December 7, 2022

As Europe experiences its worst heat wave ever, warm temperatures have beneficial side effects on the Belgian farm Peas and beanswhere chickpeas are grown – a Mediterranean climate crop.

This pulse is not adapted to cold and wet weather, but the direction of sunny periods facilitates the growth of crops that were previously impossible to harvest in northern or central Europe. Thomas Troen, a hobby farmer who mainly works as a marketer in the seed industry has grown chickpeas on just one acre of his family farm in 2020: “I wanted to be agile for the future, because climate change is making our spring and summer drier,” he said.

Determine the right price for the climate

According to a recent report, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), plant foods he is The most impactful low carbon investment in any sector, with the highest CO2 equivalent savings per dollar of capital invested in any sector. In Belgium, companies like GreenwayAnd the de hobbitAnd the Life is beautiful Paving the way for new plant-based products based on legumes such as soybeans, chickpeas or beans and other legumes. But an increase in the production of raw materials in the country must also be envisaged, if the environmental impact of plant foods is to be kept low.

At the Flemish regional level, initiatives are being taken aimed at accelerating the shift to plant foods. In 2021, Flanders Minister of Agriculture and Food Hilda Krewitz launched a regional Protein 2030 strategy With the aim of increasing the production of more vegetable and alternative proteins in the Flemish lands, leading to a diversification of crops. the plan Seek In addition to encouraging agricultural innovation: lupine, lentils and chickpeas have not yet been cultivated on an extensive basis, but research is underway to understand which plant can thrive in the Flemish climate. Truyen Farm is involved in two 19 projects Funded by the government, farmers, scientists, processors, and supermarkets unite to investigate the potential of local chickpea consumption and how to improve chickpea cultivation.

In two weeks, Troyen is set to harvest its organic chickpeas for the third year in a row. Harvesting it will further help investigate the possibility of increasing production across the country: “What we want to get to is building data on average yield,” then in the long run it will be possible to calculate the costs involved which will be the right price for Belgian chickpeas for farmers others to consider whether it is appropriate for them to grow this crop.”

Ultra-sustainable but still risky

Chickpeas are sown and harvested between March and September, when the temperature can approach slightly that of the Mediterranean. However, the chickpea variety used is the same as currently used on some farms in France, which can better cope with cooler and milder weather.

Troyen set aside one acre for chickpeas, while on his farm, he grows crops like potatoes and wheat, and now he makes them spin with chickpeas. However, one of the secrets of this crop is its extraordinary ability to mitigate climate change. The peculiarity of this plant is that it can grow in not very fertile soil while reducing the emission of nitrogen into the air, which is a special by-product of some agricultural activities. In fact, the pulse itself is fed by the emitted nitrogen molecules, which facilitates the reduction of this gas in the atmosphere.

Nitrogen is a substance that can also be found in fertilizers, which farmers do not need to use as the plant can absorb it through the air, which reduces purchase costs, given today’s high energy prices, which made fertilizers heavy. on farmers’ budgets.

On top of that, his organic farm uses nature-friendly farming techniques, such as avoiding the use of pesticides, which are now bringing pollinators back to their lands. Although he needs to uproot weeds that grow alongside chickpea plants, he prefers them that way. recent study have found These practices do not reduce crop productivity, while enhancing positive effects on the environment.

During its first year in 2020, the pea and bean farm collected 3 tons of this crop, which indicates that there is a future for this crop in the country. But in 2021, torrential rains that caused catastrophic floods in Europe also damaged his land, making it impossible to harvest anything more than one kilogram: “Climate change means not only higher temperatures, but especially extreme weather events,” He also expressed regret . For now, he doubts that many other farmers will follow in his footsteps: “Changing crops overnight is risky, and it’s good not to be blinded by this business, in agriculture, everything is an experiment and you have to wait at least 10 years until he said that He hopes that with the third harvest he can build more data collection in a positive direction.

Supply Chain Making

One area of ​​the projects that Peas & Beans is involved in is bridging the gap between farmers and consumers. Belgian cuisine rarely includes pulses and its inhabitants are not used to adding them to their meals. Troyen said he “has some work to do” in order to sell his first crop as there is no supply chain for chickpeas yet. But since his primary job is to work in marketing, it didn’t take him long to establish his chain: “Somehow I had a dream of starting my own chain, and so I needed a very popular crop and chickpeas seemed to be the perfect product”, as plant-based alternatives grew in popularity. Especially among the younger generations. At present, it mainly supplies the Easter-inspired restaurant in Brussels Pois ChicheAnd an international vegetarian restaurant Hummus and HortensePeas and beans also supply wholesale groceries. Now, along with his project partner, he is trying to explain how to create a supply chain for this new potential Belgian product: “In the future we will need, for example, factories that can clean chickpeas after harvesting,” he noted.

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