Interest in pulses as a sustainable food source has grown in recent years, and with good reason: they are low in calories, packed with nutrients, protein, and are rich sources of soluble fiber. But the benefits of growing organic pulses move far beyond the dinner table. It is good news for our environment, as well as wild and farmed animals.
Let’s explore some of these benefits in more detail.
1. Better soil health
The growing of pulses benefits soil health in two main ways:
It's nitrogen-fixing: One of the best examples of cooperation in nature is nitrogen fixation. Soil microbes interact with plants to pull nitrogen from the air. They then convert the nitrogen into a form capable of being used by the plant. The plant, in exchange, allows the microbes to consume some of the sugars it produces. The nitrogen-fixing capabilities of pulses mean that farmers don't have to use as much nitrogen fertilizer.
It encourages soil diversity: Pulses contain higher quantities and more diverse types of amino acids than non-legumes. This means that the plant residue left after harvesting pulse crops has a different biochemical composition from other crop residues. It allows subsequent crops to survive better, providing more efficient protection against the bacteria and fungi that cause crop diseases.
2. Cleaner water, less water
In many parts of the world, we face genuine risks to both the supply and quality of water. This is another area where organic pulse farming excels.
Runoff from non-organic farms, such as hazardous pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and livestock waste, can be a significant water contamination danger to U.S. waterways. By avoiding a contaminated runoff, organic farming helps keep our water sources clean.
Pulse farming helps save water too. A drought-resistant crop takes a third less water than a chicken and a tenth less water than beef to produce the same weight in pulses. Some pulses, such as peas and lentils, also depend more heavily on rainfall and other surface moisture for their water requirements, leaving more groundwater below for future crops.
3. Less impact on surrounding wildlife
At the heart of organic food production is collaborating with nature and managing agriculture's effect on biodiversity.
Organic systems are built to support biodiversity and the natural world by operating through nature's cycles and practicing environmentally friendly land management. Organic farms foster a wealth of biodiversity, supplying many animals, including bees, birds, and butterflies, with food and homes.
Organic agriculture also uses virtually no pesticides. Organic farmers must instead use natural strategies to control pests, such as crop rotations and encouraging beneficial insects (like aphid-eating ladybirds) to proliferate.
4. A good source of nutrition for livestock
Pulses can be grown for animal fodder, and nutritious food for animals is also provided by the crop residue of pulses grown for human consumption. These rich sources of protein are sustainable, palatable to livestock, and economical.
5. Long-term sustainability
Many of our environmental changes are long-term, occurring steadily over time. The short- and long-term impact of agricultural interventions on the agro-ecosystem is considered with the organic agriculture of crops such as pulses. To avoid soil fertility or pest problems, the practice aims to grow food while maintaining an ecological balance. Instead of treating issues once they arise, organic agriculture takes a more pre-emptive approach to these issues.
When it comes to food staples, pulses are frequently looked over, but that mentality should change. We genuinely believe that the organic farming of pulses can go a long way towards tackling the human and economic challenges facing our world.