17)Seeds of hope from ICRISAT for despairing pigeonpea farmers (5 May 2005)

Farmers growing pigeonpea in southern parts of Karnataka need not worry anymore about pigeonpea sterility mosaic virus (PPSMV) attack on their crops. ICRISAT pigeonpea variety ICP 7035, that is highly resistant to PPSMV, was recommended for release at the recent Zonal Research and Extension Advisory Council meeting at UAS, Bangalore.

The release of ICP 7035 is a joint effort of the research led by ICRISAT and University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK Government.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the release of ICP 7035 is a significant contribution from ICRISAT to despairing farmers in sterility mosaic disease (SMD) hotspots, who can now see possible end to their woes. Varieties like ICP 7035 can prevent that loss and thereby enhance income to the pigeonpea farmers.

Pigeonpea, also known as red gram or arhar, is a major pulse crop of India. It is an important protein supplement in the vegetarian diet. Karnataka, one of the largest producers of pigeonpea, is a hotspot of PPSMV infection, which results in sterility mosaic disease (SMD), also regarded as ‘green plague' due to its destructive nature. The virus infected plants fail to produce flowers and therefore bear no pods leading to enormous losses to the farmers. The SMD is estimated to cause an annual loss of around $300 million in India and Nepal alone.

“A severe strain of PPSMV is prevailing in southern Karnataka, which can overcome field resistance in most of the pigeonpea varieties”, says Dr P Lavakumar, virologist at ICRISAT. Tests revealed that ICP 7035 is immune to virus infection and has resistance to severe PPSMV strains. Cultivation of ICP 7035 prevents buildup of SMD inoculum during the cropping- and off-seasons, and controls the spread of the disease in the fields, and can contribute to eradication of the disease in long run.

ICP 7035 is a medium to long-duration maturity type, unique in the fact that it is suitable for vegetable as well as for dhal (dried split seed). It has excellent resistance to sterility mosaic and tolerance to wilt, two major pigeonpea diseases in India”, says Dr KB Saxena, Principal Pigeonpea Breeder at ICRISAT. Such a dual-purpose variety not only enhances the utility but also diversifies the income sources for the farmers. It is suitable for cultivation in every part of the Indian subcontinent, particularly in hotspots.

When the pods are still green, the bold seeds of ICP 7035 are used as vegetable, similar to that of garden pea. When dry, it serves as a pulse suitable for making dhal. The ICP 7035 seed has 8.8 per cent sugar, making it as sweet as garden peas. In addition, the purple seed coat of ICP7035 has high amount of anthocyanins, which adds to the health benefits as a dietary antioxidant.

The average yield of ICP 7035 ranges between 1200 to 1600 kg per. The edible portion of the dried seed contains 19.6 per cent protein, 27.4 per cent dietary fiber and 33 per cent starch. It is a rich source of micronutrients such as copper, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron and phosphorous.

Farmers' satisfaction with ICP 7035 is seen in its rapid diffusion and increased adoption rates. ICRISAT has produced breeder seed of this variety and this will be supplied to national centers and farmers.

For further information, contact Dr KB Saxena at k(dot)saxena(at)cgiar(dot)org or Dr P Lavakumar at p(dot)lavakumar(at)cgiar(dot)org.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.