Lentil Selection to Reduce Dietary Intake of Arsenic

This proposal addresses the BIOAg priority area: Breeding, varietal selection, management practices, processing, or marketing practices to increase food quality, nutrition, safety, or access.

Arsenic contaminates soil and water in many areas around the world. Fruit growing areas of Washington are contaminated from lead arsenate use as an insecticide. Other regions have natural deposits or human-exacerbated exposure. The worst known problem is in Bangladesh, where arsenic was recently estimated to cause fully 1 in 5 deaths. Humans are consuming dangerous amounts of arsenic both by drinking contaminated water, and by eating crops that have accumulated arsenic from contaminated irrigation water. Lentils are a principle source of protein in the human diet and are known to accumulate arsenic.

We propose that the problem of crop contamination with arsenic could be minimized by breeding crops that accumulate less bioavailable arsenic in harvested tissues (in this case, the lentil grain. WSU is home to the largest global library of lentil accessions, which will be screened using both genotype and phenotype assessments. This method is suitable for organic production.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 099
  • Project Status: Complete


  • Principal Investigator(s): Carpenter-Boggs, L., Roje, S.
  • Investigator(s): Coyne, C., Harsh, J., Islam, M., McGee, R., Piaskowski, J.
  • Grant Amount: $20,000
  • 2012 Progress Report (PDF)


  • Principal Investigator(s): Carpenter-Boggs, L., Roje, S.
  • Investigator(s): Coyne, C., Harsh, J., Islam, M., McGee, R., Piaskowski, J.
  • 2014 Progress Report (PDF)

Additional Funds Leveraged

This project is collecting preliminary information needed to apply for larger funds. The team prepared a pre-proposal for the NSF BREAD / EAGER program. In April 2013 the team invited a graduate researcher, funded by the USAID-Borlaug BHEARD program, to join the study team. Mr. Mhd. Zahangeer Alam joined WSU in fall 2013 and will complete his PhD research on this issue.


  • Short-Term:
    • Understanding of variability of arsenic uptake and reallocation to grain among lentil varieties.
    • Identification of ideal arsenic treatment conditions for further studies to differentiate phenotypes.
    • Identification of varieties or accessions with low arsenic uptake.
  • Intermediate-Term:
    • Use of lentil varieties that contain little to no arsenic in the grain.
    • Environmentally appropriate cultivar selection to maximize both health and yield in different conditions: low P and arsenic uptake cultivars for high arsenic soils, vs. efficient P uptake for low P and arsenic soils.
  • Long-Term:
    • Reduced rates of arsenic-induced diseases and death.
    • Reduced health care costs.
    • Improved length and quality of life.