Vol.2, No.11, 1335-1344 (2010)
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Openly accessible at
Quality nutrition through pigeonpeaa review
Kul Bhushan Saxena, Ravikoti Vijaya Kumar*, Rafat Sultana
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Patancheru, India; Corresponding Author:
Received 2 April 2010; revised 23 April 2010; accepted 24 May 2010.
Protein mal-nutrition is widespread among poor
of developing and under developed countries.
Since animal protein is beyond the reach of this
group, their primary protein supply comes from
plant based products. Amongst these, pigeon-
pea or red gram (Cajanus cajan (L.) Millspaugh)
is an important food legume that can be grown
under rainfed conditions with least inputs. Pi-
geonpea is rich in starch, protein, calcium, man-
ganese, crude fiber, fat, trace elements, and mi-
nerals. Besides its high nutritional value, pi-
geonpea is also used as traditional folk medi-
cine in India, China, Philippines and some other
nations. Literature on this aspect show that pi-
geonpea is capable to prevent and cure a num-
ber of human ailments such as bronchitis, cou-
ghs, pneumonia, respiratory infections, dysen-
tery, menstrual disorders, sores, wounds, ab-
dominal tumors, tooth ache, and diabetes.
Keywords: Protein; Pigeonpea; Cajanus Cajan;
Nutrition; Folk Medicine
Protein availability in developing countries at present
is about one-third of its normal requirements and with
ever growing human population; various nutritional de-
velopment programs are facing a tough challenge to
meet the targeted protein demand. Legumes in the de-
veloping world are known to offer food proteins that are
generally grown under risk-prone marginal lands with
low inputs. Among the legumes pigeonpea or red gram
(Cajanus cajan (L.) Millspaugh) occupies an important
place in rainfed agriculture. Globally, it is cultivated on
4.79 M ha in 22 countries [1] but with only a few major
producers. In Asia, India (3.58 M ha), Myanmar
(560,000 ha), and Nepal (20,703 ha) are important pi-
geonpea producing countries. In African continent, Kenya
(196,261 ha), Malawi (123,000 ha), Uganda (86,000 ha),
Mozambique (85,000 ha), and Tanzania (68,000 ha) pro-
duce considerable amounts of pigeonpea. The Caribbean
islands and some South American countries also have
reasonable areas under pigeonpea cultivation.
The presence of high genetic diversity made [2-4], to
believe that India is the primary center of origin of cul-
tivated pigeonpea from where it spread to Africa about
4000 years ago. There are several local names of Ca-
janus cajan in different parts of the world [5]. Among
these “pigeonpea” is the globally popular name that was
coined by [6] in Barbados, where the crop was grown in
barren lands for feeding its seeds to pigeons. In India it
is popularly known as red gram, tur, or arhar. Pigeonpea
is a perennial plant (Figure 1) and it can survive up to
3-4 years [5]. It is a short-day plant with a high sensitiv-
ity to photo-periodic changes. There are two major growth
patterns in pigeonpea; the determinate types which pro-
duce pods in clusters at the top of the canopy and its
further growth ceases after flowering that results in more
or less uniform maturity. The other and most common
growth habit is non-determinate type, where the pods are
borne in axillary clusters. In general, the later types can
tolerate major biotic and abiotic stresses due to their
inherent capacity to regenerate. The traditional pigeon-
pea cultivars and most landraces are tall and take about
180-280 days to mature. However some early maturing
Figure 1. A commercial crop of pigeonpea.
K. B. Saxena et al. / HEALTH 2 (2010) 1335-1344
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Openly accessible at
cultivars are also now available [5].
In India, de-hulled split cotyledons (Figure 2(a)) of
pigeonpea seeds are cooked to make dal (thick soup) for
eating with bread and rice; while in southern and eastern
Africa, and South America its whole dry seeds (Figure
2(b)) are used in a porridge like recipe. The fully grown
seeds of pigeonpea when, harvested green (Figure 2(c))
before loosing their green color, are used as fresh, frozen,
or canned vegetable. Its broken seeds, skin, and pod
walls are fed to domestic animals; and the dry stems are
used as domestic fuel wood. In tropics and sub tropics
pigeonpea is considered a life line of subsistence agri-
culture. Pigeonpea plant is known to provide several
benefits to soil such as fixing atmospheric nitrogen, add-
ing organic matter and micro nutrients, and breaking
hard plough pan with its long tap roots and, thereby
sometimes referred as “biological plough”. Pigeonpea
can be grown successfully in a wide range of soil types
and is capable of producing reasonable quantities of nu-
tritive food even in the degraded soils and with mini-
mum external inputs.
