World Pulses Day, held on 10 February each year by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), virtually passed by without South Africa raising a voice.
This was not surprising at all, as according to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), lentils as an edible seed of plants in the legume family, was not widely developed, grown and promoted in South Africa.
“There is no record of any lentil production in South Africa. As a result, there is lack of detailed information on this crop under South African conditions.”
Lentils is a winter group, very tolerant to drought and resistant to high temperatures.
According to crop soil scientist Dr Alina Mofokeng of the Agricultural Research Council (ARC-Grain Crops) lentils played a significant role in human and animal nutrition and in soil health improvement.
“Its cultivation enriches the soil nutrient status by adding nitrogen, carbon and organic matter, which promotes sustainable cereal-based crop production systems in the regions” she was quoted as saying the grains magazine.
FAO said the legume played a key role in contributing to healthy diets and to sustainable agricultural systems.
Worldwide, it was estimated that area of lentils was 4.2 million hectares with Canada, Indian, Turkey and the United being the top producers of the crop.
Canada produced 95% of lentils with over 5000 active farmers followed closely by India.
Dr Mofokeng charges the lentils could be ideal for farmers as it was the most desired legume by far “because of its high protein content of up to 35,5% and fast cooking characteristics. It is used as a starter, main dish, side dish or in salads.”