Strategies to increase Pulse production in India through New Technology Adoption
Authors: Ram Sewak Singh Tomar and Sushma Tiwari


In India pulses have long been considered as only source of protein and an indispensable constituent of diet for the poor man. A major proportion of the Indian population is dependent on pulse crops. The largest producer of pulses in the world is India but, the nation has not been able to achieve self-sufficiency. Overall, India accounts for 33% of the world area and 22% of the world production of pulses. Pulses are grown on 25.21 million hectares (mha) of area with an annual production of 19.78 million tonnes (mt) (FAO, 2014). There are many pulse crops grown in India but the major are chickpea, pigeonpea, lentil, moongbean, urdbean and fieldpea. 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. The reason behind less production is increase in erratic rainfall which has led to disturb the unfavourable climatic conditions such as drought, high temperature, alkanity and salinity etc. This has been due to the presence of a number of constrains in terms of raising the pulse production in India, such as yield gaps, abrupt climatic changes, pests and diseases, lack of good quality seeds, low rate of adoption etc. But, by following the other pathways to boost the production, namely adoption of improved cultivars, integrated pest and disease management, better access to improved seeds, reduction of yield gaps, and use of molecular marker technologies can lead to higher production. So, the changes in existing pulses production technology and implementation of the new ones 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. By following the process, it is an attempt to bring out insights that could possibly enable a pulse revolution in the near future, which is prerequisite.

Induction of Improved varieties/hybrids

The breakthrough in pulses yield has not been achieved till now, although breeding efforts in the past were rewarding in terms of insulation of varieties against major diseases (bringing stability), crop rotation, reducing crop duration (promoting crop diversification and intensification) and improving physical grain quality (seed size and colour). However, the major breakthrough in yield can be achieved through broadening the genetic base by strengthening prebreeding and developing core sets of germplasm; harnessing hybrid vigour through development of CMS-based hybrids in pigeonpea; mapping and tagging of genes/ QTLs (D Singh et al., 2016) and marker-assisted selection for resistance to insect pests and diseases, yield and grain quality; gene pyramiding for stable resistance, development of transgenics in chickpea, pigeonpea and Vigna for problems hitherto unsolved through conventional means like Helicoverpa pod borer and drought, and genomic research for understanding the structure and function of genes. High yielding and input-responsive genes are yet to be searched and transgressed in common varieties.

Better agricultural practices

The good agronomic practices alone can lead to increase in yield to the tune of 25-40%. But, with the development of efficient production technologies the yield can be reached to a higher level by implying on inter-cropping. There is also a need to develop appropriate production technologies for non-traditional areas and the cropping systems involving pulses, i.e. relay cropping rice fallows, summer/spring cultivation. Since the availability of labour for farm operations is reducing and cost of labour is increasing, there is need to develop crop management technologies for reducing the cost of production. Efforts are also needed to develop production technologies with innovative plant geometry to harness the energy sources. Efficient intercrops for pulses need to be identified and popularized among the farmers.

Integrated disease and pest management

Development of crops against biotic stresses is most critical in enhancing crop productivity. Fusarium wilt is a serious problem in pigeonpea, chickpea and lentil, causing substantial yield loss. Host-plant resistance is the best option. However, non-availability of seeds of wilt-resistant varieties and existence of pathogenic variability invite integrated approach of wilt management. A glaring example of containing pigeonpea wilt has been well demonstrated in Maharashtra. This could be possible by ensuring fungicide treatment of seeds being sold to farmers, adequate production and distribution of Trichoderma and creating awareness about the wilt-resistant varieties. H. armigera, the key pest of chickpea and pigoenpea, continues to cause heavy losses. IPM modules for management of this dreaded pest have been developed and field-tested. These modules will be effective only after ensuring accurate forewarning and forecasting of disease and pest epidemic. Integrated management of diseases and pests including use of resistance cultivars, use of healthy seeds, modification of cultural practices, judicious use of fungicides and bio-control agents may contribute substantially in stabilizing the yields. Therefore, it is imperative to refine and modify the IPM modules according to the needs.

