Propagating a Pigeonpea Revolution Across India

Hybrid Pigeonpea

File photo of a farmers’ field day promoting hybrid pigeonpea (ICPH 2740) at the Agriculture Research Station in Tandur, Telangana, India. (R) Farmer Nagamani narrates how pigeonpea yields increased from 300 kg/acre with the earlier variety to 500 kg/acre with hybrid pigeonpea. Photos: Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT(L) PS Rao, ICRISAT (R)

Farmers from five Indian states came together to celebrate the success of one of the world’s first pigeonpea hybrids and to exchange views on good agricultural practices to benefit from agri-technology. At a two-day ‘Cross Learning Workshop’ at ICRISAT they were joined by representatives of non-governmental organizations, State Agricultural Universities, Departments of Agriculture of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana, and scientists. “For the past three years, we’ve been working with Government of India’s National Food Security Mission to bring ICPH 2740 pigeonpea hybrid to over 60 villages in 15 districts of five states,” said Dr Sreenath Dixit, Head, ICRISAT Development Center (IDC). “This hybrid has a potential yield of 4.0 t/ha and there have been places where farmers have surpassed this potential. We want farmers to share their experience so that others can learn and be enthused about using this hybrid.”

Farmer Ganpat Narayan Kale from Parbhani, Maharashtra, an early adopter of the ICPH 2740, said he’s been sowing it for the past two years. “Last year it yielded 1000 kg/acre,” he said. “This year, in spite of the drought in our area, I’m expecting at least 800 kg/acre.” (1 acre=approx. 0.4 ha)

Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT, congratulated the IDC team and the farmers for taking technology to the fields and exhibiting its benefits. “Rainfed agriculture is difficult and in those conditions, farmers need access to the best seeds, inputs, advisory services and the latest technology to overcome the challenges,” he said. “We hope to hear from the farmers what they need from our breeding programs so we can play an even greater role in taking the impact of our science to farmers’ fields.”

Dr Carberry also handed out special Personal Protection gear kits to farmers that need to be worn while spraying pesticides in their fields. The use of the kit was demonstrated by an ICRISAT staff member for better understanding.

“Agriculture can be a profitable business model with improved cultivars like ICPH 2740 that are also sustainable” said Dr Gajanan Sawargaronkar, Principal Investigator of the project. Citing 9-26% increase in pigeonpea productivity in regions adopting this cultivar and better management practices, he said that this had created interest in other farmers too.

The pigeonpea crop is an integral part of India’s rainfed agriculture; India is the largest producer and consumer of pigeonpea in the world. Moreover, pigeonpea is one of the main sources of protein for a predominantly vegetarian population. Therefore, enhancing its productivity is critical to combat protein malnutrition in the country. Click here to know more about ICRISAT’s work on pigeonpea.

Hybrids are created by cross-pollinating two different varieties of a crop, usually to obtain desired traits (e.g. drought tolerance and high yield). The first generation of hybrid crops generally give a higher yield due to a phenomenon known as ‘hybrid vigor’.

The workshop ‘Popularizing and Scaling-up of Pigeonpea Hybrids and Management Practices under National Food Security Mission in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana’ was held during 18-19 February 2019 and was attended by over 70 participants. Some of the other activities during the workshop included technical sessions on integrated pest management, hybrid seed development; visit to the pigeonpea fields at ICRISAT; and visit to a watershed site at Kothapally village.

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