Lupins in UK Agriculture and Aquaculture

Lupins are the only high protein, high energy, nitrogen-fixing grain legume with a protein and oil composition that can be grown in the UK and Europe and that can effectively compete with imported soya as a part of livestock and fish diets. As a result lupins have considerable potential to provide a comparable UK-grown vegetable protein source for farmed animals and aquaculture as well as providing other advantages such as arable break crops.  

LUKAA was a 3-year, business-led project involving 10 industrial partners and two research institutes (Birchgrove Eggs, Alltech, Alvan Blanch, Ecomarine, Germinal, Kelvin Cave, PGRO, Soya UK, The Arable Group (TAG), Wynnstay Group PLC and the Universities of Aberystwyth and Plymouth).  The project is funded by the industry partners and co-funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, in collaboration with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The aim of the project was to look at sweet (edible) lupins which are high in protein as a viable UK-grown alternative protein source to go into animal and fish feeds to replace as far as possible, and ideally up to 100%, the soya protein component.  Lupins also offer the additional benefit of their ability to fix nitrogen, resulting in reduced inputs for following crops. Partners used the 3-year project life to carry out a number of scientifically rigorous experiments and commercial studies.

The project has led to better understanding of the agronomy of lupins in the UK and shows that modern varieties of lupin give more reliable yields and are earlier maturing than those previously available. The project has shown some likely benefits to growers in providing an alternative crop in the rotation, and with recent CAP reforms, the potential to gain from the addition of a nitrogen fixing crop, or a third crop.

Project research into overcoming current contraints to utilising lupins as an alternative source of portein for the poultry, ruminant and aquaculture uindustries has shown that yellow or narrow-leafed lupins are effective substitutes for soya protein in concentrate feeds. Details of the individual studies can be accessed below.

For further information please contact: Professor Nigel Scollan, IBERS, Aberystwyth University

Germplasm Improvement & Variety Testing

Through the project, germplasm developed at IBERS  was grown in trials at Soya UK and at  PGRO as part of the final stages of breeding new varieties, this included evaluating yield, early maturity and tolerance of alkaline soils.  Soya UK subsequently provided all the seed for the various studies.

Key findings: The lupin species grown for the project; white lupin (Lupinus albus) yellow lupin (Lupinus luteus) and narrow-leafed lupin (Lupinus angustifolius) yielded between 1.5 and 5 t/ha, with the whites giving the highest yields but matured later.
Soil pH is a consideration; all species grew well on the acid to neutral soils, the whites grew well on the more alkaline soils (pH 8.2).

For further information please contact:

Seed producers and wholesalers Germinal provided advice for exploitation activities.


Reliable production in lupin crops is hampered by poor weed control. Research carried out through NIAB TAG as part of the project has focused on improving weed management options and strategies for the spring varieties and we are pleased to report that significant progress has been achieved.

Key findings: Trials carried out within the project have identified herbicide products that would be suitable for use with spring sown crops; providing options that would fill specific niches in weed control. Research has also identified a couple of products that, should EAMUs be obtained, would augment the range of herbicide options for spring lupins. With respect to grass and broadleaf weed management, a combination of products currently commercially available would provide reasonable control in such a late drilled spring crop.

For further information please contact: John Cussans, Weed Biology Specialist, NIAB


IBERS scientists worked with partners Birchgrove Eggs, Alvan Blanch, Wynnstay and Alltech to examine the potential for poultry and feed processing industries to utilise lupin based feeds. Through the project successful feeding trials were undertaken under scientific experiemental conditions and also at commercial scale.

Key findings: Yellow and narrow-leafed lupins, fed whole or dehulled, could substitute soya as a dietary source of protein for layer hens without compromising production, intake, growth or health‌.

For further information please contact: Professor Nigel Scollan, IBERS, Aberystwyth University


IBERS Scientists worked with partners Kelvin Cave to determine effects of using crimped lupins in lambs’ diets. Preservation by crimping allows lupins to be used on farms lacking facilities to process and store dry grain. Through the project successful feeding trials were undertaken under scientific experiemental conditions using crimped lupins.

Key findings: Farmers can reduce their reliance on bought-in soya and other imported proteins by growing and processing lupins on farm without any detrimental effects on productivity or carcass characteristics.‌‌

For more information about crimping lupins for finishing lambs contact: Andy Strzelecki, Technical Director, Kelvin Cave


Scientists at Plymouth University with support from Ecomarine and Alltech examined the use of novel fermentation products to improve nutrient utilisation of lupins in aquaculture.Through the project successful feeding trials were carried out usuing juvenile carp, raibow trout and tilapia.

Key findings: All the experiments carried out with the lupin meals show that they are effective in aquafeeds as substitutes for soya protein concentrates. The addition of Synergen™ in every case improved performance in temperate and warm water finfish species and facilitated the effective use of plant ingredients in aquafeeds and production.

Further more detailed information about the trials carried out:

For further information please contact: