New pest control research holds promise for pigeonpea

News release | 07-Jul-2023

Queensland scientists have their finger on the pulse with their first-of-its-kind research into pest challenges in pigeonpea.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) is trialling pigeonpea as a new dryland summer pulse crop for Australian farmers.

The research is part of a four-year, $2.58 million innovative pigeonpea initiative.

There is currently limited research on pest-crop interactions of pigeonpea, particularly the key caterpillar pest, Helicoverpa armigera (formerly known as Heliothis).

DAF research scientist Trevor Volp has been studying the potential to develop pigeonpea varieties less susceptible to the pest via host-plant resistance.

Host-plant resistance research has experienced substantial success in other Queensland crops including sorghum and cotton.

“Our research is particularly important as it is the first study with pigeonpea that incorporates insect behaviour,” Mr Volp said.

“Our research focuses on developing innovative methods of controlling insect pests of pigeonpea by using an integrated pest management strategy to reduce insecticide use.

“Grain growers need a summer legume for sustainable and profitable rotations in drier regions where mungbean and soybean are not well-suited.

“Pigeonpea will also help Queensland better meet increasing demand for high-value pulse exports and healthy, trusted and sustainable plant-based proteins.”

Mr Volp said research is ongoing to understand these pest-crop interactions and explore the potential to develop varieties of pigeonpea less susceptible to pests.

“Understanding insect feeding behaviour is fundamental,” he said.

“To develop crop varieties with traits that defend against the pest, those traits must be expressed at sites where the insects are feeding.”

This research could revolutionise pigeonpea cultivation in Queensland and have far-reaching implications for pigeonpea growing regions across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Well-adapted pigeonpea varieties, together with good management practices for insect and weed control, will provide Queensland grain growers with a robust new summer crop option, as well as the start of a valuable export industry.

DAF scientists are also looking at better ways to control weeds during the early growing season, improving agronomic practices such as planting times, planting rates and row spacings, and exploring the root systems of pigeonpea to understand their drought tolerance.

This research is being conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries with support for the research on pests from The University of Queensland.

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Media contact: DAF Media,