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Pulses Production Technology: Pulses Production Technology:

India is the largest producer and consumer of pulses in the world. However, pulses production has been stagnant at between 11 and 14 million tonnes over the last two decades. Per capita pulses consumption over the years has come down from 61gm/day in 1951 to 30 gm/day in 2008. This paper analyses the status of pulses production technology, constraints in cultivation of pulses and the possibilities of increasing production. It emphasises the expansion of area under short duration varieties, development of multiple disease/pest resistance varieties, use of micro-nutrients like zinc and sulphur and increase in area under rabi pulse crops to increase pulses production. The minimum support price is not effective for pulse crops; prevailing market prices should be taken into account while fixing the msp to bridge the gap between demand and supply.


Pulses Production Technology: Status and Way Forward

A Amarender Reddy

India is the largest producer and consumer of pulses in the world. However, pulses production has been stagnant at between 11 and 14 million tonnes over the last two decades. Per capita pulses consumption over the years has come down from 61gm/day in 1951 to 30 gm/day in 2008. This paper analyses the status of pulses production technology, constraints in cultivation of pulses and the possibilities of increasing production. It emphasises the expansion of area under short duration varieties, development of multiple disease/pest resistance varieties, use of micro-nutrients like zinc and sulphur and increase in area under rabi pulse crops to increase pulses production. The minimum support price is not effective for pulse crops; prevailing market prices should be taken into account while fixing the MSP to bridge the gap between demand and supply.

A Amarender Reddy ( teaches Public Policy at the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad.

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december 26, 2009 vol xliv no 52


ulses in India have long been considered as the poor man’s only source of protein. Pulses are grown on 22-23 million hectares of area with an annual production of 13-15 million tonnes (mt). I ndia accounts for 33% of the world area and 22% of the world production of pulses. The major pulse crops grown in India are chickpea, pigeonpea, lentil, moongbean, urdbean and fieldpea. About 90% of the global pigeonpea, 65% of chickpea and 37% of lentil area falls in India, corresponding to 93%, 68% and 32% of the global production, respectively (FAOSTAT 2009). Due to stagnant production, the net availability of pulses has come down from 60 gm/day/person in 1951 to 31 gm/day/person (Indian Council of Medical Research recommends 65 gm/day/capita) in 2008.

Demand-Supply Gap

Even though recent years have seen diversification in consumption patterns away from pulses to livestock, vegetables and other meat products, India is short of supply by 2 to 3 mt annually (Table 1, p 74). Pulses are not only a low cost source of protein for majority of Indian consumers; they are also a low cost substitute for vegetables in periods of high prices of vegetables. An improvement in pulses production technology can reduce the cost of production and hence prices, and create scope for further increase in demand for pulse crops by replacing some portion of the disproportionately high level of cereals in the consumption basket for a balanced diet. There is scope for decreasing imports and increasing exports of pulses and also increasing the use of pulses in value added products such as papad, snack food and in the confectionery industry, etc.

The demand-supply gap is also reflected in the higher prices in recent years – retail price of pigeonpea reached as high as Rs 120 per kg and other pulses remained above Rs 70 per kg for more than six months. The recent price hike is the result of the simultaneous occurrence of lower stock levels and less domestic production both in domestic and global markets, and to some extent speculative activity in the commodity futures markets. Keeping this in view, the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) has targeted an increase in pulses production by 2 mt by 2012. Since the last 10 years, the minimum support price (MSP) announced for all pulse crops has been below the market price. For example, the current MSP is below Rs 30 per kg, while the market price is hovering around Rs 100 for pigeonpea. The government has never treated the MSP as an effective tool for increasing pulses production; it is of the opinion that market forces will take care of acreage allocation and production of pulses. High volatility in prices for long periods, low productivity, and stagnation in production technology have acted as disincentives for pulses production (Reddy 2006).

Table 1: Sources of Supply of Pulses in India positive during 2001-08. Growth in yield of pigeon-

Kharif Rabi Total

pea has been significantly higher (2.74%) during re-

Year Area Prodn Yield Area Prodn Yield Area Prodn Yield Imports Exports Total (Million (Million (Kg ha) (Million (Million (Kg ha) (Million (Million (Kg ha) (Million (Million Consumption

cent years, due to wider adoption of long duration

Ha) Tonnes) Ha) Tonnes) Ha) Tonnes) Tonnes) Tonnes) (Million Tonnes)

varieties. While rapid growth in the production of

2000-01 10.7 4.5 417 9.7 6.6 684 20.4 11.1 544 0.4 0.2 11.2 2001-02 10.7 4.8 453 10.9 8.5 762 21.7 13.4 609 2.2 0.2 15.4 chickpea has mainly been through higher growth of

2002-03 10.0 4.2 417 10.6 7.0 661 20.5 11.1 543 2.0 0.2 13.0 area in south India with the expansion of area under

2003-04 11.7 6.2 528 11.8 8.7 745 23.4 14.9 637 1.7 0.2 16.5 rice fallows, the growth rate in yield and area in case

2004-05 11.3 4.7 417 11.4 8.4 735 22.8 13.1 577 1.3 0.3 14.2 of other pulse crops is still quite low. 2005-06 10.6 4.7 439 11.8 8.5 716 22.4 13.1 585 1.6 0.4 14.3

