Good for the farmer
New solutions needed to feed 9 billion by 2050
A third of rice, maize and wheat-growing areas have experienced yield plateaus or decrease in yield gain in the last decade.
Great yield gain potential
Average rain fed sorghum yield is as low as 600 kg/ha, whereas its realistic potential is three times higher. Significant impact is already proven.
Crucial staple for millions in the drylands
Millets are well-known traditional crops for most of the 2.5 billion people living in the drylands. 80% is eaten by farmers’ families.
Multiple uses exist with untapped markets
Fodder: Pearl millet straw, with up to 50% dry matter, is the main animal feed for dryland herders in the dry season.
Multiple uses of pigeon pea
As green manure, pigeon pea produces 13,619 kg/ha of dry matter and 23 kg of N/t of dry matter
Pigeon pea leaves and forage, high in protein and easily accessible, are largely used as fodder.
The stems and branches of pigeon pea plants are used to prepare baskets, fencing and thatch, and serve as an additional income source for women.
In Thailand, pigeon pea is host to insects that produce lac, used for various products such as:
- Color-fast dye used on animal fibers (wool and silk) and for coloring soft drinks and food
- Shellac used for painting and furniture manufacturing
Farmers in Africa grow pigeon pea for its firewood more than for its grain. The calorific value of the pigeon pea stalks is about half that of the same weight of coal.
Pigeon pea plants act as wind breakers/shade crops for young cocoa plants in Nigeria. They are also useful as cover/support crop for vanilla in Southeast Asia and as a substrate for mushroom production in China.
Biofuels and fermentation industries not fully developed yet; there is scope for many of the Smart Food crops to be used here. Consumer products – health foods, sanitizers and more – are other untapped markets.
Reduced risk for the farmer
Pulses can better withstand climate change thus reducing risk for the smallholder farmer.
New varieties and hybrids
There is a great scope for developing improved varieties of pulses, with higher resilience to drought, salinity and diseases, as they will play a vital role in the face of adverse climate change impacts on crop productivity.
Smart Food crops are highly nutritious, being high in protein, vitamins and minerals. Millets are gluten free and easily digestible. Legumes are affordable protein sources. Proteins help build and repair muscles and tissues. Escalating levels of diabetes can be prevented or managed by including low glycemic index foods such as sorghum and millets in the diet. They are also high in antioxidants which help to lower risks or fight against chronic diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes,and some forms of cancer.
Good for the Planet
Smart Food crops are most resilient and best survive the harsh environments present in the drylands. Hence, they are climate-smart crops.
In times of drought, millets are practically the last crop standing. Millets, sorghum and legumes have close to the lowest water and carbon footprints of all crops.
The climate resilience of these crops means that they are a good risk-management strategy for farmers. Legumes have an important role to play in soil nutrition and, when rotated with other crops, even increase the water-use efficiency of the entire crop rotation. Their multiple uses and untapped demand means that they have a lot more potential. Plus, unlike other crops they have not yet reached a yield plateau and have great potential for productivity increases.