Welcome. The pulses stories blog aims to communicate the importance of pulses in our everyday lives.

Pulses education in Australia’s Wimmera district


This blogpost was written by Jeanie Clark, enviroed4all®.

For the 2016 International Year of Pulses (IYP), Jeanie Clark, enviroed4all®organized a pulse education program involving 300 Wimmera primary students, their 28 teachers/aides and some 25 parent farmers.

What is the goal of IYP?

The first aim of the IYP is to raise awareness and knowledge of pulses. What is there to learn about ‘pulses’? The first thing is that there are two meanings of the word. At the start of the IYP program, hardly any children knew that one meaning of ‘pulses’ refers to seeds of plants! By the end of the sessions, all had seen that pulses are seeds with two halves that grow into a plant which 1) makes seeds for its next generation, 2) has seeds that are a healthy food for people around the world to eat and 3) has roots that feed the soil, so they are important for farmers too. 

Which pulses did children learn about?

The children learned about the five pulses commonly grown in Southern Australia’s Wimmera –Mallee district: chick peas, faba beans, field peas, lentils and lupins. One of the most enjoyable activities in the program was the simple science activity of placing each of these types of pulses into big tubs, reaching in to feel and describe them.


Pulses and a 5 year old named Krishnav - The little beans that could


This blogpost was written by Mayur and Rashi Jain.

The United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses. To celebrate on behalf of India, my 5 year old son Krishnav Jain, my wife and I, as responsible parents, decided to initiate the movement to grow pulses in our own backyards.

We can all play an important role in supplementing our nation’s pulses supply by growing pulses in our own gardens. My five year old son Krishnav Jain insisted on asking me why we can’t grow the food that we eat. At first we took his words to be a child's fantasy. But he continued asking good questions about how crops are grown, and his curiosity grew further. It was obvious that he would not be satisfied with only verbal explanations.

We decided to grow Lobia (black eyed beans) and Moong daal (green gram) in our backyard and my son was actively and eagerly involved in the whole process. He also participated in a school play titled ‘Seed that Grew’. It was pleasing to watch him care for the plants, taking care to water them regularly and to have pulses as part of his meals on a daily basis.

Seeing the excitement and passion he has in growing pulses at home, his friends have also joined the Pulses Movement. As the plants grew, Krishnav asked good questions about each part of the plant and what would happen to it next. Along with pulses, we also grew green vegetables - spinach and fenugreek (methi).


The grasspea landrace Inchixa from Sardinia (Italy), wins the Arca Deli Award 2016


This blogpost was written by Marianna Virdis & Francesco Maxia, Sa laurera farm, Sardinia, Italy

Grasspea Lathyrus sativus has been widely cultivated as food and animal feed in South Asia, West Africa and the Mediterranean area for over 2500 years. It is a grain legume with excellent agronomic qualities of resistance and adaptability to the most varied conditions of soil and water availability. For these qualities, it was widely known in the past as a "life-saving" food.

However, excessive consumption of grasspea grains causes a motor neuron disease called lathyrism,  which has caused a drastic reduction of the crop worldwide.

In Italy, the reduction of grasspea has contributed to its relegation to the neglected crops in the national agricultural panorama. Italian landraces are known mainly in the country’s southern regions such as Sicily, with a great variety of local names.

Its cultivation is also spread to Sardinia, where it first occurred in the Bronze Age (1), and has hence represented a traditional crop for many centuries (e.g. 2; 3). Although in this Italian island the crop had previously been widespread, it was almost completely abandoned after the Second World War. Today, most elderly in rural environments disdain the product, considering it a "bad memory" of the past. Moreover, the false interpretation of the grasspea as a toxic plant has drawn away the attention of many potential consumers.


