Desert Legume Program


The Desert Legume Program (DELEP) was established in 1988 as a joint project of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. DELEP plays an important role in conserving legume biodiversity. Maintaining biological diversity is a growing concern worldwide as human populations increase and more natural areas are diverted for human use. As development of natural lands continues, it is inevitable that many species may be lost without conservation efforts. Collecting and maintaining seed germplasm is one of the most basic and most important means of preserving species in the face of habitat loss.
Legumes are the most important group of plants in human nutrition after the cereal grains. Many species of legumes have the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form, a process termed nitrogen fixation. Legumes are utilized in many ways including food crops, forage crops, forestry, sources of medicines and as landscape plants.
DELEP has developed a valuable collection of wild legume species from the southwestern United States and around the world. As of June 2018 this collection included 1403 species totaling 4109 individual collections originating from 67 countries. DELEP’s effort to collect and maintain seeds of wild legume species is unique. The USDA-ARS National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) acknowledges this and maintains a back-up collection of DELEP’s seeds at their seed storage facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. DELEP also has a portion of its collection stored at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, in the Norwegian Arctic. DELEP serves citizens, businesses and government agencies in Arizona and around the world by providing seeds, plants and information. DELEP supports researchers at the University of Arizona, participates in collections development at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and has collaborated with the Arizona State Land Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
DELEP maintains three field evaluation sites at the UA Campus Agricultural Center in Tucson. Since the first plantings in 1989, over 600 species have been evaluated in these fields. Plants are evaluated for adaptability to local climate conditions and individual characteristics are noted. These fields enable DELEP personnel to evaluate the growth of legumes over a long period of time. Through DELEP, over a dozen landscape plants have been introduced into the landscape nursery trade in Arizona. These fields provide a source of additional seeds for the seed bank as well as seeds and plant material for research.
DELEP produced a newsletter, Aridus, from 1989 to 2010. The newsletter is available on request. Beginning with the April 2005 issue, Aridus is also available here online.
Volunteer Program
DELEP has an active volunteer program with over 40 individuals from many walks of life, including several retired UA professors, who participate in various program activities on a regular basis.
To Contribute to DELEP send a check, payable to U of A Foundation/DELEP, or call the DELEP office concerning a pledge, a restricted gift, or estate planning.
            Name               _____________________________________________
            Address           _____________________________________________
            City/State/Zip _____________________________________________

Send to:
Desert Legume Program
2120 E. Allen Road
Tucson, AZ 85719

Contact Information

Matthew Johnson  (520) 647-2503;
Ken Coppola  (520) 647-2460;

updated August 2018


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