Do you know what pulses are? This is the name given to dried seeds of legumes used in food. The main pulses in Brazil are beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas. Besides being regarded as important sources of protein, the grains called pulses are also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They have low-fat levels and contain no cholesterol. In view of their significance for food, FAO has considered pulses as relevant types of food to fight world hunger and encouraged their consumption.
Such prominence is also due to the sustainable aspect of pulses cultivation. They are acknowledged for their symbiotic relationship with soil microorganisms and, consequently, a high biological nitrogen fixation ability. In addition, the organic matter from their crops is regarded as of high quality and good water retention in the soil. These two aspects, besides allowing the development of high-efficiency crop rotation systems, ensure a lower use of nitrogen fertilizers and decrease the crops’ water requirements, respectively.
Due to the great diversity of species and consumption patterns, pulses have well-defined regional growing features. In Brazil, beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), through their different cultivars, stand out as the most cultivated species and is a staple food in the Brazilian people’s diet.
The National Supply Company (CONAB) estimates that the area allocated for beans’ crops in the 2022-2023 harvest is around 2.8 million hectares, with a production of 3 million tons. Although there is a significant production in all regions, the states of Paraná, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, Bahia, and Goiás stand out as the largest producers in the country.
Potential for new cultivars
Focused on the diversification of production and the search for access to new markets, Brazil has expanded the cultivation of other pulses. The country stands out for its technological potential for production mechanization, through adapting machinery and equipment used in the crops of beans and other legumes.
Chickpeas’ production is expanding, which is favored especially by the fact that it adapts to the climatic conditions of different regions. As its cultivation is not so water-intensive, producers in the Cerrado biome (in the Brazilian Midwest region) are adhering to this new crop. According to data from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), the area allocated to chickpeas crops exceeded 12 thousand hectares in 2019.
Lentils may also be a good option for irrigated winter agriculture, especially in the Cerrado biome. The region shows great potential, yielding 1.2 thousand to 1.5 thousand kg/ha. The strengthening of research focused on developing new cultivars, development of technologies, and dissemination of information on pulse production systems show a promising scenario for Brazil.