Lupins (Lupinus spp.) are broadly distributed throughout the world. There are two geographically separate groups: new World species and Old Word species among which 4 are cultivated, one from the New World and the 3 others from the Old World. All of them are smooth-seeded. Lupins (Lupinus spp.) occupy almost all kinds of habitats from sea level to altitudes up to 4000 m (Wolko et al., 2010).
White lupin would have originated from south-eastern Europe and western Asia. It was already cultivated in Greece, Italy and Egypt and Cyprus 2000 years BCE (TerresUnivia, 2016; Clark, 2014). Ancient Egypt was believed to be the place where white lupin was first cultivated. However, Greece would be more likely the place of domestication as larger biodiversity and higher number of wild-growing forms exist in this country (Clark, 2014). Though an early cultivated species, plant breeding programs for the selection of sweet cultivars of white lupins seem to have started not earlier than 1930. First varieties of white lupin were used for ruminants feeding or for humans with prior soaking and cooking to remove bitterness (due to alkaloids) from the seeds (TerresUnivia, 2016).
White lupin is a winter growing legume that can be found in the wild on disturbed and poor soils where competition from other species is reduced (Clark, 2014). In cultivation it can be suitable in places too poor for faba bean cultivation (Jansen, 2006). It is mainly cultivated in climate areas corresponding to northern europe, Russia, arid Australian plains and andean Highlands (Chile). Spring types can be grown in the Northern Midwestern and in Northeastern United States of America (Clark, 2014). It is occasionnally grown in Africa, in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mauritius (Jansen, 2006).
White lupin can be grown from sea level up to an altitude of 740 m (Ecocrop, 2017). In Ethiopia, it is cultivated between 1500 and 3000 m altitude (Jansen, 2006). White lupin does better in places where average monthly temperatures during the growing season range from 18°C to 24°C and where rainfall is about 400-1000 mm during the same period. White lupin is tolerant of frost but temperatures of -6°C to -8°C during germination and -3° to -5°C at flowering stage are deleterious to the crop. Moisture deficiency is also harmful during the reproductive period (Jansen, 2006). White lupin does well on moderately fertile, well-drained, light or medium textured and mildly acidic or mildly calcareous soils with pH ranging from 4.5 to 6.5 (-7.5) (Clark, 2014; Jansen, 2006). On the contrary, white lupin does not well on heavy clay, waterlogged and alkaline soils (Clark, 2014). Some cultivars have however more tolerance of heavy soils and do better on saline soils than other crops (Clark, 2014). Under conditions where P is limiting, lupins form specialized cluster root structures and/or release P-mobilizing carboxylates that free P from insoluble forms (Lambers et al., 2012).
Statistics about lupin production are nesting all types of lupins. Worldwide lupin (Lupinus spp.) production in 2014 was about 1 million tons. Main lupin producer (625 000 tons) is Australia which is known to produce blue lupin. Other important producers are Poland, Russia, Germany, Belarus, and Ukraine, totalizing 290 000 tons of which most lupins are yellow lupin (TerresUnivia, 2016). The remaining production is due to France and Mediterranean countries like Italia, Spain, Greece and Egypt. This production is about 25 000 tons and is likely to be mainly white lupin (FAO, 2017).