Vigna radiata (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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distribution in Africa (planted)
1, part of flowering branch; 2, part of fruiting branch; 3, seeds. Source: PROSEA
flowering and fruiting plant
leaf and flowers
flower and bud
sprouted seeds

Vigna radiata (L.) R.Wilczek

Protologue: Fl. Congo Belge 6: 386 (1954).
Family: Papilionaceae (Leguminosae - Papilionoideae, Fabaceae)
Chromosome number: 2n = 22


  • Phaseolus radiatus L. (1753),
  • Phaseolus aureus Roxb. (1832).

Vernacular names

  • Mung bean, green gram, golden gram (En).
  • Haricot mungo, mungo, ambérique, haricot doré (Fr).
  • Feijão mungo verde (Po).
  • Mchooko, mchoroko (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Mung bean originated in India or the Indo-Burmese region where it has been cultivated for millennia. The ancient cultivation of mung bean in India is supported by fossilized remains discovered in central India and dated 1500–1000 BC. Mung bean cultivation spread in early times to most other Asian countries and later to Africa, Australia, the Americas and the West Indies. It has not become a major crop outside Asia, although mung bean is cultivated in many tropical African countries. In certain areas of Kenya, especially the Eastern Province, mung bean is the principal cash crop.


Mature mung bean seeds or flour enter a variety of dishes such as soups, porridge, snacks, bread, noodles and even ice-cream. In Kenya mung bean is most commonly consumed as whole seeds boiled with cereals such as maize or sorghum. Boiled whole seeds are also fried with meat or vegetables and eaten as a relish with thick maize porridge (‘ugali’) and pancakes (‘chapatti’), whereas consumption of split seeds (dhal) is common among people of Asian descent. In Ethiopia the seeds are used in sauces. In Malawi the seeds are cooked as a side dish, mostly after removing the seed coat by grinding. In India and Pakistan the dried seeds are consumed whole or after splitting into dhal. Split seeds are eaten fried and salted as a snack. The seeds may also be parched and ground into flour after removing the seed coat; the flour is used in various Indian and Chinese dishes. The flour may be further processed into highly valued starch noodles, bread, biscuits, vegetable cheese and extract for the soap industry. Sprouted mung bean seeds are eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable; in French they are erroneously called ‘germes de soja’, in English ‘bean sprouts’.

Immature pods and young leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Plant residues and cracked or weathered seeds are fed to livestock. Mung bean is sometimes grown for fodder, green manure or as a cover crop. The seeds are said to be a traditional source of cures for paralysis, rheumatism, coughs, fevers and liver ailments.

Production and international trade

Reliable production statistics for mung bean are difficult to obtain, as its production is often lumped together with that of other Vigna and Phaseolus spp. India is the main producer, with an estimated production in the late 1990s of about 1.1 million t. China produced 891,000 t (19% of total pulse production in China) from 772,000 ha in 2000. No mung bean production statistics are available for Africa.

China exported 110,000 t in 1998, 290,000 t in 1999 and 88,000 t in 2000. All mung bean produced in India is for domestic consumption. In most parts of Africa where there are Asian communities, mung bean food products are sold in the cities.


The composition of mature mung bean seeds per 100 g edible portion is: water 9.1 g, energy 1453 kJ (347 kcal), protein 23.9 g, fat 1.2 g, carbohydrate 62.6 g, dietary fibre 16.3 g, Ca 132 mg, Mg 189 mg, P 367 mg, Fe 6.7 mg, Zn 2.7 mg, vitamin A 114 IU, thiamin 0.62 mg, riboflavin 0.23 mg, niacin 2.3 mg, vitamin B6 0.38 mg, folate 625 μg and ascorbic acid 4.8 mg. The essential amino-acid composition per 100 g edible portion is: tryptophan 260 mg, lysine 1664 mg, methionine 286 mg, phenylalanine 1443 mg, threonine 782 mg, valine 1237 mg, leucine 1847 mg and isoleucine 1008 mg (USDA, 2004). The starch consists of 28.8% amylose and 71.2% amylopectin. Mung bean seed is highly digestible and low in antinutritional factors. It causes less flatulence than the seed of most other pulses, making it suitable for children and older people. Mung bean starch is considered to have a low glycaemic index, i.e. to raise the blood sugar level slowly and steadily.

The composition of sprouted mung bean seeds per 100 g edible portion is: water 90.4 g, energy 126 kJ (30 kcal), protein 3.0 g, fat 0.2 g, carbohydrate 5.9 g, dietary fibre 1.8 g, Ca 13 mg, Mg 21 mg, P 54 mg, Fe 0.9 mg, Zn 0.4 mg, vitamin A 21 IU, thiamin 0.08 mg, riboflavin 0.12 mg, niacin 0.75 mg, vitamin B6 0.09 mg, folate 61 μg and ascorbic acid 13.2 mg. The essential amino-acid composition per 100 g edible portion is: tryptophan 37 mg, lysine 166 mg, methionine 34 mg, phenylalanine 117 mg, threonine 78 mg, valine 130 mg, leucine 175 mg and isoleucine 132 mg (USDA, 2004). Sprouting especially leads to an increased ascorbic acid concentration.

