Malawi gets 3 improved pigeonpea varieties
In Malawi, despite having improved pigeonpea varieties, farmers still grow the local varieties called Mthawajuni. These landraces are known to have good adaptation to local conditions and quality traits such as superior palatability and short-cooking time — traits demanded by farmers.
Despite, an increase in landrace production, there has been no formal seed production for the local varieties. It is against this background that a study was initiated to collect all the landraces and conduct a diversity study. A trial consisted of 81 accessions. From the diversity study, Mthawajuni varieties were selected and grouped according to their qualitative traits, using a pure-line selection method whereby the landraces were purified from the genetic admixtures present in the landraces through subsequent line selections.
Mthawajuni is a local name for pigeonpea landraces that mature before the month of June; meaning that they mature early. The name Mthwajuni was kept because farmers are already used to it. The new varieties are differentiated by seed colour.
Mthawajuni seed has been an issue in the past because farmers in most pigeonpea-growing areas commonly grow the variety because they cannot access certified seed. No seed company has been able able to produce seed due to admixtures of the varieties. Local seed companies, NGOs and farmers have been looking forward to the release of Mthawajuni for the benefit of farmers and other stakeholders in the pigeonpea value chain. With the release of these varieties, we anticipate an increase in pigeonpea production in Malawi.
The work was supported by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) through the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) and Sustainable Agricultural Production Program (SAPP), an International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded project.
Words: Dr Esnart Nirenda Yohane