Combine harvester at work – harvesting the new chickpea variety. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Combine harvester at work – harvesting the new chickpea variety. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Imagine 2.25 tons of chickpea harvested in just 75 minutes! The process (including cutting and threshing) would normally take three days. This is made possible due to the breeding of a taller chickpea variety that can be harvested by standard machinery.

The chickpea variety, NBeG 47, is the first machine harvestable variety released in Andhra Pradesh suitable for the state’s variable climate.

This development was demonstrated recently in a farmer’s field in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district showing how farmers can save time and money.

The chickpea variety planted in farmer B Rameswar Reddy’s field was developed by Dr Veera Jayalakshmi, Principal Scientist (Chickpea Breeding) at Regional Agricultural Research Station, Nandyal. The breeding material for developing this variety and technical support was provided by ICRISAT as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

“Currently chickpea farming in Andhra Pradesh is partially mechanized – the crop is cut manually and then fed into a threshing machine. The total mechanization of harvesting is cost effective and quicker, reducing the risk of the ripened crop’s exposure to untimely rain or other extreme weather conditions,” says Dr Pooran M Gaur, Coordinator, Product Line on Herbicide tolerant machine‐harvestable chickpea, faba bean and lentil varieties

Dr Jayalakshmi says the farmer will keep a portion of seeds for his next crop and make available this new variety to other interested farmers in the region.

She adds that machine harvesting is better for the health of the laborers, especially women, as handling the crop causes painful dermatitis due to its high acid content.

This innovative variety was developed to address the issue of labor shortage on farms and reduce drudgery, especially for women laborers. The yield of this new variety, 2.25 tons per ha, is on par and in some conditions better than the existing ruling variety JG 11 (1.75 to 2.5 tons per ha), provided the prescribed plant spacing is followed. Other traits such as disease and drought tolerance are also on par with the JG 11 variety.

Dr Jayalakshmi says the variety was derived from a cross between an ICRISAT line ICCV 2 and a local line PDG 84-16 and grows to a height of 60 cm under prevalent conditions in southern India. Like paddy or wheat, it is amenable to mechanical harvesting.

Dr Y Padmalatha, Associate Director of Research, Regional Agricultural Research Station, Nandyal, says that while scientists come up with innovations for better farming practices, policy makers need to provide much needed support to price pulses like chickpea so farmers get consistent market value for their crops.

The demonstration of the variety was recently held at Vennapusapalli village of Andhra Pradesh, where local community leaders and farmers from other villages learned about the new variety.

Research efforts are underway to develop machine harvestable chickpea varieties suited for other parts of India like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

The release was part of the project: Developing chickpea cultivars suited to machine harvesting and tolerant to herbicides. The Project supported by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, National Food Security Mission, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India is undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.