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Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Maréchal

Bull. Jard. Bot. Belg. 39(2): 160 (1969).
Papilionaceae (Leguminosae - Papilionoideae, Fabaceae)
Chromosome number
2n = 22
Phaseolus aconitifolius Jacq. (1768).
Vernacular names
Moth bean, moth gram, mat bean, dew bean, dew gram (En). Haricot mat, mat, haricot papillon (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Moth bean is native to India, Pakistan and Myanmar where it grows both wild and cultivated. It is also grown in other parts of Asia, Africa, the United States and Cuba. As a pulse it is mostly grown in India and Thailand; elsewhere it is mostly a forage, green manure or cover crop. In tropical Africa it has been recorded from Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya and Botswana.
The ripe whole or split seeds of moth bean are eaten cooked or fried. Sprouted and cooked seeds are preferred as breakfast items in India whereas fried splits are consumed in the form of a ready to eat product. The seeds are sometimes ground into flour, which is mixed with other flours to make unleavened bread. The immature pods are sometimes eaten boiled as a vegetable. In India the pod walls and residues left after the preparation of dhal are fed to animals. Moth bean is also grown for green manure, forage and hay and as a cover crop. Seeds are used medicinally in diets to treat fevers; roots are said to be narcotic.
Production and international trade
In India moth bean is grown on 1.5 million ha producing annually about 0.4 million t of seed which is traded and consumed within the country. Worldwide moth bean is grown on about 2 million ha.
Mature, raw moth bean seeds contain per 100 g edible portion: water 9.7 g, energy 1435 kJ (343 kcal), protein 22.9 g, fat 1.6 g, carbohydrate 61.5 g, Ca 150 mg, Mg 381 mg, P 489 mg, Fe 10.9 mg, Zn 1.9 mg, vitamin A 32 IU, thiamin 0.56 mg, riboflavin 0.09 mg, niacin 2.8 mg, vitamin B6 0.37 mg, folate 649 μg and ascorbic acid 4.0 mg. The essential amino-acid composition per 100 g edible portion is: tryptophan 147 mg, lysine 1248 mg, methionine 220 mg, phenylalanine 1028 mg, valine 734 mg, leucine 1541 mg and isoleucine 1138 mg. The principal fatty acids are per 100 g edible portion: linoleic acid 485 mg, palmitic acid 313 mg, linolenic acid 265 mg, oleic acid 129 mg and stearic acid 51 mg (USDA, 2005). The protein has a lower digestibility than that of mung bean (Vigna radiata (L.) R.Wilczek). The digestibility of the starch and protein is considerably improved by processing treatments such as soaking, removal of the seed coat, germination and pressure cooking.
Annual, slender, hairy herb with short, angular, erect stem up to 40 cm tall and many prostrate branches up to 150 cm long. Leaves alternate, 3-foliolate; stipules lanceolate, c. 12 mm long, peltate; petiole 5–10 cm long, grooved; stipels small; leaflets 5–12 cm long, deeply divided into 3–5 narrow lobes. Inflorescence an axillary, head-like, dense false raceme; peduncle 5–10 cm long. Flowers bisexual, papilionaceous; pedicel 5–8 mm long; calyx campanulate, c. 2.5 mm long; corolla yellow, standard orbicular, up to 8 mm long, wings c. 6 mm long, keel sickle-shaped, c. 7 mm long; stamens 10, 9 united and 1 free; ovary superior, sessile, c. 4 mm long, style incurved. Fruit a cylindrical pod 2.5–5 cm × 0.5 cm, brown, covered with short stiff hairs, 4–9-seeded. Seeds rectangular to cylindrical, 3–5 mm × 1.5–2.5 mm, whitish green, yellow to brown, often mottled with black; hilum white, linear. Seedling with epigeal germination.
