Published On: Wed, Sep 7th, 2016

How beans and peas reduce gas emissions – not ours, of course

lentils-beansLentils, beans, chickpeas, and other legumes often produce negative “collateral social effects” on people hanging around, just a couple of hours after eating them. But, believe it or not, they actually contribute to reducing a different type of gas – greenhouses emissions.

It is estimated that globally, some 190 million hectares of pulses – a type of leguminous crop that are harvested solely for the dry seed – contribute to five to seven million tonnes of nitrogen in soils. As pulses can fix their own nitrogen in the soil, they need less fertilizer, both organic and synthetic and, in this way, they play a part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

And pulses are very popular - the global production of pulses increased from 64 million hectares in 1961 to almost 86 million in 2014.

These facts, which have been developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), also tell that, additionally, when included in livestock feed, pulses’ high protein content contributes to increase the food conversion ratio while decreasing methane emissions from ruminants, thus at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This good news reveals how far this UN specialised agency is concerned about the impact of climate change on food security.

Climate change has a huge impact on global food production and food security, it says. “Changing weather patterns can cause an increase in natural disasters like droughts, floods, hurricanes, which can impact every level of food production.”

Unless urgent and sustainable measures are established, climate change will continue to put pressure on agricultural ecosystems, particularly in regions and for populations that are particularly vulnerable, warns FAO while informing about the so called climate-smart varieties of pulses.

On this, it emphasises the fact that pulses have a broad genetic diversity from which improved varieties can be selected and bred. This diversity is a particularly important attribute because more climate-resilient strains can be developed for use in areas prone to floods, droughts and other extreme weather events.

Added to all the above, agroforestry systems that include pulses such as pigeon peas grown at the same time as other crops, do help sustain the food security of farmers, by helping them to diversify their sources of income, FAO reports.

And “agroforestry systems are more able to withstand climate extremes as pulses are hardier than most crops and help to nourish the soil. When using these systems, farmers see an increase in crop productivity that extends to subsequent crop yields.”

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