The world’s population is projected to grow to 9.1 billion people by 2050 (FAO, 2009). It is obvious that urgent action is required to ensure increased food supply and food security considering the restricted land resources. Food security has grown more important on both the international and domestic fronts as a result of the global supply, economic growth, and rising population in emerging countries. The ICAR established an independent unit at Kanpur on pulses research in 1984 by upgrading the Project Directorate (Pulses). Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Pulses grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. The United Nations declared 2016 as “International Year of pulses” with the objectives of increasing production and consumption of pulses by 10% by 2025 and creating awareness of benefits of pulses by utilizing social media. Pulses are rich source of protein (20 to 25%) ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen (30-150 kg ha-1) and a consistent source of income and employment to small and marginal farmers and thus hold a premier position in the world. Pulses are grown in more than 100 countries covering an area of more than 95.72 M ha with more than 92.28 million MT annual productions and the productivity is around 964 kg/ha. During the year, 2017–18, the total pulses production in India was 18.84 MT from the area of 25.48 M ha with average productivity of 745 kg ha-1. 

Pulses are rich source of many vitamins and minerals (iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium). The deficiency of various minerals in different parts of the world led to cardiovascular disease and imbalance in majority of the biological pathways. Pulses provide adequate minerals required to fulfill nutritional requirements. Pulses are mostly cultivated under rainfed conditions and do not require intensive irrigation facilities and this is the reason why pulses are grown in areas left after satisfying the demand for cereals and cash crops. The attention is rising and the burning topic “soil quality enhancement” has come to the scenario. In this context, pulse-inclusive production system can be a strategic modus to take care of soil health as well as human prosperity. Pulses are next to cereals in terms of their economic and nutritional importance to human health. Highly water efficient pulses like lentil, chickpea, mung bean and black gram are effectively grown in drought prone areas and improve soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Pulses are well-known to participate in enhancing soil carbon sequestration and remediating soil from poisonous metal and organic pollutants.

The targeted production and productivity is possible by way of harnessing this yield gap by growing pulses in new niches, precision farming, quality inputs, soil test-based INM, timely weed management and mechanized method of pulse cultivation complimented with generous governmental policies and appropriate funding support to implementing states/stake holders. According to the Vision-2030 document prepared by the ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur, a growth rate of 4.2% has to be ensured in order to meet the projected demand of 32 million tonnes of pulses by 2030. Plant nutrient, suitable cultivars and correct fertilizer have significant effect on yield and yield component. 

Generally, Indian soils are lacking in effective and specific strains of Rhizobium which are responsible for symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Phosphorus is regarded as the pioneer plant nutrient needed by the leguminous crops for rapid and proper root development, which later on becomes helpful for better nodulation by Rhizobium bacteria. Sulphur deficiency is becoming more critical with each passing year which is severely restricting crop yield, produce quality, nutrient use efficiency and economic returns on millions of farms. Like any essential nutrient, sulphur also has certain specific function to perform in the plant. thus, sulphur deficiencies can only be corrected by the application of sulphur fertilizer. Application of fertilizer to alkaline soils has been reported to reduce the pH of soil. 

Bio-fertilizers may colonize the rhizosphere and promotes growth by increasing the availability and supply of nutrients and growth stimulus to crop. Nitrogen fixer and phosphate solubilizing microorganisms play an important role in supplementing nitrogen and phosphorus to the plant, allowing a sustainable use of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers. Some important strains are mentioned as plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) and that can be used as biofertilizers i.e. Rhizobium, Pseudomonas, Azospirillum, Azotobacter, Bacillus, Mycobacterium, Flavobacterium, etc. Multi-location trials had indicated that inoculation of seed with phospho-bacterial increased the yield of rice by 10-20 per cent, wheat by 10-40 per cent, bengal gram by 10-30 per cent, and potato by 30-35 per cent over control. 


