© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.The United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (grain legumes) under the banner 'nutritious seeds for a sustainable future'. A second green revolution is required to ensure food and nutritional security in the face of global climate change. Grain legumes provide an unparalleled solution to this problem because of their inherent capacity for symbiotic atmospheric nitrogen fixation, which provides economically sustainable advantages for farming. In addition, a legume-rich diet has health benefits for humans and livestock alike. However, grain legumes form only a minor part of most current human diets, and legume crops are greatly under-used. Food security and soil fertility could be significantly improved by greater grain legume usage and increased improvement of a range of grain legumes. The current lack of coordinated focus on grain legumes has compromised human health, nutritional security and sustainable food production.