The yield of pulses has remained virtually stagnant

2006-07 10.7 4.8 449 12.5 9.4 751 23.2 14.2 612 3.7 0.4 17.5

for the last 40 years (539 kg/ha in 1961 to 544 kg/ha

2007-08 11.5 6.4 557 12.1 8.4 709 23.6 14.8 688 2.8 0.2 17.4

in 2001 to 617 kg/ha in 2009) (Table 1). India’s rank

2008-09 10.4 5.0 484 12.6 9.2 726 23.0 14.2 617 2.3 0.1 16.4

in productivity is 24th in chickpea, 9th in pigeonpea,

23rd in lentil, 104th in dry bean, 52nd in field pea and
Export-Import Scenario 98th in total pulses (FAOSTAT 2009). Productivity of pulses has
Depending on the domestic shortfall in pulses production, India’s also slightly increased in recent years, basically due to the expan
net imports of pulses have ranged from 1 mt to 3 mt, while ex sion of area of rabi pulses, higher growth in yield of pigeonpea and
ports are one-tenth of the volume of imports. Imports of pulses higher growth rate in prices of pulses (20.9% per annum for chick
i ncreased from 0.58 mt to 3.1 mt between 1994-96 and 2007-09 pea, 32.9% per annum for urad, 5.8% per annum for pigeonpea
and are projected to increase to 4 mt by 2012 (Table 1). The share from 2004-08) compared to prices of other crops, which encour
of peas, chickpeas, pigeonpea and moong was higher in total im aged higher input use. As revealed in Table 1, yield levels of kharif
ports. Peas, chickpeas, Table 2: Change in the Trend of Import of pulses (417 kg/ha to 557 kg/ha) is lower than rabi pulses (684 kg/ha
beans and pigeonpea Pulse Crops between 1992-9 4 and 2007-09 to 751 kg/ha). It indicates that rabi pulse crops like chickpea, lentil,
showed increase in im-Commodity 1994-96 Import (qty in Tonnes) 2007-09 % Change moong and urad and long duration pigeonpea have a higher po
ports during 1994-96 to Peas 1,72,180 9,28,101 439 tential in expanding the production of pulse crops. In north India,
2007-09 (Table 2). India Chickpea 87,390 4,35,681 399 rice-wheat crop rotation is predominant, and there is little scope for
also has a comparative pigeonpea 96,200 3,59,094 273 replacing wheat with rabipulse crops, while in south India, there are
advantage in the export Moong 33,570 2,20,080 556 vast patches of rice fallows, which can be utilised for sowing rabi
of lentils, as it has been Other beans 23,220 1,38,987 499 pulse crops, as there is no strong competitive crop in the rabi season.
the largest export item Lentils 30,040 Beans of the spp 40,730 87,488 45,009 191 11 Pulses can enrich soil fertility by fixing nitrogen. It has been
among pulses during the Kidney beans 22,470 35,906 60 estimated that chickpea can fix (convert atmospheric nitrogen to
last 10 years (Reddy Urad 35,140 33,111 -6 organic nitrogen which can be available for subsequent crops) up
2006). Pulses shortfall Small red beans 190 21,857 1 1,403 to 140 kg nitrogen per hectare in a growing season, although
may increase to 6.8 mt Broad beans 30 63 110 measured values are usually in the range of about 20-60 kg nitrogen
by 2020-21 and the an-Total pulses 5,79,120 23,05,377 298 per hectare (Reddy 2004). It has been well established that long
ticipated increase in per Source: FAOSTAT (2009). duration pigeonpea in northern India can fix in the order of
capita consumption of pulses is from 9 kg per year in 2007-08 to 200 kg nitrogen per hectare when grown over a 40 week period.
10.9 kg by 2020-21 (Joshi 2009). Overall, the above figures indi- Pigeonpea can also have substantial residual effects on subse
cate that India needs to increase domestic production of peas, quent crops. For example, medium-duration pigeonpea grown at
chickpeas, beans and pigeonpea as substitutes for surgin g im the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics
ports, and lentils for export promotion. (ICRISAT) (Asia Center) could benefit a subsequent maize crop to an
extent equivalent to 40 kg nitrogen per hectare. Taking into ac-
Sources of Growth count these externalities (fertility improvement and sustainability)
The growth rate of pulses production was just 1.52% in the 1980s in pulses production, there is a need to provide incentives (subsi
and 0.59% in the 1990s. It has significantly increased to 3.42% otal area under dies for seed, etc) for expansion of area under pulses production.
pulses was negative both in the 1980s and 1990s, while it was during 2001-08 (Table 3). Growth rate in the t History of Pulses Research, Development and Extension
Table 3: Growth Rate of Major Crops in India In view of the success of the All India Coordinated Project on
1981-90 1991-2000 2001-08 Maize in 1967, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
Commodity Area Prodn Yield Area Prodn Yield Chickpea -1.41 -0.81 0.61 1.26 2.96 1.68 Pigeonpea 2.3 2.87 0.56 -0.66 0.89 1.55 Total pulses -0.09 1.52 1.61 -0.6 0.59 0.93 Total foodgrains -0.23 2.85 2.74 -0.07 2.02 1.52 Rice 0.41 3.62 3.19 0.68 2.02 1.34 Other pulses 0.02 3.05 3.03 -1.61 -1.58 0.04 Wheat 0.46 3.57 3.1 1.72 3.57 1.83 Area Prodn 4.7 5.51 0.91 3.66 1.91 3.42 0.48 2.09 -0.14 1.87 0.76 1.59 1.29 1.36 Yield 0.77 2.74 1.65 2.82 2.0 0.82 0.08 sanctioned an All India Coordinated Pulses Improvement Project (AICPIP) to conduct coordinated research in all the nine pulse crops. These coordinated research efforts concentrated on c oordinating the research in several aspects of varietal development, integrated nutrient development, cropping systems, host plant resistance, integrated pest and disease management, biological nitrogen fixation, drought tolerance and other crop-specific
Source: Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (2009). and region-specific research. The impact of the varieties and
74 december 26, 2009 vol xliv no 52 Economic & Political Weekly

Source: Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (2009).


technologies developed under the AICPIP becomes visible when 15-25% improvement in yield is achieved under the Front Line Demonstrations (FLDs) conducted every year across the zones, though diffusion of technology at the field level is not significant.

