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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES
GAI NESVIIE I r f'LOFtlA 2-611
304 NEWELL HALL
Agronomy Research Report AY 86-13 June, 1986
-.. ------ Growing Pigeonpea for Seed in North Florida
Library Gordon M. Prine
-cT 23 1987 304 Newell Hall
University of Florida
ry of F a Gainesville, FL 32611
rsity of 0Florida Phone: (904) 392-1811
Pigeonpea is a perennial tropical shrub grain legume that can grow for
a number of years if not killed by freezing temperatures. Most winters in
North Florida, the temperature is cold enough sometime during the winter to
kill pigeonpea so it grows as an annual. Recommended pigeonpea cultivars
or lines may grow from 3.5. to 7 feet in height depending upon weather,
soil, time of planting and time of seed set. The mature seed have value
for human food and livestock feed. Immature seed are also useful as a
vegetable. Most USA citizens have not had any contact with pigeonpea as
food. The first U.S. grown pigeonpeas will be for the Asian, African,
Latin American and Carribean minorities in the U.S. who are already
familiar with pigeonpea. About 90% of the world pigeonpeas are grown in
India where pigeonpea is a stable food crop in great demand. Export
markets for pigeonpea exist in the Carribean area, Venezuela, Mexico and
Most pigeonpea seed, in the world, are harvested by hand. The Florida
pigeonpea program was developed on the premise that pigeonpeas killed by
fall freezes in North Florida and harvested with a combine could compete
with other areas growing pigeonpeas and harvesting by hand, evenwith cheap
labor. The stage is now set for beginning commercial production in North
Florida to find out if pigeonpea can be grown economically as a food crop
in the area. Pigeonpea will also grow in South Florida but killing frosts
are not dependable enough to kill topgrowth to allow seed to be harvested
with a combine. A limited quantity of pigeonpea seed will be available for
distribution to commercial growers in 1987 under a memorandum of
understanding with IFAS. The success of the early growers will determine
if pigeonpea is indeed to become a new Florida crop.
1. Cultivars: Special pigeonpea cultivars or lines are needed for
growing for seed in North Florida. A number of pigeonpea lines have
been developed by IFAS researchers for North Florida, including
FL-76W and FL-99W, that are being considered for naming as official
cultivars. Norman, a green manure cultivar developed in North
Carolina, is not recommended for seed production in Florida. Market
surveys have indicated that light-colored pigeonpea seed are
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2. Time of planting: Pigeonpeas should be planted from June 20 to July 5
for seed production in North Florida. The earlier you plant, the
taller will be the pigeonpea plants at harvest. Recommended lines or
cultivars planted at these dates should have mature seed in early
3. Soil conditions: Pigeonpea can be grown on well-drained soil of all
types from sands to clays. Poorly-drained or soils prone to
water-logging should not be planted to pigeonpea. Pigeonpea grows
best on soils with good natural fertility, but will grow on deep
infertile sands with proper fertilization.
4. Crop spacing and planting depth: Pigeonpea's are planted in rows 24
to 40 inches apart. Viable seed, which are about the size of
soybeans, should be planted 6 to 9 inches apart in the drill. On very
droughty soils plant even thinner stands so plants are 12 to 15 inches
apart on drill row. However, thin pigeonpeas do not compete well with
weeds. Plant pigeonpea seed 11 to 2 inches deep in soil. Depth of
seed placement of pigeonpea is not as critical as it is for soybean,
as pigeonpea can emerge when seed are planted 5 or 6 inches deep.
5. Fertilization: Pigeonpea is a new crop and exact fertilization
schemes have not been worked out. Pigeonpea should grow very well at
fertilization levels useful for cowpea, peanut and soybean. Three to
five hundred pounds per acre of 0-10-20 (N-P Og-K20) or equivalent
fertilizer should be satisfactory on most sofls. No nitrogen
fertilizer is normally needed, as pigeonpea is a legume. Minor
elements will be needed on deficient soils, but only if deficiency is
seen on pigeonpea or previous crop grown on the same land.
6. Liming: Pigeonpeas do well on a wide range of soil pH from 5.6 to
near 7. Normally you will only need to lime if a soil test shows a
need to lime, either for pH correction or to add Ca and Mg to the
soil. Dolomitic limestone should be used except in soils which are
naturally high in Mg.
7. Weed control: Pigeonpea make very weak growth for the first 7 or 8
weeks and then enter stage of rapid, aggressive growth. Weeds must be
controlled during the early growth period or the weeds will get too
large for pigeonpea to shade out during the later rapid growth. To
control weeds it will be necessary to use cultivation. One or more
flat cultivations will control most weeds. Being a new crop, no
herbicides are labeled for use on pigeonpea. Research has shown that
surflan at rate of I to 1 pound per acre can be applied broadcast or
in band over row after planting and before emergence of the pigeonpea
seedlings to control weeds. Basagran can be applied at rates of 3/4
to 1 1/3 quarts per acre as an over the top spray to control broad
leaf weeds and yellow nutsedge. Over the top spraying of Blazer and
2, 4-DB herbicides were very damaging to pigeonpea.