Pal [7] published the first information on biological
value, net protein content, essential amino acids, and
digestibility of different pulses. In this study pigeonpea
was rated the best as far as its biological value was con-
cerned; and it was recommended that for a balanced
vegetarian diet pigeonpea should be eaten with rice. Re-
ferences [8-10] reported large variability for various
chemical constituents and nutritive value of pigeonpea.
It is to be noted that besides inherent genotypic differ-
ences, some degree of variation in protein content can
also arise due to differences in environmental conditions
where the crop was grown, methods of sampling and
analyses, and seed storage conditions and its duration.
2.1. Nutritional Value of Dry Seeds
Pigeonpea seeds are made up of 85% cotyledons, 14%
seed coat, and about 1% embryo, and contain a variety
of dietary nutrients [11]. The cotyledons are rich in car-
bohydrates (66.7%) while a major proportion (about
50%) of seed protein is located in embryo. About
one-third of seed coat is made up of fiber. The quantities
of important sulfur-containing amino acids such as me-
thionine and cystine range around 1% and they are pre-
sent in cotyledons and embryo; while calcium is pre-
dominantly present in seed coat and embryo. Singh [12]
found that the globulins constitute about 65% of total
proteins. In general, pigeonpea is not rated superior for
sulfur-containing amino acids [13], but it is not linked
Figure 2. (a) Dehulled split cotyledons (dal); (b) Whole dry
seeds of pigeonpea; (c) Vegetable pigeonpea seeds.
with low methionine content [14]. In comparison to other
protein fractions, globulin is rather inferior in sulfur-
containing amino acids while albumin has high amino
acid content. In pigeonpea seed the proportion of prola-
min is low while sugars such as stachyose and verbas-
cose are high [15].
K. B. Saxena et al. / HEALTH 2 (2010) 1335-1344
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Table 1. Distribution of nutrients in green seed, mature seed, and dal1 of pigeonpea.
Constituent/cooking time Green seed Mature seed Dal1
Protein (%)
Protein digestibility (%)
Trypsin inhibitor (units mg-1)
Starch content (%)
Starch digestibility (%)
Amylase inhibitor (units mg-1)
Soluble sugars (%) 5.1 3.1 5.2
Flatulence factors (g 100g-1souble sugar) 10.3 53.5 -
Crude fibre (%) 8.2 6.6 1.2
Fat (%) 2.3 1.9 1.6
Minerals and trace elements (mg 100g-1)
Cooking time (min) 13 53 18
1 = split seeds with seed coat removed; Source: [74].
Table 2. Genotypic variation for major anti-nutritional factors
in pigeonpea.
Factor Genotypes Range
Total phenols (mg g-1) 14 3.0-18.3
Tannins (mg g-1) 10 0.0-0.2
Trypsin inhibitor (units mg-1) 9 8.1-12.1
Chymotrypsin inhibitor (units mg-1)9 2.1-3.6
Amylase inhibitor (units g-1) 9 22.5-34.2
Raffinose (g 100 g-1) 10 0.24-1.05
Stachyose (g 100 g-1) 9 0.35-0.86
Stachyose + verbascose (g 100 g-1) - 41.60-2.30
Source: [75].
2.2. Nutritional Value of Immature
(Vegetable) Seeds
In general, green pigeonpea seeds (vegetable pigeon-
pea) are considered superior to dry splits in nutrition.
