Consumer awareness of the nutritional and dietary benefits of pulses remains 'inadequate', and more must be done to promote their role in food systems, the United Nations has said.Progress has been made thanks to initiatives during 2016, the International Year of Pulses, but "it essential to keep the momentum alive," Food and Agriculture Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo said.Known for their relatively high protein content and their particular ability to take nitrogen and fix it in soils, pulses also a fertile building block for other crops as well."Pulses should not only be valued for their qualities, but also get the policy attention they deserve," she said.The United Nations General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, and leading sponsorship roles were taken by Pakistan and Turkey. Lentil dahls are a hugely important staple across South Asia, while chickpeas have been found in Neolithic pottery excavated in southeast Anatolia."There is much still to do in research on pulses" to make them resilient to environmental stresses and help reduce rural poverty, said Nadeem Rivaz, the Permanent Representative to FAO for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and co-chair of the IYP's steering committee.Promotion of pulses can help foster inclusive economic growth, and greater attention to pulses is already opening export opportunities for some countries, including the UK."Pulses offer a lot of opportunities to food diversification, and I call upon the chefs worldwide to explore the rich world of pulses and use their creativity to invent new recipes", said Maggy Habib, FAO's IYP Special Ambassador for the Near East.Around 62 million tonnes of pulses are grown each year, with India by far the largest producer although also a net importer. The value of internationally-traded pulses is around $7 billion, with China, Brazil, Canada, Myanmar and Australia all major contributors.