Newsroom  Press releases  2002

5) The Potential of Legumes, June, 2002

The Rice/Wheat system, an important one in the Indo Gangetic plane, has provided food security for the last three decades. But lately the system has been showing signs of fatigue. Farmers and agri-workers have been finding that rice/wheat system is not cost-effective. Also legumes, chickpea, pigeonpea, and peanuts, are an essential component of people's diets. These legumes, in fact, are the protein component that has, according to the FAO statistics, diminished in the recent past. Along with the area used to crop the legumes.

To keep the system sustainable - i.e., replenish the soil for the next crop with nitrogen - and increase the protein in people's diets - the farmers have to introduce legumes in the rice/wheat system.

Legumes are also the major crops and therefore income generators for smallholding farmers, especially women.
Apart from which large areas of farmland - nearly 14 million ha - are left fallow (without crops) after a harvest of rice. These are potential areas where legumes can be introduced.

With the technologies available in ICRISAT - short duration crops and watershed management - crops like chickpea can be grown profitably in residual rice fallows with the existing soil moisture.

Farmers save on:

- Additional irrigation
- Tillage
- Additional fertilizer

This is a low-cost input technology for sustainability of rice/wheat systems.

The advantages of this technology are many:

Chickpea, for instance, can produce a maximum of 40 to 70 kgs of Nitrogen per ha.
It is also the least thirsty crop - maximum water-use-efficiency (kg grain per hectare per mm of water).

Also chickpea and pigeonpea are inherently drought-adapted crops. In fact, a Bangladeshi farmer said that, 'chickpea is a drought loving crop.'

The advantage with legumes is that they can be closely integrated in crop-livestock enterprises of small-scale producers enabling them to participate in the expanding market of livestock products.

ICRISAT and other International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs; such as CIMMYT, IRRI, CIP, IWMI) have jointly formed a rice-wheat consortium and are working towards greater inclusion of legumes in the rice-wheat systems.
Rehabilitation of Chickpea in Nepal: A difference in the lives of people.

A few years ago Nepal was devastated when the deadly botrytis gray mold (BGM) epidemic of 1997/98 destroyed the chickpea crop, the damage was two fold. Not only did the farmers lose their investment, they refused to cultivate chickpea the following season as they normally did in the rice fallows.

But the use of chickpea variety developed by ICRISAT partner, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and some off-the-shelf Integrated Pest and Disease Management technologies (commonly called Integrated Pest Management, IPM) also developed by ICRISAT and its collaborators in India and Nepal, has helped reestablish chickpea in Nepal. In fact, the use of these technologies, apart from seeds of BGM tolerant chickpea variety (that was developed by ICRISAT) resulted in a two to six-fold increase in seed yield and higher net-incomes.

The good news kept spreading, and by the end of 2000/01, 1100 farmers were sowing chickpea. The best news is that by the end of 2001/02, the ICM techniques will have been firmly adopted by 7000 farmers.

Take the case of Krishna Kumari Sherestha, from the tiny village of Lalbandi, in Sarlahi district of Nepal. She was originally a tomato farmer who has shifted to chickpea cultivation and is now producing up to 4 tons of chickpea per hectare. A high yield by any standards. She has been selling the seeds of the Chickpeas variety 'AVARODHI' to other farmers and to traders.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.