are annual leguminous
crops yielding from one to twelve grains
of variable size, shape and color within a pod
, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization
of the United Nations
(FAO). Pulses are used for food and animal feed.
The term pulses, as used by the FAO, is reserved for crops harvested solely for the dry grain. This excludes green beans and green peas, which are considered vegetable crops. Also excluded are crops that are mainly grown for oil extraction (oilseeds like soybeans and peanuts), and crops which are used exclusively for sowing (clovers, alfalfa).
Pulses are important food crops due to their high protein and essential amino acid content.
Like many leguminous crops, pulses play a key role in crop rotation due to their ability to fix nitrogen.
India is the world's largest producer and the largest importer of pulses. Canada, Myanmar, Australia and the United States are significant exporters, and are India's most significant suppliers, in that order.
The vast majority of leguminous crops grown in the United States are soybeans, used as livestock feed and for extraction of vegetable oil, and peanuts, neither of which is considered a pulse.
FAO recognizes 11 primary pulses.
Dry broad beans (Vicia faba) Dry peas (Pisum spp.) Chickpea, Garbanzo, Bengal gram (Cicer arietinum)
Dry cowpea, Black-eyed pea, blackeye bean (Vigna unguiculata )
Pigeon pea, Toor, cajan pea, congo bean (Cajanus cajan)
Lentil (Lens culinaris)
Bambara groundnut, earth pea (Vigna subterranea)
Vetch, common vetch (Vicia sativa)
Lupins (Lupinus spp.)
Minor pulses include:
- Dry beans (Phaseolus spp. including several species now in Vigna)
Pulses are 20 to 25% protein by weight, which is double the protein content of wheat
and three times that of rice
. For this reason, pulses are sometimes called "poor man’s meat". While pulses are generally high in protein, and the digestibility of that protein is also high, they often are relatively poor in the essential amino acid methionine
(which are themselves deficient in lysine
) are commonly consumed along with pulses to form a complete protein diet.
Pulses have significant nutritional and health advantages for consumers. They are the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities, and in the Seven Countries Study, legume consumption was highly correlated with a reduced mortality from coronary heart disease.