Pulses high­lighted in 2016

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - COMMUNITY / FEATURES - This ar­ti­cle was from the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries. For com­ments and sug­ges­tions, email wemack­in­non@gov.pe.ca.

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/.

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