Vigna comprises about 80 species and occurs throughout the tropics. Vigna aconitifolia belongs to subgenus Ceratotropis, which also includes Vigna radiata (L.) R.Wilczek (mung bean), Vigna umbellata (Thunb.) Ohwi & H.Ohashi (rice bean), Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper (black gram) and Vigna angularis (Willd.) Ohwi & H.Ohashi (adzuki bean). In India numerous landraces and cultivars of moth bean exist.
For germination of moth bean a temperature of 25–27°C is optimal. Vegetative development starts slowly. Moth bean is predominantly self-pollinated and takes 75–90 days after sowing to mature. It effectively nodulates with Bradyrhizobium strains from the cowpea cross-inoculation group.
In India moth bean is the most drought-resistant pulse crop and particularly cultivated in hot, arid to semi-arid regions. For optimum production it requires an average temperature of 24–32°C, but it withstands daytime temperatures up to 45°C. In India moth bean is grown from sea-level up to an altitude of 1300 m. Moth bean thrives with a well-distributed annual rainfall of 500–750 mm, but it is also grown successfully in areas with as low as 200–300 mm annual rainfall. Even with as little as 50–60 mm in 3–4 showers during the growing period, some yield can be obtained. Moth bean is a quantitative short-day plant, but day-neutral types are also known. It grows on many soil types but is particularly suitable for dry light sandy soils. It does not tolerate waterlogging. Some degree of salinity and a wide pH range (3.5–10) are tolerated.
Moth bean is propagated by seed; the 1000-seed weight is 10–35 g. It should be sown on a well-prepared seedbed. Moth bean is usually broadcast, at a seed rate of 10–20 kg/ha when grown for seed as a sole crop and 7–34 kg/ha when grown for forage. When sown in rows the seed rate is 2–5 kg/ha for pure stands; it is sown in rows 30–90 cm apart at a depth of 2.5–4 cm. When grown as a rainfed crop in arid regions best results were obtained in India by planting equal amounts of early and late types in alternate rows. Moth bean is frequently sown towards the end of the rainy season and grown on residual soil moisture. Weed control is important until a full canopy has developed. Irrigation and fertilizer applications are rare. In India moth bean is grown as a sole crop or intercropped with pearl millet, sorghum or other cereals, occasionally with pulses. It is grown as a green manure in rotation with cotton. The most important diseases of moth bean are mung bean yellow mosaic virus (MYMV) transmitted by white fly (Bemisia tabaci), and root rot and seedling blight caused by Macrophomina phaseolina, which is soil- and seed-borne. Cultivars resistant to yellow mosaic are available; some cultivars are moderately resistant to Macrophomina phaseolina. Moth bean is also affected by nematodes, especially Meloidoigyne incognita. It is parasitized by several Striga species. Bruchids (Callosobruchus spp.) feed on the seed during storage. Plants are difficult to harvest with a mower because of the prostrate branches. They are usually cut with a sickle, left to dry for one week, then threshed and winnowed. Average seed yields of moth bean are only 70–270 kg/ha, although in the United States and Australia experimental seed yields of up to 2600 kg/ha have been obtained. Yield of green matter for forage is 37–50 t/ha and of hay 7.5–10 t/ha.
Genetic resources and breeding
The largest germplasm collection of moth bean is at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi, India, where more than 1000 accessions are held. Smaller collections are available in the United States (USDA Southern Regional Plant Introduction Station, Griffin, Georgia, 56 accessions), Kenya (National Genebank of Kenya, Crop Plant Genetic Resources Centre, Kikuyu, 47 accessions) and the Russian Federation (N.I. Vavilov All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Plant Industry, St. Petersburg, 56 accessions). Increased efforts in germplasm collection, characterization, evaluation and preservation are recommended. Improved moth bean cultivars have been developed and released in India, e.g. ‘RMO-40’, ‘RMO-225’, ‘RMO-257’, ‘RMO-435’ and ‘Jwala’. Genetic transformation of moth bean has been achieved using particle bombardment or Agrobacterium -mediated transfer.