To enhance adoption of improved technology, a centrally sponsored National Pulses Development Project (NPDP) is in o peration since the Eighth Plan (1985-86). Programme implementation, coordination, policy formulation, feed back mechanisms and monitoring, etc, is ensured by the Directorate of Pulses Development. To provide further impetus, the pulses sector has been brought under the ambit of the Technology Mission on Oil seeds and Pulses (TMOP) since 1990. During the Tenth Five-Year Plan, it was proposed to implement the Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses,

Constraints in Pulses Production

Even with the best efforts, pulses production and productivity has been stagnant. Due to the low productivity-low input nature, pulses are grown as residual/alternate crops on marginal lands after taking care of food/income needs from high productivityhigh input crops like paddy and wheat by most farmers. Also, they grow as rainfed crops with little or no modern yield enhancing inputs. The low priority accorded to pulse crops may be r elated to their relatively low status in the cropping system. As a crop of secondary importance, in many of these systems, pulse crops do not attract much of the farmer’s crop management a ttention. In addition to this, these crops are adversely affected by a number of biotic and abiotic stresses, which are responsible

Oil Palm and Maize (ISOPOM) after merging four centrally sponsored on-

Crop Seasons Stress Biotic Abiotic

going schemes on oilseeds, pulses, palm

Chickpea Timely sown FW, root rot, chickpea stunt, BGM, pod-borer Low temperature

oil and maize to make the programme

Early sown FW, root rot, AB, or chickpea stunt, pod borer Terminal drought, salt stress more integrated and financially sound Late sown FW, pod borer Terminal drought, cold

Table 4: Important Biotic and Abiotic Stresses Identified in Major Pulse Crops of India

(Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation Pigeonpea Kharif-early FW, PB, pod-borer complex Waterlogging

2004), with major emphasis on seed Medium late FW, SM, pod-borer complex Cold, terminal drought, waterlogging Pre-rabi FW,ALB, Pod fly Cold, terminal drought

production, distribution and adoption of

Moong Kharif MYMV, CLS, WB, sucking insect pests Pre-harvest sprouting, terminal drought

improved technology. These integrated

Zaid MYMV, root and stem rot, stem agromyza, Pre-harvest sprouting, temperature

research and extension efforts which

sucking insect pests stress, drought

aimed at better utilisation of fallow areas

Rabi PM, Rust, CLS Terminal drought have been successful, and area under Urad Kharif MYMV, anthracnose, WB, LCV Terminal drought

pulses has increased significantly in rice Zaid MYMV, root and stem rot, stem agromyza Pre-harvest sprouting, temperature fallows in some parts of the country

stress, drought Rabi/rice fallow Spot Terminal drought

(Ali 2004), but benefits have been limited

Lentil FW, root rot, rust Moisture, temperature

to localised areas with irrigation facilities.

FW= Fusarium wilt, PB= Phytophthora blight, SM= Sterility mosaic, ALB= Alternaria leaf blight, MYMV= Moongbean yellow mosaic virus, Considering the importance of pulses BGM= Botrytis gray mould, AB= Ascochyta blight.

Source: Reddy (2006).

in food security, the NFSM was launched during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2008-12) targeting important foodgrain crops – rice, wheat and pulses. The primary objective of the pulses component of the mission is to increase production of pulses by 2 mt through increase in area and productivity. The mission targets an area of 17 million hectares under pulses in 171 identified districts. Close to 4.05 million hectares is to be added to the area under cultivation by 2011-12 through the utilisation of rice fallows and inter-cropping with wider-spaced crops.

The mission aims at achieving the additional production of 2 mt by 2011-12 through increased adoption of improved and proven crop production and protection technologies such as hybrids and high yielding varieties, integrated management of nutrients, pests, weeds and improved tillage and other farm implements. The objective is to ensure adequate infrastructure for higher productivity by bridging yield gaps. NFSM is promoting agricultural technology and best practices that farmers have successfully adopted in other regions. The mission employs existing institutions to carry out its activities. It aims to strengthen the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), an autonomous body with a mandate to assign specific programmes to various implementing agencies at the district level. Pilot projects have been provided to promote innovations in programme design and implementation, like the development of a methodology of mass propagation of hybrid pigeonpea seeds through ICRISAT (through seed village concept), to contain the menace of neelgai.

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for a large extent of the instability and low yields. The following section deals with different technology constraints in pulses production, and strategies to overcome them (Table 4).

Abiotic Constraints

There has been a high degree of risk in pulses production. More than 87% of the area under pulses is presently rainfed. The mean rainfall of major pulse growing states such as Madhya Pradesh (MP), Uttar Pradesh (UP), Gujarat and Maharastra is about 1,000 mm and the coefficient of variation of the rainfall is 20-25%. Moisture stress is the oft-cited reason for crop failures. Terminal drought and heat stress results in forced maturity with low yields. Drought stress alone may reduce seed yields by 50% in the tropics. A quantum jump in productivity can be achieved by applying life saving irrigation especially in rabi pulses grown on residual moisture. Two genes – “efl-1” and “ppd” have been identified for early flowering and maturity to escape drought stress (ICCV-2 in south India). In collaboration with ICAR, ICRISAT has developed a unique short-duration (chickpea) variety ICPL-87. In a detailed impact study, Bantilan and Parthasarathy (1998) found that the variety/management package resulted in an average 93% yield increase over the system it replaced. This could have been tackled on two fronts – development of varieties tolerant to moisture stress and bringing more area under irrigation. Irrigated area under pulses has virtually remained stagnant at 13% of the total

