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Mungbean: A legume with potential

Mungbean is an important pulse crop in Asia. It can be harvested 2 months after sowing, which makes it an ideal fit for fallow periods in rice and wheat production systems. Grown between two cereal crops, mungbean provides additional income for farmers and nutritious food for people. As a legume crop, mungbean associates with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and improves soil fertility, lowering the need for nitrogen fertilizers and increasing yield and quality of subsequent cereal harvests.

Fig. 1. Development of the mungbean growing area in Uzbekistan since 2001. “Low water” years are labeled in dark red. Lack of irrigation water generally led to an area reduction, while the mungbean cultivation area tripled over the last 10 years. Source: Dr. Shavkat Kenjabaev, Uzbek Research Institute of Plant Industry

Demand for pulses is high, especially in South Asia, where there is great potential to expand the mungbean cultivation area. In Uzbekistan, for example, the export potential of mungbean to India and changes in agricultural policies led to a sharp increase in land area planted to mungbean. The area tripled during the last ten years to 24,000 hectares (Fig. 1). Official figures for 2017 are not yet available, but local sources indicate that due to the economic success of exporting mungbean, the area planted with this crop in 2017 will be 4 to 5-fold higher than in 2016.

Pakistan spends on an average USD 400 million per year to import pulses such as chickpea, lentils and a moderate quantity of mungbean. Expanding short duration mungbean cultivation to new areas is an option to increase availability of pulses. Pakistan has sought to raise low yields obtained in the current cropping areas by introducing improved varieties and optimized production methods. The income generated through augmented mungbean production will benefit the local economy and make the country less dependent on food imports.

identified and then channeled through variety development processes.

Prof. Zahir A. Zahir’s team prepares mungbean seed inoculant with beneficial bacteria.

Rapid expansion of mungbean cultivation is an excellent opportunity for farmers to increase their income, but planting a new crop also presents risks. To benefit from mungbean, farmers must have reliable access to quality seed of adapted cultivars when they need it, be able to apply suitable production methods, and be able to successfully market their product.

The BMZ/GIZ funded project “Beans with Benefits” involves partners from Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Germany and is led by the World Vegetable Center. The project team mobilizes the potential of mungbean to contribute to food security and generate income. It provides improved mungbean lines for field testing and variety development, strengthens capacity in seed production and inoculation, and develops cultivation methods to achieve good yields and improve soil fertility.

Prof. Zahir A. Zahir and his team from the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Pakistan, organized an international workshop entitled “Beans with Benefits – Potential and limitations for mungbean production” in August 2017. Eighty researchers and farmer representatives participated in the workshop, during which they were informed the progress of project, saw mungbean-related technologies, and discussed bottlenecks research must address to realize the full potential of the crop.

Participants joined in sessions on mungbean breeding, production technologies, cultivation techniques to optimize soil improvement, pest management, and value addition. Special emphasis was given to mungbean seed production and seed inoculation methods; previous consultations with farmers revealed that lack of quality seed is a major bottleneck for successful mungbean production in the region. Mungbean seed inoculation with bacterial consortia comprising nitrogen-fixing Rhizobia strains and plant growth promoting rhizobacteria was demonstrated. Inoculation of mungbean seed ensures the growing root can recruit beneficial bacteria that promote growth and enhance the vigor of the plant, making it more tolerant to drought, heat, soil salinity, and other stress.

After the workshop, the project team visited the Beans with Benefits research program mungbean trial sites, where promising materials produced by the mungbean breeding programs at the National Agricultural Research Center and by the World Vegetable Center mungbean breeding program led by Dr. Ramakrishnan Nair are identified and then channeled through variety development processes.

On a mother-baby field trial site in the Pothwar region of Pakistan. Promising mungbean materials developed in the BMZ/GIZ – Beans with Benefit project are tested on an experimental station under the management of scientists (mother trial) and on farmer fields under farmer management (baby trial) to compare crop performance under different management conditions. From left to right: Shernabi Khan, Country Coordinator Pakistan of the BMZ/GIZ-Beans with Benefit project; Dr. Shahid Riaz Malik, Pulses Program Leader, National Agricultural Research Center, Pakistan; Mr. Raja, farmer and owner of the trial field; Mr. Israr Hussain, Field Manager of the National Agricultural Research Center, Pakistan.

Story and photos: Roland Schafleitner, Shernabi Khan and Ramakrishnan Nair

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Promising high yielding mungbean lines produced by the National Agricultural Research Center (Islamabad).

Dr. Aslam, mungbean breeder at the Arid Zone Research Center (Bhakkar, Pakistan) with his line TM1611 with excellent yield, tolerance to high temperatures and dry conditions.

Mungbean: Actions to increase farmer’s income and improve food security

1) International collaboration benefits mungbean research and must be continued. Sharing information and materials between partners in different countries is a key for the success of this crop to generate income and contribute to food security.

2) Development of short duration heat tolerant varieties with multiple disease resistances and high nutritional value should be prioritized.

3) New resistance sources for Cercospora leaf spot disease are required to produce varieties with genetic resistance to this disease.

4) Farmers must be made aware of the importance of using quality seed of improved varieties to increase mungbean yields. At the same time, seed availability needs to be guaranteed through partnerships with private seed companies and through seed village concepts.

5) Farmers need to be informed about available biofertilizers such as bacterial inoculants for mungbean seed, and at the same time a Pakistani National Biofertlizer Policy should be developed.

6) Mechanical harvesting methods must be developed to overcome labor shortages during mungbean harvest. Specifically, an environmentally friendly method to desiccate plants before mechanical harvest that avoids contamination of the grain with herbicide residues is required.

7) Integrated pest management methods for pod borer and espanola bug should be developed.

8) Value addition in mungbean must be promoted to generate income opportunities along the value chain. Biofortification of cereal products and introduction of mungbean sprouts should be encouraged to open up new market channels for mungbean.

9) Government policies to increase price stability and control of export and import of mungbean should be implemented to make production more profitable for farmers.

10) Youth and women should be empowered through community mobilization programs to learn modern production technologies, become more familiar with the use of information technologies in agriculture and marketing of agricultural products, and be trained in value addition and postharvest technologies for mungbean.


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