Peas and goodwill: an ecologist’s wish this Christmas

Planting peas and other legumes alongside cereal crops could help make farming greener, say ecologists.
Intercropping, as it’s known, could cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing dependence on fertiliser, as well as boosting biodiversity, food security and opening up new markets for local food and drinks businesses.
This includes producing impressive crop yields without artificial nitrogen fertiliser — and inventing new ways of brewing and distilling with beans.
This is because peas and other legumes fix their own nitrogen.
And when grown with other crops such as barley, the peas supply the cereal’s nitrogen needs.
Farming also needs to diversify by growing a wider range of crops and develop new markets for local, sustainable food and drinks.
To find new markets for a larger legume crop, Dr Iannetta is also developing new ways of turning peas and beans into alcohol.
By turning pulse starch into fermentable sugars and alcohol from 40% beans intercropped with 60% barley — we have produced a beer using 40% less artificial fertiliser," says Dr Iannetta.
The final benefit of their fermentation process is that it also produces a high-protein by-product, which could be used to make fish farming more sustainable.
"These will have been produced using no human-made fertilisers, and give co-products that provide sustainable and profitable protein production for the food chain," he concludes.