Pigeonpea Impacts

South and Southeast Asia

Major impact has been achieved in the heart of India’s pigeonpea growing area, in Karnataka and Maharashtra states, by breeding Fusarium wilt-resistant, earlier-maturing pigeonpea varieties  (Bantilan and Joshi 1996; Bantilan and Parthasarathy 1999). The genetic sources of wilt resistance continue to be effective today, delivering benefits decades after their original deployment.

Recently, ICRISAT and Indian partners have created the world’s first hybrid variety of any food legume, in pigeonpea. This new hybrid is on the cusp of major impact (Saxena and Nadarajan 2010). The cytoplasmic male sterile hybrids increase yield by an average of 33% in on-farm trials, adding about US$400 to net income per hectare. They are expected to revolutionize the production of this high-protein ‘poor people’s meat’ crop across India, Myanmar and China in the coming years.

Eastern and Southern Africa

Fusarium wilt-resistant, seasonally-adapted varieties of pigeonpea adopted on 25,000 hectares in northern Tanzania have tripled yields and created a thriving export market, producing an additional 1.3 tons per hectare or 33,000 total extra tons – delivering approximately US$33 million in extra value to impoverished farmers (Shiferaw et al. 2007; Shiferaw et al. 2008). Usually intercropped with maize, pigeonpea also increases the resilience and productivity of that vital cereal crop through biological nitrogen fixation and natural weed control.

A nationally representative survey in Tanzania found an adoption rate of 19% for improved pigeonpea. Adopters tended to be farmers who were exposed to the varieties through participatory variety selection trials, and smallholders attempting to intensify their farming to make ends meet (Simtowe et al. 2011). Expert opinions from the DIVA project suggested adoption rates of improved varieties in Kenya of 60%, Malawi of 13%, Mali of 50% and Tanzania of 40% (Simtowe 2012).


Bantilan MCS and Joshi PK. 1996. Returns to research and diffusion investments on wilt resistance in pigeonpea. Impact Series No. 1. Hyderabad, India: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). 30 pp.

Bantilan M and Parthasarathy D. 1999. Efficiency and sustainability gains from adoption of short-duration pigeonpea in nonlegume-based cropping systems. Impact Series No. 5. Hyderabad, India: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). 24 pp.

Saxena KB and Nadarajan N. 2010. Prospects of pigeonpea hybrids in Indian agriculture. Electronic Journal of Plant Breeding 1(4):1107-1117.

Shiferaw B, Kebede T and You L. 2008. Technology adoption under seed access constraints and the economic impacts of improved pigeonpea varieties in Tanzania. Agricultural Economics 39: 309-323.

Shiferaw B, Silim S, Muricho G, Audi P, Mligo J, Lyimo S, You L and Christiansen JL. 2007. Assessment of the adoption and impact of improved pigeonpea varieties in Tanzania. Journal of SAT Agricultural Research 3(1): 1-27.

Grain Legumes

Grain Legumes is a partnership among four CGIAR Research Institutes: ICRISAT as lead center, CIAT, ICARDA and IITA, along with several public and private institutes and organizations, governments, and farmers worldwide.

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