The Centre has urged all value chain actors including farmers, seed companies, private sector and research organisations to find a joint solution to resolve all hurdles and issues that are preventing Indian farmers from meeting their demand for hybrid pigeonpea seeds and other pulses.
This was expressed by Shobhana K Pattanayak, Secretary, Department of Agriculture Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DoAC & FW), Government of India during a high-level planning meeting organised by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) recently at its headquarters in Hyderabad.
Over forty participants including farmer representatives, government officials from five States – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Odisha -, state agricultural universities and eight seed companies involved in the production of hybrid seeds came together and started a new initiative to explore ways of making India self-sufficient in the production of pulses, in particular hybrid pigeonpea.
At a time when India is keen to be pulse self-sufficient and is committed to overcome the under supply and export costs, popularisation and increasing the uptake of hybrid pigeonpea across India was recognised as one of the key solutions during the deliberations.
“We want to hear from all the sectors on what is stopping the popularisation of hybrid pigeonpea and what can be done about it. We need to popularise the pigeonpea hybrids in major pigeonpea producing states of India, and this action plan has to address the issue of seed production and availability of hybrid seeds to the farmers. The solution needs to have all the parties playing a part,” Pattanayak said.
“In order to meet its ever-growing demand for pulses, India needs to achieve self-sufficiency in pulses. We need to make pulses production more profitable by reducing production costs through mechanisation, using hybrids and minimising the post-harvest losses.” said Dr David Bergvinson, ICRISAT Director General.
Reiterating ICRISAT’s extensive research in pulses, Dr Bergvinson said that hybrid pigeonpea is the world’s only hybrid amongst the legumes, which was developed by ICRISAT along with its partners in research over the last 30 years. But despite being hailed as a great scientific breakthrough and huge success, uptake is nowhere near what it could be.
Looking at the success of some farmers who have cultivated hybrid pigeonpea and market demand, ICRISAT has seen a huge surge in enquiries for hybrid pigeonpea, and scientists have received over 700 phone calls from Indian farmers in the last three weeks asking for seeds.
Manik Kadam a farmer from Donoda village of Maharashtra, who took part in the meeting, said that he has successfully been growing ICRISAT’s pigeonpea hybrids for the last 5 years.
“Hybrid pigeonpea gives yield of over three tonnes per hectare as compared to local varieties’ yield of 1.7 to 2 tonnes per hectare; it has helped increase my income. Also compared to local varieties, hybrids like ICPH 2740, ICPH 3762 are resistant to diseases, hence reducing the cost involved in pesticide spraying,” said the farmer.
With regular monitoring and guidance from ICRISAT scientists, Kadam is now an expert in hybrid pigeonpea technology and has become a popular farmer in his region, attracting other farmers and agriculture officers to see his hybrid fields.
Sanjay Lohiya, Joint Secretary, DoAC & FW, Government of India stressed the need to harness the potential of hybrid pigeonpea to achieve pulse self-sufficiency and said that we need to discuss all aspects of hybrds including seed cost, target areas suitable for hybrid cultivation and workout the plan by leveraging ongoing schemes of the Government.
He also said that since there were government incentives in the form of subsidies for seed production and seed distribution, a cluster-based approach for demonstrating the potential of pigeonpea hybrid needs to be prepared along with the roadmap and this is the best opportunity to popularise pigeonpea hybrid.
Dr Suhas P Wani, Director, Regional Program for Asia at ICRISAT presented the challenges and opportunities for harnessing the potential of hybrid pigeonpea in different Indian states and proposed a detailed roadmap for covering the large areas during the year 2016 and as well as plans to produce hybrid seeds and also the parental lines needed for scaling-up the pigeonpea hybrid cultivation.
ICRISAT and state officials chalked out the detailed strategy for the rainy season of 2016 for popularising hybrid pigeonpea in different states as well as the plans for seed production to cover larger areas during 2017-18.
The detailed work plan till 2018 aims to cover an area of over three million hectares under pigeonpea cultivation.