The observations recorded at ICRISAT showed that pi-
geonpea dal was better than green peas with respect to
starch and protein (Table 1). On the contrary, the green
pigeonpea seeds had higher crude fiber, fat, and protein
digestibility. As far as trace and mineral elements was
concerned, the green pea was better in phosphorus by
28.2%, potassium by 17.2%, zinc by 48.3%, copper by
20.9%, and iron by 14.7%. The dal, however, had 19.2%
more calcium and 10.8% more manganese [11]. Singh
[16] reported that the vegetable type pigeonpea had high
poly-saccharides and low crude fiber content than dal,
irrespective of their seed sizes. They also reported that
crude fiber contents in vegetable pigeonpea and garden
pea (Pisum sativum) were comparable. There was a vast
range in size and color in immature pods and mostly the
consumer preference was for large green pods; however,
these traits were not related to any organoleptic property
of seeds. In pigeonpea, seed and pod size are positively
correlated and the varieties with large pods invariability
have large immature and dry seeds.
2.3. Nutritional Changes in Developing
In a commercial vegetable pigeonpea crop it is essen-
tial that a balance be established between seed yield and
its nutrition quality. To achieve this, the green pods have
to be harvested at a proper stage of seed growth. At Pa-
tancheru (17˚N), it takes about 45-50 days from flower-
ing to seed maturity while vegetable pods are ready to
harvest in about 25-35 days from flowering. In pigeon-
pea, the pods grow rapidly and attain their full size in
about 20 days. During this period, the young seeds
(ovules) inside the pod remain intact but do not attain
significant weight. Soon after achieving its normal pod
size, the seeds grow rapidly for the next 10-12 days to
achieve their optimum size.
From nutritional and marketing points of view, it is
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essential that the green pods are picked at a proper stage
to reap maximum seed yield with highest nutritional
quality. In this context, Singh [17] observed that in grow-
ing seeds the starch content was negatively associated
with their protein and sugar contents. The amount of cru-
de fiber content in the growing seeds increased slowly
with maturation. The soluble sugars and proteins de-
creased in the developing seeds but the starch content
increased rapidly between 24 and 32 days after flower-
ing. Meiners [18] showed that the minerals and trace ele-
ments such as calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and cop-
per remained more or less constant and did not change
markedly during seed development in pigeonpea.
2.4. Nutritional Value of Split Peas (DAL)
Carbohydrates (67%) and protein (22%) are main con-
stituents of pigeonpea seeds [11]. Hulse [19] reported
that the seed protein among cultivars ranged around 22%.
The quality of protein is determined by its quantity and
digestibility, and amino acid contents. In pigeonpea the
amino acid such as lysine and threonines are in good
proportions, while methionine and cystine are deficient
[12]. Pigeonpea cotyledons are also rich in calcium and
Saxena [20] used wild relatives of pigeonpea as high
protein donor parents and demonstrated that seed protein
content in cultivated types can be enhanced through
conventional breeding. Singh [21] assessed these high
protein lines for their chemical composition. They re-
ported large differences between the levels of protein in
high-protein (28.7 to 31.1%) lines and control cultivars
(23.1 to 24.8%). As expected, the starch component in
high-protein lines was relatively less (54.3 to 55.6 %)
than that of controls (58.7 to 59.3%). Also the high-pro-
tein lines were marginally lowers (2.5 to 2.6%) in fat
content when compared with control cultivars (2.9 to
3.1%). The differences in the major protein fractions of
the high and normal-protein lines were also large. In
comparison to controls (60.3 to 60.5%), the globulin
fraction was higher (63.5 to 66.2%) in the high-protein
lines and the reverse was true for glutelin.
2.5. Anti-Nutritional Factors
Like other legumes, pigeonpea seeds also contain some
anti-nutritional factors (Table 2). These include oligo-sac-
charides (raffinose and verbascose), polyphenols (phenols
and tannins), phytolectins, and enzyme inhibitors (tryp-
sin, chymotrypsin, and amylase). According to Kamath
[22], pigeonpea seeds also have some amounts of un-
available carbohydrates which adversely affect the bio-
availability of certain vital nutrients. Some of the anti-
nutritional factors such as phytolectins are heat sensitive
and are destroyed during cooking.
Godbole [23] reported protease inhibitors in seven-
day old seeds; while Ambekar [24] found that such in-
hibitors are either not synthesized or inactive up to 28
days of the seed development. No other plant part except
seed exhibited trypsin or chymotrypsin inhibitors [25].
