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Montana Ag Network: Pandemic fuels demand for pulse crops

Posted at 12:13 PM, Nov 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 08:56:55-05

COVID-19 has fueled an unprecedented demand for pulse crops like lentils, chickpeas, dry peas and beans. It’s also coincided with a renaissance in regenerative agriculture and a strong interest in healthy, immune-boosting plant-based diets.

Pulse crops are helping to overhaul American diets and play a large role in organic and regenerative agriculture. And agribusiness companies like Columbia Grain, one of the largest processors and exporters of high-quality pulses in the United States, is excited to help cultivate the industry’s growth.

“Regenerative agriculture is a term used to describe farming practices that help reverse the climate change by rebuilding soil, organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity,” said Columbia Grain International President and CEO Jeff Van Pevenage. “Regenerative agriculture leads to healthy soil capable of producing high quality, nutrient dense food while improving rather than degrading the land and leading to productive farms and healthy communities in the country.”

Seth Goodman is a farmer from Big Sandy, Montana, and is finding success with regenerative agriculture in his cropping rotations.

“I like it because peas add nitrogen, alfalfa adds nitrogen and clover adds nitrogen,” he said. “I'm in an organic system, so I'll put those in and follow it by wheat and I can get anywhere from 12 to 16 protein wheat. Organic prices are pretty good and they're friendly towards good quality. So, the regenerative part of it is it helps the cash crop.”

As interest continues to grow, pulses are well suited to help meet the needs of both farmers and consumers.

“Pulses are really an environmentally resilient crop, and they deliver high nutrition foods to people and they're critical nutrients for biological ecosystems” said Van Pevenage. “For soil, it's essential for plant life and 95% of the global food supply. Pulses such as lentils and dried beans and chickpeas are nitrogen fixing plants that benefit soil health, leading to better growing conditions for themselves and for other plants.”

Columbia Grain has been supplying grains, beans, pulses, and oilseeds to companies that manufacture consumer brands in over 80 countries for more than 40 years.