UN international year to showcase pulses

Chair of Alberta Pulse Growers says event will boost competition and prompt more research and breeding

The United Nations International Year of Pulses is underway, and that’s good news for the province’s pulse producers, says the chair of Alberta Pulse Growers.

“As IYP draws attention to big global issues like nutrition, food security, and environmental sustainability, this crop — which is a Canadian success story — is only going to get more attention, get more agronomic research, and more breeding research,” said Allison Ammeter. “And as that filters down, that’s going to improve profitability.”

The Sylvan Lake producer has been talking up the benefits of the International Year of Pulses since it was announced in spring 2014. She says it will do for beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas what past international years have done for soil (which had its international year in 2015) and quinoa (2013).

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Dried legumes and cereals on a white background

“Initially, the response was, ‘What’s a United Nations year? What’s that about?’” said Ammeter. “It’s when you ask, ‘Did you hear much about quinoa before 2013?’ or, ‘Have you noticed an increased focus on soil health this year?’ and then tell them that’s what this year will do for pulses — then the light bulb goes on.”

Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of dry peas and lentils, shipping to more than 150 countries annually. Pulses are Canada’s fifth-largest crop (after wheat, canola, corn, and barley) and pulse exports were valued at over $3 billion last year. Pulses have also brought some of the best returns to Prairie farmers this year.

With acreage in this province topping the one-million-acre mark, Alberta producers are learning to love pulses, said Ammeter.

“I think what people are realizing is not only that pulse crops bring a good return for an operation, but are good for the soil and good for the next crop, too, ” she said. “We bang on that drum — rotation, rotation, rotation — and pulses are really good in rotation.

“If pulses aren’t in your rotation already, they should be.”

A group called the Global Pulse Confederation and partners such as the UN will host more than 100 events during the coming year. Pulse Canada is planning more than 20 events and activities to educate Canadians about the health, nutrition and environmental benefits of eating pulses. (More information on the events can be found at www.pulses.org.)

The Global Pulse Confederation has also set a goal of increasing both consumption and production of pulses by 10 per cent by 2020.

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