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Nature Nuggets

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SUSTAINABLE SUPERFOODS

Small, stout, sometimes a sprout,
Enriching soils, surviving drought,
Climate-smart, deserves a shout-out,
Superfood without a doubt!

What food are we talking about? Read on to find the answer to this riddle!

Pulses, the seeds of leguminous plants that we grow for food, are an important ingredient across cultures and cuisines, used in the form of sprouts, flours, lentils, beans, and more. They have served as both food and fodder for thousands of years and are the second-most consumed staples after cereals. But did you know that pulses could be the key to a greener future? Fresh on the heels of World Pulses Day, celebrated on 10 February every year, this edition of Nature Nuggets uncovers how pulses are the superfoods we need for a sustainable future.

Pulses were among the first plants to be domesticated and cultivated by humans. These seeds are highly nutritious, packed with low-fat protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. A far more affordable source of protein than animal proteins, pulses are important in preventing hunger and malnutrition in communities around the world. Now, let’s take a look at how pulses can boost our planet’s health!

Farmers’ friends

  • Leguminous plants are nitrogen-fixers that capture atmospheric nitrogen and add it to the soil. This cuts down on the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and saves the environment from greenhouse gases, which are a by-product of the manufacture and use of nitrogen fertilisers.
  • As pulses boost soil fertility, cultivating them alongside other crops leads to better harvests.
  • Pulses can be zero-waste crops! Every part of the plant can be used—the seeds and pods are edible, the shoots can serve as fodder, and the plant residue left after harvest can nourish the soil!

Biodiversity boosters

  • By helping to add nitrogen and other useful substances to soil, pulses boost the activity and diversity of soil microbes and other organisms. All of this improves the health of ecosystems, making them resilient to disturbances like pollution and diseases.

Planet-friendly crops

  • Pulses are a water-efficient source of protein as they have a much smaller water footprint compared to animal sources of protein.
  • Did you know that pulses are climate-smart crops? They can be grown in different climatic conditions and landscapes, and are hardier than most other crops, surviving severe weather like droughts and floods when other crops fail. In the face of climate change, pulses could be key to ensuring there is food available for everyone in the future.

With so many benefits to cultivating and consuming pulses, aren’t you eager to add more pulses to your plate? To get you started, try cooking some of these pulse dishes from around the world. Share a picture of your favourite pulse dish on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #PulsePower. Don’t forget to tag WWF-India!

Common Name: Cowpea aphid

Scientific Name: Aphis craccivora

Cowpea aphids are insects that are known to be pests of several pulse crops. They feed by sucking the plant’s sap, which affects the plant’s growth and lowers the yield of the crop. These insects transmit plant viruses too. 

Despite the harm they can cause to plants, aphids like the cowpea aphid have an important role to play in ecosystems. While feeding on plant sap, they produce sugary honeydew, which is an important energy source for many organisms, including ants, wasps, flies, and some fungi. Bees, too, sometimes feed on honeydew and process it into honey, which we consume! Aren’t nature’s interconnections fascinating?

Watch this fun video to learn more about aphids!

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