19)World's first CMS pigeonpea hybrid commercialized

Red gram or pigeonpea is an important pulse crop of India where it is grown on about 3.5 million ha. It is a favorite dal (tuar or arhar) of Indian cuisine. It is a very suitable crop for rainfed agriculture because it is drought tolerant, needs minimum inputs and produces reasonable yields under unfavorable agro-ecological conditions.

Over the past 50 years, pigeonpea productivity has not increased in spite of several new varieties being released. To achieve a breakthrough in yield, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) developed an innovative breeding technology to develop commercial hybrids in this crop, the first such attempt in any food legume. ICRISAT is working with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, State Agricultural Universities, Seed Corporations, and private seed companies in this effort.

After 25 years of intense research, the world's first cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) based pigeonpea hybrid ICPH 2671 was developed by ICRISAT in 2005, and has been named as "Pushkal" by Pravardhan Seeds. This hybrid is suitable for cultivation in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Pushkal was launched today by the Director General of ICRISAT, Dr William D Dar. Also present were Mr Murahari Rao, Managing Director of Pravardhan Seeds and senior officials from ICRISAT and Pravardhan Seeds.

Launching the hybrid for cultivation, Dr William Dar said that the world is witnessing marked volatility in food and energy prices. Reduced global stocks, climate change, rising human population, natural calamities such as droughts, coupled with speculative response to the market signals are a few reasons for spiraling prices of food and other essential commodities. Expressing his concern, Dr Dar said that nearly every agricultural commodity is fueling the rising price trend.

Stressing the need for urgent attention, Dr Dar said that the bulk of food proteins in India are derived from pulse crops that are generally grown under low-input and risk-prone marginal environments with low and unstable yields. The Green Revolution of the 1970s ignored legumes that are a major source of protein in the developing world. At present the protein availability in India is less than one-third of the recommended dietary allowance.

Since the food production balance in India will always remain in favor of cereals, the issue of protein availability assumes greater significance. Options such as increasing the pulses growing area, intensive cropping, and enhanced inputs have limited scope in India. Therefore, to harvest additional protein the cultivation of hybrid legumes is the most prudent alternative, Dr Dar opined.

Dr CLL Gowda, Global Theme Leader, Crop Improvement, ICRISAT, said that the CMS based hybrid seed technology is ready for take off with all its major components in place. The major responsibility, now, is to take this research product to the clients - the farmers of rainfed agriculture.Considering the high yield potential of the technology, it is expected that farmers with both small and large holdings will adopt the hybrids. Since small scale and resource poor farmers predominantly cultivate pigeonpea, it will be important to keep the seed cost within the reach of the farmers, he said.

Dr KB Saxena, the scientist behind this breakthrough, said that the new technology promises to break the yield barrier, which has been plaguing Indian agriculture for the past five decades. In achieving this milestone, Dr. Saxena and his team struggled for 35 years to overcome various scientific hurdles. He was very optimistic about the adoption of the hybrid technology. He further mentioned that in achieving this goal the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) provided full support in the research and development of this technology.

At ICRISAT the experimental hybrids have recorded 20% to150% yield advantage over the best checks, ideal for bringing the next quantum jump in yield. Eminent agricultural scientist Dr MS Swaminathan had mentioned that, "hybrid pigeonpea technology is like dwarfing genes in wheat and rice and this will create a second green revolution" in India. This breakthrough is the result of ICRISAT's strong public-private partnership.

On the basis of results from three years and 21 test locations, ICRISAT scientists believe that hybrid technology in pigeonpea has become a profound success. One of the important outcomes of the research program is Pushkal (ICPH 2671). This high yielding, disease (wilt and sterility mosaic) resistant hybrid was bred at ICRISAT and gives about 30-40% yield advantage over the popular variety Maruti. The seed production of the parental lines of Pushkal has been tried successfully.

Mr Murahari Rao, M.D. Pravardhan Seeds, said that hybrid pigeonpea technology has a great potential for enhancing yield and farmers will surely accept this hybrid and other hybrids. He also thanked ICRISAT for providing the genetic material for development of Pushkal.

For further information, contact Dr KB Saxena, Principal Pigeonpea Breeder, ICRISAT, at .

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.