Pigeonpea and chickpea, the two legumes grown widely in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) have experienced good production gains in the past two decades.  In Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda, which are major pigeonpea producers, the area (935,900 ha) and production (691,500 t) of pigeonpea has increased dramatically. Productivity, however, still hovers at 800 kg/ha, much lower than the realizable yield potential. Chickpea is grown on about 493,000 ha in the region, with Ethiopia and Tanzania taking away a chunk of 73% of the total area. Farmers in Malawi, Kenya, Eritrea and Sudan and Uganda also cultivate the crop.

While the gains have largely been due to the introduction of new varieties, integrated crop management, and effective seed systems, the huge gaps between realizable and actual yields are partly due to limited availability of quality seed to farmers and challenges posed at various levels of seed production and delivery along the value chain.

To address these issues and challenges, ICRISAT organized a training program on ‘Pigeonpea and Chickpea Seed Production and Delivery in ESA’ recently in Nairobi, aiming at enhancing the capacity of partners and private seed industry involved in quality seed production and delivery.

The training emphasized on seed systems in grain legumes, varietal release process and seed regulations, agronomic management, principles and standards of seed production and certification, and post-harvest handling of seeds, among other topics.

Dr Moses Siambi, Regional Director, ICRISAT-ESA in his opening remarks, emphasized the need to foster strategic partnerships among the stakeholders and spoke on how sharing experiences and information among those in the seed industry would lead to a sustainable seed system in the region. He reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to all the collaborating organizations to nurture seed systems operations in various target countries and agro-ecologies.

Dr NVPR Ganga Rao, Senior Scientist-Breeding (Grain legumes), ICRISAT, stressed the importance of enhancing knowledge and skills in quality seed production and effective seed delivery.

Dr Emmanuel Monyo, Project Coordinator – Tropical Legumes II project, led the discussion on seed systems in grain legumes, and duly emphasized on partnerships, production of quality seed in sufficient volumes and technology dissemination for greater impact with farmers. The successful model employed for maize seed research, technical support to partners and field management of maize seed production as elucidated by Dr Regasa Mosisa, Maize Seed Systems Specialist, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), exposed the participants to a different system that could be employed for legumes seed production.

Dr Evans Sikinyi, Director, Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK), explained the harmonization of seed regulations in COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) member countries and their efforts to reduce varietal testing time from three years to only two seasons, if these varieties are tested and released in other member countries. Mr David Karanja, Beans coordinator- Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), shared experiences and lessons from beans seed system in ESA.

Participants from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia, representatives from East African Seed Company Ltd and Dryland seed, deliberated on achievements, challenges and opportunities to develop most effective pigeonpea and chickpea seed systems in their respective countries. Resource persons included experts from ICRISAT’s Research Program on Grain Legumes, STAK, Kenyan certifying agency, KALRO, CIMMYT and East African Seed Company.

The training also included a field visit to ICRISAT chickpea and pigeonpea fields in Nairobi. Participants were exposed to on-station field management and were allowed to select good chickpea lines for their respective cropping systems.

“The chickpea varieties I have seen in your breeding pipeline outperform the current released varieties in the region. I see a window of opportunity to register and release more high-yielding chickpea varieties which are fairly tolerant to both biotic and abiotic stresses,” said Mr Bernard Towett, Agronomist, Egerton University.

The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

Source: ICRISAT Happenings