Researchers from Agriculture Victoria and the Grains Research and Development Corporation are helping to boost the production of pulses by testing new varieties and harnessing new technology, capitalising on a growing domestic and global market. Read more
Imagine sitting down to breakfast and pouring ice cold milk on your bowl of chickpeas. It might become a reality thanks to Charles Sturt University (CSU) research into innovative processing techniques to add value to pulse crops.
CSU PhD candidate at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Functional Grains (FGC) Stephen Cork is investigating the potential for pulses like chickpeas to be processed into flakes for breakfast and snack foods.
“Pulses like chickpeas are high in protein, low in fat and are a great source of minerals and B vitamins but many Australians don’t meet the recommended dietary intake of one to three serves of pulses per week,” Cork said.
“The low consumption has been attributed to the time and effort required to prepare them, which typically involves soaking and boiling for over one hour, and the need to modify sensory attributes such as texture and flavour.
“My research is focused on understanding how processing technologies can support new product development, in particular for incorporating pulses into ready to eat breakfast foods, a market worth $33 billion globally.”
Working with Woods Foods, a family owned pulse processor in southern Queensland, and Uncle Tobys, Cork’s research aims to better understand the factors needed to turn chickpeas into flakes.
“The different chemical compositions of cereals and pulses means that there’s a need for research into how to apply a processing methods like flaking to pulses,” Cork said.
“My research is examining how pre-treatment, flake formation and secondary processing impacts the behaviour and quality of the product.
“It’s hoped the development of new products will diversify markets for Australian pulse producers to support further growth of the industry.”
Cork presented his research at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Update in Wagga Wagga on Tuesday 13 February. More about the GRDC Update here.
Cork was awarded a scholarship by FGC. Funded by the Australian Government through the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, the FGC is administered by Charles Sturt University and is an initiative of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation. His research is supervised by FGC Director Professor Chris Blanchard, Dr Asgar Farahnaky and Professor John Mawson.
As the headers start to roll through Australia’s record pulse crop, the industry’s peak body has elected Ron Storey as its new chairman.
Out-going chairman, Peter Wilson, stood down at the end of his six-year term having led the board through a period of unprecedented growth in the pulse industry.
In accepting the role of chairman, Storey (pictured right) said Wilson had served Pulse Australia and the industry well with a determination to see pulses take their place as a regular component in farming systems across Australia’s grain growing regions.
“Mr Wilson has been a champion of Australian pulses here and on the global stage,” said Mr Storey. “In the 2016 International Year of Pulses the industry has enjoyed wider exposure within the farming and consumer communities, with an emphasis on the health, environmental and economic benefits of growing and eating more pulses.”
Mr Storey comes to the role of chairman after serving as a director on the Pulse Australia board for over 10 years. His depth of industry experience and knowledge of the various structures across the agricultural and grains business sectors are key strengths Mr Storey brings to the role.
“The pulse industry is now in a very positive position. Globally, demand is strong and growing. Locally, farmers are growing more pulses — area planted is up 35 per cent over the last decade. Even more importantly, value is growing because pulse prices are strong and there are thriving export container supply chains in Australia are adding value and creating regional jobs,” he said.
“Pulse Australia, with support from organisations like GRDC, has played a pivotal part in the development of the industry for over 30 years. It is important that the pulse industry has a strong, non-political voice, with an understanding of relationships through the value chain; from farm gate to international markets.”
Mr Storey plans to steer the peak body through a repositioning process that will ensure the essential services that underpin Australia’s premium quality export standards are maintained, along with international market development.
“Australia is the world’s largest exporter of chickpea and the vast majority of our pulses are sold into international markets,” said Mr Storey. “These markets have come to expect high quality produce from Australia and this has not come about by accident. It is the result of many years work by Pulse Australia and key research and development organisations that have championed improved varieties, better agronomic practice, adherence to quality standards and understanding customer needs.”
“We can’t drop the ball now when our growers and exporters are in full stride to meet the demand for healthy, affordable and sustainable food,” he said. “We have to aim higher, and we will.”
In addition to Storey’s appointment to the chair, Pulse Australia has also appointed Brett McIntyre as an additional director to the board. Mr McIntyre brings to the board considerable pulse marketing expertise, with a particular focus on chickpea and mungbean production in NSW and Queensland.
We all know the score: current trends predict there will be 9.7 billion mouths to feed by 2050. Producing enough food without using more land, exacerbating climate change or putting more pressure on water, soil and energy reserves will be challenging.
In the past, food security researchers have focused on production with less attention paid to consumer demand and how food is ultimately used in meals. However as developing nations aspire towards the “Western diet”, demand for meat and animal products is rapidly climbing.
This is bad news for the planet. Meat is a luxury item and comes at a huge environmental cost. Shuttling crops through animals to make protein is highly inefficient: in US beef, just 5% of the original protein survives the journey from animal feed to meat on the plate. Even milk, which has the best conversion efficiency, has just 40% of the original protein.
Consequently, livestock farming requires huge amounts of water and land for grazing and feed production, taking up an estimated 70% of all agricultural land and 27% of the human water footprint. Much of this land is becoming steadily degraded through overgrazing and erosion, prompting farmers to expand into new areas; 70% of cleared forest in the Amazon, for instance, is now pastureland. Livestock production is also one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, including 65% of man-made nitrous oxide emissions (which have a global warming potential 296 times greater than CO₂).
