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Moth bean [Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Marechal]


The situation in Japan and information from the NIAS genebank
There has been no cultivation and use of moth bean in Japan.
Moth bean is considered to have been domesticated in India, Pakistan, Myanmar or Ceylon (Purseglove 1974, Marechal et al. 1978).
The genus Vigna, together with the closely related genus Phaseolus, forms a very complicated taxonomic group, so called Phaseolus-Vigna complex.
Verdcourt (1970) proposed a very restricted concept of Phaseolus, limiting it exclusively to those American species with a tightly coiled style and pollen grains lacking course reticulation, hence, promoting significantly the concept of Vigna. According to his proposal, moth bean and its relatives (which is now recognized as the subgenus Ceratotropis) were transferred to the genus Vigna from the genus Phaseolus.
Marechal et al. (1978) followed Verdcourt and presented a monograph on the Phaseolus-Vigna complex. Their taxonomic system is generally accepted now.
Whyte et al.(1953) considered that V.trilobata to be the wild form of V.aconitifolia. However, these two taxa are now considered as quite distinct (Marechal et al. 1978, Tateishi 1996, Tomooka et al.1996). 2n=22.
Moth bean is an annual food legume belonging to the subgenus Ceratotropis in the genus Vigna. It is a trailing herb, 10-30cm tall (Purseglove 1974). This legume is characterized by the deeply lobed leaflets.
Terminal leaflet has 5 acuminate lobes and lateral leaflet has 4 lobes. Up to 12 trailing primary branches, 60-130cm long, are produced from short erect main stem.
Flower is yellow and much smaller than the other cultigens belonging to the subgenus Ceratotropis. The seed color is yellow to brown or mottled black. Pod color is brown or pale gray when mature. Germination is epigeal.
Moth bean is the most drought resistant among the Ceratotropis cultigens, and is particularly common in semi-arid to arid regions, especially in the north-western desert region of the South Asia and adjacent regions (Jain and Mehra 1980).
In the South Asia, the green pods are eaten as a vegetable and the ripe seeds, whole or split, are eaten cooked (Purseglove 1974).
Seeds are sprouted and eaten with or without salt, or fried and salted (Jain and Mehra 1980).
Jain,H.K. and K.L.Mehra 1980. Evolution, Adaptation, Relationships, and Uses of the Species of Vigna cultivated in India. In "Advances in Legume Science" eds.R.J.Summerfield and A.H.Bunting. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. pp.459-468.
Marechal,R., J.M.Mascherpa and F.Stainer. 1978. Etude taxonomique d'un groupe complexe d'speces des genres Phaseolus et Vigna (Papilionaceae) sur la base de donnees morphologiques et polliniques, traitees par l'analyse informatique. Boissiera 28.
Purseglove, J.W. 1974. Phaseolus aconitifolia In "Tropical Crops : Dicotyledons." London : Longman. pp.290-294.
Tateishi,Y. 1996. Systematics of the species of Vigna subgenus Ceratotropis. In "Mungbean Germplasm : Collection, Evaluation and Utilization for Breeding Program" JIRCAS Working Report No.2. pp.9-24. Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Science (JIRCAS), Japan.
Tomooka,N., C.Lairungreang and Y.Egawa. 1996. Taxonomic Position of Wild Vigna Species Collected in Thailand Based on RAPD Analysis. In "Mungbean Germplasm : Collection, Evaluation and Utilization for Breeding Program" JIRCAS Working Report No.2. pp.31-40. Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Science (JIRCAS), Japan.
Verdcourt,B. 1970. Studies in the Leguminosae - Papilionoideae for the "Flora of Tropical East Africa" : IV. Kew Bulletin 24 : pp.558-560.
Whyte,R.O.,Nilsson-Leissner,G. and Trumble,H.C. 1953. Legumes in Agriculture, F.A.O. Agricultural Studies 21, F.A.O. Rome Italy.