area. Availability of adequate soil moisture for crop growth quality of foodgrains. Research in insect pests has been concen
depends on rainfall, water holding capacity and depth of soil in trated only on helicoverpa armigera, multiple resistance varieties need
rainfed areas. In south India, water holding capacity of the soil to be developed in future to simultaneously control many pests.
often limits grain yield to the extent of 50% of that possible under Among important diseases, wilt in chickpea, sterility mosaic
irrigation on Alfisols. On the contrary, on vertisol soils, higher virus (SMV) in pigeonpea, yellow mosaic virus (YMV) and powdery
water holding capacity causes growth reduction up to 5-20%. mildew (PM) are common and more damaging. A few varieties
Higher evapo-transpiration in south India during the rabi season possessing vertical resistance to one or two diseases such as wilt
causes severe constraints to chickpea yield under drought. An resistance in chickpea (ICP-8863) released by ICRISAT have had the
other major problem is salinity and alkalinity of soils. Salinity highest impact in terms of adoption. Its adoption in northern part
and alkalinity is high both in semi-arid tropics and in the Indo of Karnataka state, the primary target zone, has increased from 5%
Gangetic plains in irrigated areas, which is a cause for concern, in 1987 to almost 80% now. It has resulted in stabilisation of pro
as most pulses are susceptible to salinity and alkalinity. duction, expansion of crop area and increased incomes. Other vari-
Grain yield is mainly influenced by temperature. Cold is an abiotic eties such as JD-315, KWR-108, ICCV-10 and H-82-2 have had limited
stress, limiting the grain yield of pulse crops. All hot season pulses success; SMV resistant in pigeonpea (Bihar and Pusa-9), YMV resist
are sensitive to low temperatures, but generally these are not ex ant in moongbean (PDM 84-139, PDM-54, Narendra Moong-1, Pant
posed to low temperatures. On the other hand, cool season pulses Moong-1, -2 and -4) and urdbean (Pant-U-19, Uttara, Narendra and
(chickpea) are often subjected to chilling temperatures especially Urd-1), PM resistance in pea (HFP-4, Shika, IM-9102 and DMR-11)
in areas of north India. However there has not been much improve and rust resistant in lentil (DPL-62,DPL-84 and Pant-L-406) varie
ment in the development of chilling and frost tolerant varieties. ties have been developed. The number of varieties released and
Poor drainage/water stagnation during the rainy season causes adopted by farmers is given in Table 5 with their main characteristics.
heavy losses to pigeonpea on account of low plant stand and in- Table 5: Improved Varieties of Pulses Released from 1991-2005
creased incidence of phytophthora blight disease, particularly in the Number of Varieties Released
states of UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, MP and Jharkhand. Ridge planting has been found very effective in ensuring optimal Year 1991-97 1998-2005 Major Characteristics Pigeonpea 20 13 Tolerance to pod borer, pod fly, wilt, phytopthera blight, pre-rabi, 20-22 q/ha short duration (95 to
plant stand and consequently higher yield. A simple ridger already 100 days), long duration (170-190 days)
available can effectively be used for this purpose. Since most pulse Moong 21 19 Resistance to YMV, powdery mildew, jassids and
crops are drought tolerant, most of the research efforts have been confined to develop genotypes and a ssociated production technol whitefly, spring, medium to bold seeded Urad 17 15 Tolerance to YMV, powdery mildew, rabi season, 12q/ha, 70-80 days to maturity
ogies to suit dry land conditions. Consequently, germplasm suited Lentil 9 4 Tolerance to rust and wilt, bold seeded, early
to high rainfall and irrigated conditions are lacking. maturing, 18-24 q/ha, 110 days to maturity
Pea 5 11 Resistance to powdery mildew, rust and leaf miner,
Biotic Constraints 23q/ha, 95 to 100 days to maturity
More than 250 insect species are reported to affect pulses in I ndia. Cowpea 11 10 Early maturing varieties, resistance to yellow mosaic virus, 12q/ha, some are for fodder purpose
Among these, nearly one dozen cause heavy crop losses. On an Chickpea 18 34 Res to ascochyta blight, tolerance to wilt and root
average 2-2.4 million tonnes of pulses with a monetary value of rot irrigated area, bold seeded, tolerance to pod
nearly Rs 6,000 crore are lost annually due to ravages of insect pest complex. Among them, pod borer (helicovera armigera) causes borer, 25 to 30 q/ha, 75 to 100 days to maturity Source: Department of Agricultural and Cooperation (2009).
the most harm, followed by pod fly, wilt and root rot. Recently Integrated Pest Management
many successful trials have been conducted to control pod borer By nature, pulse crop is attacked by more than one disease and
through using nuclear polyhedrosis virus (HaNPCV), which has pest at a time; hence there is a need for multiple disease resistant
been found to be more efficacious in bringing about higher and varieties. Recent developments in integrated pest management
quick mortality. In on-farm trials, bacillus thruringiensis Berliner (IPM) have given wider scope for cost-effective control of multiple
(Bt) var. kurstaki has also been tested on pod borer, and field dem pests and diseases. IPM is essentially a farmer activity of using
onstrations resulted in 10-12% reduction in avoidable loss as one or more management options to reduce pest population be
against 11% in the use of a chemical pesticide. H owever, the suc low the economic injury level, while ensuring productivity and
cessful release of Bt chickpea/pigeonpea varieties from either pub profitability of the entire farming system. A variety of chemical,
lic or private research will take some more years. A nother impor biological and cultural methods have been found to reduce pest
tant pest affecting pulses are nematodes, among which root-knot and disease damage. Properly planned cropping systems involving
nematodes are important in terms of spread and damage to crop crop rotation or intercropping of non-host and host crops, different
yield, which have been effectively controlled by bio-agents. Trials agronomic practices like use of solar energy by summer plough
at the Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR) in infested fields ing preceding kharif pulses are cost effective components of IPM.
have shown avoidable yield losses ranging 10-40% in irrigated However, farmers are hesitant to use IPM as it needs community
and 15-30 % in rainfed areas from control of ne matodes by utilis approach and takes time to yield results. Since IPM is knowledge
ing bio-agents (seed treatment with tric hoder ma sp) and chemi intensive, systems approach involving various disciplines to
cals recent developments of these bio-pesticides can also reduce evolve an Integrated Crop Management (ICM) should be the goal
harmful chemical residue in grains, which ultimately improve the in the future.
76 december 26, 2009 vol xliv no 52 Economic & Political Weekly
Physiological Limitations

There is a general feeling that pulses (C-3 plants) suffer from inherently low yield potential and are a physiologically inefficient group of plants compared to cereals (C-4 plants) such as sorghum and maize. However Aggarwal et al (1997), reviewed the comparative advantages of C-3 and C-4 group of plants and argued that C-3 and C-4 plants seem to compete on fairly even terms in hot dry environments. The fact that C-3 plants usually do better in cool climates suggests that C-3 plants are better for rabi season. However, the disturbing future is that the harvest index (HI) in pulses is low compared to cereals. HI is defined as seed yield per unit of recoverable biomass. In pulses it is only 15-20% compared to 45-50% in case of cereals such as wheat and rice. Low HI results from excessive vegetative growth, but can be overcome by early partitioning of dry matter into seeds (Saxena and Johansen 1990) and evolving biotechnology and genomic tools to incorporate good features of C-4 plants into C-3 plants.

