ROME, 6th December, 2016 (WAM) — Soil and pulses can make major contributions to the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population and combating climate change, especially when deployed together, according to Soils and Pulses: Symbiosis for Life, a new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation released on World Soil Day.

“Soils and pulses embody a unique symbiosis that protects the environment, enhances productivity, contributes to adapting to climate change and provides fundamental nutrients to the soil and subsequent crops,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva.

The new report illustrates a variety of ways that pulses and soils can be “strategic allies” in forging more sustainable food and agriculture systems.

Earlier today, FAO’s Council – representing the Organisation’s member states – endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management, a set of technical and policy recommendations on protecting the world’s largest terrestrial pool of carbon. These guidelines – to be implemented at all levels – constitute the main tool to foster sustainable soil management and boost soil health.

One-third of the world’s soils are now deemed degraded, due to a range of causes including acidification, salinisation, erosion and urbanisation, a matter of growing concern due to the intricate range of life-supporting ecosystem services they provide.

“Pulses are architects of soil health,” according to the report.

They host special soil bacteria enabling the biological fixation of nitrogen, a natural process that would cost an additional $10 billion a year in synthetic fertilizers. They also foster soil carbon sequestration and cleaner water filtration.

The world is currently losing soil 10 to 20 times faster than it is replenishing it, a trend pulses can help offset.

Pulses are a critical ally in addressing hunger, food insecurity, malnutrition and rural incomes, all cardinal goals in the Sustainable Development Agenda.

They have higher protein content – often three times as much as rice or cassava – than staple grains. Pulses also are a significant source of health-enhancing minerals, including iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous and zinc. Other dietary health attributes of pulses include high B-vitamin content, low fat content, no cholesterol and a low glycemic index. While low in calories, they are high in complex carbohydrates and dietary fibers.