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World Pulses Day 2024 showcases pulses’ impact on soil, health and prosperity

21 February 20243 min reading

A global event at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) highlighted the role of pulses in maintaining soil health and providing vital nutrition to communities worldwide, under the theme ‘Pulses: Nourishing Soils and People’. The event was held ahead of World Pulses Day 2024 which is observed every year on 10 February.

Pulses, such as beans, chickpeas, and peas, are a subgroup of crops belonging to the legume family harvested for their edible seeds, and they are regarded as nutritious foods for both human and environmental health. In the context of soils, pulses play a vital role by providing essential nutrients, maintaining soil biodiversity, and enhancing soil structure. Many pulses species are drought tolerant and resilient to adverse climate, such as drought and heat. Their cultivation optimizes fertilizer use, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Their versatility and resilience can improve both the health of our soils and of local communities. The climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and soil erosion and degradation are key challenges, and pulses can be part of the solution. Their ability to thrive in diverse climates, together with their nitrogen-fixing properties, makes them very valuable,” Director-General QU Dongyu said in his opening remarks at the event. 

The FAO Director-General reiterated FAO’s commitment to supporting farmers and working with researchers and stakeholders to unlock the full potential of pulses. He emphasized the need to further expand the availability of pulse genetic resources, invest in research and innovation, upscale technologies and agricultural techniques, and improve the production, harvesting, processing, and marketing of pulses.

NUTRIENT-RICH AND EARTH-FRIENDLY

Pulses improve soil health by hosting helpful bacteria, called rhizobia, in their roots. These bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into fertilizers in the soil. Additionally, other bacteria and fungi help release phosphorus in the soil, providing essential nutrients for plants and promoting soil diversity. The fertilizers produced by pulses benefit not only the pulses, but also other crops grown alongside them, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. This makes pulses ideal for sustainable farming practices like intercropping or crop rotation.

Pulses are affordable and nutrient dense, making them a crucial protein source for populations with limited dietary options. On average, pulses contain 19 to 25 percent protein, with newly developed varieties surpassing 30 percent. Their high nutritional value makes pulses valuable for improving the diets of people who lack a diversified diet enriched with meat consumption. Additionally, pulses and their by-products are utilized as animal feed.

The value chains of pulses also play a significant role in job creation and livelihood support. This particularly benefits rural women, youth in farming communities, and urban families involved in processing and marketing value-added products.


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