News room  Press releases 2009

1) ICRISAT’s hybrid pigeonpea takes roots in China

The world’s first commercial pigeonpea (red gram) hybrid developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), using the cytoplasmic-nuclear male sterility (CMS) technology, is now taking roots in China, after conquering the hearts of seed producers and farmers in India.

The first pilot hybrid seed production program is presently being undertaken by a farmers’ organization in Yuanmou county in Yunnan province of China.

Pigeonpea is mainly grown for soil conservation in about 150,000 hectares on the hilly slopes of Southern China. The hybrids perform better due to their fast canopy development, greater biomass production and strong root system. Pigeonpea hybrids are known not only for their 30-40% yield advantage compared to pure line cultivars, they also resist major yield-reducing stresses such as drought, soil borne diseases, water-logging and soil salinity.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, China’s interest in promoting ICRISAT’s hybrid pigeonpea is an indication of the benefits that the new hybrid has over the existing pigeonpea varieties. “I am confident that the revolution we started in India with hybrid pigeonpea will soon spread to different parts of the world,” Dr Dar said.

The Research Institute of Resource Insects (RIRI) based in Kunming, Yunnan province, is spearheading the introduction of CMS-based hybrid pigeonpea technology in China jointly with the directorates of forestry, and science and technology; and the Yuanmou Pigeonpea Farmers’ Association.

Through the supervision of Dr Li Zhenghong of RIRI and technical support from Dr KB Saxena, ICRISAT’s Principal Pigeonpea Breeder, Chinese farmers share the responsibility of producing seeds of hybrid ICPH 2671 and ICPH 3381 and their parents. Dr Li is confident that the adoption of hybrids and their mass seed production will greatly help generate additional income for Chinese farmers.

Scientists from RIRI and the members of the Yuanmou Pigeonpea Farmers’ Association are also organizing field-based mass hybrid seed production training program. The Chinese seed producers are also exploring the possibility of exporting hybrid seeds to Myanmar.

Besides China, the other countries where pigeonpea hybrids technology will be introduced shortly are Myanmar, Brazil, Tanzania, and Malawi.

ICRISAT had announced the launch of world’s first commercial CMS-based pigeonpea hybrid in July 2008, in collaboration with a private sector seed company partner, Pravardhan Seeds. ICRISAT’s hybrid ICPH-2671 was launched under the name Pushkal by Pravardhan Seeds.

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 flowers. 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. Through the CMS technology, the genes for male sterility are transmitted through the cytoplasm (cell fluid) and thus the entire progeny do not have functional male sex organs.

In India, ICRISAT developed the CMS-based hybrid technology for pigeonpea in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and has been working in the past two years with the private sector companies to develop seeds for the market.

For further information, contact Dr KB Saxena at .

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