With Dundee Science Centre, the James Hutton Institute is contributing to a range of outreach activities in 2016 as part of The Crunch, and initiative headed by the UK-wide Association of Science and Discovery Centres and supported by the Wellcome trust.
Our exhibit at a community-run event in Baxter Park Dundee on 28 July 2016 was called – Feel the Pulse – a display of beans and peas, which along with lentils are known as ‘pulses’ (images below).
Why pulses? They yield a highly nutritious, plant protein that can be grown without nitrogen fertiliser because the plants themselves fix nitrogen gas from the air into their own bodies. Nitrogen is essential for plant growth, but in its mineral form (from bags of fertiliser) can be a serious pollutant, contaminating streams and drinking water.
Once, peas and beans were widely grown and eaten, but the arrival of industrially made nitrogen fertiliser about 100 years ago and the ready import of plant protein from other countries caused pulses to decline as crops.
Yet today, pulses are widely acclaimed for their benefits to health and the environment. The field bean Vicia faba crops above were grown locally without nitrogen fertiliser. They also offered a habitat and refuge for insects and small animals.
Is there a way to turn the tide – to farm more locally-grown cereal and legume produce, use less mineral N and support a cleaner environment.
We believe there is but one of the first things to do is to increase awareness of the benefits of peas and beans and similar products.
Our exhibit – Feel the Pulse – shows some of the things that are being done, such as finding types of peas and beans suited to the local conditions, comparing the nutritional value of different pulses and finding new pulse-based products for the market, for example bean bread and bean beer, both made from field bean flour.
Contact for pulses: firstname.lastname@example.org
At the event: Pete Iannetta, Philip White, Geoff Squire and Stephanie Frischie, a doctoral student visiting from the NASSTEC (Native Seeds) programme: www.nasstec.eu/home
See also: Bere and cricket