8. Pest control:
a. Nematodes: Pigeonpeas are resistant to most root-knot nematodes
(Meloidogyne species) however are succeptible to the peanut root-knot
nematode (M. arenaria race 1). Pigeonpea should not, therefore, be
planted in a rotation containing peanuts and other legumes succeptible
to M. arenaria or a buildup of this nematode may take place. In
research, Nemacur nematicide has been effective in controlling
nematodes in pigeonpeas. If pigeonpea's are grown in rotation with
grass crops, it normally will not be necessary to apply nematicides to
pigeonpea. Planting pigeonpeas on same land season after season,
should be avoided.
b. Insects: Many insects which attack soybean will also attack
pigeonpea but usually to a lesser degree. Often it is not necessary
to spray pigeonpea for insects until after onset of flowering usually
around or just after Labor Day. Some kind of insect control is
normally necessary during flowering and early pod fill. Normally the
first flower flush of pigeonpea has few flowers and sets few seed so
losing this first flush to most insects is no great loss. It is
usually the second or third flower flush which sets the seed crop for
pigeonpea in North Florida. As flower flushes are about 2 weeks
apart, if seed set is not until the fourth flower flush the seed may
be caught by an early freeze before maturity.
Pod borers, usually corn ear worms (Heliothis spp.), and stink bugs
may attack the maturing seed pods and require control. Worldwide, pod
borers probably cause the most insect damage to pigeonpea.
Many insect populations decline naturally during the fall, so when
an insect population is killed off by an insecticide, it often builds
back very slowly. For this reason, pigeonpeascan often be grown with
as few as two insecticide applications, once during the start of the
second flower flush and once later to control pod borers. Careful
insect scouting is necessary because insect buildups sometimes occur
on other occasions.
9. Freeze damage: Pigeonpeas planted on the recommended planting dates
can be expected to have mature seed by the time the first killing
freeze occurs. However, an occasional early freeze may occur or the
early flower flushes may not set seed. If seeds are near maturity
then no damage occurs. However, if seed are very immature they will
be small and green. If the green colored seed cannot be cleaned from
the seed, buyers may refuse to buy the seed for a food crop. If seed
germination is not affected, the green color will not affect the value
of the seed for seeding purposes. A timely freeze just as pigeonpea
seed matures is very valuable for killing the pigeonpea plants and
allowing them to dry out prior to combining.
10. Defoliation: If a timely freeze does not kill the pigeonpea top
growth, then it may be necessary to defoliate and kill the plant top
growth by chemical means. It may take more than one application of
defoliant to dry the pigeonpea plants enough to combine.
11. Combining seed: Pigeonpea plant size varies greatly due to season,
time of planting, fertility of soil, and how late seed set occurred.
Normally seeds are dry enough to harvest by the time the plant is dry
enough to combine. Most of seed will be near top of plant unless, the
plant population is too low. The combine cutting head should be
raised as high as possible to avoid cutting the thick lower stems.
Combine settings for harvesting soybeans are usually satisfactory,
except, minor modification may be necessary due to the greater volume
of plant material associated with pigeonpea.
12. Drying seed: If seed are harvested before seed moisture is 15% or
lower, it will be necessary to dry the seed in a dryer. The weather
does not always cooperate by being dry and sunny in November and
December, so some drying facilities should be available in case they
are needed. Pigeonpea seed pods are very weather resistant and do not
shatter like soybeans, but the sooner they can be harvested after
maturity, the higher the quality of seed.
13. Maintaining seed color: Pigeonpea are often cross pollinated plants
so in cultivar development some outcrossing occurred with other
pigeonpea genotypes. The light colored seed are developed by mass
selection of light colored seed, and when some of the plants
intercross they can result in darker seed. If any of the darker seed
occur they should be removed. Planting the dark seed will result in
an increasing larger percentage of dark seed, an undesirable
characteristic in the market place.
14. Irrigation: Pigeonpeas are one of the most'drought tolerant crop
species and normally are not irrigated. They do not flower and set
seed properly under conditions of cloudy skies and frequent showers.
However, the fall months of late September, October and early November
are often very dry in North Florida. Under severe drought pigeonpeas
will make some seed, particularly if planted thinly. They make most
seed if soil moisture is adequate during flowering, early seed set and
during seed fill. Yield increases due to irrigation do not justify
capital outlays for irrigation equipment. However, if irrigation
equipment is available its use would increase yield in severe moisture
stress periods. An inch and a half of water every 10 days should keep
pigeonpea in good condition on most North Florida soils.
15. Subsoiling: Pigeonpea is a very deep-rooted crop and if a plow pan
exists that roots can't penetrate the crop should respond to in-row
subsoiling, particularly during drought years. Subsoiling may aid
in providing the drainage necessary to avoid water-logging as well.
16. Inoculation: Pigeonpea are inoculated with cowpea-type Rhizobium that
occur naturally in most Florida soils. Commercial inoculant is not
usually required, unless you have one of the rare soils where it is
necessary to inoculate with cowpea inoculent for good growth.
17. Further help: New growers having specific pigeonpea problems may
contact the author of this guide. He has had experience in growing
pigeonpeas and may be able to aid you.