Pulses in general have a high rate of flower drop. In pigeonpea, over 80% of the flowers produced in a plant are shed; by decreasing flower drop, yield can be increased considerably. This can be done either by breeding lines which retain a large proportion of flowers producing pods or through physiological manipulations, such as spray of hormones which reduce flower drop. Physiological studies at ICRISAT, involving removal of flowers and young pods of pigeonpea, have shown that plants compensate for the loss of flowers and young pods by setting pods from later formed owners, which otherwise would have dropped. This compensatory mechanism provides substantial plasticity of adaptation to intermittent adverse conditions such as moisture stress or insect attack, which are common in warm rainfed areas of south India. Recent increase in yield levels in pigeonpea is due to release of long duration (annual) varieties, which maximise utilisation of assimilates in filling the available sink of a large number of flowers (Rego and Wani 2002).

Biofertilisers and Irrigation

Another important practice widely applied is that of “growing of short duration legumes” such as moongbean, cluster bean, cowpea and horse gram in widely spaced crops and incorporation of their biomass after harvesting (green manuring), which increases the yield of subsequent crops. Rotation of legumes with non-legumes is another practice to derive benefit from the nitrogen fixed by the rhizobium-legume interaction and to meet at least 50% of the nitrogen requirement of most of the cropping systems. About 40% of the pulses growing regions have low to medium population of native rhizobium. Seed inoculation with biofertiliser (rhizobium) (low cost input) can increase pulses productivity by 10-12%. Lack of quality culture in adequate quantity is one of the major constraints in popularisation of biofertilisers. Vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM) offer promise for improving supply of phosphate and micronutrients like zinc for a variety of pulse crops. Phosphate solubilisers are yet another group of hydrotropic organisms, which may have applicability in rainfed pulses production systems, particularly in soils with poor phosphorus availability. Combined use of culture, like dual inoculation of rhizobium and VAM resulted in higher seed yield of crops than with rhizobium alone.

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Even though good results have been obtained in research stations, the adaptability of integrated nutrient management (INM) technologies by farmers is dismal at the farm level. More emphasis should be given to evolve and identify suitable biofertiliser strains for major pulse based cropping systems for different agro-climatic conditions through integrated approaches of the agronomist, biotechnologist and microbiologist. The most effective way is to deliver appropriate rhizobia to seedlings where and when it is required; it is also possible to popularise superior nodulating varieties of pulse crops (Malhothra 2002). An experimental result shows that deficiency of micronutrients, especially sulphur and zinc is widespread among pulse growing regions. A very encouraging response to the application of sulphur and zinc has been found with a cost benefit ratio of 10-21%.

Irrigation is an important input in any cropping system. Pulses are generally cultivated as rainfed crops due to less irrigation response than competing crops like cereals. However, experimental results at IIPR show that one irrigation at a critical stage could substantially improve productivity. At the ICRISAT centre, grain yield increased in response to irrigation by nearly 50% in sole pigeonpea and more than doubled in intercropped pigeonpea with two irrigations given at the vegetative and flowering stages after the harvest of the cereal crop in years of scarce rainfall (Sharma and Jodha 1982). However, in northern parts of India where temperatures and evaporation are low with good amount of winter rainfall, responses to irrigation have not been very large. In view of good response for supplemental irrigation to pulse crops, government should encourage policies to provide supplemental irrigation. Plants of certain pulses (pigeonpea) still have wild traits like indeterminate growth habits, which cause intra-plant competition for photosynthesis resulting in poor partitioning to yield components, which reduce grain yield of the crop. These crops need to be fully domesticated. Domestication of these pulses through restructuring of plant is a difficult task and inputs from physiologists, biochemists, breeders and geneticists are necessary in the development of desirable plant types.

Exploitation of Heterosis Breeding in Pulses

The quantum of yield advances made through breeding in cereals such as maize, sorghum, millets, etc, is much higher than that of pulses. This difference in case of pulses arises primarily due to lack of commercial exploitation of hybrid vigor due to lack of mass pollen transfer mechanism and non-availability of effective male-sterility system. With the exception of pigeonpea (ICPH-8) the hybrid vigor for yield has not been exploited in all other pulse crops. The adoption of these hybrids, however, is limited due to

Table 6: Zonal Weigted Mean Seed Yield of Hybrid ICPH-8 and Controls UPAS-120 and Manak (1981-89)

Yield (t/ha) % in Yield Over ICPH-8
Zone Years No of Trails ICPH-8 UPAS-120 Manak UPAS-120 Manak
North-west plains 6 36 2.85 2.10 2.34 35.0 31.0
Central 4 30 1.56 1.16 0.93 32.9 52.5
South 4 30 1.42 1.22 1.26 23.6 27.3
North-west hills 1 2 1.56 1.50 1.19 4.3 31.0
Western 1 1 2.06 1.41 1.59 45.6 29.5
Mean 1.99 1.53 1.35 30.5 34.2
Source: Saxena et al (2000).

seed production limitations posed by genetic nature of male sterility (Saxena et al 2000) even though ICPH-8 was found to be more promising. It was released for cultivation in the central zone of India in 1981. Evaluation from 100 trials showed ICPH-8 to be superior to controls, UPAS-120 and Manak by 30.5% and 34.2% respectively, in productivity (Table 6, p 77).

There is still further scope for enhancing genetic improvement in pulse crops through biotechnology. Mutation breeding has contributed about 10% of the total improved varieties of pulses and is supplementing the conventional breeding programme. The mutant variety, Pant Moong-2, with resistance to YMV disease is very popular in north India (Pawar and Panday 2001). There is good scope for development of ideal plant type especially chickpea and pigeonpea, in line with rice developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in collaboration with other research organisations with the leadership of ICAR. Specific efforts in this direction are already in place by both national and international organisations with respect to chickpea.

