Lentils, dried beans and peas, the most common pulses contribute in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as they need less fertilizer.
Although pulses may have "collateral social effects" on people, they contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They fix their own nitrogen in the soil so they need less fertilizer, both organic and synthetic, in this way they play a part in reducing the emissions. Today, some 190 million hectares of pulses contribute to almost seven million tons of nitrogen in the soils.
Also, including pulses in livestock feed helps as their high protein content increase the food conversion ratio, decreasing the methane emissions from ruminants.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses. "Pulses are a type of leguminous crop that are harvested solely for the dry seed. Dried beans, lentils and peas are the most commonly known and consumed types of pulses," says FAO.
They are packed with nutrients and have high protein content. They are low in fat and rich in soluble fiber which can lower cholesterol and help control blood sugar. For farmers they can be both sold and consumed by their families and create economic stability.
They don't include crops that are harvested green like green peas, or green beans, nor the crops used mainly for oil extraction like soybeans and groundnuts. Leguminous crops that are used exclusively for sowing purposes like seeds of clover and alfalfa.
They've gained force over the years. Their production increased from 64 million hectares in 1961 to 86 millions in 2014. Pulses have a broad genetic diversity that allows farmers to breed the improved varieties. This is important as climate change threatens food security. They're are also important in agroforestry systems. For example, pigeon peas are grown at the same time as the other crops to help them withstand climate extremes and help nourish the soil.
Pulses production in developing countries is one of the goals the International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture in Drylands held in Morocco in April 2016. It is expected to grow by 20% from the current level by 2030.
So remember the next time you consume pulses, you're contributing to climate change mitigation and reducing our dependence of synthetic fertilizers for the soil.
LatinAmerican Post | Maria Andrea Marquez