The white seeded pigeonpea cultivars contain relatively
less amounts of polyphenols. Such cultivars are prefer-
red in many countries where de-hulling facilities are not
available and whole seeds are consumed. In comparison
to the white seeded cultivars the red seeded types con-
tain three times greater quantity of polyphenols [26].
Similarly, the enzyme inhibition activity was also greater
in the colored seeds of pigeonpea. Since in India almost
entire pigeonpea production (3.2 m tones) are de-hulled
and converted into dal for consumption, the tannins pre-
sent in the colored seed coat pose no nutritional problem.
Pigeonpea seeds in the form of either dry, green, or
split peas are invariably consumed after cooking. There-
fore, besides various nutritional aspects the cooking time
and other related parameters assume importance. Con-
sumers always prefer a dal that cooks fast and produces
more volume upon cooking with high consistency and
flavor. Cooking time of dal is independent of taste and
flavor [9]. Jambunathan [27] studied various physico-
chemical characters of pigeonpea, and reported that quick
cooking trait of dal was associated with large seed size,
high solid dispersal, more water absorption, and high
nitrogen solubility. Narasimha [28] and Pal [7] reported
a positive association of cooking time of pigeonpea seeds
with their calcium and magnesium contents. According
to Salunkhe [29], cooking of pigeonpea improved the
bio-availability of nutrients and at the same time de-
storyed some anti-nutritional factors. Heat treatment of
pigeonpea seeds is also known to enhance their starch
digestibility. The lines, which take long time to cook,
generally face the danger of loosing important vitamins
from food. Cooking pigeonpea seed after germination
enhances their starch digestibility [30] but reduces the
levels of oligo-saccharides [31]. The fermentation of
seeds helps in reducing inhibitory activity of digestive
enzymes [32]. Geervani [33] reported that thiamine and
riboflavine were destroyed by heat but niacin content
was unaltered during boiling, pressure cooking, and roa-
sting of pigeonpea seeds. She further found that the avai-
lability of lysine and methionine decreased on roasting
but the available methionine increased on boiling and
Pigeonpea is predominantly cultivated by small holder
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farmers and they generally store the whole seeds for
over 6-12 months round-the-year for consumption. In ru-
ral areas the farmers’ process small quantities of grain as
and when needed, and they do de-hulling by hand-oper-
ated traditional grinding stones called chakki or quern.
Since in pigeonpea the cotyledons are attached tightly
with seed coat by various gums, the de-hulling involves
the process of dissolving the gum layers by soaking
whole seeds in water, heat treatment, or adding oil after
surface scarification. This is followed by drying, de-husk-
ing, and splitting of cotyledons. During this process the
losses of certain proportions of cotyledons are inevitable,
and it is estimated that by using advanced processing
technology about 15%-17% of grain mass is lost; while
with chakki such losses may shoot up to 20%-25%.
In rural areas, the seeds are generally stored in gunny
bags or bins made of mud and husk. According to Daniel
[34], food grains containing more than 10 mg uric acid
per 100 g of food are unfit for human consumption. Pi-
geonpea seeds when stored for eight months turned unfit
for consumption as their total uric acid content crossed
the safe prescribed limit [35]. Cooking time of pigeon-
pea in general increased with storage time [36]. Daniel
[34] reported that lysine, threonine, and protein effi-
ciency ratios were adversely affected in pigeonpea when
the seeds were stored in jute bags. The storage of pi-
geonpea seeds also resulted in the loss of vitamins. Such
losses were less (10%-26%) in the protected seed and
high (32%-49%) in the infested seeds [37]. Thiamine and
niacin contents also registered decline during storage.
Factors such as moisture, temperature, relative humidity,
and seed hardness determined the extent of quality losses
during storage [38].
Reddy [39] reported that in comparison to inner layers
of cotyledons the outer layers are rich in protein. From
nutrition point of view, this is a matter of concern since
de-hulling not only removes protein-rich germ but also
some proportion of the outer layers of the cotyledons.
Singh [40] further observed that de-hulling also removes
about 20% calcium and 30% iron. According to Kurien
[41], the dal yield under controlled conditions achieves
an efficiency of 80%-84% but at commercial level the
recovery remains around 70%. Therefore, with a combi-
nation of a superior variety and efficient processing tech-
nology, the nutrient availability can be maximized.