Post-Harvest Technology

Post-harvest losses account for 9.5% of total pulses production. Among post-harvest operations, storage is responsible for the maximum loss (7.5%). Processing, threshing and transport cause 1%, 0.5% and 0.5% losses, respectively. Among storage losses, pulses are also most susceptible to damage due to insects (5%) compared to wheat (2.5%), paddy (2%) and maize (3.5%) (Deshpande and Singh 2001). Appropriate storage structures (metal storage which in turn is partly responsible for their stagnation. The structure of pulses production is also characterised by the dominance of two crops, viz, chickpea and pigeonpea, which together account for more than one-half of total pulse area in India. Hence if these two crops suffer from adverse climatic conditions, it significantly r educes the production of pulses. The decline of chickpea in p articular and pigeonpea and other crops in major pulse growing states like UP, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar clearly support this possibility.

Indo-Gangetic Plains and Rice Fallows

Pulses have been introduced in the Indo-Gangetic plains with the development of short duration varieties of pigeonpea (150-170 days) such as UPAS-120, Manak, AL-15, AL-201, etc. These enable their introduction in the irrigated areas of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and western UP under pigeonpea-wheat based cropping system. Similarly, short duration (60-70 days) varieties of moongbean having synchronised maturity and resistance to YMV (PDM-11, PDM-54) offer good scope for their introduction as catch crop in rice-wheat system.

A study by Reddy (2006) compared cost-benefits from pulse based cropping systems with rice-wheat cropping systems in UP on farmers’ fields under irrigated conditions, and the results are presented in Table 7. The figures clearly depict that pulse based cropping systems were less input intensive, required less labour, water, pesticides and fertilisers. But both gross returns and net returns per hectare were higher (given the higher prices of pulse crops) for pulse based cropping systems compared to rice-wheat systems. Benefit-cost ratio is also higher for pulse based cropping

bins) need to be popularised. One can also

Table 7: Economics of Pulse-Based Cropping Systems vs Rice-Wheat Cropping Systems under Irrigated Conditions

increase the processing efficiency in dal Crop Rotation Gross Return Cost Net Return B/C ratio Fertiliser Pesticide Labour Irrigation GR/Unit (Rs/ha) (Rs/ha) (Rs/ha) (Rs/ha) (Rs/ha) (Man days) Charges (Rs/ha) Water

mills. Due to recent advances in processing

Moong-lentil 42,540 13,685 28,855 3.2 160 500 122 700 60.8

technology, the net availability of end

Maize-lentil 37,000 9,985 27,015 3.7 320 500 72 700 52.9

products in modern dal mills has been in

Urad-wheat 45,000 25,310 19,690 1.8 1,688 0 182 5,600 8

creased to 70-75% compared to 65-66% in

Pigeonpea+sorghum 25,820 6,548 19,272 3.9 40 225 74 700 36.9

traditional dal mills. Propagation of IIPR

Pigeonpea-wheat-moong 51,500 32,730 18,770 1.6 1,688 300 268 6,500 7.9

mini-dal mills through the formation of Moong-wheat 43,500 25,310 18,190 1.7 1,688 0 182 5,600 7.8
pulses producer and processor associations Paddy-veg pea 52,000 35,022 16,978 1.5 2,700 1,650 221 12,600 4.1
is one of the components of NFSM, which will Paddy-lentil 41,400 26,871 14,529 1.5 1,660 1,500 162 7,700 5.4
not only decrease post-harvest losses but Paddy-wheat-moong 60,190 46,129 14,061 1.3 3,188 1,000 308 12,600 4.8
also increase rural employment. Paddy-wheat 45,190 38,497 6,693 1.2 3,188 1,000 222 12,600 3.6

Source: Reddy (2006).

Socio-economic Constraints

Pulses production in India is characterised by a very high degree of diversity as indicated both by the number of crops, and their spatial distribution into varied agro-climatic conditions. Most of these crops are region-specific in the sense that a single state or a cluster of few states accounts for the bulk of the area and production of a specific pulse crop. Pulses such as pea, lentil, khesari and even chickpea indicate their regional distribution pattern. This diversity has several implications. In the first place it places serious limits to a single national policy for the promotion of pulses production in the country, and for the promotion of regional crop specific strategies to pulses development programmes. However, in view of the meagre resources available to pulses development as a group, this diversified approach may mean spreading the resources too thinly and in turn making the effort inconsequential. This dilemma may partly explain the absence of any major thrust on research on pulses, systems. Even rice-pulse crop sequence is better than the ricewheat cropping system. Overall, pulse based cropping systems are more suitable for resource poor farmers and water scarce regions. Hence policy options have to be evolved to incorporate at least one pulse crop in cropping systems to enhance returns from irrigated farming systems. However, these findings are only applicable in irrigated conditions.

It should be noted that the scope for introduction of pulse crops in rice-fallows (mostly un-irrigated) needs to be exploited with supplemental irrigation, considering the higher profitability and scope for pulse crops as rabi crop in the cropping systems. Table 8 (p 79) depicts the extent of rice-fallows, which can be put under pulse crops in the rabi season. There is vast area of fallow land in MP (78% of kharif rice area, which accounts for 4.4 million ha), Bihar (2.2million ha) and in West Bengal (1.7 million ha), which are most suitable for pulses cultivation.

