Scientists develop chickpea harvestable by machine

The taller variety crop also has greater tolerance to diseases and drought

February 05, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 08:13 am IST - SANGAREDDY:

Imagine 2.25 tonnes of chickpea variety being harvested in just 75 minutes! The process — including cutting and threshing — would normally take three days, but has been made possible due to the breeding of a taller variety chickpea that can be harvested by standard machinery.

The chickpea variety, NBeG 47, is the first machine harvestable variety released in Andhra Pradesh suitable for the State’s variable climate. This development was demonstrated recently in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, showing how time and money can be saved, according to a release here on Thursday by International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT).

The chickpea variety planted in farmer B. Rameswar Reddy’s field was developed by Veera Jayalakshmi, Principal Scientist (Chickpea Breeding) at Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University in Nandyal, with support from the ICRISAT.

“Currently chickpea farming in Andhra Pradesh is partially mechanised – the crop is cut manually and then fed into a threshing machine. The total mechanisation of harvesting is cost-effective and quicker, reducing the risk of the ripened crop’s exposure to untimely rain or other extreme weather conditions,” says Pooran M. Gaur, Principal Scientist, Chickpea Breeding at ICRISAT.

Dr. Jayalakshmi says the farmer will keep a portion of seeds for his next crop and make available this new variety to other interested farmers in the region. She adds that machine harvesting is better for the health of the labourers, especially women, as handling the crop causes painful dermatitis due to its high acid content. This innovative variety was developed to address the issue of labour shortage on farms and reduce drudgery, especially for women labourers. The yield of this new variety, 2.25 tonnes per hectare, is on par and in some conditions better than the existing variety JG 11 (1.75 to 2.5 tonnes per hectare), provided the prescribed plant spacing is followed. Other traits such as disease and drought tolerance are also on a par with the JG 11 variety.

Y. Padmalatha, Associate Director of Research, Regional Agricultural Research Station, Nandyal, says that while scientists come up with innovations for better farming practices, policy makers need to provide much needed support to price pulses like chickpea so farmers get consistent market value for their crops. The demonstration of the variety was recently held at Vennapusapalli village of Andhra Pradesh, where local community leaders and farmers from other villages learned about the new variety. More research efforts are underway to develop machine harvestable chickpea varieties suited for other parts of India like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

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