Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 5234 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM 2016 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF PULSES AND THE IMPORTANCE OF BEANS In 2013, the United Nations declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses, also known as grain legumes. Pulses include crops such as dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils, which are all rich in protein, fibre and vitamins. Worldwide, these are recognised as part of a healthy diet, and they also have a fundamental role in food security. Along with other legumes, beans are very important crops for global food security, as they represent a crucial source of protein for poor farmers in Latin America and eastern Africa. In Italy, beans are also known as the ‘meat of poor people’, and they play an important role in the diet of the underprivileged from Europe’s rural areas, particularly for the prevention of malnutrition. Beans are a key crop in sustainable agriculture. As in most agricultural settings, the primary source of biological fixed nitrogen (about 80 per cent) is through the soil bacteria Rhizobium-legume symbiosis, which reduces the use of fertilisers. Beans also have very high nutritional quality, and contain many compounds that are known to offer health benefits, such as fibre and antioxidants, which also have important roles in the prevention of several diseases. Phaseolus spp., and in particular the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris L., represent the most important grain legumes for direct human consumption worldwide. Furthermore, there is increased interest in pulses as an alternative source to animal products for food protein, and also for health benefits related to regular legume consumption. In Europe, the common bean is the main crop grown for plant protein for food, and in 2012, the European Union imported 501,058 tonnes. P. vulgaris is also an economically important crop in the United States, where 1.7 million acres of dry beans were planted in 2012, with a farm-gate value of $1.4 billion. Phaseolus spp. have important roles in sustainable farming systems because of their association with the bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen, thereby enriching soil. Both common bean (P. vulgaris) and runner bean (P. coccineus) are cross-compatible sister species with different characteristics that are related to their mating system, their origins and evolution, and their environmental distribution. They represent a very useful tool to investigate the genetic basis of adaptation, following their dispersal to and throughout Europe from their centres of origin in the Americas. They can represent a model for major environmental and socio-economic changes in the future, such as increases in temperature, variability of rainfall, and new consumer preferences.