August 29, 2008
Pigeonpea (red gram, tuvar dal,
arhar dal) varieties developed by the
International Crops Research
Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) are becoming
popular over the hill slopes of Uttarakhand in North India, and
providing an opportunity to the farmers to improve pulse
production in the state.
The program is being implemented by ICRISAT in collaboration
with Vivekananda Parvathiya Krishi Anusandhan Sansthan (VPKAS),
Almora, and the Uttarakhand Department of Agriculture, Dehradun.
The annual demand for pulses in Uttarakhand is 0.3 million tons,
but the present production is only 0.06 million tons, leading to
a huge protein deficit among the poor of this state.
According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the
successful effort of promoting the cultivation of pigeonpea in
new niches such as Uttarakhand has once again highlighted the
importance of the Institute's research in improving the
agricultural productivity and farmers' incomes in tough
terrains, where a large proportion of rich top soil has been
washed away with heavy annual rains.
Dr KB Saxena, ICRISAT's
Principal Pigeonpea Breeder and leader of the project, explained
that the inspiration for promoting pigeonpea in Uttarakhand came
from ICRISAT's success in spreading the cultivation of pigeonpea
in the sloping hills of southern China. In Uttarakhand, the
first success was registered when the experiments conducted by
the VPKAS rigorously tested ICRISAT's short-duration pigeonpea
ICPL 88039 in the hills, after which ICPL 88039 was released in
2007 under the popular name "VL Arhar 1". Dr Vinay Mahajan,
Principal Scientist at VPKAS, believes that VL Arhar 1 will suit
cropping systems of the hills and farmers will have a good
choice for protein-rich food.
To undertake the promotion of this pigeonpea a special project
was initiated in 2006. The first testing program was launched in
the 2007 rainy season. A total of 375 on-farm demonstrations
were conducted in 13 districts and 67,400 kg of seed was
harvested from 112 ha. with mean productivity of 600 kg per
hectare. In 2007-08 a total of 1183 farmers of 408 villages
cultivated VL Arhar 1. Most farmers felt happy because they
harvested encouraging yields and made good profits in the very
The most interesting observation was that elevations up to and
above 2200 m also recorded high yields. Amazingly, most
pigeonpea areas in Uttarakhand are waste and rocky lands where
no food crop could be grown earlier. It can also be grown as an
intercrop with mango and litchi. The crop sown between 15 May to
10 June produced good yields and also allowed farmers to plant a
second crop in the same land.
With the farmers being satisfied with pigeonpea cultivation the
total area in 2008 has increased 15-fold, from 112 ha to more
than 2000 ha. Pigeonpea is a profitable crop with high yields
and little inputs. However, the production constraints at
different altitudes and important issues like seed availability,
value addition and marketing need to be studied and addressed.
Also elaborate programs have been made for large-scale quality
seed production, training, and monitoring.