It is one of the best examples of transfer of technology in recent years

Pigeonpea, commonly known as redgram, arhar or tur, is an important commercial crop for dryland farmers of Bidar district in Karnataka. The district is considered as the pulse bowl of Karnataka as different pulses are grown there, and redgram is one of the varieties ideal for drylands.

“The crop owes its popularity to the fact that being a leguminous plant, it is capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen and thereby restores nitrogen content in the soil. Its deep rooting system helps in extracting nutrients and moisture from deeper soil layers thus making it suitable for rainfed condition,” says Dr. Ravi C. Deshmukh, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Bidar

Biological plough

Deeper rooting system of the crop also helps in breaking the tough dry soil and it is also called as ‘biological plough’.

But though the crop has been cultivated for many years in the region, the yield somehow was not up to desired levels.

According to Dr. Deshmukh, there are many reasons for this like use of low yielding varieties, poor level of management practices, particularly plant protection measures, high plant population, not adopting proper agronomic practices, damage due to drought or heavy rains in rainfed areas, spread of diseases, imbalanced use of fertilizers, lack of awareness on integrated nutrient management and maintenance of soil fertility.

“These posed a big challenge for us when we were working on a suitable strategy to help increase yield,” he says.

The Bidar wing of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra organized a farmers-scientists interface meet, wherein progressive farmers discussed various aspects to boost the yield.

The usual practice among Karnataka farmers is to broadcast the seeds on the field like paddy. This results in uneven plant population that ultimately gives low yield.

Alternate practice

“We decided to transplant the seedlings grown in polythene bags to the main field. It is an alternate agronomic practice to overcome late sowing and related lower yields,” explains Dr. Deshmukh

The process involves raising the seedlings in polythene bags in the nursery for one month and transplanting them in the field during onset of monsoon.

It is one of the best examples for transfer of technology in recent years after Bt cotton in northern district of Karnataka, according to Dr. Deshmukh. Today not only Bidar but adjoining districts also have started to grow redgram in poly bags.

Processing units

Several redgram processing units are being established in the district, simultaneously creating employment opportunities. Recently redgram farmers in the district have started forming associations to export their product.

“Interaction with farmers revealed that the main challenge in redgram was the time of sowing. Farmers sow during late June or early July. Any delay in sowing affected yields badly. Sowing was completely dependent on monsoon.

“To overcome this natural problem today several hundred farmers grow this crop in polybags first and then transplant them in the main field thus getting a better yield,” he says. He lists out some major advantages for the farmers such as: Sowing can be done in the second week of May every year even if it does not rain at the right time; due to early sowing, pod borer insect damage can be avoided; drought resistance develops due to deep rooting; it is easy to spray insecticides as plants are at definite intervals; wider spacing allows enough sunlight to reach the leaves of each pigeonpea plant thus reducing competition for water, space and nutrients.

Seed saving

Seed saving is considerable as only 2 kg of seeds is required per hectare against 10-12 kg per hectare in normal practice.

To know more about this technology readers can contact Dr. Ravi C. Deshmukh, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Bidar -585 401, Phone: 08482-244007, 244155, Mob: 09480696318, e-mail : kvkbidar@rediffmail.com, e-mail : rcdeshmukh_1957@rediffmail.com