The growth and development of pigeonpea plants are
known to be highly influenced by environmental factors
such as temperature, photoperiod, available moisture,
soil nutrition etc. The large variation observed for protein
content of pure lines over locations or years is a good
example of the role that environment can play in the ex-
pression of this trait. Sham [42] reported significant ef-
fects of location and fertilizer application on pigeonpea
seed protein. Oke [43] found that incorporation of 20
ppm sulfur alone or in combination with phosphorus in-
creased methionine content of pigeonpea.
Saxena [44] observed significant differences for pro-
tein content across locations and months. The same vari-
ety, when grown in different months at a particular loca-
tion showed significant variation in its protein content.
For example, in cultivar “Prabhat” planted at Patancheru
(17˚N) over 12 months, the seed protein content ranged
from 21.6% to 25.2%; similarly at Pantnagar (29˚N), in
10 plantings within a year, the protein content of cultivar
Prabhat ranged between 24.5% and 27.9%.
Plant kingdom had been considered from a long time
a reservoir of folk medicines. The herbal medicines, also
called as phyto-medicines, refer to using a plant or its
part such as leaves, flowers, fruits, bark, or seeds for me-
dicinal purposes. Since ancient periods and long before
any recorded history China, India, and Egypt were the
leaders in folk medicines. The ancient Chinese and Egy-
ptian papyrus writings described various medicinal uses
of some plant species. The native Africans and Ameri-
cans also used different herbs in a number of healing
rituals. The herbal medicine system has a long tradition
of usage outside the boundaries of synthetic medicine
system. With the advent of improved chemical analytical
methods along with quality control technologies and
advances in clinical research, the value of herbal medi-
cines increased in treating and preventing of some hu-
man diseases. Subsequently, effective traditional medical
systems such as “Ayurveda” in India and “Traditional
Chinese Medicine” in China were developed with a fairly
good recognition. Slowly the people in different parts of
the world also started using the common herbal plants
for medicinal purposes.
In the early 19th century, when the first chemical ana-
lysis became available, the scientists began to extract the
active ingredients from selected plant species for phar-
maceutical usage and some chemists started synthesizing
targeted plant compounds in their laboratories. Gradually,
the usage of herbal medicines declined in favor of syn-
thetic drugs. However, the World Health Organization
estimated that 80% of people worldwide, particularly
from developing and under-developed countries, still
rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary
health care. In Germany, about 600-700 plant-based me-
dicines are still prescribed by 70% of the Physicians.
Recently, some of the developed countries have also
shown interest in the natural or organic remedies [45].
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6.1. Herbal Properties
Pigeonpea is being used as an integral part of tradi-
tional folk medicine in India, China, and some other de-
veloping countries [46]. The importance of pigeonpea
plant in ethnical folk medicine is well known in the pre-
vention and cure of certain human ailments and its brief
account is given below:
Flowers: Pigeonpea floral decoctions are traditionally
used for treating ailments such as bronchitis, coughs, and
pneumonia. Pigeonpea flowers are also prepared into a
“tea” for treating upper respiratory infections and pain.
The flowers, when prepared in an infusion, are used for
treating dysentery and menstrual disorders.
Seeds: Scorched seeds, when added to coffee alleviate
headache and vertigo. Fresh seeds are believed to help
incontinence of urine in males, while immature seeds are
recommended for treatment of kidney ailments [47]. Pi-
geonpea seeds are infused to make a diuretic “tea” for
inflammation and blood disorders. In South America pi-
geonpea seeds are used for febrifuge, stabilization of the
menstrual period and dysentery [48]; in Africa pigeon-
pea seeds are used for treating hepatitis and measles [49].
In Mexico, pigeonpea seeds are used as styptic drug and
laxative; while in China these are used to arrest bleeding,
relieve pain, kill worms, and as an expectorant and seda-
tive drug [50,51]. Some herbal researchers are of the opi-
nion that pigeonpea diminishes swelling of internal or-
gans such as liver, intestines etc. Clinical studies have
also shown that the seed extract of pigeonpea helps in
inhibiting sickling of red blood cells and therefore, has
potential to treat the person suffering from sickle cell
anemia [52].
