant height and a genotype with determinate growth and some additional compensatory branches. The discovery of a mutant with determinate growth opens up the potential for producing a crop with a new architecture that could be established in Europe.

    The main potential of the Andean lupin is in the Andean region of South America, where it should be possible to increase production and develop markets. INIAP, Ecuador, has done most, and published a CD on the production, post-harvest and agro-industry of the crop (Peralta and Ayala 2001). The crop could also be promoted in Peru and Bolivia. Recently, a workshop was held in Bolivia, with participants from universities and research institutions from Bolivia and neighbouring Peru and Argentina, in order to define minor crops with a major potential for production, use and market sale. Andean lupin was selected as one of the crops on which to focus (Jacobsen et al. 2004).


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    #4319 Reply

    Joep Ingen Housz

    I am interested to know how we can obtain Tarsi seeds to try growing them in Portugal.

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