The Missing Link for Sustainable Pulse Production

1. Rainfed ecology: Rainfed agriculture has emerged as an opportunity in raising pulse growth. Food production is tied up with the amount and distribution of rainfall. Pulses have been cultivated since time immemorial in rainfed conditions which are characterized by poor soil fertility and moisture stress environments show remarkable variability and diversity in terms of varieties and quantity of production. Nitrogen and phosphorus are known to have a great impact on nodulation and thereby, on productivity of legumes. Availability of phosphorus is also an issue in legume-based cropping systems as it is considered the most important nutrient limiting pulses production. 

2. Lack of Irrigation facilities: Lack of assured irrigation during crop growing season coupled with poor soils and frequent droughts translate into poor crop productivity levels. Irrigation sources like dams, ponds, tanks, lakes, streams, wells, bore wells and irrigation canals exist in the region. However, low and erratic rainfall in the region has led to heavy dependence on groundwater for irrigation. About 42 % of gross sown area in Bundelkhand region is under irrigation and irrigation through canal accounts for coverage of 24.7% of gross irrigated area. Tube wells are the largest source of irrigation covering about 64

percent of the gross irrigated area in the region. The situation has lead to over exploitation of underground water for irrigation purposes in this water scarce region.

3. Nutrient management in rainfed area: There is a significant mismatch between pulse nutrient demand and supply. Farmers rarely use P fertilizer, resulting in an unbalanced nutrient ratio in the soil, which led to the development of multi-nutrient deficits. Nutrient imbalance is one of the major abiotic constraints limiting the productivity of pulses and is gradually deteriorating soil health. The in-built mechanism of biological N fixation enables pulse crops to meet 80-90% of their N requirements, hence a small dose of 15-25 kg N ha-1 is recommended as starter dose to meet out the requirement of most of the pulse crops. 

4. Heavy infestation of diseases, insect pest and weeds: Mono-cropping of pulses year-after-year has intensified the incidences of diseases, insect-pests and weeds in pulse crops growing regions. In pigeon pea, chickpea and lentil crops, Fusarium wilt is the important biotic and stresses affecting production. In pigeon pea crop, sterility mosaic and Phytopthora blight are the other important diseases in the region. Yellow mosaic disease in mung bean and urdbean crops while powdery mildew and rust diseases in field pea cause significant crop losses in the region. 

Among insect-pest, gram pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera) causes significant crop losses in pigeon pea and chickpea in the region. Mungbean and urdbean crops suffer from spotted pod borer, whitefly, aphids and thrips. A change in incidences and severity of insect pest is frequent in the region, with minor pest like pod fly and thrips emerging as major ones in the recent past. Weeds pose a serious threat in pulse crops due to the slow initial growth (Kumar et al. 2013) and they also hinder in intercultural operations and harvesting. Some weeds also act as alternate host-insect-pest and diseases of pulse crops. 


Technological Interventions for Enhancing Pulse Production

1. Improved varieties (New Plant types, Short duration and Disease resistance): Intensive breeding efforts led to development of new varieties with short duration, disease resistance, large seed, photo-thermo insensitivity and amenable for late planting besides higher yield which facilitated crop diversification, intensification and introduction in new niches and cropping systems. In 1988, a dwarf-leafless (leaflets converting into tendrils) variety of field pea (Aparna) was developed. This dwarf variety responded well to high plant population, irrigation and nitrogen, and thus significant increase in productivity. Later on, many dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties (Sapna, Uttra, Malviya Matar 15, KPMR 400, KPMR 522, Vikash, Prakash, Pant P 74) were developed. 


Short duration: The traditional long duration varieties often experienced terminal drought resulting in partial or complete failure of crop, encountered more pest infestation and favoured mono-cropping. Therefore, efforts were made to develop short-duration varieties in all pulse crops with matching phenology for different agro-ecological regions. The advent of short duration varieties of pigeonpea during 1975-76 such as ‘Pusa Ageti’, ‘UPAS 120’, etc. led to the introduction of pigeonpea in the irrigated area of north-west plains under pigeonpea – wheat double cropping system. Later on, many short-duration (130-160 days) varieties such as ICPL 151, Pusa 33, Pusa 855, Manak, Al 15, Al 201 and Pusa 992 were developed. Mid-May to mid-June was found to be the optimum time of planting for the success of pigeon pea-wheat rotation. 