Roots: Dried roots of pigeonpea are sometimes used
as an alexeritic, anthelminthic, expectorant, sedative, and
Leaves: In India pigeonpea leaves are used for curing
sores, wounds, abdominal tumors, and diabetes [53,54].
The leaves of the pigeonpea are decocted in Argentina
for treating acute bronchial problems and genital and skin
irritations. The young leaves of pigeonpea can be chew-
ed for treating cough, diarrhea [55], traumatism, burnt
infection, bedsore, toothache, mouthwash, sore gums,
child-delivery, and dysentery [56,57]. It was also found
that pigeonpea leaves have notable anti-inflammatory
and antibiotic effects; and also inhibit capillary perme-
ability [58]. In China, pigeonpea is considered as an ex-
cellent “Traditional Chinese Medicine” for therapy of
ischemic necrosis of femoral head. The leaves are pre-
pared in an infusion for overcoming anemia, hepatitis,
urinary infections, yellow fever, and ulcers. In Brazil,
pigeonpea leaves are infused for coughs, fevers, and
6.2. Chemical Constituents of Leaves
In order to know the major chemical constituents of
pigeonpea leaves, efforts were made to isolate and iden-
tify various active chemical compounds. The research
efforts revealed that some polyphenols, especially fla-
vonoids, play an important role in curing certain human
ailments [59-62]. The four major flavonoids identified in
the extracts of pigeonpea leaves are quercetin, luteolin,
apigenin, and isorhamnetin. These compounds are known
for their important pharmacological activities [56,63,64].
Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds, which are widely
found in plant kingdom. As intrinsic components of fruits,
vegetables, and beverages many of the 4000 different
flavonoids known to-date, are present in a common
regular diet [65]. Pigeonpea leaves also contain other
compounds such as hordenine, juliflorine, betulinic acid,
stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol, etc. In recent years, exten-
sive research is being carried on various antibacterial,
anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory
properties of these flavonoids [66-68].
In most third world countries supply of staple food has
failed to keep pace with population growth and, there-
fore, breeding for high quality foods never received a
priority and the resources were always diverted for en-
hancing yield of major food crops. Considering the state
of protein malnutrition in most developing and under-
developed countries, the genetic enhancement of seed
protein in pigeonpea was initiated at ICRISAT.
To start a high protein breeding program, information
on the genetic control of protein content is essential.
Saxena [69] reported the role of both additive and non-
additive gene actions in determining protein content and
it was found to be controlled by 3-4 genes [70] that were
recessive in nature [71]. Since the genetic variation for
protein in primary (cultivated) gene pool was limited,
the high-protein sources available in the secondary (wild)
gene pool such as Cajanus sericeus, C. lineatus, and C.
scarabaeoides were used in breeding. This program su-
ccessfully developed some high protein (26.9%-27.4%)
lines with good seed size (9.6-10.5 g 100-1 seeds), and
high seed yield (1660-2096 kg ha-1). The evaluation of
these high-protein lines revealed that from one hectare of
field 350-450 kg crude protein can be harvested, reflect-
ing an additional harvest of 80-100 kg protein ha-1. Cul-
tivation of such lines will markedly improve availability
of protein to farmers without sacrificing seed yield.
The results of rat feeding trials of these high-protein
lines showed that boiled dal was comparable to the con-
trol in true protein digestibility, biological value, and net
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protein utilization [21]. They further concluded that the
high-protein lines were nutritionally superior to normal-
protein cultivars as the former contain quantitatively more
utilizable protein and sulfur containing amino acids.
Early maturing varieties are short in stature and re-
quire high (about 300,000 plants ha-1) density in contrast
to late maturing types which need 40,000-50,000 plants
ha-1 for optimum yields. For backyard and bund cultiva-
tion the pigeonpea plants are maintained for more than
one year and they attain a height of over 3 m. The pods
are picked for house-hold use, as and when required. No
specific agronomic practices are followed in this system.
For local market relatively large populations are grown
on field bunds, mainly around paddy fields. In this sys-
tem, 3-4 seeds are sown in a single hill and the plants
produce a large number of branches on either side of the
bund. For peri-urban commercial crop, a field with known
history of good soil fertility and drainage should be se-
lected. The sowings on raised beds with appropriate slo-
pe is ideal for pigeonpea. Application of 100 kg ha-1 of
di-ammonium phosphate and other soil amendments for
the known soil deficiencies are advisable before sowing.
