Pigeon pea: a multipurpose, drought resistant forage, grain and vegetable crop for sustainable southern farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $200,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. John Sloan
Texas AgriLife Research

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, intercropping, conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, market study, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil chemistry, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    Agriculture production in the Southern United States is becoming increasingly challenged by drought conditions. Rainfall quantities and distribution have become more erratic. This creates a challenge for both grain and livestock farmers. Crop yields and forage production can be very good during a year with abundant rainfall, but severely reduced during drought periods. Therefore, there is a need for crops that are drought tolerant and that can also be used for both livestock and human consumption. Pigeon Pea is a common leguminous crop in many countries outside the United States, but it is virtually unknown in the Southern US. Pigeon pea has many traits that could make it a useful crop in Southern farming systems. It is very drought tolerant due to a large tap root system. It is also able to efficiently use soil nutrients, so it does not require significant fertilization. In addition to its drought resistance, this crop has many potential end-uses. The foliage can be used as a source of forage for cattle or other livestock. The immature green pod and the dried bean can be harvested for human consumption. Pigeon pea is a major staple for Indian and Latin American cultures, two rapidly increasing segments of the population in the Southern United States. Pigeon pea is also an excellent cover crop for compacted soils because after harvest, the large decaying tap root opens channels for water movement into the soil. The objective of this research, demonstration, and education proposal is to incorporate pigeon pea into farming systems in the Southern United states and to identify plant varieties and planting strategies that ensure a successful farming system. We will also explore the market potential of pigeon pea in the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex and establish communication between the farmers/producers and the retailers/end-users. Our project involves various participants. A research study at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Dallas will evaluate the potential of various pigeon pea varieties and planting strategies to reduce runoff during rainfall events. A research study at the Grazing Lands Research Laboratory in El Reno, Oklahoma will investigate soil water depletion by pigeon pea and its effect on subsequent winter wheat crops. This objective will also be evaluated in an on-farm study coordinated with the Bluebonnet Resource Conservation & Development district. Another on-farm study will examine the potential of pigeon pea as a late summer source of forage for cattle. Throughout the three-year project, field days, newsletter, and a website will be used to provide current information to our clientele. The project will culminate in the presentation of the major project findings at a pigeon pea conference near the end of the third year of the project. The conference will serve to establish communication between pigeon pea growers/producers and retailers/end-users.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. 1. Quantify the effects of pigeon pea planting strategies (plant variety, population density, and soil preparation) on water infiltration and runoff water quantity and quality. Evaluate the impact of pigeon pea on soil physical and chemical properties, including soil resistance to penetration and bulk density. 2. Evaluate the impact of pigeon pea grain crops on the depletion of soil profile moisture and the growth and yield of subsequent wheat crops. 3. Demonstrate and evaluate the value of pigeon pea as a late season forage crop when intercropped with existing grass pastures or as a post-wheat-harvest crop. Determine if cattle will graze pigeon pea during its pre-flowering growth stage or if they are not attracted to the pigeon pea until it reaches its flowering stage. Determine if there are different patterns and preferences in the way cattle graze white seed versus brown seed pigeon pea varieties. 4. Explore the market for fresh pod and dried bean forms of pigeon pea in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. 5. Host a pigeon pea conference at the Texas A&M University Research and Extension Center in Dallas, Texas to present pigeon pea cropping and marketing options for southern farmers Approach and Methods.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.