SATrends Issue 49                                                                                                                 December 2004

  • Consorting to Correct
  • The Barwale CMS System in Pigeonpea
  • 1. Consorting to Correct

    Development and use of biopesticides is a fast emerging area with great potential for capturing a sizeable market share of pesticides in the next 5-10 years, and beyond. Eco-friendly credentials of biopesticides are widely accepted. ICRISAT, along with its national partners, has been working on microorganisms to  manage insect-pests and diseases.  Realizing the power of partnerships, a dialogue with the private sector (PS) Biopesticide Industry in India was initiated through two brainstorming meetings (04 May and 08 July 2004). The group endorsed the establishment of ICRISAT-Private Sector Biopesticides Research Consortium (BRC), on the lines similar to the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium functioning at ICRISAT for the past few years. The objective of the partnership research will be to develop and promote biopesticides with the ultimate goal of eco-friendly insect-pest and disease management. 

    Biopesticides kill pests the eco-friendly way

    Over the last five years, ICRISAT has tried and found successful a protocol for preventing the attack of the pod borer, Helicoverpa armigera, on pigeonpea and cotton. For the first four years the trials were conducted within the ICRISAT research farm at Patancheru, India. In 2003-04 the on-farm participatory trials were held as part of the Adarsha Watershed at village Kothapally in partnership with scientists of the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University and state department of agriculture Andhra Pradesh. In that, most of the 17 partner farmers evaluating the eco-friendly protocol (involving six items, two of which were microbial biopesticides), harvested at least 30% more cotton yield over those using chemical pesticides (see SATrends Issue 45 “Killing me softly”). Using agricultural practices that prevent pest attack on crops were important features of the eco-friendly protocol. This year’s (2004/05 season) trials are being held at Kothapally and Yellakonda villages in Andhra Pradesh and Valia in Gujarat, India.

    Up-scaled technologies for the production of two microbial biopesticides that kill the larvae of Helicoverpa (legume pod borer or cotton bollworm) are being fine-tuned. While one uses the bacterium Bacillus subtilis (strain BCB-19), the other uses the fungus Metarrhizium anisopliae, both developed at ICRISAT. HNPV (Helicoverpa Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus), another biopesticide with ability to kill Helicoverpa will also be available to partners.

    ICRISAT will transfer to members of the consortium the technologies for the preparation of biopesticides found successful in the research farm and selected farmers’ fields. It will also share know-how on producing high-quality microbial products. After consulting industry representatives in India, the annual membership fee is fixed at Indian Rupees 100,000/- (=US$ 2220 approximately).

    ICRISAT has received an encouraging response from the private sector for its initiative to launch the BRC. As of mid December 2004, fourteen established or start-up biopesticide manufacturers have agreed to become members.

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    2. The Barwale CMS System in Pigeonpea

    Pigeonpea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp] is an important food legume of the tropics and semi-arid tropics. It is annually grown on over 4 million ha under subsistence agriculture by resource-poor farmers.The crop is multipurpose, providing not only food, fodder and fuel wood, but also improved soil fertility and structure.Due to changing rural social and environmental factors, the importance of pigeonpea in rainfed dry land agriculture is on the increase.According to one estimate, the pigeonpea area and production are recording an annual growth rate of 2% in recent years.However, inspite of serious breeding efforts, the genetic improvement through pure line breeding has not effectively increased productivity of the crop, which has remained unchanged at around 600-700 kg ha-1.

    Unlike other legumes, pigeonpea is often cross-pollinated, exhibiting 25-30% natural out-crossing.Pigeonpea breeders at ICRISAT developed a genetic male-sterility-based (GMS) technology to exploit hybrid vigor. Using this technology ICRISAT developed the world’s first pigeonpea hybrid, ICPH 8, which recorded 25-30% yield advantage in farmers’ fields. However, this technology could not become popular due to difficulties associated with the genetic nature of male-sterility, which restricts large-scale seed production of female parents and hybrids.To overcome the constraint, ICRISAT and its partners initiated research to develop a cytoplasmic-nuclear male-sterility (CMS) system.In the past 10 years three CMS systems have been developed using three different wild relatives of pigeonpea.Among these the CMS derived from a cross involving Cajanus cajanifolius (a wild relative of pigeonpea) and a cultivated line was perfect and stable.The female-fertility was normal with good pod set from cross pollination.

    Dr Barwale, center, in a CMS field.

    The fertility restoration systems, a pre-requisite for producing fertile hybrids, are also excellent in these male-sterile sources.  The pollen production and pod set are similar to those of the existing cultivars.  In a short period of two seasons, over 200 fertility-restoring lines with diverse agronomic traits have been selected. Overall, this is a perfect CMS system with all necessary qualities and it has a great potential for developing commercial hybrids in pigeonpea.


    Dr Barwale receiving a memento from

    Dr Dar.Dr BR Barwale, Founder Chairman of Maharastra Hybrid Seed Company (MAHYCO), Jalna, India, is a World Food Prize winner, a great friend of ICRISAT, and the biggest supporter of the CMS system derived from C. cajanifolius. On 15 December, Dr William D Dar, Director General, ICRISAT, proudly named this system the ‘Barwale CMS System in Pigeonpea’.

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