Often, the words cereal and grain are used interchangeably. Cereals are the grains that are in the grass family – wheat, rye, rice, corn, millet, and many others. There are also pseudograins that are often called grains but are not cereals. These include buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth. People often call them grains, and use them in cooking much like grains, but they are different.
Often, the words pulse and bean are used interchangeably. Fresh green beans are not usually called pulses though – usually we call them pulses when they are dried. Lentils, peas, and similar are more likely to be known as pulses than as beans.
A cereal is a grass, a member of the monocot family Poaceae,cultivated for the edible components of its grain (botanically, a type of fruit called a caryopsis), composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran. Cereal grains are grown in greater quantities and provide more food energy worldwide than any other type of crop; they are therefore staple crops.
In their natural form (as in whole grain), they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, oils, and protein. When refined by the removal of the bran and germ, the remaining endosperm is mostly carbohydrate. In some developing nations, grain in the form of rice, wheat, millet, or maize constitutes a majority of daily sustenance. In developed nations, cereal consumption is moderate and varied but still substantial.
The word cereal derives from Ceres, the name of the Roman goddess of harvest and agriculture.
Pulses include a large number of crops which are mostly leguminous and rich in vegetable protein. These are used for human food and feeding cattle. They fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil and hence are usually rotated with other crops to maintain soil fertility.
The cereal-pulses production ratio has also moved consistently against pulses from 5.04: 1 in 1950-51 to 11.19: I in 1980-81 and 14.63: I in 2002-03. As a consequence, the average protein content in the Indian diet has been going down with the decline in the consumption of pulses from 69 gm per capita per diem in 1961 to 36.5 gm in 1990 (WHO recommendation 80 gm/day), or by 47 percent.
Another disturbing feature of the production scenario has been the significant decline in the growth rate of pulses production. During the pre- Green Revolution period (1949-50 to 1964-65) the rate of growth was 1.39 per cent per annum, but it declined to 0.78 per cent per annum in the post- Green Revolution period (1967-68 to 1989-90). To a large extent, the higher growth rate in the earlier period was due to expansion of area under pulses.
Grains are small, hard, dry seeds, with or without attached hulls or fruit layers, harvested for human or animal consumption.Agronomists also call the plants producing such seeds “grain crops”. The two main types of commercial grain crops are cereals such as wheat and rye, and legumes such as beans and soybeans.
After being harvested, dry grains are more durable than other staple foods such as starchy fruits like plantains and breadfruit and tubers like sweet potatoes and cassava This durability has made grains well suited to industrial agriculture, since they can be mechanically harvested, transported by rail or ship, stored for long periods in silos, and milled for flour or pressed for oil. Thus, major global commodity markets exist for canola, maize, rice, soybeans, wheat, and other grains but not for tubers, vegetables, or other crops.