Sowing should be undertaken at the onset of rainy sea-
son with row-to-row and plant-to-plant spacing of 100
cm and 50 cm, respectively. The seeds are placed about
5 cm deep and covered firmly with soil. For weed con-
trol spraying of a pre-emergence herbicide such as Ba-
salin @ 1.5 L ha-1, followed by two hand weeding are
enough to control rainy season weeds. Irrigation is gen-
erally not recommended if the crop is grown for domes-
tic consumption on deep Vertisols. In pigeonpea insect
control is very vital. Pod borers (Helicoverpa armigera
and Maruca vitrata), pod fly (Melanagromyza obtusa),
and blister beetle (Mylabris pustulata) are major pi-
geonpea insects. These may cause severe damage to seed
yield and quality. To control these insects appropriate
chemical control is essential. Fusarium wilt and sterility
mosaic are two major pigeonpea diseases. Wilt is caused
by a soil-borne fungus Fusarium udum Butler while ste-
rility mosaic is caused by virus. At present a number of
disease resistant cultivars are available and the losses
can be minimized by using such cultivars.
In pigeonpea methionine, cystine, tryptophan and thre-
onine are the limiting essential amino acids, whereas in
rice and wheat lysine is the limiting amino acid. A food
combining both cereals and pulses provide a balanced
diet because they complement the amino acid profiles of
each other. The mutual quality compensation is closest
to the ideal value when the ratio by weight of cereals to
legume is roughly 70:30 [19]. In southern and eastern
Africa this ratio is 90:10, reflecting shortage of protein
in the diet. Daniel [72] studied supplementation of cereal
diets with various proportions of pigeonpea and reported
that supplementation of ration with pigeonpea signifi-
cantly enhanced the nutritive value of diet. Supplemen-
tation of rice diet with 8.5% and 16.7% pigeonpea dal
markedly improved the quality of diet. Similarly, Kurien
[41] demonstrated that a supplement of pigeonpea in
maize diet significantly improved the quality of food.
Bidinger [73] observed that pigeonpea was by far the
most preferred pulse crop in Indian villages and its con-
sumption patterns differed widely by age group, farm
size, and the village. The consumption rate was found
linear with small farmers consuming the least amount
and the large farmers the most. National Institute of Nu-
trition in India recommends cereal: pulse ratio of 3:1 for
very young children, 5:1 for women, and 6:1 for men. In
most of the cases, rural diets standards could not be met.
Bidinger [73] further reported that 10% of protein and
5% of energy in the village diets came from pigeonpea.
The maximum lysine provided from the diet was 21.7%.
These values are low and reflect low consumption of
Legumes are a rich source of food proteins that are ge-
nerally grown under risk—prone marginal lands. Amongst
various food legumes, pigeonpea occupies an important
place and has been rated the best as far as its biological
value is concerned. It has been recommended for a bal-
anced diet with cereals, especially to fill in the nutri-
tional gap for proteins amongst the poorer section in
developing economies that cannot afford a non-vegeta-
rian diet. At present, the protein availability in develop-
ing countries is about one-third of normal requirements
and with ever growing population; various nutritional
development programs are facing a tough challenge to
meet the protein demand.
In general, pigeonpea can be grown both as annual
crop or perennial plants in homestead and is consumed
either as decorticated splits or green seeds as vegetables.
It has been found that vegetable pigeonpea are consi-
dered superior to dry splits in crude fiber, fat, protein
digestibility as well as trace elements and minerals. Be-
sides its nutritional value, pigeonpea also possesses va-
rious medicinal properties due to presence of a number
of polyphenols and flavonoides. It is an integral part of
traditional folk medicine in India, China, and some other
nations. Pigeonpea is known to prevent and cure human
ailments like bronchitis, coughs, pneumonia, respiratory
K. B. Saxena et al. / HEALTH 2 (2010) 1335-1344
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
Openly accessible at
infections, pain, dysentery, menstrual disorders, curing
sores, wounds, abdominal tumors, and diabetes in tradi-
tional folk medicine.
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