Moth bean is considered to be one of the most drought-tolerant pulse crops, but its spreading habit, which makes harvesting difficult, and the lack of information on its potential and on appropriate management practices limits its spread and use. Although recorded from various countries, it has not become important in tropical Africa. It could, however, increase production of food and forage in arid and semi-arid regions, and protect the soil against erosion. The ecological limits, optimal cultivation practices and most appropriate cultivars should be investigated. Priorities for breeding include the development of erect, early maturing types, resistance to diseases and high nutritional quality of the seed.
Major references
• Kay, D.E., 1979. Food legumes. Crops and Product Digest No 3. Tropical Products Institute, London, United Kingdom. 435 pp.
• Narain, P., Singh, R.S. & Kumar, D., 2000. Droughts and dew bean productivity in northwestern arid Rajasthan, India. Drought Network News 13(1): 7–9.
• Negi, A., Boora, P. & Khetarpaul, N., 2001. Starch and protein digestibility of newly released moth bean cultivars: effect of soaking, dehulling, germination and pressure cooking. Nahrung/Food 45(4): 251–254.
• Thulin, M., 1983. Leguminosae of Ethiopia. Opera Botanica 68: 1–223.
• van Oers, C.C.C.M., 1989. Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Maréchal. In: van der Maesen, L.J.G. & Somaatmadja, S. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 1. Pulses. Pudoc, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 66–67.
Other references
• Bogdan, A.V., 1977. Tropical pasture and fodder plants (grasses and legumes). Longman, London, United Kingdom. 475 pp.
• Hanelt, P. & Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (Editors), 2001. Mansfeld’s encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops (except ornamentals). 1st English edition. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 3645 pp.
• Kamble, S., Misra, H.S., Mahajan, S.K. & Eapen, S., 2003. A protocol for efficient biolistic transformation of mothbean Vigna aconitifolia L. Jacq. Maréchal. Plant Molecular Biology Reporter 21: 457a–457j.
• Kathju, S., Garg, B.K., Vyas, S.P. & Lahiri, A.N., 2003. Sustainable production of moth bean through genotype management under arid environments. Journal of Arid Environments 53: 137 143.
• Khatri, R.S., 2004. Breeding priorities for genetic improvement in mothbean (Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq. ) Maréchal). Annals of Biology 20(2): 219–222.
• National Academy of Sciences, 1979. Tropical legumes: resources for the future. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., United States. 331 pp.
• Nimkar, P.M., Mandwe, D.S. & Dudhe, R.M., 2005. Physical properties of moth gram. Biosystems Engineering 91(2): 183–189.
• Rathore, B.S., 2001. Screening of mothbean genotypes against root rot and seedling blight caused by Macrophomina phaseolina. Plant Disease Research 16(1): 110–112.
• Thulin, M., 1993. Fabaceae (Leguminosae). In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 1. Pteridophyta; Gymnospermae; Angiospermae (Annonaceae-Fabaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 341–465.
• USDA, 2005. USDA national nutrient database for standard reference, release 18. [Internet] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, United States. Accessed September 2005.
Sources of illustration
• van Oers, C.C.C.M., 1989. Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Maréchal. In: van der Maesen, L.J.G. & Somaatmadja, S. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 1. Pulses. Pudoc, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 66–67.
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Based on PROSEA 1: ‘Pulses’.

M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
G. Belay
Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization, Debre Zeit Center, P.O. Box 32, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia
Associate editors
J.M.J. de Wet
Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana-Champaign, Turner Hall, 1102 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, United States
O.T. Edje
Faculty of Agriculture, University of Swaziland, P.O. Luyengo, Luyengo, Swaziland
E. Westphal
Ritzema Bosweg 13, 6706 BB Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Photo editor
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M. & Jansen, P.C.M., 2006. Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Maréchal In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, flowering branch; 2, infructescence; 3, seeds.
Source: PROSEA