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Why pigeonpea?

Pigeonpea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.], the sixth most important edible legume crop, is grown on about 6 million hectares worldwide. India, Myanmar, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya are the world’s top pigeonpea producers.

Pigeonpea makes a significant contribution to human and animal nutrition. It is the main source of protein for the vegetarian population across the globe.

It is tolerant to dry and hot weather conditions and is thus an important crop in the semi-arid tropics. Its cultivation improves soil health owing to its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen and enrichment of soil organic carbon. The narrow genetic base of cultivated pigeonpea and the lack of high level of resistance/tolerance to important biotic/abiotic stresses hinders its genetic improvement. Yields have been stagnant at about 800 kg/ha for the past six decades.

What we achieved


  • 30 seed samples of four pigeonpea wild relatives (C. scarabaeoides, C. mollis, C. crassus and C. goensis) were collected from three countries: Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Pre-breeding and evaluation

  • Advanced-generation pre-breeding populations were developed through crossing wild Cajanus species from secondary (C. cajanifolius, C. acutifolius, C. scarabaeoides) and tertiary (C. platycarpus) gene pool with established cultivars of pigeonpea.
  • Fifty-five promising pre-bred lines incorporating traits from pigeonpea wild relatives were developed, comprising 12 with high yield, 20 with tolerance to salinity and 23 with disease resistance. Thirty-nine pod-borer tolerant ILs were also identified.
  • These introgression lines (ILs) were evaluated at four sites in India and across locations in Myanmar. Six promising high-yielding ILs were also evaluated in the farmers’ participatory varietal selection trials in locations across India.
  • Several promising high-yielding ILs were included in the Initial Varietal Testing of the All India Coordinated Research Project on Pigeonpea during 2018-19 and 2019–20 rainy seasons. One was included for the first time in multilocation trials in the Telangana State during the 2019–20 rainy season, while two others were included for the second year.
  • Eight pre-breeding populations are conserved in medium-term cold room of Theme Pre-breeding at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru, India and available for sharing through the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA).
  • Four promising ILs derived from wild species are conserved in the R.S. Paroda genebank at ICRISAT, Patancheru and available for sharing through SMTA.
  • Four ILs derived from wild species have been given a national identity number and are conserved in the National Bureau of Plant Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi, India, and are available for sharing through SMTA.

Project partners


  • National Agriculture Genetic Resources Center, Khumaltar, Nepal
  • Plant Genetic Resources Program, Bio-Resources Conservation Institute, Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Plant Resources Center, Hanoi, Vietnam

Pre-breeding and evaluation

Lead Institute: ICRISAT, Patancheru, Hyderabad, India


  • Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), Hyderabad, India
    Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Warangal, Telangana, India
    Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Palem, Telangana, India
  • Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India
    Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Department of Agricultural Research, Yezin, Myanmar

Pigeonpea key collections, materials and data

Pigeonpea collections

Pre-breeding materials 

  • All pre-breeding materials are conserved in the cold rooms of the pigeonpea breeding program at ICRISAT, Patancheru, India
  • Promising ILs are conserved in R.S. Paroda genebank at ICRSIAT, Patancheru, India and in the NBPGR, New Delhi, India.


Pigeonpea stories

Crop Trust stories
Partner stories
Relevant publications
  • Khoury, C.K., Castañeda-Alvarez, N.P., Achicanoy, H.A., Sosa, C.C., Bernau, V., Kassa, M.T., Norton, S.L., van der Maesen, L.J.G., Upadhyaya, H.D., Ramírez-Villegas, J., Jarvis, A., Struik, P.C. 2015. Crop wild relatives of pigeonpea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.]: Distributions, ex situ conservation status, and potential genetic resources for abiotic stress tolerance. Biological Conservation 184: 259–270.
  • Sharma, S. and Upadhyaya H.D. 2016. Interspecific hybridization to introduce useful genetic variability for pigeonpea improvement. Indian J Genet & Pl Breed. 76: 496-503.
  • Sharma, S. and Upadhyaya, H.D. 2016. Pre-breeding to expand primary genepool through introgression of genes from wild Cajanus species for pigeonpea improvement. Legume Perspectives Special Issue 11: 17-20.
  • Sharma, S. 2017. Pre-breeding using wild species for genetic enhancement of grain legumes at ICRISAT. Crop Science 57: 1132–1144.
  • Sharma, S., Paul, P., Kumar, C.V.S., Rao, J.P., Prasanthi, L., Muniswamy, S., Sharma, M. 2019. Evaluation and identification of promising introgression lines derived from wild Cajanus species for broadening the genetic base of cultivated pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.). Frontiers in Plant Science 10: 1269.
  • Sharma, S., Paul, P.J., Sameer Kumar, C.V., Nimje, C. 2020. Utilizing wild Cajanus platycarpus, a tertiary genepool species for enriching variability in the primary genepool for pigeonpea improvement. Frontiers in Plant Science 11:1055.
  • Hussain, M,E,, Sharma, S., Joel, A.J. and Kilian, B. 2022. Photoperiod insensitivity in pigeonpea introgression lines derived from wild Cajanus species. Agronomy 12, 1370. agronomy12061370
  • Sharma, S., Jaba, J., Rao, P.J.M., Prasad, S., Gopal, N.T.V.V., Sharma, H.C. and Kilian, B. 2022. Reaping the potential of wild Cajanus species through pre-breeding for improving resistance to pod borer, Helicoverpa armigera in cultivated pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.). Biology 11(4): 485. Doi: 10.3390/biology11040485
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