december 26, 2009 vol xliv no 52

Economic & Political Weekly


Table 8: State-wise Estimates of Rice Fallow (Mostly Unirrigated) Area during Rabi higher market prices of pulses. Also, for certain pulses like khesari,
(1999-2000) State Kharif-Rice Area Rabi-Fallow Rice-Fallow Area as % % of Total demand is localised and markets are underdeveloped. In recent
('000 ha) ('000 ha) of Kharif Rice Area Rabi-Fallow Area years, there have been improvements in market information and
MP 5,596 4,382 78.3 37.6 infrastructure, and the price spread between consumer price and
Bihar 5,974 2,196 36.8 18.9 WB 4,617 1,719 37.2 14.8 producer price is reducing, especially in the harvest season.
Assam 2,234 539 24.1 4.6 UP 6,255 353 5.6 3.0 Crop-Specific Strategies
Others 15,508 2,463 15.9 21.0 After reviewing the all India coordinated pulses projects and also
Total 40,184 11,652 29.0 100 research work at IIPR Kanpur, the following crop specific strate-
Source: ICRISAT(2009). gies to increase area under pulses is suggested:
The major future expansion of area under pulse crops may
take place in rice fallows, where there is no other crop to com- Chickpea: There is a remote possibility for increasing area under
pete, however there are limitations on the successful propaga chickpea in north India. The past trends indicate that as soon as the
tion of these crops in this system. Most of the farmers in south area develops irrigation facilities, the chickpea area gets diverted
India, where large areas of rice fallows are located, are not aware of to other more remunerative crops like wheat, mustard, sunflower,
the potential economic benefits of using fallows for legume culti sugar cane, potato, etc. There are some possibilities of increasing
vation. In many cases, the farmers were found to have not only the area under chickpea in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka,
inadequate but also incorrect information about recommended Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat in partial replacement of rabi sor
pulse production technology. Governments should provide vari ghum and also rice fallows. If a thrust is given, it should be possible
ous incentives to increase area under pulses in rice fallows. to cover about 0.3-0.4 million hectare areas under this crop.
Other Issues in Increasing Production Pigeonpea: There are four distinct possibilities of area under this
crop (i) Popularisation of short duration varieties of pigeonpea in
Lack of Seed Availability: In any crop, generally an increase in sequence with wheat under irrigated conditions in the states of
the production and productivity is brought about by the wider UP, Haryana, Punjab and northern parts of MP. (ii) Replacement of
availability and adoption of improved varieties of seeds. Nearly uneconomic crops like cotton in Gujarat and Karnataka and mil
400 improved varieties of different pulse crops have been released lets such as sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, etc, in Andhra
for cultivation since the inception of coordinated pulses improve- Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. (iii) Popularisation of rabi
ment programme in 1967. But at present, only 124 varieties are in pigeonpea in the states of Orissa, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar and
the production chain. Among them a dozen are popular among eastern UP, and (iv) There is a very large scope of increasing area
farmers. The wide gap between the requirement of certified/ through inter-cropping of pigeonpea with soya bean in MP,
quality seeds and its distribution in India is a matter of great con- M aharashtra and Rajasthan; and with cotton, sorghum, pearl mil
cern. The seed replacement ratio is very low (2-5%), while the re let and groundnut in the states of AP, Maharashtra, Karnataka,
quired seed replacement ratio is 10%. By the year 2025, 4,487.2 G ujarat, MP and UP. It is expected to get additional coverage u nder
quintals (qt) of breeder seeds, 59,838.3 qt of foundation seeds pigeonpea by at least 1 million hectares by the turn of the century.
and 7,48,000 qt of certified seeds of chickpea, and 49.4 qt of
breeder seeds, 2,201 qt of foundation seeds and 91,740 qt of certi- Urdbean and Moongbean: There should be propagation of urd
fied seeds of pigeonpea will be required (Reddy 2005). Under bean/moongbean as a summer crop after the harvest of rabi crop
NFSM, breeder and foundation seed production has been en specially potato, sugar cane, mustard and wheat under irrigated
trusted to IIPR (Kanpur), while production of certified seeds is conditions in the states of Bihar, UP, Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal,
entrusted to National Seed Corporation and other state organisa- Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and MP and also after the
tions for timely supply to farmers at affordable prices. harvest of kharif paddy in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa,
Karnataka and West Bengal. There is some scope in kharif fallows
Lack of Cash and Credit: Cash is a key element for enabling before the sowing of rabi sorghum, rapeseed, mustard, safflower,
small farmers to shift from low input-low output to high input rainfed wheat, rabi sunflower in the states of Andhra Pradesh,
high output agriculture. But access to credit by these farmers is Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, MP, UP, Bihar and Gujarat.
low because of their low asset base and low risk bearing ability. In some regions, there is scope for intercropping with spring
Further, credit facilities for pulse crops both from formal and planted sugar cane, with maize, sorghum and pigeonpea, etc. All
i nformal sources are limited due to unstable returns. these practices have the potential to bring an additional area under
both these pulse crops to the extent of about 2 million hectares.
Marketing: Markets for legumes are thin and fragmented due to
scattered production and consumption across states. Farmers/ Lentil: There has been a constant increase in area under lentil.
village traders sell their marketed surplus immediately after har- Further, there are possibilities for expansion of area under this
vest, while some large traders/wholesalers trade between major crop especially after the harvest of paddy crop in rainfed areas in
markets and hoard pulses to take advantage of speculative gains UP, Bihar and West Bengal. It is presumed that an area of about
in the off-season. Due to this, farmers do not benefit from the 0.2 million hectares can be brought under this.
Economic & Political Weekly december 26, 2009 vol xliv no 52 79

Peas: There are remote possibilities of expansion of area under this crop. Like chickpea, this crop also faces competition with wheat in irrigated areas. However, there is still some scope for area expansion under this crop in UP, MP and Bihar at the tail end areas of canals where enough water is not available for growing wheat crop.

Rajmash and Broadbeans: These crops possess a very high yield potential with the use of high levels of inputs like fertiliser and irrigation. Yield levels up to 2.5 tonnes per hectare can easily be obtained in these crops. The potential areas are eastern UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat. It may be possible to cover about 0.1 million hectares area in four to five years time. However, these crops have a limited preference from consumers.

