Technologies for Intensification of Production and Uses of Grain Legumes for Nutritional Security
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Malnutrition resulting from intake of food poor in nutritional value, particularly lacking in micronutrients, has been recognized as a serious health problem in developing countries including India. Nutritional security is a priority for India. Crop diversification in agriculture contributes to balanced diet and nutritional security. Production intensification of nutrient-dense crops, contributes to their increased production, and consequently enhances their accessibility at affordable prices to meet nutritional security. Grain legumes produce nutrient-dense grains rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients essential for growth and development. However, cultivation of grain legumes is often neglected resulting in poor production in the country, and consequently poor access to legumes at affordable prices. Pigeonpea or red gram (Cajanus cajan L.), chickpea or bengal gram (Cicer arietinum L.) and groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.), the three nutritious grain legumes are grown widely across the country and are major constituents of Indian diets. They are climate- resilient crops adapted to water-limiting conditions making them choice crops for cultivation in adverse conditions. Policy options for promoting cultivation and increased production of pigeon pea, chickpea and groundnut are needed. Technology options for intensification of their cultivation include improved cultivars of grain legumes with enhanced adaptation and nutritional properties, their processing, plugging post-harvest and storage losses, and development of alternative food products. The chapter discusses the contribution of agriculture to nutritional security and the need to diversify cultivation of crops to include nutrient-dense grain legumes, and intensification of their cultivation to achieve their enhanced production and productivity. The scope to develop bio-fortified grain legumes is also discussed. Some countries have successfully harnessed the potential of processed grain legumes for use as food supplements for children and elderly, as well as to prepare readyto-use-therapeutic-food products to treat acute malnutrition.