Pigeonpea
Cajanus cajan

Summary


Common Name

Its common name is pigeon pea (van der Maesen).

Scientific Name

The scientific name is Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp. (van der Maesen).

Cultivars

ICRISAT (India) has conducted extensive research and breeding with pigeon pea. The species is very variable and numerous cultivars are available. In Hawai`i, the low-growing cultivars 'Norman' and 'FL81d' are recommended by the NRCS for their root knot nematode resistance.

Seed Description

Seeds range in color from white, cream, brown, purplish to almost black, and are plain or mottled. They are globose to ellipsoid or squarish in shape (van der Maesen).

Seedling Description

Pigeon pea seedlings emerge 2 to 3 weeks after sowing. Vegetative growth begins slowly but accelerates at 2-3 months (van der Maesen).

Mature Plant Description

Pigeon pea is an erect shrub or short-lived (1-5 years) perennial legume often grown as an annual crop, 1 to 4 meters high. The leaves have three leaflets. Leaflets are elliptic to lanceolate, green and pubescent above and silvery greyish-green with longer hairs below, 2.5-10 cm long and up to 3.5 cm wide. The flowers are yellow with red/reddish brown lines or a red outside, borne in terminal racemes, and measure 1.2-1.7 cm in diameter. Pods are straight to sickle shaped, 5-10 cm long and 0.5-1.5 cm wide, glabrous and glandular (Bogdan).

Temperature

Pigeon pea's optimum temperatures range from 18 to 38 °C (van der Maesen). Most cultivars are not frost tolerant (Bogdan).

Origin and Geographic Distribution

Pigeon pea is indigenous to India and spread to South East Asia. It is now grown throughout the tropics, especially in India and East Africa (van der Maesen).

Ecology

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Water

Optimal rainfall for pigeon pea is between 600-1000 mm/year. It does not tolerate waterlogging well (van der Maesen). It does have some drought tolerance (FAO).

Nutrients

Pigeon pea can grow on infertile as well as fertile soils. It has a relatively low (uneconomical) response to fertilizer (van der Maesen). Bogdan reports pigeon pea responding well to P and modestly to K. N applications usually reduce yields.

Soil pH

Pigeon pea grows best at a pH between 5.0-7.0 (van der Maesen).

Soil Type

Pigeon pea will grow on a wide range of soils from coarse to fine textured. It will not do well on waterlogged clays (Bogdan).

Shade Tolerance

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Salinity Tolerance

Pigeon pea has some salt tolerance (electrical conductivity from 0.6-1.2 S/m). (van der Maesen). It is sensitive to salt spray (FAO).

Herbicide Sensitivity

The FAO reports that pigeon pea is fairly tolerant of herbicides.

Life Cycle

Vegetative growth is slow initially. Seedlings emerge 2-3 weeks after sowing. Growth accelerates at about 2-3 months. Half of the plants begin to flower within 56-210 days after sowing. Maturity ranges from 95 to 256 days. Short days will accelerate flowering and reduce length growth. (van der Maesen).

Ten maturity groups have been identified under Indian conditions. They are usually combined into four categories: extra early (120 days), early (145 days), medium (185 days) and late-maturing (200 days) cultivars (van der Maesen).

Seeding Rate

Broadcast: minimum seeding rate of 40-60 lbs. pure live seed per acre (45-67 kg/ha). NRCS

Seeding Depth

2.5 to 10 cm (FAO).

Seeding Method

Seeding Dates

Year round at elevations between 0-3000 ft. (NRCS)

Inoculation

Seed Cost

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Seed Availability

'Norman' cultivar is reported difficult to obtain (Koolau Seed).

Days to Flowering

Flowering of half the plants begins 56 to 210 days after sowing (van der Maesen).

Days to Maturity

Maturity ranges from 95 to 256 days. Ten maturity groups have been identified under Indian conditions. They are usually combined into four categories: extra early (120 days), early (145 days), medium (185 days) and late-maturing (200 days) cultivars (van der Maesen).

Seed Production

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Seed Storage

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Growth Habit

Pigeon pea is a short-term perennial shrub which grows to 4 meters high (usually 1-2 meters). It is woody at the base. (FAO)

Maximum Height

Pigeon pea grows to a maximum height of 4 meters tall (van der Maesen).

Root System

Pigeon pea has an extremely deep-rooting taproot (FAO). Van der Maesen describes pigeon pea roots as thin and up to 2 m deep.

Establishment

By seed.

Maintenance

Weed control is needed during establishment (van der Maesen)

Mowing

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Incorporation

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Harvesting

Pigeon peas are generally hand harvested in the tropics. Ripe pods can be harvested with combine-harvesters for cultivars which mature uniformly with pods at a uniform level above the ground (van der Maesen). Pigeon peas are cut for forage at the preflowering state or when first pods ripen (Bogdan).

Equipment

Ripe pods can be harvested with combine-harvesters for cultivars which mature uniformly with pods at a uniform level above the ground (van der Maesen).

Uses

Mixtures / Intercropping

Biomass

Approximate dry matter yield 2.5 tons/acre (NRCS).

N Contribution

Approximate N content 50 lbs./T dry matter (NRCS).

Non-N Nutrient Contribution

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Effects on Water

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Effects on Soil

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Effects on Livestock

The nutritive value of herbage from pigeon pea is high. Crude protein content ranges between 10 and 18%. Digestibility of crude protein ranges from 60% to 88% (Bogdan).

Pest Effects, Insects

Heliothis borers and Agromyza fruitflies are mentioned by van der Maesen. FAO reports pigeon pea in Hawai`i being attacked by the scale insect (Coccus elongatus), a stem borer, a pod borer (Lycaena boetica) and leaf-eating caterpillars.

Pest Effects, Nematodes

Bogdan reports that root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp. and other genera) often attack pigeon pea. The 'Norman' and 'FL81d' cultivars are root knot nematode resistant (NRCS).

Pest Effects, Diseases

In India, wilt caused by Fusarium udum is common and damaging and crop rotation to control it is recommended (Bogdan, van der Maesen). Root rot from Phaeolus manihotis and stem canker from Physalospora cajanae have been reported (Bodgan).

Pest Effects, Weeds

Weeds must be controlled during pigeon pea's slow initial growth stage (van der Maesen).

Pest Effects, Vertebrates

No information is available in this database on this topic.


Uses in the Pacific Region

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Uses in Hawai`i

The Hawai`i Natural Resources Conservation Service Technical Guide includes Pigeon pea (cv. 'Norman' and 'FL81d'). Their specification describes Pigeon pea as follows

For More Information:

Center for New Crops & Plant Products at Purdue University Website

FAO Web Site


References

Bogdan, A.V. 1977. Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants. Longman Inc., New York. pp. 325-328.

Evans, Dale O., Joy, Robert J., & Chia, C.L., 1988. Cover Crops for Orchards in Hawaii. Hawaii Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. 16 pp.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hawai`i Field Office Technical Guide, Section IV, Code 340 "Cover and Green Manure Crop" May 1992. Pacific Islands Area Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG) - East Area

Van der Maesen, L.J.G., 1989. Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp. In: van der Maesen, L.J.G. & Somaatmadja, S. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 1. Pulses. Pudoc/Prosea, Wageningen, the Netherlands. pp. 39-42.

Text last updated on 9/23/02.

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These webpages were originally generated under a grant program from Western SARE entitled "Covering New Ground: Tropical Cover Crops for Improving Soil Quality" EW98-012 (1998-2002).