Hybrid pigeonpea technology has great potential in Africa and is viable when applied with minor adjustments for adaptability to the cropping system and farmer/market preferences in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region. This was revealed at a training program organized by ICRISAT as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes in Nairobi, Kenya from 9-13 December.
The training program was organized to build capacity in the ESA region about the pigeonpea technology, citing examples of its success in India. Eighteen participants from five countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda) including two representatives from private seed industry took part in the training program that emphasized on hybrid pigeonpea technology, seed production, integrated crop management and germplasm maintenance. Pigeonpea is an important source of food, nutrition and income in the region. It occupies about 933,000 ha in Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique and Uganda with an average productivity of 873 kg/ha.
Dr NVPR Ganga Rao, Senior Scientist – Breeding (Grain Legumes), welcomed the participants. He then elaborated on the key messages from Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes on ICRISAT’s integrated pigeonpea breeding program and from Dr Moses Siambi, Director, ICRISAT-ESA. Dr Rao explained the importance of strategic partnerships to facilitate access to seed, improving productivity through integrated crop management practices and marketing following the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) strategy.
Dr Sameer Kumar, Senior Scientist – Pigeonpea Breeding, briefed the participants on crop-specific traits, the evolution of hybrid breeding technology and its prospects, breeding and maintenance of hybrids and ongoing molecular breeding efforts. Dr Vijaya Kumar, Manager – Field Research Operations, elaborated on hybrid seed production technology and the performance of hybrids in various on-farm trials. Dr Anupama J Hingane, Special Project Scientist, explained the importance of pigeonpea biology including floral traits and their significance in hybridization to the participants.
National Agricultural Research System (NARS) partners presented the details of the ongoing research and development efforts in pigeonpea, the constraints being faced, as well as the opportunities and strategies to promote the crop in their respective countries. Among the challenges mentioned were the lack of technical capacity, poor linkages with markets and processing companies, non-functional seed systems, poor policies, lack of improved varieties in some countries, biotic and abiotic stresses and the farmer’s lack of awareness about the crop. Similarly, private seed industry representatives from Dryland Seeds and East African Seeds also shared their strategy on pigeonpea seed production and marketing.
In Kenya, efforts in hybrid breeding have been made by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) with support from ICRISAT. ICRISAT-Nairobi is working to convert African pigeonpea lines to CMS lines as well as isolating potential restorers.
Delivering the closing remarks, Dr Alastair Orr, Assistant Director, ICRISAT-ESA shared lessons learnt from the recent survey on pigeonpea adoption in Malawi.
Adapted from ICRISAT Happenings