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Sterility Mosaic Disease—the “Green Plague” of Pigeonpea: Advances in Understanding the Etiology, Transmission and Control of a Major Virus Disease

May 2004 , Volume 88 , Number  5
Pages  436 - 445

A. Teifion Jones , Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), Scotland, UK ; P. Lava Kumar , International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru, India, and SCRI ; K. B. Saxena , ICRISAT ; N. K. Kulkarni , University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS), Bangalore, India, and ICRISAT ; V. Muniyappa , University of Agriculture Sciences, Bangalore, India ; and Farid Waliyar , ICRISAT

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Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan), is a grain legume that is a very important subsistence crop in marginal farming systems adopted by millions of smallholder farmers in the Indian subcontinent. It is grown for its seed for human consumption and for income generation by trading surpluses in local and commercial markets, but is widely used for diverse purposes, including as animal fodder and for soil conservation. Sterility mosaic (SMD) is the most damaging disease of pigeonpea endemic in the Indian subcontinent. It causes yield losses of >US$300 million per annum in India and Nepal alone. SMD-affected plants show severe stunting and mosaic symptoms on leaves, with complete or partial cessation of flowering. The SMD causal agent is spread by the arthropod mite vector Aceria cajani (Acari: Eriophyidae). Cultivating SMD-resistant genotypes is the most viable way to manage this serious disease of pigeonpea. Progress in developing broad-based SMD resistant material has been hindered by the lack of knowledge of the causal agent, the absence of diagnostic tools, and factors influencing host-plant resistance. After seven decades of research, vital breakthroughs made on the identification, detection, transmission, and epidemiology of the SMD causal agent, Pigeonpea sterility mosaic virus (PPSMV), are enabling the development of broad-based durable resistant pigeonpea cultivars. These breakthroughs will contribute greatly to sustainable pigeonpea production and enhance the income and livelihood of poor farmers in the semi-arid tropics of the Indian subcontinent.

© 2004 The American Phytopathological Society