Pulses in Place: Planted from Policy


This blogpost was written by Dr. Tara Moreau and Tamara Litke, Sustainability and Community Programs, UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver BC Canada

It is easy to see how we can forget that food comes from plants. Sterile aisles in grocery stores bear no resemblance to the soil from which seeds are sown and grown. In a world of food insecurity, increasing diet-related disease and a changing climate, our communities need to catalyze connections between what we consume and how it is produced. Turns out that botanical gardens are ideal places to host these discussions.

Connecting global and local discussions can be difficult at times. However, every year the United Nations (UN) observes an International Year to promote awareness and actions on specific issues. UBC Botanical Garden, in Vancouver Canada, aims to link its’ Sustainability and Community Program mandate to these themes:

  • The International Year of Soils 2015
  • The International Year of Pulses 2016
  • The Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017

What are pulses? 

  • Edible dried seeds of beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas and favas
  • Cotyledons of leguminous crops
  • Important agricultural crop of plants in the Fabaceae family 

Why pulses?

Pulses are perplexing, pretty and planet-saving sources of plant-based protein (*say that 5 times fast).

Perplexing because most plants in this family obtain their own nitrogen (an essential plant nutrient) through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria (Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium).

Pretty because…have you seen all their colours? Lentils alone range in colour from yellow to red-orange, to green, brown and black. There is even pulse jewelry (check out the FAO pulse blog My Pulses Necklaces).


Natural Superfoods: Will pulses lead the next wave of healthy eating?


This blogpost is written by Raghavan Sampathkumar, agribusiness professional.

Ever since the UN promulgated 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (IYP), pulses are gaining more attention globally. Pulses are important sources of not only protein but are easily available and affordable sources of dietary fiber and a wide range of vitamins and minerals for healthy diets. Though utilization of pulses in processed foods remains relatively limited so far, the estimated market potential for novel products made using pulse fractions is promising. As WHO points out, non-communicable diseases (NCD) like Cardio-vascular diseases (CVD) and diabetes surpassed emerged as the deadliest in this century. Both developing and developed countries face double burdens of undernourishment as well as obesity. But up to 80% of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and over a third of cancers could be prevented by promoting better eating habits and physical activity avoiding sedentary lifestyle, physical and mental stress. The world started realizing the true hidden cost of public health risks such as obesity and diabetes and their dangerous consequences in demographic and economic fronts. Thus the world’s growing quest for “health through food” presents greater opportunities that are not only attractive in terms of return on investments but invaluable good image and reputation for businesses. Diet colas, reduced calories, low fat, low-Sodium, low-sugar foods, and foods rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins and protein are best examples reflecting greater prospects for healthy foods. From North America to Middle East to Asia, consumers consider nutrition as an important factor. These numbers prove that awareness about health and wellness among majority of the global middle-class is definitely growing. There are opportunities waiting to be capitalized by innovative products and solutions for the companies worldwide.

Through pulse fractions, enhancing the protein profile of foods that are typically rich in carbohydrates presents enormous opportunities particularly in countries that not only face huge protein malnutrition problem but a sizeable health-conscious population. These kinds of variants are suitable for markets where consumers are typically calorie-conscious but less willing to make any compromise in taste, texture and appeal of their traditional foods. The Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI) is a pioneer institution involved in utilizing pulse fractions into making reformulated pastas, noodles and vermicelli without affecting their original traditional taste, texture and importantly optimizing cost of production. For example, the reformulated pasta with 25% lentil flour qualifies to be labeled “Good source of protein” under the health laws in Canada, which traditional pasta made of 100% durum wheat cannot claim in the market place.


“Innovations from the field to the cooking pot” - What does the second FSN forum on pulses tell us about consumer education for better diets?


This blogpost was written by Jane Sherman, food education consultant.

