Welcome from the Director

A welcome message from Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab Director Barry Pittendrigh and Deputy Director Cynthia Donovan.

Director Barry Pittendrigh

A welcome message from Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab Director Barry Pittendrigh and Deputy Director Cynthia Donovan.

Welcome to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research (Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab), a five-year research and capacity-building program (2018–2023) funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by Michigan State University. The areas of inquiry in the Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab include the integration of legumes into sustainable smallholder farming systems and agricultural landscapes as well as local/regional market systems, and the analysis of sociocultural and economic motivators or barriers to legume utilization at various stages and scales within market systems. The overall goals of our program are to increase sustainable and inclusive agricultural growth, strengthen the resilience of communities and agricultural and economic systems, and enhance the diets of men, women and children living in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Latin America and the United States.

Michigan State University has previously held the management entities for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes (Legume Innovation Lab) (2013–2017), which was an extension of the USAID Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program (Pulse CRSP) (2007-2012) and various earlier awards under the Bean/Cowpea CRSP (1980-2007).  Thus, the current Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab follows three decades of USAID-funded research and training managed by Michigan State University. MSU has provided technical leadership in the grain legume programs of USAID, with experienced staff, both researchers and administrators, who design and implement international competitive grant competitions.

USAID has continued to support research programs on legumes over this long period for various reasons. First, grain legumes play important roles in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers through income and farm productivity and through consumption. Secondly, legumes provide notable benefits for human health when part of diversified diets. Over time, the research has evolved to address new challenges, including innovations in crop breeding, identification of environmental benefits and contributions to sustainable cropping systems. Two focus crops, common beans and cowpeas, represent nutrient dense, staple foods that are important for resilience, both in terms of food and nutritional security as well as household income and production. Legumes are especially important for women in many regions of the world, as they are often the producers, traders, and consumers of grain legumes. Our new program will also explore the potential use of other legumes (both field crops and legume trees) in agro-ecological systems, especially in SSA and Central America.

The program benefits US farmers, industry and consumers, as well. Past research has made new black bean varieties available for Michigan farmers, evaluated the nutritional aspects of domestically grown legume crops, and led to the development of new crop breeding innovations used in the US as well the developing world.

The new Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab will support collaborative research between U.S.-based university scientists and scientists in developing countries. These teams work toward a common goal of generating scientifically validated innovations, including methods of research, policy recommendations, and technologies, that benefit farmers, traders, processors and consumers. Gender equity, youth, and resilience play a significant role in our research portfolio. New research will identify potential benefits for women, as well as evaluating how to engage both young men and young women in legumes at all levels of the value chain.  We also support graduate student training, which is critical to improving the research capacity of scientists in developing countries, further contributing to the long-term agricultural expertise that positively impacts people and communities. The Lab will engage with the U.S. legume industry through multiple mechanisms, including its Legume Industry Consultative Council (LINCC). 

We are excited to be engaged in grain legume research aligned with Feed the Future and the bipartisan Congressional investments in the 2016 Global Food Security Act. With the new direction and funding, we look forward to supporting our partners to achieve scientific advances that contribute to improving the lives of men, women and children in the developing world.

Thank you for taking time out to visit the Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab website. If you are interested any additional information regarding the technical or administrative aspects of the program (or both), please contact the management office of the Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab at legumeresearchil@msu.edu. We will be updating this website with news items, reports and more, so be sure to continue visiting. On social media you can find us on Twitter at #legumelab, our website and more places to come. On behalf of our collaborating international community of legume scientists as well as U.S. and global partner institutions, we look forward to the opportunity to achieve our global mission of improving the livelihoods and nutrition throughout legume value chains.


Dr. Barry Pittendrigh                                               Dr. Cynthia Donovan
Director                                                                      Deputy Director

Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research

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