Legumes include beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, lupins, clover and vetch. The produce from these crops is generally high in protein content, and as such they are used for both animal feed and human consumption. They are also excellent as break crops in cereal rotations.
The main protein crops of relevance in Ireland are the pulse crops, namely peas and beans. The growing of peas and beans for the fresh market is carried out on a limited scale, usually in polythene tunnels. In 2019 there were only 8,100 hectares under peas and beans.
Ireland imported approximately €9 million worth of peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas in 2017.
Grain legumes are currently under represented in EU agriculture and produced on only 1.5% of the arable land in Europe compared with 14.5% on a worldwide basis.
The inclusion of pulses such as peas and beans in farming rotations significantly improves biodiversity, crop productivity and soil fertility, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
By promoting plant-based diets and encouraging dietary change to include a greater proportion of vegetable protein in the form of pulses and pulse-derived ingredients, Ireland’s health care costs could be reduced.
There is scope to produce beans for food export markets, particularly Egypt where 450,000 tonnes are imported annually. The growing vegan and health food sector in Ireland also provides a potential market. These crops qualify for the Protein Aid Scheme which has seen the cultivation of Irish protein crops increase by 300% in 2015.
The following UK links may also be of interest:
Chestnuts, Cobnuts, Hazelnuts and Walnuts are all grown in Ireland and are suitable for the Irish climate. Other types of nuts can also be grown in the Irish climate, given the right conditions.
Ireland imported approximately €11 million worth of almonds, chestnuts, walnuts and hazelnuts in 2017.
Nut growers in Ireland:
- Hells Kettle Organic Farm (Wicklow)
- Woodkerne (Cork)
Oilseed rape is well-suited to the Irish climate with good yield potential. It is also a good break-crop during cereal rotations. There are both national and international markets for all production. Pressed rapeseed oil is used in food and also for industrial purposes.
Irish producers of Rapeseed Oil:
Flax and hemp seeds can also be produced here, and both are crops with a long history of cultivation in Ireland.
Irish producers of Flax Oil:
Irish producers of Hemp Seed Oil: