Division of Entomology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi-110012.
Pulses are defined as the dried edible seeds of cultivated legumes. The English word pulse is originated from the Latin word ‘puls’, meaning pottage or thick pap. They belong to the family Leguminosae and include peas, beans and lentils. The edible pulses constitute a large group of various species that are capable or surviving in very different climatic and soil conditions. Use of pulses as human food have been reported from ancient times and traces have been found in archaeological sites of both the Old and New Worlds and they appear to have been among the earliest domesticated plants. These findings indicate an almost simultaneous arrival of cereals and pulses around 10,000 BC. Today pulses are cultivated in all parts of the world, and they occupy an important place in human and animal diet. Pulses in different forms make more important contribution to the diet of all classes of society in the East than in the West. In India especially, people who are mostly vegetarian depend largely on cereals arid pulses as their staple food, which serve as the main source of dietary protein and energy. Pulses are reported to contain more protein than any other edible plant species and they serve as a low-cost protein to meet the needs of the large section of the people. Their low moisture content and hard testa or seed coat permit storage over long periods. Some of the pulse crops are grown for their green edible pods and unripe seeds. Nutritionally, immature fruits have distinctly different properties to those of the mature seed, the protein content is lower but they are relatively richer in vitamins and soluble carbohydrates. Pulses are commonly used as dehusked, decorticated and whole seed, as dhal and taken with chapattis and cooked rice. They are also used in the form of flour such as that of chickpea, known as 'besan'. Sprouted seeds are also used in various types of salads in India and abroad. In the process of sprouting, the vitamins, minerals and protein increase substantially with corresponding decrease in calories and carbohydrate content.
Pulses are grown in a wide area all over India. Earlier there was a feeling that the pulses are in general low yielders, but now with the advent of newer technologies and backbreaking work of our scientists we have pulses with better production capability. However, there are several constraints, which seriously affect the production of the pulses. To name a few insect pests and diseases, low rainfall etc. The current acceptance of low yield may have reason because for centuries, pulses have been grown under marginal conditions and in dryland areas where the farmer is at the mercy of the rain god.
A large range of pulses crops, such as Chickpea or Bengal Gram or commonly known as Gram (Cicer airetinem), Pigeonpea or Tur (Cajanus cajan), Black Gram or Urad (Vigna mungo), Green gram or Moong (Vigna radiate), Lentil or Masur (Lense culimaris) etc., are grown in different parts of the country in different seasons with respective comparative advantages of their cultivation, consumption requirements and post harvest linkages. Out of the normal production of 13 million tonnes of pulses produced annually, share of Kharif season pulses has been nearly 40%. Gram, a Rabi season crop, dominates the domestic pulses production with nearly 40% share in total production followed by Tur, the main pulse crop of Kharif season with corresponding share of about 17%. Urad, Moong and Masur together account for another 28% share in production. Urad and Moong are grown in both the Kharif and Rabi seasons, but their major production comes from the crops grown in Kharif season. Pulses are generally grown in rainfed conditions, predominantly in the vast domain of arid and semi--arid regions of Central, Western and Peninsular India. The agro-climatic...