20)ICRISAT plants legumes in the Indo-Gangetic plains (10 March 2005)

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has been actively encouraging the growing of legumes in the rice-wheat fields of the Indo-Gangetic plains, invigorating agriculture in the cereal-fatigued lands.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the introduction of legumes in the rice-wheat growing fields has enhanced natural resource conservation in the region and increased the income and nutrition of the poor and marginal farmers.

Working in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), ICRISAT's research is bringing renewed health to the lands that have gone through more than three decades of intensive agriculture. Growing legumes for crop diversification has enriched the soil through nitrogen fixation, and this has resulted in increased productivity for the rice and wheat crops too.

In the 10.5 million hectares of land where irrigated rice-wheat cultivation is practiced, there is a scope for growing legumes in 2 to 3 million hectares. ICRISAT is promoting the rotation of rice and pigeonpea in the rainy season, and wheat and chickpea in the postrainy season. By growing ICRISAT's extra short duration pigeonpea ICPL 88039, farmers have obtained higher production (up to one additional ton per hectare) of wheat in the postrainy season.

In the 35 million ha growing rainfed rice, there is substantial residual moisture left after the first paddy crop is taken in 17 million ha. ICRISAT has been promoting the growth of chickpea as a second crop in these regions. While this gives the farmer the opportunity to grow a second crop and doubles his income, it also helps in improving the soil fertility in his fields.

Though ICRISAT started work on crop diversification since 1994, the accelerated phase began in 1997. In addition to the work in India, ICRISAT is working with the national agricultural research system of Nepal and Bangladesh to introduce legumes into the rice-wheat system.

For further information, contact Dr Suresh Pande at s(dot)pande(at)cgiar(dot)org.

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