Modernizing India’s pigeonpea breeding program to enhance genetic gains
Strategies to revolutionize the pigeonpea breeding program in India, including delivering new varieties with market-friendly traits, was the main focus of a recent workshop, ‘Pigeonpea Product Design and Management’ conducted at ICRISAT India. A multidisciplinary team of scientists representing five agro-ecological zones of India brainstormed to update the Indian pigeonpea breeding program.
India accounts for more than 80% of the world’s pigeonpea area and production; yet, it remains a major importer of pigeonpea. In order to boost yields that have stagnated over the last six decades, new varieties with preferred market traits need to be developed.
At the workshop, supported by the Excellence in Breeding (EiB) platform, Dr Kiran Sharma, Deputy Director General (Acting), ICRISAT, highlighted the importance of product design and value chain marketing for scalable returns.
Dr George Kotch, CGIAR Excellence in Breeding Module #1 Leader, provided technical advice on how to develop efficient product profiles, prioritize traits and create strategies to develop new varieties rapidly.
For example, as part of a strategy to replace existing pigeonpea varieties in many parts of India, a product profile contract was crafted and the design tailored for multiple disease resistance, photo-insensitivity, and nutritive traits, among others.
Emerging production risks due to climate change, and developing product profiles with the help of integrated modern breeding techniques were also debated.
This initiative set the stage for a cross-function team from CGIAR and National Agriculture Research System (NARS) to collaborate from the product planning stage to the product delivery stage, giving accountability to all stakeholders.
Due to the presence of an extensive pigeonpea fraternity, this workshop became an excellent platform to brainstorm for trait prioritization of pigeonpea to deliver new varieties according to farmer requirements and consumer preferences.
About 35 scientists from ICRISAT, NARS and the private sector, along with officers from seed certification agencies, traders, millers and market experts attended the workshop conducted on 14 August 2018. Apart from Dr Kotch, Dr Jan Debaene, Global Head – Breeding, ICRISAT, and Dr Anupama Hingane, Scientist-Pigeonpea Breeding, ICRISAT, moderated the workshop. This workshop was conducted with support from the Excellence in Breeding (EiB) Platform funded by CGIAR and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.