Pulses highlighted in 2016
The United Nations has declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses. The aim is to heighten public awareness of the nutritional value of pulses, such as beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas and buckwheat, and the role they play in sustainable food production. The declaration is further aimed at better utilization of pulse-based food and increased global production.
Pulses are a vital source of plant-based protein and amino acids. They have high fibre content and are low in fat. They may prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer. Some call them a “super food.”
In addition, pulses have nitrogen-fixing properties which can contribute to increased soil fertility and reduce the need for artificial fertilizers. They can also play a key role in crop rotations.
Production has increased dramatically in Canada over the past 25 years. Seeded acreage is more than six per cent of field crop areas. Pulses are now Canada’s fifth largest crop, with farm cash receipts of $3 billion annually. An estimated 70 per cent is exported worldwide. Major markets include India, China and the Middle East.
With the growing global demand for protein and the increasing costs of meat products, pulses offer a promising alternative.
The 2016 spotlight on pulses comes at an opportune time for Prince Edward Island agriculture which is looking for new crop opportunities. There is very little production of pulses in the province, although former premier Pat Binns grew dry beans on a commercial scale in the 1990s. However, there is now renewed interest in pulses.
An Alberta-based company, W.A. Grain and Pulse Solutions, has been conducting trials with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on varieties that can do well in this region.
The company was established in 2007 and deals in cereals, pulses and oilseeds through a number of facilities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where most pulse crops in Canada are produced.
The company has been working with a number of Island growers, and this year would like to see somewhere between 400 and 600 acres planted to pulses. Its local representative, William Wagner, said there is a focus on faba beans and green peas; seed is now being tested for germination and vigour.
He is planning an information session this month for interested growers.
With strong and growing markets, there is a great deal of potential in this province for pulses. Crops such as peas mature in 90 days. With their nitrogen-fixing properties, they do not require nitrogen fertilizers and are a good prospect to be used in the potato rotation.
The declaration of 2016 as the year of pulses is both timely and appropriate. With the growing demand for protein and the goal of crop diversification, 2016 could very well be the beginning of a new era in food.
For more information on pulses, go to pulsecanada.com/.