Edible seeds such as lentils, chickpeas and pigeon peas are often neglected as staple grains are given more prominence
This year being the International Year of Pulses, there is every reason to include them as part of our diet. According to Eduardo Mansur, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s land and water division, “Pulses are good for people, and are good for soils.”
Edible seeds such as lentils, chickpeas and pigeon peas are often neglected as staple grains are given more prominence. However, pulses with their high source of protein and fibre can effectively eradicate hunger, one of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Pulses contribute to food security in a number of ways. First, they are an important source of food and second, they can be a source of income for the farmer simply by selling some of what has been already produced.
When it comes to pulses, they offer us a range of benefits. They are economically affordable, use less water compared to other protein sources and also reduce the need for industrial fertilisers.
The International Year of Pulses has been launched to raise awareness about the important contribution that pulses can make to a healthy diet.
Feeding iron-rich lentils to Sri Lankan children for 60 days led to a 90 per cent increase in their blood profiles, showing efficacy for anaemia and other malnutrition issues in developing countries, according to Mahmoud Solh, director general of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.
Another good thing is that pulses can fix nitrogen in the soil, thereby boosting fertility and reducing the need to apply the key nutrient for food crops.
Paola De Santis, a researcher at Bioversity International, showcased a research her organisation is doing in Uganda, China and other countries to improve bean seed quality to enhance productivity and genetic diversity of key pulses varieties.
Michele Pisante from Italy’s Council for Agriculture Research and Agrarian Economics said experiments showing that rotating legumes with grain crops could save up to 88 kg of nitrogen per hectare in Europe where fertilizer use is high by international standards.
Pulses also offer farmers higher profit margins than cereals and can thus play a key role in reducing rural poverty.
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