Pigeonpea. Photo: ICRISAT
In India, pigeonpea is a wonder crop and smart food, providing affordable protein for millions of families, especially the poorest. It can cope with drought and poorly fertilized soils, while still producing a decent harvest. But local varieties are low-yielding, slow growing and susceptible to disease. Annual production of around 2.4 million tons does not nearly meet domestic demand, and India is both the world’s largest consumer and importer of pigeonpea.
To address this challenge, CGIAR researchers at the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes are working directly with farmers and the seed sector to develop and scale up disease resistant pigeonpea hybrids that can yield 25 to 30 percent more grain than local varieties. One farmer, Praful Mundada, became a pigeonpea champion after harvesting a record yield of 3,375 kg/hectare. He achieved this impressive result by planting a hybrid that resists Fusarium wilt and Sterility Mosaic Disease, perfecting yield-boosting practices such as transplanting and nipping, and using micro-irrigation.
More than 300 producers from across Maharashtra came to his farm, resulting in a huge boost in demand for the new pigeonpea hybrids. Farmers like Mundada are crucial to ensuring that these technologies are demand driven, and to facilitating the adoption of improved varieties among peers. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is working with the public and private seed sector in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Odisha States to promote the pigeonpea hybrid.