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December 17, 2008

Pigeon pea cultivation innovations increase yields

Research intervention changes African farmers' fortune

New methods introduced to farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) by scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) for growing pigeonpea have resulted in high yields , short period to mature and drought free stress, the organisation said in a statement made available to PANA on Thursday.

Prior to the new methods, farmers from the ESA area were growing pigeonpea that gave low yields, took very long to mature, were susceptible to wilt and often suffered from terminal drought stress.

"But this situation was reversed when scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) adapted pigeonpea in ESA, screened for resistance to wilt and incorporated bold white grain preferred by farmers and markets in the medium- and long-duration varieties," the statement said.

A large number of these varieties were released in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique, after evaluation.

In eastern Kenya, over 10,000 hectares of medium-duration varieties resistant to wilt and cropped two times a year are being grown by farmers. Likewise, in northern Tanzania, two long-duration varieties, which are high yielding, having white bold grain and resistant to wilt are being grown on over 50,000 hectares. In Malawi two long-duration varieties have been released and pigeonpea seed is now included in the country's subsidy program.

ICRISAT's interventions are focused on enhancement and management of genetic resources, agricultural diversification, agro-ecosystem sustainability and improving markets, policies and institutions. The Institute has also successfully implemented two interventions in many countries across SSA, which are fertilizer microdosing and the improvement of seed systems.

""The fertilizer microdosing technique allows resource poor farmers to apply small, affordable and effective amounts of fertilizer to their impoverished land for improved soil health and crop production," the statement said.

"It has the potential to end widespread hunger in drought-prone areas of Africa, where soils are depleted and smallholder farmers rarely produce enough to feed even their own families," the statement noted."

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