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Peas bring prosperity

Pigeonpea is an important food legume grown and consumed mainly in dryland India and southern/eastern Africa. With its tree-like growth habit, it also provides valuable firewood for the dryland poor. And like most legumes, it adds valuable nitrogen to the soil.

Researchers developed new varieties of pigeonpea that carried resistance against Fusarium, a fungal wilt disease that had devastated farmers across central India. The new varieties rescued pigeonpea cultivation there during the 1980s/90s, raising yields by 57% and delivering $62 million in net benefits by 1996. Economists estimated a remarkable annual rate of return on the research investment of 65% (Bantilan and Joshi 1996).

The next generation of varieties developed by researchers changed the plant into a shorter, bushlike type that could mature in half the time of traditional varieties. These earlier-maturing varieties were especially suited to the drylands, because they could complete their lifecycle before the rains ended. In moister areas, they made it possible to grow two crops instead of just one in a single season. Farmers could plant them right after harvesting their first crop of sorghum, chickpea or wheat.

These bush varieties were rapidly adopted beginning in 1986, covering an estimated 150,000 hectares in central India a decade later. The new crop package increased yields by a whopping 93%, and a 30% increase in net farm incomes (Bantilan and Parthasarathy 1998). The cumulative return on the research investment is projected to reach $117 million by the year 2007 (Ryan 1998).


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Bantilan, M. C. S. and Joshi, P. K. 1996. Returns to research and diffusion investments on wilt resistance in pigeonpea. Impact Series no. 1. Patancheru, India: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

Bantilan, M. C. S. and Parthasarathy, D. 1998. Efficiency and sustainability gains from adoption of short-duration pigeonpea. Impact Series no. 2. Patancheru, India: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

Ryan, J. G. 1998. Pigeonpea improvement. ACIAR Projects 8201 and 8567. Canberra, Australia: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.



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