PIGEONPEA (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Agriculture)

News-CRUX-10     23rd February 2024        

Context: According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) a new fast-breeding protocol is likely to make it easier for scientists to develop better quality varieties of the pigeonpea crop at a faster rate.


  • About: It is an important legume crop and protein-rich food primarily consumed as dal in India.
  • Scientific name: Cajanus cajan
  • Geographic Distribution: Predominantly cultivated in semi-arid regions of India, known as arhar or tur.
  • Major Producing States: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, and Jharkhand.
  • Climatic Conditions:

oRain: Requires 600-650mm annual rainfall with moist conditions for initial weeks and dry conditions during flowering.

oTemperature: Suitable range is 26°C to 30°C in the rainy season and 17°C to 22°C post-rainy.

oSoil: Suitable for all types, especially sandy loam or loam soil.

  • Environmental Factors: Sensitive to low radiation during pod development, flowering during monsoon or cloudy weather leads to poor pod formation.
  • Agricultural Practices: Commonly intercropped with various crops, estimated 80-90% in India.
  • Diseases: Major diseases include Wilt, Sterility mosaic disease, Phytophthora blight, Alternaria blight, and Powdery mildew.
  • Health Benefits: Low glycemic index, rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin A, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

New Protocol of ICRISAT

  • Reduced Breeding Cycle

oTraditional Duration: Developing a new pigeon pea variety typically takes around 13 years.

oAccelerated Timeline: The new protocol reduces the breeding cycle to 2-4 years.

oFactors Influencing Duration: The longer duration of pigeon pea crops is attributed to its short-day nature, photosensitivity, and seasonal specificity.

  • Ideal Conditions for Speed Breeding

oOptimal Photoperiod: A photoperiod of 13 h: 8 h: 13 h at vegetative: flowering: pod filling stages is recommended.

oLight Spectrum Importance: Broad spectrum light and far-red wavelength light are crucial for early crop establishment and flowering onset.

oChallenges of Natural Conditions: Under natural conditions, pigeon pea takes about four months to flower if sown in June, resulting in unwanted biomass accumulation.

Impact on Pulse Production

  • Enhanced Self-Reliance: The new protocol will enhance self-reliance in pulse production, especially benefiting countries like India, Myanmar, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique.
  • Past Successes: ICRISAT has previously achieved success in speed breeding of other crops such as wheat, barley, rice, cowpea, soybean, and amaranth, indicating the potential for widespread impact.
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