Marvellous little pulses

28 May 2017 - By: Christine Foyer

Marvellous little pulses

Photo: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

The latest special issue from Journal of Experimental Botany, which focuses scientific attention on pulse crops, is a critically important touchstone for researchers in this first year of FAO Agenda implementation, and came about through the United Nations’ 2016 Year of Pulses. A key part of many food cultures, pulses really are ‘little marvels’.

Editorial: Nature’s pulse power: legumes, food security and climate change
Special Issue: Legumes: from Food Security to Climate Change

It is timely to focus attention on the significant untapped potential for genetic improvement and innovative production agronomy which directly link to critical targets under Sustainable Development Goal 2, particularly concerning access to food, malnutrition, smallholder incomes, and resilient agriculture. The special issue highlights current areas of intense research and development, particularly the identification of climate-resilient varieties with improved characteristics, so that pulse-based proteins are better used with their associated acceptance in the food chain.

Little marvels

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) facilitated the 2016 Year of Pulses with the purpose of increasing public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses, as well as for sustainable food production. As a protein staple in the diet of many of the world’s poorest, pulses are nature’s gemstones because they are protein packed and nutritious. They are a cornerstone of many food cultures, as highlighted in an entertaining BBC radio broadcast in which pulses are called ‘little marvels’.

However, while the FAO announced the Year of Pulses to encourage us to eat more pulses, this was met with some reluctance in many quarters. Although evidence suggests that increasing pulse intake to 40g per day will significantly reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, current typical western diets include less than one serving of pulses per week. Moreover, the science and policy community have not yet seized the gauntlet of encouraging intensified research and related breeding to improve pulse crops (see the Nature Plants article Neglecting legumes has compromised human health and sustainable food production). Increasing the global production of pulses would provide a sustainable solution to future food and protein security. Moreover, crop rotations could be intensified to address the associated economic and environmental challenges.

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Journal of Experimental Botany publishes an exciting mix of research, review and comment on fundamental questions of broad interest in plant science. Regular special issues highlight key areas.



Author: Christine Foyer
Christine Foyer

Christine Foyer

Christine H. Foyer is an Editor with Journal of Experimental Botany, and leads research into plant growth and development in the Centre for Plant Sciences at the University of Leeds. Her co-editors on the special issue are Michael J. Considine and Kadambot H.M. Siddique (University of Western Australia). Prof. Siddique was UN FAO Special Ambassador for the International Year of Pulses 2016.