Pulse crops are members of the family Leguminosae or Fabaceae (see LEGUME). The term "pulse crops" generally refers to those plant species harvested primarily for dry seed that is used as both human food and animal feed. The four commonly grown pulse crops in Canada are FIELD PEA, LENTIL, DRY BEAN and chickpea. Faba bean, Lupin and Mung bean are also grown in Canada on a smaller scale. SOYBEAN and peanut are two other members of the legume family with which most people are familiar. However, these two are not considered as pulse crops, and instead are referred to as leguminous OILSEEDS. It is widely believed that pulse crops were introduced in Canada by settlers from other countries.
Pulse crops are considered as environmentally friendly due to their ability to form symbiotic associations with nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria in their taproot systems. The fixed nitrogen in the soil is available to the subsequent crop. Also, inclusion of pulse crops in the crop sequence reduces disease incidence in crops that follow a pulse crop. The fruit of a pulse crop is a pod containing one to several seeds, which are high in protein, carbohydrates, fibre, minerals and vitamins (folate). Consumption of pulses as part of a regular diet may offer numerous health benefits including reduced risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
In Canada, more than 5.5 million t of pulses are produced annually on approximately 2 million ha, primarily in five provinces: Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Québec. Canada is a leading exporter of pulse crops with approximately 75% of the production exported annually. Canada represents 35% of the global pulse trade, and the trade balance of pulse crops increased from $863 million in 2000 to $2.1 billion in 2010. Commercial production of pulse crops continues to be a profitable enterprise for pulse growers in Canada. More than 10 000 Canadian farms grow pulse crops with a farm cash receipt of about $1.7 billion annually. In addition to being a profitable crop for growers, pulse crop production has contributed to the growth of the pulse processing industry and expansion of employment opportunities in rural communities across Canada.