Mungbean [Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek]: Protein-rich Legume for Improving Soil Fertility and Diversifying Cropping Systems


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Virginia Tech


Drought, salinity, and low soil fertility have negative impacts on agricultural productivity, resulting in food scarcity and nutritional insecurity, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mungbean [Vigna radiata (L.) R. Wilczek] has seen increased interest as a short-duration and drought tolerant legume crop, capable of atmospheric N₂ fixation. Mungbean is a protein and iron-rich legume and can be used as vegetable or grain for human consumption or multipurpose crop. At present, few studies have simultaneously explored the best agronomic practices for mungbean cultivation and evaluated its potential for increasing crop yields via intercropping systems and improving soil fertility through biological N₂ fixation. To understand the agronomic practices and soil physical properties limiting mungbean production, the impacts of two mungbean cultivars (Berken and OK2000) with and without inoculation with Bradyrhizobium spp. grown in loamy sand and silt loam soils on mungbean growth and yield were investigated under glasshouse conditions. Promising results from this study led to the introduction of mungbean into pearl millet systems in Senegal and evaluation of the effects of intercropping on growth, yields, land equivalent ratio (LER), canopy cover estimates, and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Finally, we evaluated plant growth and N₂ fixation of five mungbean genotypes grown in two soil textures using the ¹⁵N natural abundance technique leading to recommendations for those with the greatest overall benefit to the cropping system.

The literature review shows mungbean often proposed as a strategic crop for increasing legume diversification within current cropping systems and providing increased food security as well as market diversification and economic sustainability. The greenhouse study revealed that OK2000 cultivar produced significantly higher yield when inoculated and planted on a silt loam soil than other treatments, indicating the importance of inoculation and soil texture in mungbean establishment. Intercropping mungbean and millet significantly (p≤ 0.05) increased combined yields (35% to 100% increase) and LER compared to sole millet cropping systems. Canopy cover estimates and NDVI values significantly increased up to 60% and 30%, respectively, in millet-mungbean intercropping over millet alone. The N2 fixation study showed that %Ndfa of mungbean was higher when grown in the loamy sand soil (27% increase). However, soil N uptake (235 mg plant⁻¹) and amount of N fixed (67 mg plant⁻¹) were greater in the silt loam soil. Among genotypes, IC 8972-1 significantly (p≤ 0.05) derived less N from the atmosphere (23%) but took more soil N (155 mg plant⁻¹) which yielded significantly greater dry biomass (7.85 g plant⁻¹) and shoot N content (200 mg plant⁻¹). The results from the N₂ fixation study indicated that choice of mungbean genotype can contribute to reducing N needs of agricultural systems. Overall, this research project demonstrated that mungbean has the potential for diversifying smallholder agriculture and adding biologically fixed N into soils, in line with transformative adaptation strategies being promoted for sustainable agriculture. Further research and development programs on good cultural practices, adaptation to cropping systems, and nutritional benefits for human consumption can promote mungbean cultivation in SSA.



Mungbean, intercropping, millet yield, soil fertility, nitrogen fixation, %Ndfa, Bradyrhizobium inoculation, soil texture, sustainable agriculture, Senegal