7) Reviving hopes of farmers with hybrid pigeonpea technology

Hyderabad, 29 January 2014: Over 70 smallholder farmers and seed producers from Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat collectively endorsed and recognized the contribution of hybrid pigeonpea in achieving food and nutrition security, resilience and improved livelihood. The hybrids in the crop (first in world in any legume) are the results of the crop improvements efforts by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in Hyderabad.

Despite facing challenges such as resource scarcity, climate change and degradation of soil fertility, farmers from the five states cultivating the ICRISAT hybrids reported significant increase in pigeonpea yields. A medium-duration ICRISAT hybrid, ICPH 2740, demonstrated 38% higher yields than other local varieties.

The Review Meeting on Hybrid Pigeonpea Seed Production, held at the ICRISAT headquarters last week, brought together, farmers, seed producers, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations and scientists to formulate a road map on expansion of pigeonpea production in India.

Answering the challenge of producing more food to meet the demands of a growing population, ICRISAT raised its target to achieve a pigeonpea yield of 5 ton/ha, (by developing the high yielding hybrids) which is expected to help smallholder farmers maximize the returns while securing their food and nutritional needs.

“It is prosperity that we want for farmers. Our aim is to enable smallholder farmers to create wealth for themselves and their communities and fuel the engines of economic growth of nations. Hybrid pigeonpea technology has great potential to lift millions of farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa out of the hunger trap. We are equipped with the means, science and technology and most importantly a strong will to achieve our targets and efficiently serve the interests of the agricultural community,” ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar said.

Bringing new hope to farmers, the scientists at Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University’s (ANGRAU) Agricultural Research Station (ARS) in Tandur of Ranga Reddy district in Andhra Pradesh, reported a pigeonpea yield of nearly 3 ton/ha in their on-station fields using the ICPH 2740 hybrid.

“We have experienced a significant increase in production and now we hope to harness the full potential of ICPH 2740 using resourceful management practices,” Dr C Sudhakar, Senior Scientist, ARS-Tandur said at the gathering.  Dr M V Nagesh Kumar, Principal Scientist, Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Palem briefed the participants on the strategies for large scale seed production of hybrid pigeonpea.

Many farmers at the meeting took inspiration from Mr Gurubhagawan Reddy, a farmer from remote Vasantapuram village in Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh, who managed to sell his pigeonpea hybrid seed at Rs 12,000 (Approximately US $190) per 100 kg. This case study is the perfect example for IMOD (Inclusive Market-Oriented Development) strategy of ICRISAT which emphasizes on progress from subsistence agriculture to profit-oriented agriculture.

“I am extremely happy with the results. To increase the chances of cross-pollination, I have been cultivating sunflowers around my farm as suggested by ICRISAT scientists. It boosted my production and income as well,” he informed the participants.

“The way forward for us at ICRISAT is to reach farmers on a larger scale and encourage them to take to pigeonpea cultivation. Pigeonpea has the potential to secure the future of global food production and hybrid technology will be the catalyst in this process,” Dr KB Saxena, Principal Scientist - Pigeonpea Breeding, ICRISAT said.

Dr A Vishnu Vardhan Reddy, Associate Director of Research, RARS, Palem, appreciated the efforts of ICRISAT scientists and promised specialized training sessions for smallholder farmers on pigeonpea cultivation, in the coming months.

Dr Ravinder Raju, Manager (production), Andhra Pradesh State Seed Development Corporation (APSSDC), Government of Andhra Pradesh, appreciated the cooperation of ICRISAT scientists in large scale seed production of pigeonpea hybrid in the state.    

Pigeonpea is one of the five mandate crops of ICRISAT (others being sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea and groundnut, and six small millets), extensively grown by resource-poor farmers in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. ICRISAT is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

 

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