Encyclopedia > Pulses

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The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) defines pulses as annual leguminous crops yielding from one to 12 grains or seeds of variable size, shape and coulour within a pod. Pulses are used for food and animal feed.

The term pulses is reserved for crops harvested solely for the dry grain and therefore excludes green beans and green peas, which are considered vegetable crops. Also excluded are crops which are mainly grown for oil extraction, like soybeans and peanuts, and crops which are used exclusively for sowing (clovers, alfalfa).

Pulses are important food crops due to their high protein and essential amino acid content. Like many leguminous crops, pulses play an important part in crop production due to their ability to fix nitrogen.


India is both the world's largest producer and the world's largest importer of pulses.

Canada, Myanmar, Australia and the United States are significant exporters of pulses. (Note: these are the four most significant suppliers of India's imports, in that order.)

The vast majority of leguminous crops grown in the United States are peanuts and soybeans[?] used as cattle feed[?] and for extraction of vegetable oil, which are not considered pulses (see above).

Classification of pulses

FAO recognizes 11 primary pulses.

  • Dry cow peas[?], blackeye pea, blackeye bean (Vigna sinensis)

  • Vetch, common vetch (Vicia sativa)

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