Organic Pigeon Pea Farming – Red Gram, Toor or Arhar

Introduction to Organic Pigeon Pea Farming

The Pigeon pea is a perennial legume crop from the Fabaceae family. It is also known as Toor dal, Red gram, Pigeonpea, or Arhar in India. Pigeon pea is a popular pulses crop and it is a rich source of Protein. It is mainly cultivated in tropical and semitropical regions. It is an important legumes crop of rain-fed and semi-arid tropic regions and it can grow as a single crop or intermix with cereals. It enriches soil through symbiotic nitrogen fixation. The major Pigeon pea producing states in India are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh.

A Step by Step Guide to Organic Pigeon Pea Farming

Pigeon Pea belongs to the widespread family of pulses and it is scientifically known as Cajanus Cajan. Pigeon pea crop occupies a prominent place in Indian rain-fed agriculture. It is an integral component of various agro-ecologies of the country mostly intercropped with cereals, pulses and oilseeds and millets.

Guide to Organic Pigeon Pea Farming.
Guide to Organic Pigeon Pea Farming.

Varieties of Pigeon Pea in Organic Farming

The selection of crop variety is very important in organic farming. In the areas where the length of the growing season is short (120-150 days) and soils are light in texture, medium duration crop varieties with wilt resistance are desirable. E.g., PRG-158 (Palemkandi). On the other hand, in the areas where soils are heavily textured with medium to deep black nature, medium to long duration plant varieties with resistance to wilt and sterility mosaic have to be grown. E.g., ICPL-87119 (Asha) and WRGE 97.

Benefits of Organic Pigeon Pea Farming

Organic farming is important to constantly work to build a healthy soil that is rich in organic matter and has all the nutrients that the plants need. Generally, organic farming is good for human health, economic prosperity, and the environment besides enhancing the quality of food. Being the most source of dal in India and few inherent advantages, the demand for organic Pigeon pea has been increasing, thus, there is a need for its’ popularization.

Advantages of Organic Pigeon Pea Farming are;

  • It survives in poor soil conditions and tolerant of dry weather
  • Pigeon Pea is a nutritious and high-protein pulse crop
  • These leaves can be used for animal feed or fodder
  • The fast-growing plants make good shade for other crops like vegetables, herbs, vanilla
  • These woody parts can be used for firewood
  • These crops can be used along with contour barriers for erosion control
  • Helps in agro-ecology, the performance of Pigeon Pea crop as an intercrop is remarkable, and even after the harvesting of the intercrops, it continues protecting the soil.

Soil Requirement for Organic Pigeon Pea Farming

Pigeon pea crop is a popular leguminous crop predominantly grown under rain-fed conditions during monsoon season across tropical and semi-tropical regions of the world. It is cultivated as a sole crop or mostly intercrops with cereals, oilseeds, and fibre crops. Pigeon pea grows on a variety of soil. This crop gives the best result on fertile and well-drained loamy soils. The saline-alkaline or waterlogged soils are unfit for Pigeon pea cultivation. It can grow successfully on soils having pH level ranges from 6.5 to 7.5. Light textured red soils to medium textured black soils are suitable for this cultivation. Though, heavy textured black cotton soils with proper drainage facilities are suitable for organic Pigeon pea farming. Soils with near-neutral pH levels are highly desirable.

Suitable Climate for Organic Pigeon Pea Farming

Pigeon pea requires average rainfall of 600-650 mm with moist conditions for the first 8 weeks and drier conditions during the flowering and pod development stage, and this will result in a highly successful crop. Rains during the flowering stage result in poor pollination. Pigeon pea was grown successfully in summer, rainy, and winter season that means April-Summer, June-Kharif, or rainy, September-Rabi, or winter season. Though the critical growth stages are branching, flowering and pod filling where moisture stress causes adverse effect therefore in the absence of rains high irrigation are required.

Pigeon pea needs moist and warm weather i.e. 30 to 35°C during germination and slightly lower temperature (20 -25°C) during active vegetative growth. During flowering and pod setting it requires 15 to 18°C temperature and at maturity, it needs a higher temperature of around 35 to 40°C. Waterlogging, heavy rains, frost are very harmful to the Pigeon pea crop. Rain at maturity damages the entire crop. Pigeon pea has a good drought-tolerant capacity because of its deep tap root system.

Time and Method of Sowing in Organic Pigeon Pea Farming

Timely sowing of Pigeon peacrop is important as delay in sowing leads to yield loss. Sow Pigeon peacrop in the second fortnight of May for obtaining high grain yield. Seeds can be sown by broadcasting method but line sowing with help of seed drill is a more efficient way of sowing for good crop yield. The seed is sown with help of a seed drill at depth of 7 to 10 cm.

