Pigeon Pea Growing Information
© Frances Michaels
Pigeon Pea, Congo Pea, Red Gram
Botanical Name: Cajanus cajan
syn. Cajanus indicus
A woody, leguminous shrub, to 3.6 m, with yellow and red flowers.
It is hardy, widely adaptable and tolerant of temperatures as high as 35°C. It
can be killed by heavy frost. An average annual rainfall between 600 and 1,000 mm is most suitable. However, it can be
grown in humid areas, even over 2,500 mm of rainfall and is renowned for its drought tolerance. It gives economic
yields of seeds in areas where rainfall averages about 400 mm annually. Although it cannot withstand waterlogging it
can be grown in a wide range of soils, as it tolerates low fertility. Some cultivars are tolerant of salinity and
aluminium. A pH range of 4.5 - 8.4 is tolerated.
Recommended Planting Time:
- Food; seeds are 25% protein, can be eaten fresh or as split dried peas, are used for dhal in India, contain 5
times more Vitamin A and C than green peas. The leaves and young shoots can be eaten cooked, they are fibrous and
have a strong spicy odour.
- Animal Fodder; an excellent feed for cattle, pigs and poultry.
- Green Manure; incorporate the plants as they flower.
- Mulch production; can be cut many times in a season.
- Alley cropping; provides nitrogen, habitat and soil stabilisation.
- Windbreaks; suitable as a shelterbelt around vegetable gardens.
Spring, or during the wet season, soil temperature should
be at least 25°C for germination, a higher soil temperature will give a more even germination.
It can be direct-seeded, or planted into forestry tubes and later
transplanted. Sow the seed 2.5 cm deep.
Soaking seeds overnight will improve germination. Protect young plants from
all grazing animals.
A group of bacteria called Rhizobium
live in a symbiotic relationship with
many legumes. This is a big advantage to the plant, as it is able, once inoculated, to produce its own nitrogen, from
the soil air. The bacteria are stored in peat, and as this is a living culture, it must be treated with care. It
should be stored in the fridge and used within 3 months. Do not separate from the seed packet as the inoculant
attached is specific to the individual legume. To use, moisten the seed with a small amount of milk or water and stir
in the inoculant until seeds are coated. Do not inoculate the seed until you are ready to sow it and do not leave
the inoculated seed in the sun.