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   Crops Pigeonpea

Pigeonpea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millspaugh]

Pigeonpea is a cross-pollinated (20–70%) species with a diploid number of 2n=2x=22 and genome size of 858 Mbp. Since 1976, the area under pigeonpea has increased by 7%. Pigeonpea is currently being grown on 5.2 million ha in the rainfed areas of Asia, eastern and southern Africa, Latin American and Caribbean countries.


In Asia, pigeonpea is grown in an area of 4.33 million ha with a production of 3.8 million tons (Figure 1). India has the largest area (3.38 million ha) followed by Myanmar (580,000 ha), China (150,000 ha) and Nepal (21,360 ha). Maturity duration of pigeonpea varies from about 90 days for extra-early varieties to more than 260 days for late maturing varieties that fit well in various niches and cropping systems. Between 1976 and 2009, pigeonpea recorded a 57% increase in area (2.76 to 4.33 million ha) and 78% increase in production (2.14 to 3.8 million tons).

During 1995-2009, the pigeonpea area in Myanmar increased from 240,000 to 580,000 ha and production increased to 719,000 tons (in 2009). Five pigeonpea varieties, based on ICRISAT-bred material, have been released in Myanmar.

Figure 1. Three-year moving average for pigeonpea area, production and yield; and number of varieties released (3-year total) based on ICRISAT-bred material in Asia.

Pigeonpea in southern China is primarily grown for the purposes of soil conservation, food (vegetable), feed and fodder.  Cultivar ICP 7035 has shown high adaptation in different provinces of China. Currently, pigeonpea is grown on 150,000 ha in Guangxi and Yunnan provinces.

Eastern and Southern Africa

In Eastern and Southern Africa, pigeonpea is grown on 0.82 million ha (Figure 2). It is an important crop in Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Between 1976 and 2009, pigeonpea area increased 2.5 fold (0.23 to 0.82 million ha) and production by 3 fold (0.13 to 0.53 million tons). The crop is grown for home consumption and export.

In eastern Kenya, about 20 percent of the farmers have adopted new varieties. Farmers have also started adopting the medium duration pigeonpea varieties, ICEAPs 00554 and 00557, in addition to the long duration variety ICEAP 00040 for both dry grain as well as green vegetable. In Tanzania, over 50 percent of the farmers in Babati.


Figure 2. Three-year moving average for pigeonpea area, production and yield; and number of varieties released based on ICRISAT-bred material in eastern and southern Africa.


District adopted new varieties, ICEAP 00040 and ICEAP 00053, and production area expanded to the neighboring districts of Karatu, Kondoa and Mbulu. Release of new medium duration varieties, ICEAPs 00557 and 01514/15, has opened avenues for area expansion in southern, central and northern regions of Malawi. The use of long duration, fusarium wilt resistant and consumer/market preferred variety ICEAP 00040 in northern and central Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi resulted in increased grain yields and lowered production costs in comparison to local genotypes.

Hybrid Pigeonpea Technology: To break the yield barrier in pigeonpea, ICRISAT and partners have developed a cytoplasmic male-sterility (CMS) based hybrid breeding technology in pigeonpea. CMS-based medium maturity hybrids, ICPH 2671 and ICPH 2740, produced 30-40% greater grain yields than the popular varieties across farmers’ fields in India. This technology is also being transferred to China, Myanmar and to the ESA region.


Cultivars released

Sixty-six cultivars based on germplasm and improved breeding lines developed by ICRISAT have been released in several countries of Asia (38), Africa (22), Australia (3) and USA (3). Short and medium duration cultivars have made a significant impact in Asian countries. However, long and medium duration varieties with fusarium wilt resistance and consumer preferred large, cream colored seeds have created impacts in eastern and southern Africa.

A pigeonpea mini-core collection of 146 accessions and representing diversity of the global collection has been developed and is available for crop improvement programs globally. 

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.