2. Sowing techniques: Traditionally, pulses are sown on flat seed beds after land preparation. In the eastern region (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and parts of central India, kharif-planted pulses often suffer due to water stagnation during the rainy season which ultimately reduces productivity. During 1994-95, ridge planting of pigeon pea was conceptualized and evaluated under AICPIP/AICRP which showed very encouraging results in the maintenance of optimal plant populations and consequently higher productivity due to proper drainage. Ridges were made at 60-75 cm distance leaving 30 cm wide furrows for drainage of rainwater. Two to three rows of short-duration legumes such as mungbean/urdbean can be successfully planted on ridges. This system helps in reducing the quantity of irrigation water, and also minimizes the incidence of Phytophthora blight in pigeonpea. 


3. Cropping system: Development of short duration and disease resistant varieties of different pulses paved way for design and development of new cropping systems both in rainfed and irrigated areas. Some of the examples are pigeon pea-wheat in N-W plains, maize– pre-rabi pigeonpea/ frenchbean in N-E plains, rice–wheat–mungbean, maize-potato/mustard–mungbean/urdbean in northern plains and rice-urdbean in coastal peninsula. 


4. Water management: Pulses are generally grown under rainfed conditions (84%). However, they respond well to limited irrigation. Some of the pulses like rabi Frenchbean and summer mungbean/urdbean in northern plains are cultivated under irrigated conditions. Chickpea has maximum area (35%) under irrigation in the country. Various approaches such as crop growth stage, IW/CPE ratioand cumulative evaporation have been used in scheduling irrigations in different pulses. In field pea, 50% flowering stage was found most critical for irrigation. Similarly, in lentil and chickpea, one irrigation at the early pod filling stage was found most effective. 

5. Rice fallow technology: The 44 m ha area under rice, about 11 m ha remains fallow during rabi season due to several bio-physical, biotic and abiotic stresses and socioeconomic constraints after harvest of kharif crop. Soil moisture is the most critical constraint for cultivation of rabi crops in rice fallows. Short duration pulses are considered to be the most ideal crops. Efforts have been made to identify suitable crops and varieties for rice fallows. Sowing of lentil, chickpea, and urdbean/mungbean in the eastern and central areas, and in the peninsular region. Pulses experience severe losses as a result of several illnesses and insect infestations. 

Among insect pests, gram pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera) being polyphagous in nature causes considerable yield loss in chickpea and pigeonpea. Similarly, Fusarium wilt is the most widely distributed pathogen affecting chickpea, lentil, peas and pigeonpea. Host plant resistance is the best option for disease management which has been rigorously attempted and for major diseases donors as well as elite varieties are now available. For insect pests, integrated approach combing cultural, botanicals and chemicals have been advocated. Specific integrated approach for wilt and gram pod borer management has been developed. 

6. Crop Protection: Pulses suffer heavily due to a large no. of insect pests and diseases. Among insect pests, gram pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera) being polyphagous in nature causes considerable yield loss in chickpea and pigeonpea. Similarly, Fusarium wilt is the most widely distributed pathogen affecting chickpea, lentil, peas and pigeonpea. Specific integrated approach for wilt and gram pod borer management has been developed. 



The advance released technologies have the potential of doubling production at national level without increasing area under pulses if farmers adopt the recommended technological intervention for pulses production system and mange use unbalanced nutrient ratio in the soil, which are the development of multi-nutrient supply. Nutrient imbalance is one of the major abiotic constraints limiting productivity of pulses and is gradually deteriorating soil health. The yield enhancing technologies and nutrient management approaches wider adoption among the farming community in their respective farming systems and increase production and productivity of pulse crops in the country.

Dr Neha Dahiya, Assistant Professor

Dr Neha Dahiya, Assistant Professor

School of Agricultural Studies, Geeta University, Panipat, Haryana