Legumes are crops that develop in cropping systems with relatively low inputs and are suitable to a more sustainable agriculture. Successful crop establishment, which is crucial for reliable plant production, depends on seed quality, environmental factors and genotypes. We studied pea and bean germination and seedling growth at various temperatures (5-40 degrees C) and water potentials (-0.2 to -1.5 MPa) using winter and spring pea and two common bean seeds produced in different conditions. The germination base temperature was -1.1 degrees C for pea seeds, and seeds of the winter genotype germinated more rapidly than those of the spring genotype. The base temperature for bean seed germination was 5.1-9.6 degrees C, depending on the seed lot. The germination base water potential was about -2 MPa for both species. The base temperatures for shoot elongation were higher (3-6 degrees C) than those for germination. A review of the literature on other legumes confirmed that the differences in the responses of the legume seeds and seedlings to different temperatures were associated with their geographic origin. These results help understanding of pea and bean crop establishment, provide crop model parameter values and contribute to the search for genetic variability.