Plant protein for a regenerative food system

The growing library of ingredients used in alternative protein products can also contribute to overall crop diversity

According to the USDA, “diverse crop rotations provide more biodiversity, benefiting the soil food web, which in turn improves rainfall infiltration and nutrient cycling while reducing disease and pests.” Creating new and larger markets for underutilized legumes incentivizes farmers to plant diverse species of plants, improving soil health. 

Chickpeas are just one example of a crop that can contribute to a more regenerative food system. This mighty bean was one of the first crops to be domesticated in the fertile crescent of ancient Mesopotamia. Chickpeas continue to be an important crop in regions like India, Africa, and the Middle East. And they are poised to become even more critical to food and soil security as we face a future impacted by climate change. Chickpeas are both water-efficient and heat tolerant. These traits are increasingly important as temperatures rise and more pressure is placed on our water supplies. 

NuCicer is growing better chickpeas by leveraging a historic library of wild chickpeas to bring genetic diversity to current crop rotations. The chickpeas they are creating have higher protein content and can even be selected for their ability to fix nitrogen more efficiently. And a growing group of companies like Equinom, ChickP,  and InnovoPro are also focused on growing chickpeas or creating protein isolates for alternative protein products. 

Down the value chain, we’re starting to see chickpeas in a growing range of alternative protein products, from yogurt and eggs to chicken and tuna. As the universe of companies making products from chickpeas grows, there will be further opportunities for farmers to improve soil health and diversity using chickpea crops. 

Of course, nitrogen-fixing capabilities are not just limited to chickpeas. Soybeans, peas, mung beans, fava beans, and navy beans all fix nitrogen and also contribute to the diverse ecosystem we need to foster healthy soil. Every alternative protein product with these ingredients can help contribute to healthier soil and therefore a healthier food system. 

Plant-based burgers topped with arugula on a white stone counter

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