Climate-smart pigeonpea hybrids can future-proof India’s pulse farming sector

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10 February 2022, Maharashtra: Climate-smart pigeonpea hybrids, with a yield superiority of 40% and early maturity to counter declining rains, have emerged as the best bet to meet the future pulse needs of India. According to Government of India (GOI) estimates, 39 million tons of pulses are required by 2050 to meet population growth.

India had made tremendous progress in achieving self-sufficiency in pulses. During 2020-21, the production of pulses was 25 million metric tons from a total pulse area of 33 million ha, but to meet future demand, more is required. Pigeonpea (Tur/ Arhar) is one of the major pulse crops contributing to nearly 40% of the country’s total pulses production and addressing its production promises to deliver greater food security.

The national average yield of pigeonpea oscillates between 750-850 kg/ha, but new hybrids have increased the potential to 1400 to 1600 kg/ha. In this regard, short-duration pigeonpea hybrids are the best resource. Over the last five years, hybrids ICPH 2433, ICPH 2431, ICPH 2429 and ICPH 2438 have been consistent and high yielding in multilocation trials.

The short-duration hybrids with 130-140 days to maturity (compared to the usual 180 days) are in greater demand amongst the seed industry, farmers, and the National Agricultural Research System (NARS). The hybrids have standardized seed production protocols, shorter breeding cycle and higher heterosis (40%) for yield gain.

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The shorter duration allows it to be cultivated in non-traditional belts and to fit well in diverse cropping systems. The multi-location testing of short-duration hybrids recorded a yield advantage of 40% over national Check ICPL 88039. This could leverage short-duration pigeonpea for rigorous testing for release.

Private sector participation, policy interventions and robust seed systems are key to strengthening the short-duration hybrid technology. Joint efforts are being undertaken in anticipation of realizing the gains of such hybrid technology, as they serve as a lifeline for smallholder farmers in the semi-arid regions.

Partners: ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulse Research, Kanpur, Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, Maharashtra, and College of Agriculture Badnapur – VNMKV Parbhani, Maharashtra

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