Report on sustainability attributes of pulse crops released today.

April 21, 2016 – As part of the 2016 International Year of Pulses, a new report on the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of pulse crops was released today. Grounded in two comprehensive regional case studies, the report offers a framework for evaluating the sustainability dividends that can accrue from adding peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, and other pulses into cropping systems.

Scientists around the world have built an impressive array of pulse crop studies that make a strong case for adding pulses into cropping systems. Pulses can provide a basket of welcome benefits including reduced nitrogen fertilizer and water needs, higher overall farm yields and profitability, improved soil health, and increased household dietary diversity. Across the many different farm systems that are suitable for growing pulses, producers need tools for anticipating which of these benefits are likely to materialize.

The tremendous diversity of pulse crops and the farming systems that produce them is a major asset to this high-protein food group when it comes to dealing with rapidly changing production conditions. But this diversity makes it challenging to easily assess the impact of adding pulses to any particular cropping system. 

The report, “Pulse crops and sustainability: A framework to evaluate multiple benefits,” was commissioned by the Global Pulse Confederation and prepared by Gabrielle Kissinger of Lexeme Consulting. It surveys a rich body of scientific literature related to pulses in general and also focuses specifically on two case study areas, Saskatchewan, Canada and sub-Saharan Africa. Based on this evidence review, the report defines the key sustainability attributes to measure for assessing the economic, social, and environmental benefits of pulse production in different geographic, ecological, and economic contexts. 

The framework is intended for use by farmers considering integrating pulses into their operations as well as by food companies considering expanding the representation of pulse crops in their product lines. It is also a resource for national governments, international agencies, research institutions, and other organizations that create policies or deliver programs that seek to expand global pulse production and consumption.

A farm’s location and access to adequate information, finance, inputs, and markets will have important implications for whether pulses will be grown, as well as the variety, technologies, and practices used. These factors will also influence how growing pulses contributes to sustainability of the farm and the surrounding landscape. For example, in Saskatchewan, which produces more than 95% of Canada’s lentil and chickpea crop, pulses have been widely introduced into cereal-fallow rotations to solve pest and disease outbreaks and has enabled broad adoption of conservation tillage, better water management, and reduced fertilizer nitrogen requirements. In contrast, in sub-Saharan Africa, where demand for pulses is rising rapidly, most pulse producers have weak access to quality seeds and other inputs and are increasingly confronted by increased water and temperature stress.  

By compiling the key sustainability attributes of pulse crops into a simple framework, this report has made anticipating the full set of benefits from growing pulses a lot easier.

See the full report.   

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