Anant Bahadur Singh, a farmer from Amethi Uttar Pradesh, who has been growing arhar (tur/pigeonpea) , a key variety of pulses since 1990s, has taken up cultivation of a new variety Pusa Arhar-16 developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi, since its introduction in 2018.

According to Singh, Pusa Arhar-16 matures in about 120 days against the maturity time in the range of 165 to 190 days for all the other varieties. The shorter duration makes it easier for Singh to take up wheat sowing well on time.

For the last two years, Singh has been sowing the Pusa Arhar 16 variety as his kharif crop between June and July, while harvesting it during October-November. This provides him ample time to prepare his field for wheat and mustard, both rabi crops.

The yield of Pusa Arhar-16 is more than two tonnes per hectare compared to around 1.5 –1.8 tonnes for other varieties such as Pusa-991 and 992, Pusa-2001 and 2002 etc. Encouraged by the higher yield, Singh is currently supplying seeds of the PUSA Arhar-16 variety to other farmers in Uttar Pradesh.


Seed multiplication talks on

According to scientists at the IARI, the Pusa Arhar-16 has been released for the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) region. However, farmers from other states, including Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, have started to cultivate the variety. Currently, discussions are on with the private sector seed companies for seed multiplication so that the variety reaches a large number of farmers.

In the North Western Plains zone such as Punjab and rainfed areas of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, the existing arhar varieties have crop duration of 140 -160 days. These varieties mature by the end of November, thus leaving little time for land preparation for rabi or winter crops including most varieties of wheat. Besides, crops like chickpea and mustard cannot be sown after November.

PUSA Arhar-16 increases the cropping intensity (besides the nitrogen fixation quality of the pulses). Because of semi-dwarf size of plant application of insecticide is easier and conducive for the usage of combine harvester machine, which makes operations – reaping, threshing, and winnowing into a single process mechanized harvesting.

“In case of delayed monsoon in the northern region, Pusa Arhar-16 can be planted up to first week of July, yet it can be harvested by end of October or November first week,” R S Raje, Principal Scientist and PI, Pigeonpea Breeding, Division of Genetics, IARI said.

Higher mean yield

According to IARI scientists, the Pusa Arhar-16 has undergone several field trials across multiple locations. Pusa Arhar-16 had a mean yield of two tonne per hectare over two years 2012 and 2013 in the stations. The field trial at IARI, Delhi which was higher than the mean yield of the check varieties VLA-1 (1.2 tonnes per hectare) and PS 4242 (1.5 tonnes per hectare). Besides the higher yield, the quality of Pusa Arhar-16 is better than other varieties with relatively lesser cooking time.

As pulses are mostly grown under rainfed conditions, farmers consider pulses to be a risky crop that takes a long time to mature. In the case of arhar, the duration of crop is the longest amongst all the pulses. Out of the total country’s tur or arhar production of 3.89 million tonnes in 2019-20, Karnataka (29%), Maharashtra (28%), Uttar Pradesh (7%), Madhya Pradesh (7%) and Telangana (7%) contribute around 78% of the total output.

Key to diversification

“Pusa Arhar-16 variety is key to crop diversification and would help soil health and conserve natural resources. The variety would also fetch remunerative returns for the farmers,” Ashok Kumar Singh, Director, IARI, said. Singh said the arhar variety has been recommended for Delhi and it got an encouraging response from the farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Maharashtra as well.

Arhar is the second-most produced and consumed pulses after chana. Arhar is mainly consumed in the form of splits as dal. Prices of Arhar had shot up to Rs 200 per kg in retail outlets in 2016 due to lower production. Domestic production of pulses in the country has remained short of the demand.

The gap between demand and supply of pulses in the country are met by imports mostly from Myanmar, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Sudan. Imports from least developed countries are exempted from any duties.

IARI scientists say that the new variety PUSA Arhar-16 is expected to boost production, thus reducing India’s import dependence. “Better quality of new variety of Pusa Arhar-16, would help farmers in better price realisation and help in processing of the produce,” Nitin Kalantri, CEO, Kalantri Food Products Ltd, a Latur-based processor of pulses in Maharashtra, said. The short duration and semi-dwarf variety is expected to ensure that farmers get adequate time for preparation of rabi or winter crops besides helping the soil in nitrogen fixation.

( The writer is aDelhi-based writer on agriculture and food security. Views are personal)