Embracing pulses for food security and a sustainable future

Published: 11-Feb-2024

In the shadow of World Pulses Day , Director General of ICRISAT, Dr Jacqueline Hughes, encourages us to take a closer look at the interconnected ways that pulse crops support health, agriculture and the environment

Pulses, such as lentil, pigeonpea,and chickpea, are veritable powerhouses of plant-based protein and essential minerals, but they are also indispensable allies in the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), playing a pivotal role in poverty alleviation, hunger reduction, and climate change mitigation.

Pulses: nourishing soils

Our journey toward a sustainable future begins with nurturing the very foundation that sustains us — our soils. Pulses emerge as champions in this regard, significantly enhancing soil fertility through nitrogen fixation and promoting farm biodiversity through intercropping practices.

Notably, pulse crops stand out with a lower carbon footprint than many other foods, given their minimal fertilizer requirements for growth and their resilience to drought stress. Further, their ability to enhance the soil microbiome makes them exemplary contributors to sustainable agriculture, especially in resource-constrained rural areas.

Pulses: nourishing people

The value of pulses extends far beyond their environmental benefits. These humble crops, known for their cost-effectiveness, easy storage, and nutritional richness, serve as silent guardians of life. They lay the groundwork for food security and provide essential minerals that are crucial in combating malnutrition and related ailments.

Embracing pulses for food security and a sustainable future

Pigeonpea, for example, boasts a seed coat with six times more calcium than milk, presenting a promising avenue for addressing health issues such as osteoporosis and rickets. In countries like India, where calcium deficiency is a growing concern, pulses offer a valuable and accessible solution.

Safeguarding the future of pulses

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) stands at the forefront of pulse crop research and development, making significant strides in advancing agricultural practices that have far-reaching implications for food security, health, and environmental sustainability.

ICRISAT's commitment to pulse crops is evident in the work of our genebanks, where the genetic diversity of pulses is conserved, providing a rich resource for developing new varieties and hybrids.

These innovations are essential for smallholder farmers facing the challenges of climate change, and emerging pests and diseases.

Through collaborative projects across Africa and India, ICRISAT is revolutionising pulse yields, enhancing soil quality, and ensuring food security.

Innovative technologies, such as genomics, speed breeding, and high throughput phenotyping in chickpea and pigeonpea improvement, showcase the transformative power of innovation in sustainable agriculture.

Championing pulses on our plates

Pulses transcend mere crops; they can serve as catalysts for positive change, offering practical solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges.

As we commemorate World Pulses Day, I implore us all to sow the seeds of a more conscious, sustainable, and nourished future—from farmers to consumers and policymakers to educators. Let us resolve to make pulses our allies in constructing a healthier, more sustainable future for all.

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