How will Mapping
Help Feed a Global Need?
Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family, such as peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils. Scientists are sequencing the genomes of several pulse crops to help meet the changing needs and challenges of feeding the world.
Click below to learn more about this process, and the importance of pulses as a global food.
Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian friar, and later Abbott, of the monastery in Brno (modern-day Czech Republic), which was a centre of learning and science.
His work with pea plants is the foundation of our modern understanding of genetics.
He chose to work with pea plants because:
- They had clear character differences, for example seed shape was either round or wrinkled;
- The structure of the flowers made it easy to make crosses;
- The offspring of his experiments were fertile and could be used to continue the experiment.
Mendel showed that the male and the female contributed equally to inheritance and explained how particular characteristics that differed between parents (a character pair) were inherited.
- For a given character pair, the offspring of a cross resembled one parent and not the other. The form that appears he described as ‘dominant’, and the other ‘recessive’.
- He explained this by suggesting that a factor is inherited from each parent and if the factors are different then the dominant one is seen, but they both contribute equally to the next generation.
In the 150 years since Mendel's discoveries
People around the world have used the science of genetics to innovate and improve pulses - creating an incredibly diverse variety to meet the needs of a growing population, growing conditions and people’s growing taste for delicious pulses!
With such a large variety of pulses to appeal to any taste, there is almost no limit to the number of ways they are eaten today.
Pulses are a high fibre, low fat, source of protein that contain important vitamins like folate and vitamin C and minerals like iron and potassium.
- In parts of Africa and the Middle East, many types of beans are eaten for breakfast.
- Lentils are loved in France, especially in the classic dish Petit salé aux lentilles.
- Azuki beans are a popular ingredient in sweets in East Asia – even ice cream.
- Roasted and seasoned chickpeas are a popular snack in India.
- Peas were carried by early explorers of North America, because they were light but filling.
- Refried beans from Mexico are actually only fried once – and sometimes not at all!
More people are eating more pulses in more ways than ever!
Sequencing the genomes of pulses will give us a better understanding of this delicious and diverse food - and opportunities to make it better.
Pulse crops provide income, nutrition and crop diversity for farming families all over the world.
Sometimes it can be tough to grow the plants that make pulses.
Sometimes it is too dry.Finding out why some pulses can keep growing when the rain stops will help us develop plants that can do morewith less water.
Sometimes they are infected or attacked.Identifying why some pulses are less affected by certain diseases or pests than others will help us develop plants that are resistant to these harms.
Sometimes it is too hot.
Sequencing the genomes of pulses will give us more tools to develop pulse plants that are better adapted to the changing climate, and more resistant to the diseases that affect them.
Pulses have a low carbon footprint, enrich the soil they are grown in and use a fraction of the water of other protein sources.
All plants and animals need water to grow, but pulses need less water than many other sources of protein.
Development of more drought-tolerant pulses will help the world to grow more food with less water.
Pulses are great at feeding people, but they can also feed other plants.
The roots of pulses (and other legumes) make ‘nodules’ which are like fertilizer factories where the plant works together with bacteria to obtain nitrogen from the air.
Growing pulses improves soil fertility: this means that other plants grown on that soil perform better. So increasing the area of growing pulses, or increasing their frequency in rotations and intercrops, would have broad environmental advantages.
Increasing the production and improving the performance of pulse crops will enable the world to grow more pulses using water and land more efficiently. Our dependence on fossil fuel will be reduced because these crops do not require nitrogen fertilizer. Researching pulse genomes helps us understand how these plants work which is the key to unlocking the global potential of pulses for sustainable food production.
Genome sequence information helps us to create tools to understand genetic diversity, how plants grow and behave.
When scientists have completed sequencing these genomes, they will have a better understanding of pulses and an improved ability to develop new varieties to meet human and environmental needs.
Future generations will benefit from this increased understanding and the sustainability of this essential food source.