6)ICRISAT hybrid pigeonpea to trigger pulse revolution

(Duration: 3 minutes 32 seconds)

Stagnant production and soaring prices of pigeonpea (red gram) has been a matter of concern in the countries where the pulse crop is consumed. A new hybrid pigeonpea technology, developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and partners is capable of substantially increasing the productivity of red gram, offers a hope of pulse revolution in India and other developing countries.

ICRISAT's hybrid technology is likely to increase the agricultural productivity and farmers' income in drylands. The new hybrid technology, based on cytoplasmic male-sterility (CMS) system, has given an opportunity of achieving the long-cherished goal of breaking the yield barrier in pigeonpea or red gram. In spite of agricultural research institutions releasing over 100 open pollinated varieties in the past 50 years, the productivity of red gram has remained low, and this technology can break this barrier.

Male-sterile plants are those that do not have functional male sex organs. Hybrid production requires a female plant in which no viable pollen grains are borne. The expensive and labor-intensive method is to remove the male organs (anthers) from the plants. The other simple way to establish a female line for hybrid seed production is to identify or create a line that is unable to produce viable pollen. This male-sterile line is therefore unable to self-pollinate, and seed formation is dependent upon pollen from the other male fertile line.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the new hybrid pigeonpea will serve as the platform for the tremendous growth of pulse production in India and other developing countries in Asia and Africa . “This is a global first and we are proud to catalyze and trigger this historic change,” Dr Dar said.

Prof MS Swaminathan, an eminent agricultural scientist and Chairman of the Indian National Commission on Farmers also commended this technological breakthrough. He termed ICRISAT's breakthrough as one of the most notable achievements in agricultural research and said that the development of hybrid pigeonpea strains capable of yielding 3 to 4 tons per hectare is a major breakthrough. He further said that “these hybrids are capable of launching a pulses revolution just in the same way as the semi-dwarf varieties triggered the wheat and rice revolution in the 1960s.”

ICRISAT partnered with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for developing this technology. ICRISAT is now working with the private and public sector seed companies to commercialize the crop so that the seeds will start reaching the farmers in the next couple of years. Agricultural scientists from the Philippines , Myanmar and China have also recognized the ICRISAT's hybrid technology, and are working on developing hybrids in their countries.

ICRISAT scientists under the leadership of Dr KB Saxena, began this mission in 1974 and after 30 years of intensive research they succeeded in developing an efficient CMS system using the cytoplasm (cell fluid outside the nucleus) of a wild relative (Cajanus cajanifolius) of red gram, collected from the forests of Madhya Pradesh.

In the past two years ICRISAT has tested over 300 experimental hybrids and among these ICPH 2671 was found the most outstanding. This hybrid is highly resistant to two major diseases – fusarium wilt and sterility mosaic – prevalent in all the major pigeonpea growing areas. ICPH 2671 produced 48% more yield over the popular variety Maruti. So far the progress in the mission of enhancing the productivity of pigeonpea has been very encouraging and the team at ICRISAT is confident that the reality of commercial hybrids is just around the corner.

For further information, contact Dr KB Saxena at k(dot)saxena(at)cgiar(dot)org.

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