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Pigeon pea, a nutritious and drought-tolerant leguminous crop popularly grown in India, has been around in the Philippines for quite some time now. However, in order to reach its full potential on the lives of many Filipinos and its benefits, not just as a source of food but also as animal feed and fuel wood, a concerted effort on its R&D, extension, and marketing is needed. Thus, a comprehensive project on accelerated pigeon pea production and utilization by the International Society for Southeast Asian Agricultural Sciences (ISAAS) was supported by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).In this endeavor, project leader Dr. Heraldo Layaoen, vice president of the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Region 1, spearheaded the project which is an all-encompassing study on pigeon pea commercialization. It includes various aspects from seed production, food processing, and establishment of a pilot processing plant to the establishment of market linkages for food products developed from pigeon pea.
In this project, Dr. Layaoen's team first identified the suitable varieties for local pigeon pea production based on previous studies on pigeon pea commercialization.
"Consistent with earlier results, ICPL 88039 and ICP 7035 were the best performing varieties in their respective maturity group when grown under low input technology," said Dr. Layaoen.
The ICPL 88039 is a short-duration variety, which matures in 100-110 days. Besides being a good crop after rainfed rice, it is also an all-season variety.
On the other hand, ICP 7035 is a sweet type variety good for hilly and rolling areas. According to Dr. Layaoen, if planted in October in Northwest Luzon, a ratoon crop can be harvested before planting the wet season rice, thus making possible two harvests in one planting.
Pigeon pea seeds proved to be highly susceptible to different kinds of pests and diseases. According to the project team, pest management is a critical factor in successful seed and grain production. Thus, it was likewise made an integral part of the project.
Specifically, the bean weevil was identified as one, if not, the most dangerous pest of the crop. "The damage brought by bean weevil starts in the field and continues up to its storage. Thus, sufficient pesticide application is needed in the production of quality seeds of pigeon pea," stated the project team.
In order to arm farmers of pigeon pea with the proper knowledge and guidance on the control measures on the pests and diseases affecting the crop, a publication titled, "Identification Handbook and Control Guide of Pigeon Pea Insect Pests and Diseases", was prepared through the project and made freely-available.
In the establishment of village-level production areas, the project team first trained cooperating farmers on the production technology of the crop before they were given seeds to start planting pigeon pea in their area. According to the project team, groups of farmers from three municipalities in Cagayan Valley and a group of indigenous people from Cordillera were some of the training beneficiaries from the project.
A brochure titled, "Updated Pigeon Pea Production Guide", was also prepared to serve as a quick guide of the farmers who wished to plant the crop.
For the food processing, rural women and out-of-school youth were also given trainings to learn the different food preparations and by-products of pigeon pea. The products that can be derived from pigeon pea include dahl, flour, frozen pea, and a blend of pigeon pea and sweet sorghum as coffee substitute.
"Making the availability of ready-to-cook pigeon pea grains just like how rice is marketed in local stores is the long-term objective for pigeon pea production in the country," said Dr. Layaoen.
The project team reported that some of private visitors who have tasted the coffee-like beverage from pigeon pea and sweet sorghum blend commented that its taste is similar to cocoa.
The project team emphasized that the investment cost needed to start the food products business is low. The coffee-substitute beverage, the roaster and packaging facility would only entail minimal investments for village-level production.
The seeds produced from the project through the Bungon Seed Producers Multipurpose Cooperative (BSPMC) was distributed to different beneficiary institutions such as local government units (LGUs), state universities and colleges (SUCs), agencies attached to the Department of Agriculture (DA) such as PhilRice, and research centers in Region 1, as well as the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and individual farmers who wish to plant pigeon pea in their area.
The project team reported that PhilRice has been incorporating pigeon pea as an intercrop for rice in their Palayamanan program (a diversified farming system developed by PhilRice) while DAR is introducing it as a rotation crop of the agrarian reform communities (ARCs). Pigeon pea is also being pitched as an effective crop for soil rejuvenation and soil erosion control, and as "green" manure during fallow periods.
Moreover, the project team reported that some private entities, such as ARTECH Philippines, Venvi, and BAPAMIN Enterprises, have shown interest in using the crop as for fuel purposes or as raw material for food products.