Pulses – a hidden treasure of nutrition

Do you know that most of the foods especially meat and pulses are a rich source of essential muscle building nutrients commonly known as proteins. In Pakistan, meat prices are increasing day by day and hence this protein source is becoming out of reach of the people. Soon the non-vegetarians will become vegetarians in a coming era. So there is demand to find the alternate sources of protein rather than meat. Pulses pose a good alternative of meat if properly mixed with cereals. Mostly we are ignoring this great protein source.

In the present scenario, the health conscious people avoid to take too much carbohydrate because in a luxurious life these carbohydrates convert into fats if not properly consumed. So these fats not only increase the cholesterol level in body but also serve as a store house of different viruses because fats are under the zero enzyme activity regions. We mainly focus on proteins because our muscle development and antibodies production all are contingent on it.

Pulses are a vital source of vegetable protein for poor community especially in the developing world and hence called as poor mans meat with protein contents 20-26 per cent. They constitute the integral part of human diet as dry or immature green seed. Pulses contain high amount of vitamin A, B, C and niacin and minerals such as calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Therefore, these are virtuous source of animal protein. Their use ranges from baby food to delicacies of the rich and the poor in the form of “dhal” or grinded flour “basin”. Besides, they have pivotal importance in cropping system because they have the capability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in soil. Legume crops host the nodule forming rhizobacteria in their root region which help them to fix nitrogen and boost the fertility level of soil. Hence, economically, legumes partially replace the expensive nitrogen fertilizers which are commercially available not eco-friendly.

The foremost pulse crops of Pakistan are chickpea, lentil, mungbean and mashbean. The total area attributed for pulses cultivation in Pakistan is nearby 1.5 million hectares which is about 5 per cent of the total cropped area. Among major pulses legumes, chickpea has occupied 73 per cent of the total pulses area. Mungbean occupies the 15 per cent area and contributing 16 per cent of total pulses production. Lentil which is also called black gram covers an area of 5% and devoted 5% of total pulses production. The minor pulse crops e.g. pigeon pea, rice bean, moth bean and horse bean etc. have also been cultivated but only on a small scale. Pakistan has been spending huge foreign exchange for pulses import which in recent years has been mounted. The indigenous low production of pulses is caused by unfavorable weather conditions and diseases.

The population graph is rising day by day, hence are the demands for pulses production to cope with human protein requirements. Pulses area and production has been stagnant rather decreasing since a couple of decades. Among various reasons due to which we are far behind in pulses production are i) preference of our farmers for cereals cultivation, ii) less research on pulses as compared to major cereals, iii) shifting of farmers preference due to unavailability of quality seeds, iv) various biotic factors (disease and insect attack) and abiotic factors (heat, drought and salinity etc.) and v) Post-harvest marketing hindrances. The farmers from area of Cholistan, Thar and Thal have a little awareness to grow legume crops in their low moisture soil because pulses require least moisture level. The other thing is that our farmers mainly emphasis to grow wheat and rice which have less amount of protein and exhaustive because they decrease the soil fertility. No doubt, cereals are essential because they contain high amount of carbohydrates but they should not cultivated at the cost of much needed pulses.

In conclusion, there is dire need to develop the awareness among farming community to grow pulses on their farmlands. Our Government should plan to make policies for improving the seed supply chain of major pulses which would help to cut the pulses import bills. Research on pulse crops can be enhanced by create job opportunities in pulses breeding department, so that we can meet at-least out local demand and keep our nation healthy.

Rezwan Tariq is Ph.D scholar and Dr. Rana Atif is Assistant Professor at Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan. They can be reached at <dratif@uaf.edu.pk>

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