December 04, 2015
|On World Soil Day (and every other day) growing and eating more beans and peas can make a real contribution to healthy soils.|
Healthy soil (photo courtesy Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Health Campaign, licensed under Creative Commons
Happy World Soil Day! Every month has at least a dozen commemorative days, from the serious to the silly (May the Fourth, anyone?), but this one’s a matter of life and death. A quarter of all the world’s biodiversity is found within the soil - in just one teaspoon, there are more living things than there are people on the planet.
We’re only now beginning to understand how complex an ecosystem the soil is - and humans have been degrading it for decades with damaging crop rotations, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. 30 per cent of the world’s croplands have become unproductive, while poor soil exacerbates the effects of climate change, whether flood or drought, as well as lowering the nutrient levels of plants grown in it.
What can help? Growing, and eating, more pulses can make a real contribution to the soil - peas, beans and lentils benefit soil health, fixing nitrogen in the soil and increasing microbial activity and diversity even after they’ve been harvested. Pulses play an essential role in more sustainable crop rotations, breaking weed and disease cycles and helping crops access more nutrients.
We’ll be celebrating World Soil Day with a red haricot bean, squash, aubergine and red pepper Chili Non Carne, but there are plenty of other Hodmedod pea and bean recipes this way. And with the whole of next year designated by the UN as the International Year of Pulses, there’ll be 366 excuses for more beanfeasts.
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