Fact sheet: Pulses and climate change

FAO has developed a series of fact sheets covering the key messages of the International Year of Pulses. These documents provide an in-depth look at how pulses can help to improve health, nutrition, biodiversity, food security and climate change adaptation.

Climate change has a huge impact on global food production and food security. Changing weather patterns can cause an increase in natural disasters, like droughts, floods and hurricanes, which can impact every level of food production. Unless urgent and sustainable measures are established, climate change will continue to put pressure on agricultural ecosystems, especially for populations that are particularly vulnerable.

Climate-smart varieties

Pulses have a broad genetic diversity from which improved varieties can be selected or bred. This diversity is a particularly important attribute because more climate-resilient varieties can be developed for use in areas prone to floods, droughts and other extreme environmental conditions.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

It is estimated that in 2014 some 85 million hectares of pulses were cultivated globally and that these pulses fixed three to six million tonnes of nitrogen to soils worldwide. This nitrogen contributes to the health of the soils and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. Additionally, because of their high protein content, pulses, when used in feed, decrease methane emissions from ruminants, like cows. In these two ways (decreasing the use of chemical fertilizers and reducing methane emissions), pulses help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Pulses and agroforestry

Agroforestry systems, the practice of growing trees and crops simultaneously, help improve the food security of farmers by diversifying their sources of income and agricultural production. Agroforestry systems that include pulses, such as pigeon peas, also increase resilience to the effects of extreme climates, as some pulses thrive in marginal environmental conditions. Lastly, because pulses help to nourish soils, farmers often see an increase in crop productivity and subsequent yields when using pulses as part of agroforestry systems.


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