September 18, 2020

Picture: Minister for Agriculture Hon  Dr  Mahendra Reddy and Assistant Minister for Agriculture Hon  Viam Pillay during the launch of newly released pigeon pea variety

Fifteen years of research conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Research Division has seen the release of the new Jaagriti pigeon pea variety today in Korovuto, Nadi.

While officiating at the release of the new pigeon pea variety at Kishore Verma’s Farm in Nadi today, Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy highlighted the significance of the release of the new variety in regards to reducing the country’s import bill on pulse crops.

“Our agriculture sector is challenged by our dependency on imported food, low private sector participation, inadequate domestic food production and productivity and market access for our exports.

“The major challenge is to produce more of our requirements locally in-country, while providing economic opportunities, greater self-reliance and enhanced food and nutrition security in the process,” said Hon. Reddy. 

“On average, Fiji imports about 398 metric tonnes of assorted pulses annually valued at approximately $12.5million. It also exports on average of 44 metric tonnes of assorted pulses valued at $0.3million,” added Minister Reddy.

In 2019, 216 hectares of land was cultivated with pulse, engaging 9,600 farmers and harvested 2,240 metric tonnes, an increase of 430 tonnes as compared to 2018.

“Research is playing a vital role in finding answers to questions, in the process generating scientific data, which are converted to practical information for the users, and it is these users who contribute immensely to the agriculture sector,” said Dr. Reddy.

Upon receiving the pulse seeds planting material, farmer Jolame Qoro of Tunalia acknowledged the contribution of the Ministry of Agriculture through the release of this new variety. 

“I am very happy to receive the seeds of the Jaagriti variety, I will surely utilise this assistance and distribute the planting material once I have harvested to my fellow mataqali members so they can also plant it,” said Mr. Qoro.

61-year-old farmer Kamal Chand of Solovi also thanked the Ministry of Agriculture for their untiring work in providing crop extension and research services for the benefit of farmers.

“Indeed it is a pleasing day for me and I am very grateful to the Ministry for their continued efforts to help us farmers, I have received these seeds today and I am very happy as I have 6-acres of land to plant and I will dedicate some of it to plant this pigeon pea,” said Mr. Chand. 

Under the Ministry of Agriculture’s Strategic Priority 2: ‘Increase farmer household income for sustainable livelihood’ the release of the pigeon pea variety is targeted towards ensuring sustainable livelihoods. 

Pulses are part of the legume family (any plants that grow from pods), but the term “pulse” refers only to the dry edible seed within the pod. Pigeon pea, cowpea, urd and mung are the most common types of pulses. Pulses are special because they have distinct health benefits apart from other legumes.

Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) also known as red gram is a perennial legume from the family of Fabaceae (crops that produces beans/pods) Pigeon pea is one of the promising crops for drier areas of Fiji. 

The green and dry peas can be cooked in many different dishes and are very nutritious, having about 20% protein per 100 grams. It also belongs to the family Leguminosae, crops that fixes atmospheric nitrogen and enriches the soil. 

There are two types of pigeon pea varieties, photoperiod sensitive (seasonal) and photoperiod non-sensitive (round-year production). 

A new photoperiod sensitive variety of Pigeon pea (ICPL 96053) was introduced from International Crops Research Institute for the Semi - Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in 2005, has been selected to be released by the Research Division which has been named Jaagriti meaning ‘To Enlighten’. 

This variety is resistant to Fusarium wilt and is less infested by Maruca testiculas (pod borer) since it has lateral flowering patterns. It is high yielding with uniform pods therefore it has a lot of potential for local markets.