From the field to the cooking pot … The forum title was right. The shaping questions in this second FNS forum on pulses did indeed have an eye on consumers and consumption as well as on production. They brought the two ends of the food system together and closed the circle. This is joy to food educators. [1]

We know from both research and experience that consumers’ practices and attitudes, the influences on their food choices, and the interaction between their environments and their outlooks are generally crucial in impacting diet. But we are also very aware that until recently the international focus has been far more on supply and access than on consumer behaviour, expectations and attitudes: they have concentrated on field and market and not on the path to the cooking pot. [2]

The Year of Pulses is a unique phenomenon in many ways, perhaps unprecedented. It integrates nutrition and agriculture; it takes a step towards sustainable diets; it confronts a problem common to many societies, yet different in all of them; it has the single (though complex) task of promoting just one food group with a rich nutrition profile; it brings together a diverse body of professionals (economists, agronomists, nutritionists, extension workers, policy-makers, not educators unfortunately), and it aims to improve food consumption in the general public, not only in one needy segment. For food educators, a special feature is that it has the explicit purpose of improving consumption as well as access.

The forum opened up the question of how this is done. With its consumption-oriented questions and its call for responses grounded in experience, it opened a window on dietary promotion where contributors involved in the program across the sectors were drawn to analyse the situation on the ground empirically and call on their working experience to propose strategies which they saw as necessary and appropriate. The resulting picture was complex but coherent.


Video: Pigeonpea breeding challenges in East and South Africa: Genomics the way out


By Dr Damaris A Odeny, Scientist – Biotechnology (ESA), Genomics & Trait Discovery, Genetic Gains Program, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

The challenges to breeding pigeonpea in East and South Africa can be surmounted by the use of advanced tools such as genomics, combining the crop’s unique attributes from different regions, mentoring youth, and exploiting export markets within Africa.

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Video: Pre-breeding funding key to pulse revolution


By Dr Shivali Sharma, Theme Leader – Pre-breeding, Genetic Gains Program, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Unrestricted and assured funding for pre-breeding activities can exploit new and diverse sources of variation in the chickpea and pigeonpea genepools. By bridging the huge gap between the collection of genetic materials and that utilized, it is possible to bring about a pulse revolution in these times of climate change.


International Year of Pulses


This blogpost was written by Nassim Nobari, Executive Director, Seed the Commons and originally published on Seed the Commons.

The United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, and Seed the Commons made sure to join in the festivities.

The goal in choosing pulses as this year’s topic was to highlight their potential for improving nutrition cheaply and sustainably and to encourage their use in food and agriculture.

Seed the Commons celebrated IYP2016 with a beautiful outdoor event that featured an educational discussion and a vegan Indian cooking workshop with author and seasoned cooking instructor Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff.


A tour through pea cultivation at the Intergalactic Pea festival


This blogpost was written by Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Library of Law and Economic Information, St. Petersburg, Russia

I work in the library of law and economic information. When my co-workers found out that the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, we prepared a festive event dedicated to this important topic. It was called the «Intergalactic Pea Festival». During the event, I gave an interesting lecture on the origin and dissemination of pea culture in the world, and hence decided to share some of its passages in this blog.

Peas primarily originate from the mountainous regions of South-West Asia, namely Afghanistan and India. Pea culture is not only a product of nature, but it is also the result of human activity.

It is believed that peas originally arose in Asia Minor and then spread to South-West Asia, keeping their primitive characteristics because of little human intervention. Meanwhile, in the West, there was an intensive process of domestication, which eventually led to the creation of vegetable pea varieties with recessive traits.

One possible way pea culture moved from Minor Asia to Middle and Northern Europe is through Southern Russia. The Trypillian culture, which existed between the 2nd and 3rd millennium BC, played a significant role in the spreading of many cultivated plants from Minor Asia.

However, one thing is certain: in the Stone Age, namely the Neolithic Period, which existed over 12.000 years ago, peas along with wheat, barley, millet, lentils, beans, and vetch had already penetrated the culture. Pea seeds were found in the Neolithic layers during excavations in Troy, Greece (Thessaly), Yugoslavia (Croatia) and Switzerland. Peas were also mentioned allegorically in the famous poem "The Iliad" by Homer:

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