Pigeonpea is a widely adapted food legume crop cultivated throughout the semi-arid tropics and subtropics. It is of considerable importance in South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America where it is grown primarily as a food crop. Due to its narrow genetic base, the genetic enhancement is not adequate in this crop and the productivity is hovering around 800 kg/ha for the past six decades.

India as the largest producer of pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) in the world, could increase its production three times, provided there are varieties resistant to diseases and adapted to climate change.

Narrow genetic base of cultivars coupled with several biotic (wilt, sterility mosaic disease (SMD), phytophthora blight and pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera Hübner)), and abiotic (salinity, water logging, and frost/cold) stresses adversely affecting the pigeonpea production and productivity.

Disease and salinity resistant pigeonpea, currently under evaluation, might soon reach millions of Indian farmers. PC: ICRISAT and Michael Major/Crop Trust

There is a need to exploit new and diverse sources of variations for the genetic improvement of pigeonpea. Wild Cajanus species possess high levels of resistance/tolerance for various biotic/abiotic stresses and provide novel genetic variations for pigeonpea improvement. Dr. Shivali Sharma, Principal Investigator and Theme Leader – Pre-breeding, ICRISAT explains.

New project gives India-Myanmar Pigeonpea program a research boost

Pre-breeding scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) are exploring possible solutions sourced from the wild species of Cajanus. A project funded by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), will evaluate promising pre-breeding lines in India and Myanmar, bringing them one step closer to cultivation.

Pre-breeding scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) are exploring possible solutions sourced from the wild species of Cajanus. A project funded by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), will evaluate promising pre-breeding lines in India and Myanmar, bringing them one step closer to cultivation.

Photo: Dr. Benjamin Kilian of the Crop Trust and ICRISAT’s Dr. Shivali Sharma monitor a pigeonpea pre-breeding trial on the ICRISAT campus. Picture Credit– Michael Major/Crop Trust

Enhancing genetic diversity through ‘pre-breeding’

It has taken several years of research for scientists to evaluate wild pigeonpea species and identify those with promise of resistance/tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, including sterility mosaic disease, Fusarium wilt, pod borer and salinity. This project will develop new material as well as take the available material to the farmers, so that they can produce more and generate better incomes with the new climate-resilient pigeonpea varieties.

Our goal of increasing the livelihood and nutrition security of smallholder farmers moves forward, and pre-breeding has hastened the process of reaching better crop varieties to farmers.” — Dr. Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT.

(L-R) Dr. Pyae Pyo Thi, Dept of Agricultural Research, Myanmar; Dr. Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Genetic Gains, ICRISAT; Dr. Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT; Dr. Shivali Sharma, Theme Leader – Pre-breeding, ICRISAT; and Dr. NVPR Ganga Rao, Pigeonpea Breeder, ICRISAT Nairobi; announcing the project launch.

Field-level activities in multiple agro-ecologies and socio-economic settings (different locations) will be carried out by ICRISAT in collaboration with the following national and international partners: Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University – Regional Agricultural Research Stations, Palem and Warangal; Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University – Regional Agricultural Research Station, Tirupati (all in India); and the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), Yezin, Myanmar. This new two-year project holds promise to improve livelihoods and nutrition security of the most-at-need communities in south-east Asia and in Africa.

More about ICRISAT’s pigeonpea work

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