Authors: Danielle Nierenberg and Emily Nink
2016 is the United Nations International Year of Pulses (IYP). Pulses, or grain legumes, include 12 crops such as dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils, which are high in protein, fiber, and micronutrients.
In celebration of the global launch of IYP, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) created a short video highlighting unique opportunities for pulses to contribute to the future of food security. Pulses offer many opportunities for reducing the environmental footprint of food production, especially by fixing nitrogen to improve soil quality.
Just 43 gallons of water can produce one pound of pulses, compared with 216 gallons for soybeans and 368 gallons for peanuts. And production of pulses emits only 5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with beef production.
Furthermore, improvements in pulse productivity could be especially impactful in the developing world. “Pulses are important food crops for the food security of large proportions of populations, particularly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, where pulses are part of traditional diets and often grown by small farmers,” says FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. Just one serving of chickpeas contains 1.5 times as much iron as a 3-ounce serving of steak, and pulses are a fraction of the cost of other protein sources.
“Pulses can contribute significantly in addressing hunger, food security, malnutrition, environmental challenges and human health,” adds UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The water efficiency of pulses allows the plants to enrich soil where they grow and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.