Seed Rate and Spacing Requirements in Pigeon Pea Farming

  • For sowing seed use spacing of 50 cm between the rows while 25 cm between the plants.
  • For good crop yield using a seed rate of about 6 kg per acre.
  • The seed rate of Pigeon pea mainly depends on the desired plant density for a genotype (early, medium, or late), cropping system (pure crop, mixed crop, or intercrop), and seed germination rate.
  • Early Maturing Variety – 20-25 kg/ha (Row to Row-45-60 cm & Plant to Plant-10-15 cm)
  • Medium/Late Maturing Variety – 15-20 kg/ha (Row to Row- 60-75 & Plant to Plant-15-20 cm)

Propagation and Intercropping of Pigeon Pea

Pigeon pea is propagated directly from seed which must be sown in a prepared seedbed. Pigeon pea seeds should be planted 30–50 cm between plants and 150 cm between rows. Higher seeding rates must be used if the plant is being grown for use as green manure. Pigeon pea is intercropped with millets, cotton, sorghum, or groundnut.

Traditionally Pigeon pea is intercropped with cereals, oilseeds, pulses, or cotton. Commonly Pigeon pea is intercropped with cereal crops such as Sorghum, pearl millet, maize, and finger millet, etc. Pigeon pea oilseed intercropping is becoming popular. Groundnut, soybean, and sesame are oilseed crops. It is also intercropped with short-duration pulse crops such as mung bean, black gram, and chickpea, etc.

Organic Farming Practices in Pigeon Pea Farming

Organic Pigeon pea farming is the adoption of non-chemical methods of soil, nutrition, and pest and disease control and encourages the use of on-farm inputs. Pigeon pea crop is the most widely used leguminous crop for making dal in our daily diet. Though all are talking about organic cultivation across crops; but the development of best crop management practices is at the infancy stage.

Organic cultivation is designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities in the agro-ecosystem including living organisms like soil organisms, plants, livestock, and human beings, etc. Organic farming plays a vital role in maintaining biological diversity, decrease soil and groundwater contamination; maintain long-term soil fertility by optimizing conditions for biological activity in the soil.

Production technology for organic Pigeon pea mainly involves three management practices like efficient crop management, appropriate nutrient management, and effective plant protection measures.  Among them, nutrient management plays an important role. In addition to organic manures such as FYM, recycling of organic wastes through composting, green manures, and biological inputs such as vermicomposting and bio-fertilizers, etc., constitute important components for nutrient management in organic Pigeon pea farming. It helps to preserve soil organic carbon thus enhances carbon sequestration besides reducing soil alkalinity. Further, the addition of good quality tank silt by 100 tonnes/hectare before sowing also helps in better moisture retention and soil fertility. Nearly 5.0 tonnes of finely powdered FYM/ hectare has to be applied uniformly over the field and incorporated into the soil during ploughing. Vermicomposting by 2.5 t/ha has to be applied in two equal splits in a plough furrow beside the crop row followed by covering with soil during inter-cultivation. 50 kg P2O5/ha has to be applied through rock-phosphate obtained from a mineral source. Further, at the end of the crop season, the leftover stubbles may be incorporated into the field, so that it adds organic matter and enrich soil fertility.

Pigeon pea crop is well adapted to soils of poor quality and respond little to fertilizers. Then, this means that the fertilizer used should be that required by the main crop. No special cultural practices are required, just care in weeding management. Management practices for the main crop are adequate for Pigeon pea grown as an intercrop; if Pigeon peas are to be ratooned they should be cut back after the onset of the first rains to reduce Pigeon pea mortality.

Irrigation Requirements for Pigeon Pea Farming

The crop is grown under rain-fed conditions, hence, doesn’t need irrigation. Three to four weeks after sowing apply the first irrigation for Pigeon pea crops. The remaining irrigations are dependent upon rainfall intensity. Flower initiation and pod setting periods are the most crucial to drought stress. Therefore, irrigation at these stages is essential for good crop yield. Avoid excessive irrigation as it leads to more vegetative growth and incidence of Phytophthora and Alternaria blight diseases. Do not apply irrigation after mid-September and it will affect the maturity of the crop.

Organic Pests and Diseases Control in Pigeon Pea Farming


  • Lack of availability of good quality well-decomposed organic manures such as FYM and vermicomposting in sufficient quantity due to the decline in livestock animals.
  • Application of about 50 kg P2O5/hectare through organic sources is difficult. It has to supplied through rock-phosphate (from mined source only), but, its availability is difficult and that too costly (Rs. 10-12 per kg).
  • Less productivity and high cost of production during initial periods will be a double loss for the farmers.

The important pests of Pigeon peas are insects feeding on Pigeon pea pods and seeds. The pests of Pigeon pea pods and seeds in the region are;

  • Pod sucking bugs,
  • Pod and seed boring caterpillars,
  • Pod flies

Examples of Pigeon Pea Pests and Organic Control Methods are;

Leafhoppers or Jassids – Leafhoppers are important pests damage to Pigeon peas. These small green and very mobile insects occur on the upper and lower leaf surfaces of the crop. The adults fly or hop away when disturbed. And, the eggs are inserted in the veins on the underside of leaflets. Attacked plant leaves become cup-shaped and yellow at the edges.