Farmers’ Production Strategies and Gaps in Technology

Some results of the farmers’ level of technology are given in this section (Reddy 2006). Farmers have been applying sub-optimal doses of fertilisers, pesticides and number of irrigations for pulses after meeting the requirements of wheat, paddy and vegetable crops. For pigeonpea and chickpea, most farmers applied 40kg/ha urea. To address the problem of wilt and pod borer, farmers used pesticides. Only occasionally some farmers applied farm yard manure at the rate of 2t/ha. For kharif pulses generally there is no application of irrigation. For rabi/spring pulses grown only in irrigated conditions, the number of irrigations depends on the availability and cost of irrigation. Generally the numbers of irrigations given at critical stages have been thus: for lentil three times, for chickpea two times, for fieldpea two times, for urd/moong (spring) three to four times have been given at critical stages. Economic returns far exceed the cost of irrigation and fertilisers, while the response for pesticide on pod borer and wilt is not certain.

The improved variety of pigeonpea (early) (UPAS-120) has recorded a yield increase of 44.4% over local varieties, chickpea variety (BG-256) recorded a yield increase of 43.6% over local varieties, and field pea (HFP-4) recorded the highest yield increase, i e, 54.5%. Improved varieties of lentil, moongbean and urdbean


Aggarwal, P K, M J Kropff, K G Cassman and H F M ten Berge (1997): “Simulating Genotypic Strategies for Increasing Rice Yield Potential” in Irrigated Tropical Environments”, Field Crops Research, 51: 5-17.

Ali, M (2004): “Pulses Research and Development in India: An Overview”, Agri Watch, Vol 3, (10), pp 79-83.

Bantilan, M C S and D Parthasarathy (1998): “Efficiency and Sustainability Gains from Adoption of Short Duration Pigeonpea”, Impact Series No 2, ICRISATI, Patancheru, India.

Deshpande, S D and G Singh (2001): “Long Term Storage Structures in Pulses”, National Symposium on Pulses for Sustainable Agriculture and N utritional Security, Indian Institute of Pulses R esearch, New Delhi, 17-19 April.

GoI (2009): “Data Base on Indian Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation”, http://

FAOSTAT (2009): “Online Interactive Database on A griculture”, FAOSTAT.

ICRISAT (2009): “The Rice Fallow Environment”,

Joshi, P K (2009): “Prices and Market Intervention in Pulses”, paper presented in Brainstorming workshop on Issues and Strategies for Increasing Productivity and Production of Pulses in India,

showed yield increases of around 30-35%. Overall with the adoption of improved varieties, gross returns increased more than the increase in costs, thereby increasing the cost-benefit ratio. In pigeonpea (late), it was found that 51.1% of the farmers used improved seeds, 42.2% used fertilisers, 25.4% used insect pest control, and 17.7% used seed inoculation with fungicides and 22.2% followed seed treatment with rhizobium culture. Non-availability of improved varieties and rhizobium culture are major reasons for their non-adoption.

Experience of on-farm research at ICRISAT in the Thadnapally district Sangareddy, in Andhra Pradesh shows that with adequate institutional support, easy supply of inputs and necessary credit facilities ensured by different government agencies, the improved technology can be effectively transferred with substantial gains in productivity of rainfed crops. However, it requires new farmer participatory approaches to increase the adoption under very complex situations. Another approach, which is most suitable under complex rainfed areas, is the farmer participatory research (FPR) developed to involve farmers more closely in on-farm research. Farmer-participatory testing will help refine the technologies, pinpoint and eliminate adoption constraints.


In short, to increase area and production of pulse crops we need crop specific and region specific approaches, which should be adopted in the overall framework of systems approach. The major thrust areas to be addressed are as follows (i) Replacement of cereal crops in the prevailing rice-wheat cropping systems with high yield varieties of pulses. (ii) Inclusion of short duration varieties of pulses as catch crop. (iii) Development of multiple disease and pest resistant varieties. (iv) Reducing storage loses and improving market information and infrastructure. (v) Linking MSP to market prices can bridge the gap between demand and supply. (vi) Developing high nitrogen fixing varieties, which will play a crucial role in sustainable agriculture, and (vii) Coordination of research, extension and farmers to encourage farmer’s participatory research.

organised by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, New Delhi, 9-10 June.

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Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation (2004): “Major Achievements and Highlights 2003-2004”, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India, New Delhi, highlight2004.htm.

Pawar, S E and R N Panday (2001): “Role of Induced Mutations in Pulse Crop Improvement in India”, National Symposium for Sustainable Agriculture and Nutritional Security, New Delhi, 17-19 April.

Reddy, A A (2004): “Consumption Pattern, Trade and Production Potential of Pulses”, Economic & Political Weekly, 30 October, pp 4854-60.

  • (2005): “Utilisation Pattern of Pulses”, paper presented at International Food Legumes Research Conference-IV, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, 18-22 October.
  • (2006): “Impact Assessment of Pulses Production Technology”, Research Report No 3, Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur.
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    – (2008): “Supply Side Constraints in Production of Pulses in India: A Case Study of Lentils”, Agricultural Economics Research Review, Vol 21, Conference issue, pp 281-83.

    Rego, T J and S P Wani (2002): “Environment-Friendly Management Options for Sustaining Productivity in the Asian Semi-Arid Tropics”, SANREM CRSP South Asia 2001 Annual Conference, Manila, Philippines, 28-30 May,

    Saxena, K B, D P Srivastava and S B S Tikka (2000): “Breaking Yield Barriers in Pigeonpea through Hybrid Breeding” in M Ali, A N Asthana, Y S Rathore, S N Gurha, S K Chaturvedi and S Gupta (ed.), A dvances in Management of Biotic and Abiotic Stresses in Pulse Crops, Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur, pp 211-19.

    Saxena, N P and C Johansen (1990): “Realised Yield Potential in Chickpea and Physiological Considerations for Further Genetic Improvement” in S K Sinha, P V Sane, S C Bhargava and P K Aggarwal (ed.), Proceedings of the International Congress of Plant Physiology, Vol 1, Indian Society for Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, pp 279-88.

    Sharma, D and N S Jodha (1982): “Pulses Production in Semi-arid Regions of India: Constraints and Opportunities”, Economic & Political Weekly, Issue No 52, Vol No XVII.

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