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Lathyrus (Lathyrus sativus L.) is a food, fodder and technical leguminous agricultural crop.

Other names: Grass pea, Chickling pea.

Lathyrus sativus
Lathyrus sativus
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©H. Zell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Economic importance

The protein content of lathyrus seeds is higher than that of peas, but they are inferior to pea seeds in digestibility and palatability. The chemical composition of the seeds: protein – 23% (up to 34%), carbohydrates – 55-58%, fat – 1.5-9%, minerals – 3.2%. Large-seeded varieties with white grains are mainly used for food purposes.

Young leaves are used as a potherb. Excessive or prolonged consumption of the seeds can lead to latirism – muscle paralysis in humans and animals.

For fodder purposes, seeds, green matter and hay are used. However, it is not recommended to use it in large quantities for animal feed because of the risk of disease development. The green pulp is tender and well eaten by many farm animals. For silage, hay and haylage it is often mixed with cereals such as barley, Sudan grass, oats, which helps to increase the protein properties of the feed.

The seeds are used to make vegetable casein, used in the manufacture of plywood, fabrics, and plastics.

Chine is notable for its drought and salt tolerance, yield and greater resistance to pea borer and diseases.

Green mass can be used as a green fertilizer.

Has the ability to nitrogen fixation.

History of the crop

Southern Europe and Western Asia are considered the place of origin of grass pea.

Lathyrus has been known since ancient times in Southeast Asia and northern Africa.

It is generally accepted that the origin of small-seeded forms is Southwestern Asia, and of large-seeded forms – the Mediterranean.

Cultivation areas

Large-seeded forms are cultivated in Mediterranean countries. Lathyrus sativus is cultivated in India, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and to some extent in Africa.

In the USSR, the area sown with lathyrus was about 10 thousand hectares. Crops are concentrated in Tatarstan, Bashkiria, Chelyabinsk region and the Volga region, as well as in the left-bank Ukraine, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Sowing in the south and southeast of Russia under irrigated agriculture conditions is promising.

Under dry conditions in some regions of Russia, it is the most productive of other leguminous crops, so the geography of its sowing extends farther to the south and southeast than pea.

No official statistics for Russia is kept. The estimated sown area is about 5 thousand hectares.



According to the state variety network, the average seed yield of lathyrus in the Rostov region in 7 years was 2.38 t/ha at Orlovsky state variety station and 2.46 t/ha at Tarasovsky station, compared with pea yields of 2.18 and 2.08 t/ha, respectively.

At the Tambov Agricultural Experimental Station, the average seed yield over 3 years was 4.69 t/ha.

Depending on soil and climatic conditions, the yield of seeds is 1.5-4.7 t/ha, of green matter 10-15 t/ha, of hay 3.5-4.5 t/ha.

Botanical description

Lathyrus sativus is an annual legume up to 1 m tall. The crop is a demanding heat, but cold-resistant.

Its root is taprooted and branched.

The stem is three- and four-edged, lodging, well branched. It varies in length from 60 to 100 cm.

Leaves are unipartite, with tendrils at the tip, leaflets are lanceolate.

The inflorescence has 1-2 flowering racemes. Flowers are white, less often blue or purple, self-pollination predominates, cross-pollination less so.

The pod contains 2-5 seeds, has two bent wings at the upper suture, 4 cm long.

Seeds are irregular, angular (wedge-shaped) in shape and vary in size. Weight of 1,000 seeds ranges from 100 to 600 g. Coloration is white, gray, brown or mottled.

Biological features

Temperature requirements

Lathyrus seeds begin to germinate at a temperature of 2-3 °C. Sprouts can survive short-term frosts as low as -5…-10 °C. The sum of active temperatures is 1600-1700 °C.

Moisture requirements

The lathyrus is characterized by high drought resistance, second only to the cicer. In dry years the yield surpasses other leguminous crops.

In cold, rainy years is prone to rust and ascochitosis.

Its critical moisture-consumption period is at the beginning of flowering.

Soil requirements

Lathyrus sativus has low soil requirements and often grows on poor soils. Light sandy loamy, clayey, saline chestnut soils are suitable for its cultivation. Black soils are optimal.

It grows poorly on overwatered soils; according to other data, it is somewhat resistant to waterlogging.



Vegetation period is 80-110 (150) days.

Flowering is very slow. Maturation occurs 80-100 days after sprouting.

Crop rotation

The predecessors in the rotation are the same as for peas. Winter and row crops are optimal.

Lathyrus in the rotation is a good predecessor for many crops. It replaces vetch in the seeded fallows in the vetch-oat mixtures.

For hay and green fodder it can be grown as a fallow-occupied crop.

Fertilizer system

The fertilization system is similar to that of peas.

Responds well to fertilizer application, but there is no high nutrient requirement.

Application of phosphorus fertilizers increases yield by 0.3-0.4 t/ha, full complex of NPK – 0.5-0.6 t/ha.

P45-60K45-60 is added to the basic fertilizer.



Tillage for lathyrus is similar to that for peas and early spring crops.


Seed preparation

It is recommended to treat the seeds of lathyrus before sowing with bacterial preparations such as nitragin or rhizotorfin.

Sowing dates

Sowing of lathyrus seeds should be started at an early date.

Sowing methods

Seeding methods are row and narrow-row.

Seeding rates

Seeding rates of lathyrus seeds depends on the size and method of sowing. The total recommended rate of 0.8-1.5 million/ha of germinated seeds or 100-250 kg/ha.

Sowing depth

Sowing depth 4-8 cm. On light soils and insufficient moisture increase it to 8-10 cm.

Crop care

Crop care consists of post-sowing soil rolling with ring rollers, pre- and post-emergent harrowing (if necessary).

Lathyrus is resistant to damage by pests such as aphids.

To control weeds on lathyrus crops, Prometrin is used at a rate of 3-5 kg of the preparation per 1 hectare.


The maturation of the lathyrus is relatively uniform, the beans are resistant to cracking. However, a late start in harvesting may lead to lodging.

Two-phase harvesting begins when 80% of the beans are mature. After mowing, the swaths are dried for 2-3 days.


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