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Pigeonpea—A Summer Legume for Wheat Growers

Pigeonpea may be on its way to becoming a favorite rotation crop for U.S. wheat growers. At least that's what Agricultural Research Service scientists at the Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El Reno, Oklahoma, are investigating.

"We are evaluating performance of pigeonpea as an alternative summer legume crop that can be planted after wheat," says ARS agronomist Srinivas C. Rao. "We are looking for a variety that can grow and mature between the time wheat has been harvested, which is usually June, and replanting that occurs before the first frost in October.

"Pigeonpea varieties mature in 120 to 250 days. So some will fit into this narrow window with just enough time to reach maturity before cold weather hits," Rao says.

Rao brought several different varieties of pigeonpea germplasm from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India.More than 90 percent of the world's pigeonpea crops are grown there.

Several varieties from the institute's germplasm collection show promise.Rao is also looking at Georgia-2, a variety developed by Sharad Phathak, a scientist with the University of Georgia.

Pigeonpea grows well in tropical and subtropical environments, but they can also tolerate drought--an added bonus for Southern Great Plains states that may not get much rain during summer months.

Rao says pigeonpea leaves and stems can provide high-quality forage for grazing livestock at a time when productivity of warm-season forages is declining.This little green vegetable, which looks similar to sweet green peas, contains 17 percent protein.

The Grazinglands Research Laboratory is looking at the crop's nutritive values and their effect on animal performance, but no results are yet available. Another advantage of this promising crop: "Pigeonpea has the potential to protect soil from erosion and degradation, while adding nitrogen to the soil for next year's wheat crop," says Rao. — By Tara Weaver, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff, 6303 Ivy Lane, Greenbelt, Maryland 20770, phone (301) 344-2824.

Srinivas C. Rao is at the USDA-ARS Grazinglands Research Unit, 7207 West Cheyenne St., El Reno, OK 73036; phone (405) 262-5291, fax (405) 262-0133, e-mail

"Pigeonpea—A Summer Legume for Wheat Growers" was published in the February 1998 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. Click here to see this issue's table of contents.

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