Legumes are one of the most cultivated plants today, and they are of great importance in our current diet. However, the terms legume and legume are often confused, so in this article we are going to delve into their characteristics and differences.
Do you want to know more about legume plants? Keep reading us in this AgroCorrn article about what legumes are and their types with 20 examples. You will also discover its difference with legumes.
- What are legumes – definition and characteristics
- Legume types – plant examples
- Difference between legumes and legumes
What are legumes – definition and characteristics
Legumes are a group of plants that belong to the Fabaceae or Fabaceae family . It is a very large group with almost 20,000 species , among which there are from trees to herbaceous, through bushes and vines. These are the main characteristics of legume plants :
- What distinguishes legume plants from others is that their fruits are pod-shaped , inside which their seeds develop. These seeds are what is known as legumes and are a first-rate product in the human food industry worldwide. These are foods low in fat, but very rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- There are many species of legumes that, although they are not consumed by humans, are commonly used as forage or to attract pollinating insects .
- Another of the most important characteristics of legume plants is their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil.. This means that they are capable of converting nitrogen from the air into a useful nutrient for plants in the form of mineral nitrogen in the soil. How do they do it? Thanks to the symbiosis that legumes have with the bacteria of the Rhizobium family, these plants form nodules on their roots. Bacteria take nitrogen from the air, and turn it into nutrients for the plant. Once the plant dies, these nitrogen-laden nodules will sooner or later incorporate into the soil, enriching it naturally. Rhizobia are always found in all types of soils, so simply by planting the legumes they enter into symbiosis with the plant and produce this union so beneficial for the soil. Even if few rhizomes appear at first, it will only be necessary to allow some time to grow.
- Another benefit of these plants is that they tend to develop quite deep root systems, which therefore help loosen the soil and allow oxygen, nutrients or water to penetrate it better.
- When you add to this the fact that legume flowers attract pollinating insects, essential for crop health, it is easy to understand why they are an essential part of many crop association and rotation techniques . Here you can learn about What are pollinating insects and their importance .
- These plants are also widely used when the green manure technique is used , which consists of letting certain plants grow in an area of the crop and later mowing them and letting their plant matter become incorporated into the soil. For this particular effect, it is common to sow vetch, clovers or peas, among others. Here it is a question of letting the plant grow but without developing flowering or fruit, so that it does not consume the stored nutrients and these are incorporated into the soil. You can learn more about this technique in this other post about What is green manure and how to do it .
Legume types – plant examples
These are some of the most common or popular legumes :
Difference between legumes and legumes
As we have mentioned before, the main difference between legumes and legumes is that the former are the plants themselves, while the latter are the fruit they produce, in the form of a pod and with seeds inside.
It should be noted that in 2015 the FAO stipulated that only pods that are not harvested green are considered legumes. An example of this is beans, which can be harvested before the pod is ripe to be eaten along with the seeds. Thus, in this case the bean is a legume plant, but not a legume. It is, however, when it is harvested fully mature, with its dried seeds.
Legumes are a very important source of protein of plant origin, widely consumed in gastronomies around the world and, in addition, their consumption is especially widespread in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In areas or countries where livestock is not very widespread and getting meat or dairy is somewhat more difficult or expensive, legumes are a vital part of the population’s diet.
In addition, the ability of these plants to fix nitrogen in the soil makes them a doubly valuable crop for farmers: in addition to producing fruit, they enrich the soil and make it more fertile. They are thus a key piece of crop rotation and sustainable agriculture systems. For all these virtues, the UN proclaimed 2016 as the International Year of Pulses.
Now that you know what legumes are and their difference with legumes, as well as their direct relationship, we encourage you to read this other post about 10 types of legumes .
If you want to read more articles similar to What are legumes , we recommend that you enter our Biology category .
Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.