The long stretches of roadside teeming with yellow flowers and pods of pigeonpea speak of the impact this versatile crop has in China. Pigeonpea cultivation on both sides of new expressways in China was undertaken as a means to stabilize the soil. Road sites visited near Kunming in southern China (an 11 kilometer and a 50 kilometer stretch) are planted with ICRISAT varieties ICP 7035 and ICP12746.
Pigeonpea seed production presents a bright prospect among less-endowed Chinese farmers. One trader had sold 20 tons of pigeonpea seeds at a handsome 15 Yuan per kilogram in 2007. Pigeonpea grown in association with eucalyptus trees has shown good potential. A cooperative introduced pigeonpea cultivation in the rural areas of Kunming, where a woman farmer and her brother bought seeds.
Their rainfed farms (annual rainfall 600 mm) are located at the foot of a hill. She raves about pigeonpea since this does not require much input, has a ready market, and provides other benefits. She adds that pigeonpea cultivation had been a major coping strategy for cash at one point when the prices of vegetables immensely declined. She was able to sell the seeds at the rate of 4 Yuan per kilogram. After harvesting, the tender branches are cut as fodder for her livestock (4 cows and 1 horse) and the woody stems are used as firewood.
Another pigeonpea-based enterprise is lac production. Pigeonpea plants, specifically the long duration types, are excellent hosts for the lac insect (Karris lacca kerr.). A farmer-cooperator showed our scientists a stand of pigeonpea with significant invasion of the insect 20 days after inoculation. The lac secretion can be harvested in 5-6 months. The approximate yield of lac from one hectare is around 700 kilogram, which can be sold at 20 Yuan per kilogram. Long duration types are ideal because these can be ratooned for a second inoculation, which is more economical for the farmers.
The rising demand for access between and among the metropolis and rural areas of China will necessitate a guaranteed supply of pigeonpea seeds. In turn, this is an avenue for the pigeonpea hybrid seed program to prosper in order to meet the demand of expressway builders as well as the developing pigeonpea enterprises.