UK project to explore the potential of pulses and legumes to address the current climate crisis

Increasing pulse and legume cropping in arable rotations to 20% across the UK, the project aims to bring about a reduction of 1.5Mt CO₂e per annum.

August 16, 2023

A consortium of UK companies, research institutes and farmer networks, led by PGRO, aims to bring about a reduction of 1.5Mt CO₂e per annum or 54% of the maximum potential for UK Agriculture through a four-year £5.9 million research program, Nitrogen Efficient Plants for Climate Smart Arable Cropping Systems (NCS), involving 200 UK farms and 18 partners.

This will be achieved by increasing pulse and legume cropping in arable rotations to 20% across the UK (currently 5%). In addition, 50% of imported soy meal used in livestock rations will be replaced with home-grown feeds. Both of these ambitious aims will be steered by science and proven by real farm enterprises, with significant benefits for both crop and livestock productivity, including cost savings of over £1 billion per year.

These changes will deliver a national cost saving to UK farming of £1032 million per annum, by removing 20% of nitrogen fertilizer across UK growers and 1.8 million tonnes of soy imports from the UK farming supply chain.

Part of the project will be to develop a policy tool for the government that helps the adoption by UK farm businesses of measures and cost-effective solutions for transitioning agriculture to a greener, more resilient future and accelerating the path to net zero.

The farmer-led trials, carried out by the Pulse Pioneers, will play an essential role throughout the four years of the project in informing the practices that will achieve this. The initial step will be to recruit farmers, scientists and tech innovators as active members of the PulsePEP community – a platform and knowledge exchange hub that will be developed by the consortium, led by ADAS.

On the livestock side, end use of pulses and legumes in animal feeds will be developed in work led by McArthur Agriculture, with SRUC, Kelvin Cave, First Milk, LC Beef Nutrition, AB Agri and FCT. Farm-based heat treatment and de-hulling of beans, whole crop forage optimization and a score of other innovative techniques will be deployed in both scientific and commercial trials. These will be applied across a range of livestock sectors to assess how diets can be reformulated based on homegrown proteins.

“This will be the defining project of our time,” said Rob Vickers, PGRO Chief Executive. “It’s not just the chance for UK agriculture to make a seismic shift towards net zero, but it’ll also deliver a prosperous and resilient way of farming for communities worldwide. We want farmers to join us and be part of this exciting journey of discovery. You will shape it. Your knowledge and experience will enrich the science we’re bringing together.

The project is funded by the Defra Farming Innovation Programme, delivered by Innovate UK, with the following partners: PGRO (Processors and Growers Research Organisation) leads the consortium that includes AB Agri, ADAS, Agrii, The Andersons Centre, BOFIN (British On-Farm Innovation Network), Cranfield University, Farm Carbon Toolkit, Firstmilk, GWCT (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust), The James Hutton Institute, Kelvin Cave, LC Beef Nutrition, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), McArthur Agriculture, PBL Technology, SRUC and Wessex Water.