The present conditions are severe for agriculture. Rising human population, fluctuating climates, and depleting arable land, coupled with lower productivity and post-harvest losses are contributing substantially to food insecurity in the future. Increased crop water use, competition for land, and surging pests and diseases challenge global researchers to develop stress-resilient, high-yielding, nutritious crops to alleviate hunger and deprivation.
Dr Manoj S Phalak, with the development of genetic male sterility using mutation breeding in cowpea with a highly innovative and efficient cross-pollination mechanism, led the foundation of hybrids in the crop. Hybrids of cowpea are highly suitable for off-season cultivation and are not photoperiod sensitive. Heterosis breeding uplifts the whole physiology of the crop by utilizing benefits from the sum total of all good genes and interactions thereof. This results in higher yields, better disease tolerance, wider adaptability, better fruit quality, and enhanced response to fertigation.
Dharti Agro Chemicals is said to be the first in the world to introduce GMS-based Cowpea Hybrids in the market and has released three hybrids in Cowpea – Bubbly, Sherly and Poorvaja. They have given extremely good performance in farmer’s fields giving up to 100% heterosis in the regular season of Kharif and up to 200 to 250 % heterosis in off-season providing almost two times the profit as compared to the traditional varieties. Asian and African countries where consumption of such legumes is high, hybrid Cowpea can be the trend of future providing food security. Its better shelf life allows its transportation to long-distance markets, getting more rates.
Dharti Agro Chemicals works with farmers to get insights that ease decision making and they invest more in R&D of products that help farmers make the most of every acre. The hybrid with less water requirement, ability to withstand extreme climatic conditions, nutritionally rich; less resource-demanding have attracted the interest of farmers, which has resulted in increased area of production of this crop. Their short duration also facilitates intercropping or crop rotation and thereby increases the farm income.
According to society’s changing dietary tastes, Cowpea is easily affordable and provides a rich source of protein and micronutrients. Being a leguminous crop, it fixes atmospheric nitrogen, is involved in carbon sequestration and soil amelioration, thus reducing agriculture’s contribution towards volumes of crop protection products, enhancing and sustaining soil health.
“At Dharti, the need for a nutritionally secure food system and other global challenges has always been taken as a fundamental driving force. Hence, as our step towards sustainability, we believe Hybrid Cowpea is a successful approach for today and future. It has provided a sturdy and profitable alternative to prevalent vegetable crops and plays a key role in crop diversification. We take it as a responsibility to ensure that our products are desirable for large as well as small farmers”, said Vaibhav Kashikar, executive director.