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FAO has its finger on the ‘pulse’ when it comes to food security

February 9, 2016
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The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses under the motto “Nutritious seeds for a sustainable future.” Pulses, an annual leguminous crop yielding from one to 12 seeds (dry beans, kidney beans, dry peas, lentils and others), have been named by the FAO as essential in the fight for food security for their nutrient value and their key role in crop rotations through the ability to fix nitrogen.

When we plant the same species on the same land every year, we are engaging in what is called monoculture. Monoculture has unfavorable consequences for production, since it increases the incidence of weeds, pests and diseases, which become resistant to control methods.

To counteract this, one of the principles of Conservation Agriculture (CA) is crop rotation, which involves planting different crops in the same field in a specific order. Crop rotation reduces the incidence of pests and diseases by interrupting their life cycles; it also maintains weed control and promotes more appropriate nutrient distribution in the soil profile (crops that have deeper roots extract nutrients at a greater depth) and helps reduce the economic risk when an unforeseen event affects one of the crops. It also enables farmers to balance residue production because crops that produce few residues can be rotated with crops that produce a large amount.

Crop rotation should include pulses (leguminous crops) that make efficient use of water and provide soil nutrients (such as nitrogen) that are extracted by grains.

The year will be a unique opportunity to foster connections all along the food chain in order to benefit more from proteins derived from pulses, increase pulse production worldwide, make better use of crop rotation and face the challenges of commercializing pulses.