Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.) is a staple grain legume in South Asian diets and is grown by millions of resource-poor farmers on marginal lands across the semi-arid regions of Asia and Eastern and Southern Africa.
Pigeonpea seeds contain high levels of protein and amino acids. When combined with cereals such as sorghum or millet, the crop provides a balanced mix of nutrients.
India is by far the largest producer with 3.6 m ha although this is insufficient to meet its consumption needs; it imports from Myanmar (560,000 ha) and other countries, such as those in the Eastern and Southern Africa region. Pigeonpea is also important in some Caribbean islands and some areas of South America where populations of Asian and African heritage have settled.
Traditional long-duration pigeonpea expresses a perennial tall bush-like growth habit that conveys exceptional soil protection, nitrogen fixation and deep-rooted nutrient recycling ability. Pigeonpea is generally relay or intercropped with sorghum, cotton, maize and groundnut, delivering important sustainability benefits to these farming systems.
Major biotic stresses include sterility mosaic virus, Fusarium wilt and Phythophthora blight in the Indian subcontinent; wilt and Cercospora leaf spot in eastern Africa; and witches’ broom in the Caribbean and Central America. Major insect pests are pod fly (Melanagramyza sp), pod borers (Helicoverpa armigera and Maruca vitrata) and pod sucker (Clavigralla sp). Major abiotic constraints are drought and, in some areas, intermittent waterlogging.
The world’s first F1 hybrid of any grain legume crop was developed by ICRISAT and partners, a pigeonpea hybrid that produces 35% higher yields.