Improved machines for harvesting, threshing, processing and transportation

As of now the post-harvest processing of pulses is mainly handled by the private sector. But with installation of efficient, small dal chakkies/processing units in villages on subsidized rates will reduce the cost of processing and hence ensure their availability at cheaper rates. Distribution of seed-storage bins to the farmers at subsidized rates and mass awareness campaign for adoption of scientific methods of storage of pulses at the village level are likely to reduce losses from stored grain pests in pulses. Efforts to minimize the post-harvest losses in pulse crops must be made in the national interest.

Area expansion

Pulses have tremendous scope for area expansion. Short duration varieties of pulses can fit well in various cropping systems. About 2.5 M ha additional area can be brought under different pulses through cropping system manipulation, like mungbean and urdbean as catch crop in summer/spring under cereal-based cropping systems of IGP, intercropping short-duration pulses (mungbean, urdbean, cowpea) in sugarcane, millets cotton, etc. advocating new cropping systems such as pigeonpea-wheat in the north, rice-lentil in the east and urdbean-rice in the southern peninsula. Out of 10.5 M ha rice fallows of eastern (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam), Central (Chhattisgarh) and southern states (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu), 2.5 M ha can be utilized by expanding lentil, mungbean and urdbean cultivation.

Minimizing post-harvest losses

Post-harvest losses in pulses during harvest, transport, threshing and storage are estimated7 to be 15-20%. Storage losses alone account for 7.5%. A mass awareness programme to educate farmers about scientific storage and distribution of seed-storage bins will considerably reduce spoilage of grains and ensure better-quality grains. Similarly, installation of efficient and modern dal mills in the production hub is expected to increase dal recovery by 8-10%. At village/Panchayat level, the mini dal mills developed by IIPR, CIAE, CFTRI and other institutions need to be popularized so that the farmers can get higher return from their produce, store them for a longer period and generate self-employment.

Use of Molecular Marker Technology

The employment of genetic variation as identified by DNA-based molecular markers in plant breeding programmes may be useful in addressing abiotic stresses during crop production. Different DNA-based molecular markers such as restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of nuclear DNA and chloroplast DNA (Tomar et al., 2013), amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis, inter simple sequence repeat and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis, sequence-tagged microsatellite and simple sequence repeats have been used by different workers in the genetic diversity study in crops. However, simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers have several desirable features such as multiallelic nature, high reproducibility, co-dominant inheritance, abundance and extensive genome coverage (Tomar et al., 2012; Tomar et al., 2016). Molecular characterization of germplasm prior to their use in hybridization may enhance diversity among gene pools and maximize genetic variation present in breeding populations. This may also minimize the efforts in the screening for direct selection in conventional breeding or indirect selection through gene (s).


D Singh, CK Singh J Taunk, RS Tomar R. Singh, D Shah, AK Chaturvedi, M Pal, R Singh, SK
Dubey. 2016. Molecular assortment of Lens species with different adaptations to
drought conditions using SSR markers. Plos One DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0147213.

FAOSTAT (2014)

Tomar R.S., Vinod, S.M.S.Tomar, K. Bhojraj Naik, S.V. Saiprasad, N.K. Singh and Suresh Chand. 2012. Development of mapping populations for drought tolerance in wheat.Indian J. Genet., 72(2): 195-207.

Tomar R.S., Deshmukh R.K, Naik B. K., Vinod and Tomar S.M.S. 2013. Development of chloroplast-specific microsatellite markers for molecular characterization of alloplasmic lines and phylogenetic analysis in wheat. Plant Breeding 133(1):12-18

Tomar RS, S Tiwari, Vinod, KB Naik, S Chand, Rupesh Deshmukh, Niharika Mallick, Sanjay Singh, SMS Tomar and NK Singh. 2016. Molecular and morpho-agronomical characterization of root architecture at seedling and reproductive stages for drought tolerance in wheat PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0156528

About Author / Additional Info:
I am research associate at nrcpb