Economic Impact of International and National Lentil Improvement Research in Developing Countries
Aw-Hassan, Aden A.
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Lentils, one of humanity’s oldest food crops, originated in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East (Webb and Hawtin, 1981). As a food, lentils provide valuable protein and, unlike several other food legumes, few anti-nutritional or toxic factors have been reported in lentils. They also require a comparatively short cooking time and are one of the most easily digested of pulses. Lentils may be consumed whole, decorticated and split, or ground into flour. Although lentils are mainly human food, they may occasionally be used to feed animals, particularly poultry. The straw and pod walls, residues from threshing, have a high feed value. The seed coats left after decortication are also considered a valuable feed and may contain up to 13% protein. Lentils are sometimes grown as a fodder with the whole plants being grazed green or cut and fed to livestock. They may also be ploughed in as a green manure. Although lentils are not a major food crop on a world scale, they are nevertheless important in certain countries. The wide range of uses of lentils and their by-products, coupled with their value in many farming systems, and ability to thrive on relatively poor soils and under adverse environmental conditions, has ensured their continued role as crop species.