The potential for lupins to replace soya in concentrate feeds has been made clear through the three year LUKAA research project (Lupins in UK Agriculture and Aquaculture).
The project revealed that livestock, poultry and fish given rations containing lupins perform equally well and in some cases better than those fed rations of comparable quality containing soya.
Professor Nigel Scollan, Waitrose Chair of Sustainable Agriculture at IBERS and the Principal Investigator on this research project said: "The UK and Europe have major issues with protein security within the livestock and fish sectors and are heavily dependent on imported soya."
"Our research findings here have proven that we can increase the amount of protein that can be grown here in the UK, with proven practical and economic benefits to producers."
Professor Scollan added: "The three main varieties - white, yellow and narrow-leafed - offered crude protein levels of 28-42 per cent and a more favourable amino acid profile than either beans or peas.
"There is clear evidence that lupins could help as a replacement for soya with no compromise to performance."
This has far-reaching implications for the food and farming industry, where imported soya has long been a key source of protein in animal feeds.
However, there have been barriers to the uptake of crops such as lupins, including the lack of an infrastructure between farms and the feed-milling industry, the limited range of approved herbicides and possibly even a lack of confidence amongst farmers that lupins can match the animal performance of soya.
But many of these concerns have been laid to rest by these findings whose publication coincides with some broader political and economic factors which could help drive the lupin-growing industry forward.
These include the increasing unacceptability and cost of importing soya, the declining availability of non-genetically modified soya and a widespread desire to improve UK food security in the face of volatile international markets.
A further significant impetus to the uptake of lupins is expected to come from the Common Agricultural Policy whose new 'greening' rules will be compulsory for those in receipt of the 'Basic Payment' which comes into effect this year.
Although the impact of these rules will vary from farm to farm, there will be a general trend towards more crop diversification which will encourage the growth of crops such as lupins, particularly by arable farmers.
The project was funded by 10 industry partners and co-funded by Innovate UK and the BBSRC.
You can find out more on the project by clicking here.