Nevertheless, millions of people in developing countries still suffer from protein malnutrition. The burden, therefore, must fall on people in richer nations to reduce their meat consumption and embrace other sources of protein.
Pulses are a healthy alternative
Enter the pulses: beans, peas and lentils. Although generally cheaper than meat, these are rich sources of protein and also come with essential micronutrients including iron, zinc, magnesium and folate. As low GI (glycaemic index) foods, they release their energy slowly over time, preventing surges in blood glucose. Naturally gluten-free, they are also ideal for the rising numbers of those with coeliac disease.
Besides being rich in goodness, pulses are also low in many undesirables including cholesterol, fat and sodium, which all contribute to heart and blood issues. In fact, pulses seem to actively protect against these maladies. Numerous studies confirm legume-rich diets can decrease cholesterol levels and when 50g of lentils were added to the diet of diabetic patients, their fasting blood sugar levels significantly decreased.
Meanwhile, populations with the greatest lentil consumption also have the lowest rates of breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. This may be partly due to the high fibre content of pulses: increasingly, a high-fibre diet is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Fibre content may also explain the satiating effect of pulses: for example, incorporating lentils into energy-equivalent meals causes greater fullness and leads to a lower calorie consumption later in the day.
Just as they are good for us, beans, lentils and peas are also good for the environment. As they work with bacteria that convert atmospheric nitrogen into useful ammonia or nitrates, legumes actually improve soil fertility and reduce dependence on energy-intensive fertilisers.
Pulses are also highly water-efficient; for each gram of protein, the average global water footprint of pulses is only 34% that of pork and 17% that of beef. Meanwhile, the carbon footprint of pulses is less than half that of winter wheat and on average 48 times lower than the equivalent weight of British beef cattle.
Despite all this, the potential of pulses is largely unrecognised. Currently demand is dominated by India and Pakistan, however poor yields mean the two countries import more than 20% of global pulse production. Even big exporters like Australia and Canada remain inefficient, achieving barely half the yield per acre found in Croatia. This “yield gap” exists because these countries typically grow pulses as animal feed or to break up crop rotations. Optimising pulse harvests in both developing and developed nations could thus be an easy way to boost global protein production.
Nevertheless, pulses face traditional barriers in the West, including the need for overnight soaking, unappealing tastes and potential flatulence from a high-fibre diet. To overcome these, ingredient manufacturers have developed pulses into new functional ingredients that provide all the benefits of eating whole pulses. These already include pasta, crackers, batters, flours and egg/meat-replacement products.
Even so, we should all consider how much meat we really need. A more plant-based diet is a winning strategy for our wallets, our health and the environment.
A PhD student and a graduate from Charles Sturt University have used the germination process of yellow peas to create a yellow pea flour and, subsequently, a pasta.
The Weekly Times reports that PhD student Neeta Karve (pictured, left) and Dr Saira Hussain entered the pulse pasta in the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology student product development competition, where it was named a finalist.
“The germination process of the yellow peas makes the end-product more nutritious and the protein is more digestible,” Karve told the Weekly Times.
“Yellow peas are a great source of protein and I want to try and use the pulses we have here in Australia.
“I would like to see pulses become a staple product like rice.”
She added that she would like to further develop the concept after she finishes her studies next year.
Food-lovers from across the globe will descend on Adelaide and South Australia’s surrounding regions to experience Tasting Australia from Sunday 1 May to Sunday 8 May 2016.
The festival goes beyond consumption to uncover what South Australia’s food scene is all about. As part of the ongoing 2016 International Year of Pulses celebrations, the Australian National Committee is excited to see pulses on the menu across the eight days.
Tasting Australia Co-creative director and 2016 IYP Advocate, Simon Bryant, is passionate about South Australian ingredients and ethical food choices and says the key to a great meal is letting quality produce shine.
“IYP is about raising public awareness about the role of the pulse, its nutritional benefits and its contribution to sustainable food production,” said Simon. “On another level, Tasting Australia allows us to show off the amazing flavor of our pulses to the world and broadcast our position as the worlds fifth largest pulse exporter, something we should all be proud of.”
The IYP Australian National Committee, in conjunction with major sponsor Australian Milling Group Foods, will host a marquee in the town square to assist people attending Tasting Australia to learn more about pulses and the UN endorsed International Year of Pulses.
With resources ranging from how pulses are grown, through to recipes and samples of new pulse products on the market, the marquee will showcase the best Australia has to offer. The United Nations Association South Australian chapter will also be on hand to speak about the UN involvement with IYP.
The IYP National Committee would also like to encourage the public to engage in other pulse activities occurring during Tasting Australia. As well as a number of cooking demonstrations that will involve pulses, international guest and author of Lentil Underground, Liz Carlisle, is hosting three special dinners over the week and will speak on the potential for lentils and legumes to revitalize rural communities.
Additionally the IYP National Committee will be hosting the “On the Pulse” Symposium on Monday 2 May 2016. Leading researchers will examine the latest research on the health effects of pulses and highlight research gaps, introduce intriguing new innovations being used to incorporate pulses in to the diet and identify opportunities for future work.