  • Use neem kernel extract and other products of neem.
  • Neem treatments against aphids should be enough to control must Leafhoppers at the same time.

Cowpea seed beetle – They are the common and widespread insect pests in storage. Adults are 2 to 3.5 mm long. The pests attack both pods in the field and seeds in storage. They attack nearly mature and dried pods. Though, infested stored seeds can be recognized by the round exit holes and the white eggs on the seed surface. Post-harvest crop losses are highly variable, but losses can be over 90%.


  • Pods must be harvested as soon as they mature and the seeds sun-dried before stored in clean beetle-proof containers.

Root-knot nematodes

Affected crops are normally stunted and eventually wilt and die. The most important symptom is the formation of root galls (knots) and these can be seen with the naked eye. Then, the affected roots rot.


  • Plant resistant varieties/lines, if available.
  • Plant in fields with no previous record of Root-knot nematode infestation.
  • Rotate with cereals.
  • Amend soil with neem extracts.

Red spider mites – Red spider mites feed on the lower leaf surface causing white or yellowish spots. Heavy infestation results in partial defoliation.


  • Red spider mite pests attack is seldom severe enough to merit control.
  • Use resistant varieties. Most generally used cultivars appear to be relatively resistant to these mites.

Examples of Pigeon Pea Diseases and Organic Control Methods are;

Fusarium wilt – Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease and symptoms of this disease include partial or total wilting of plants at flowering and podding, a purple band of stems extending from the base upwards, and browning or blackening of internal tissue when the main stem or primary branches are split. Affected fields show patches of dead plants and the fungus survives on infected crop debris in the soil for about 3 years.


  • Plant of resistant varieties. The long duration crop varieties (cultivar) “ICP9145” and “ICEAP00040” are resistant to Fusarium wilt and have superior productivity on-farm.
  • Use certified disease-free seeds.
  • Plant in fields with no previous record of Fusarium wilt for at least 3 years.
  • Collect and burn plant residues after harvesting.
  • Crop rotation with cereals.

Cercospora leaf spot – Small circular necrotic spots (lesions) appear on older leaves. These spots join up causing leaf blight diseases and leaf drop. The fungus produces concentric areas on the leaf spots. The disease mainly causes severe losses when defoliation occurs before flowering and podding. The disease appears when plants are flowering and podding. The fungus is seed-borne. It is favoured by cool temperature levels and humid rainy weather. The leaf spot disease is more common in the perennial varieties.


  • Plant resistant varieties/lines, if available.
  • Use disease-free seeds.
  • Plant in fields away from perennial crop varieties, which can be a source of inoculums (infection).

When and How to Harvest Pigeon Pea

With two-third to three fourth pods at maturity judged by changing their colour to brown is the best time of harvesting. The plants are cut with a sickle within 75 to 25 cm above the ground.

In Pigeon pea farming, Green Pigeon pea pods are harvested for several purposes. The fully developed, bright green seed is mainly preferred for use as a vegetable. Therefore, pods should be harvested just before they start losing their green colour. For this generally, handpicking is followed. Pigeon pea leaves, unlike other crops, remain green when the pods are ready for harvesting. This may confuse the decision on optimum harvest time. Pigeon pea must be harvested when 75-80% of the pods turn brown and are dry. Delayed harvesting, during bad-weather, could increase the risk of damage to mature seed.

The harvested plants are bundled and placed upright to dry for a week by depending on the weather conditions. Pigeon peas pods and grain are separated by beating the dry plants by using a thresher. It is stored for long periods to ensure the availability of whole seed at the time of sowing, and as a dhal to meet consumer requirements.

Cost and Yield of Organic Pigeon Pea

The market price for organic Pigeon pea dal is approximately Rs. 200-250 per kg and it is double than that of conventional one (Rs. 100-120 per kg) and thus it makes good income for growers if the marketing strategy is properly followed.

In the initial stages, the yield of organic Pigeon pea was less. However, approximately 20% improvement in yield was observed in organic Pigeon pea over inorganically grown Pigeon pea crop in a span of 4 to 5 years. Then, the market rate for organically farming Pigeon pea is double that of inorganically produced Pigeon pea.

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Commonly Asked Questions about Pigeon Pea Farming

How long does Pigeon pea take to grow?

Plant Pigeon pea seeds 1 inch deep and 12 inches apart for best results. Plants will germinate in 10 to 15 days, and pods will appear in 4 months.

Is Pigeon pea a lentil?

Pigeon Pea is a yellow coloured lentil flat on one side, oblong in shape, used widely in Indian cooking. Pigeon pea is normally known as Arhar dal or split Toor dal.

Are Pigeon pea leaves edible?

Edible parts of Pigeon pea are the seeds, leaves, seedpods, and young shoots. Pigeon pea is as well known for its medicinal uses and it is planted as green manure.

Do Pigeon peas need full sun?

Pigeon pea crops can be grown in most places where there is a lot of sunlight and very little frost.

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