SATrends Issue 68 July 2006
  • Recipe for hybrid pigeonpea
  • Volumes from the virtual vault
  • Calling combatants against desertification

  • 1. Recipe for hybrid pigeonpea

    Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) is an important high protein food legume of the semi-arid tropics. In the last half century global production of pigeonpea has significantly increased, but its productivity has remained unchanged at around 700 kg ha-1. ICRISAT scientists broke this yield barrier through hybrid breeding - a Herculean task, as floral morphology of legumes does not encourage cross-pollination. But pigeonpea is unique with about 25-30% natural out-crossing, a fact exploited for hybrid breeding.

    To begin with, an efficient cytoplasmic-genic male-sterility (CMS) system had to be found, through which a genetic male-sterility (GMS) system was identified. This was used to develop the world's first pigeonpea hybrid (ICPH 8) in 1991. In farmers' fields this hybrid produced 25-30% more grains than the best variety. Unfortunately, seed production problems prevented this technology from being commercialized.

    Pigeonpeahybrid1 Medium duration hybrid at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

    Scientists with seventeen years of research experience overcame the constraint by replacing the GMS with a more efficient CMS system. In the last 14 years ICRISAT scientists with scientists of the Indian national system developed five primary sources of CMS by crossing wild relatives of pigeonpea with cultivated types. Of these, the A4 CMS system involving C. cajanifolius is the most stable and produces high frequency of fertility restorers, an essential trait for producing hybrids.

    At present ICRISAT has 31 diverse A-lines (female parent), which are being used to develop hybrids for different cropping systems. This includes short-duration (3-4 months) hybrids for sole cropping, medium-duration (5-6 months) hybrids for intercropping in peninsular India, and long-duration (8-9 months) hybrids for intercropping in northern India.

    Results from recent evaluations are exciting (Fig 1 and 2). A short-duration hybrid, ICPH 3310, produced a record 4580 kg ha-1 yield with 207% superiority over the control. Similarly, the medium-duration ICPH 2741 yielded 3364 kg ha-1 with 102% superiority. In the multi-location trials ICPH 2438 and ICPH 2788 were outstanding with over 100% superiority.

    ICRISAT has also developed a seed production package for hybrids and their parents. To maximize the
    seed yield, a ratio of 1 male to 4 female rows is recommended. Using this ratio produced a harvest of
    800-1200 kg ha-1 seed.

    To promote the benefits among farmers, scientists are sharing this technology with 11 private seed companies under a consortium approach. The technology is also being shared with the national agricultural systems of India and China.

    Hybrid pigeonpea is now at par with cereals as far as hybrid technology is concerned. The results obtained so far are exciting and we hope that farmers will reap the benefits very soon.

    2. Volumes from the virtual vault

    The CG Virtual Library (CGVLibrary) is one of six components of the Content for Development thrust of the Information and Communication Technologies and Knowledge Management Program of the CGIAR, which aim to build the Virtual Resources Center for the CGIAR.

    As a unique service in the world of agricultural information, the CGVLibrary offers access to high quality Internet resources specific to agricultural research. The CGVLibrary enables users to locate a full range of document-type information stored within and outside the CG system through descriptive metadata (data describing the content of a document). It also helps CGIAR researchers to access full texts from a core of electronically available agricultural and social science journals and support databases from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Opening screen of the CGVLibrary.

    More specifically, as a component of the CGIAR Virtual Resources Center, the CGVLibrary will:

    • guide agricultural and social scientists to high quality resources available on the Internet;
    • simplify searches of disparate document-type databases by providing a common search interface providing the functionality to search multiple databases;
    • augment and reinforce existing CG information services using dynamic linking protocols that facilitate access from metadata records in library catalogs, publications databases and abstracting/indexing services to hard copy documents held in center libraries and to full electronic text where available;
    • enable searches across the range of library catalog information within the CG system;
    • facilitate universal access to CG publications and learning resources by exposing metadata from CG center catalogs to other information services; and
    • give CG researchers immediate electronic and global access to a core of agricultural science journals.

    The CGVLibrary can be accessed either from the CgxChange site ( or directly from

    To search, select a category - eg, CGCommodityLibraries - or a group of categories - eg, Genetic Resources, Rice, Other Libraries.

    QuickSearch - allows searches on term or terms entered in the search frame and on the category(ies) selected.

    Find Database - Lists databases in the CGVLibrary collection based on the search criteria entered

    Find e-Journal - Lists e-journals in the CGVLibrary collection based on the search criteria entered

    MetaSearch - allows for an advanced search. The user can search not only from the quick sets but also from predefined categories. The term metasearch, also known as integrated searching, federated searching or cross-database searching, means to submit a query to numerous databases at once.

    For more information contact

    3. Calling combatants against desertification

    The United Nations has turned the spotlight on desertification by declaring 2006 as the International Year of Deserts and Desertification (IYDD). Commemorating the IYDD, ICRISAT, in conjunction with the UNCCD Secretariat, the Desert Margins Program and Oasis (the new CGIAR Systemwide Program on desertification) is organizing a Symposium/Workshop From Desert to Oasis: Role of Science and Research in Combating Desertification in semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa from 23-25 September 2006 at Niamey, Niger.

    The meeting will begin with a Symposium on 23 September. Leaders of thought have been invited to speak on development strategies that could contribute to combating desertification and how research and policy could contribute to both dryland development and combating desertification. The Symposium is open to the general public, including all workshop participants.

    The workshop that follows will deliberate on the following topics in three Sessions:

    • Sustainable Land Management Successes and Failures, and Success Factors
    • Scaling Up Sustainable Land Management
    • Contribution of Science and Research to Drylands Developments

    Desertification is increasingly recognized to be a development problem linked closely to poverty. International bodies are ready to help to fund development activities and provide technical assistance. Interest in Africa is particularly keen.

    soil fertility Trees enhance soil fertility besides providing food.

    Is there potential for success? The conventional pessimism about the development potential of the African drylands needs to be challenged. This meeting will provoke discussion about the positive potentials of the zone and the extent to which they have "not" been, or on the contrary "are" being achieved. Are there important successes that have been overlooked, instead of being recognized as turning points that could be scaled up for broader impact? If so, how do we make it happen? Are the knowledge and strategies available for scaling up these successes in the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa now?

    The objectives of the workshop will be to identify the factors determining past successes, discuss how such successes could be scaled up, and strategize how a global research-for-development alliance (Oasis) could contribute to combat desertification in support of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Workshop participants will include scientists, development practitioners (from international and local development agencies and civil society organizations), and donors. It is hoped that participants will share development experiences, scientific knowledge, and innovative ideas for reducing poverty while combating land degradation in sub-Saharan Africa's drylands.

    For more information contact Dr Saidou Koala, Director, West and Central Africa, ICRISAT, BP-12404, Niamey, Niger ( or visit