Mung bean hay contains: moisture 9.7%, crude protein 9.8%, fat 2.2%, crude fibre 24.0%, ash 7.7%, N-free extract 46.6%, digestible crude protein 7.4%, total digestible nutrients 49.3%. Aqueous extracts of mung bean seed have shown in-vivo hypotensive and hepatoprotective effects in rats. Extracts from mung bean seeds and husks have shown antioxidative effects.


  • Annual, erect to semi-erect, slightly pubescent herb up to 1.3 m tall; root system consisting of a well-developed taproot with deeply placed lateral roots; stem much branched, with a tendency to twine at the tips, angular, covered with long spreading hairs.
  • Leaves alternate, 3-foliolate (sometimes 5-foliolate), dark green; stipules 5–18 mm × 3–10 mm, peltate, ovate, rhomboid or obovate-oblong; petiole 5–21 cm long, rachis 1.5–4.5 cm long; stipels conspicuous, 5–10 mm long; petiolules 3–6 mm long; leaflets entire or 2–3-lobed, 5–18 cm × 3–15 cm, elliptical, rhomboid or ovate, base broadly cuneate or rounded, apex acuminate, glabrous or hairy on both surfaces, distinctly 3-veined from the base, the lateral leaflets unequal-sided.
  • Inflorescence an axillary false raceme up to 20 cm long, 4–15(–30)-flowered.
  • Flowers bisexual, papilionaceous; pedicel 2–3 mm long; calyx campanulate, tube 3–4 mm long and glabrous, lobes narrowly triangular, 1.5–4 mm long, ciliate, upper pair united into a bifid lobe; corolla yellow or greenish, standard 11 mm × 16 mm, glabrous, wings c. 11 mm × 7 mm, keel c. 10 mm long, often tinged grey or reddish, with a long beak incurved almost 360°, and with a distinct pocket on one side; stamens 10, 9 united and 1 free; ovary superior, sessile, c. 7 mm long, hairy.
  • Fruit a linear-cylindrical pod (2.5–)4–9(–15) cm × 4–9 mm, usually straight, black or tawny brown, with brown short spreading pubescence, (7–)10–15(–20)-seeded, somewhat constricted between the seeds.
  • Seeds 2.5–4 mm × 2.5–3 mm × 2.5–3 mm, globose to ellipsoid or cube-like, commonly green but sometimes yellow, olive, brown, purplish brown or black, marbled or mottled with black patches, glossy or dull; hilum white, conspicuously flat, c. 1.5 mm × 0.5 mm; seed coat often with ridges, making the seed rough to the touch.
  • Seedling with epigeal germination.

Other botanical information

Vigna comprises about 80 species and occurs throughout the tropics. Vigna radiata belongs to the subgenus Ceratotropis, a relatively homogenous and morphologically and taxonomically distinct group, primarily of Asian distribution. Other cultivated Asiatic Vigna species in this subgenus include Vigna aconitifolia (Jacq.) Maréchal (moth bean), Vigna angularis (Willd.) Ohwi & Ohashi (adzuki bean), Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper (black gram or urd bean), Vigna trilobata (L.) Verdc. (pillipesara) and Vigna umbellata (Thunb.) Ohwi & Ohashi (rice bean). Hybrids have been obtained between many of these species. The species have often been confounded, especially Vigna radiata and Vigna mungo.

The wild types of mung bean, which are usually smaller in all parts than cultivated types, are usually classified into 2 botanical varieties:

  • var. sublobata (Roxb.) Verdc., occurring in India, Sri Lanka, South-East Asia, northern Australia (Queensland), in tropical Africa from Ghana to East Africa, southern Africa and Madagascar;
  • var. setulosa (Dalzell) Ohwi & Ohashi, with large, almost orbicular stipules and dense long hairs on the stem, and occurring in India, China, Japan and Indonesia.

The cultivated types of mung bean are grouped as Vigna radiata var. radiata, although a classification into cultivar groups would be more appropriate. Two types of mung bean cultivars are usually distinguished, based mainly on seed colour:

  • golden gram, with yellow seeds, low seed yield and pods shattering at maturity; often grown for forage or green manure;
  • green gram, with bright green seeds, more prolific, ripening more uniformly, less tendency for pods to shatter.

Two additional types are recognized in India, one with black seeds and one with brown seeds.

Growth and development

The minimum temperature for seed germination of mung bean is about 12°C, the optimum temperature around 25°C. Seedlings emerge in 3–7 days. Mung bean is a short-duration crop, flowering within 30–70 days and maturing within 50–120 days after sowing. Self-pollination is the rule, but up to 5% outcrossing may occur. Flowers are usually pollinated during the night, before they open early in the morning. It takes 3–4 weeks from flower opening to mature pod. Flower abscission is prevalent and may reach 90%. Mung bean mostly has a determinate growth habit, but because the inflorescences remain meristematic and may redevelop flowers after a period of adverse conditions, it flowers and fruits over a period of several weeks. Green leaves, open flowers, green pods and ripe pods occur simultaneously on the same plant. A large part of the dry matter accumulated during seed filling may still be partitioned to vegetative parts and thus rapid senescence does not occur. Mung bean nodulates readily with Bradyrhizobium strains from the cowpea cross-inoculation group. Because those strains are rather common, mung bean shows little response to inoculation.


Mung bean is a warm-season crop and grows mainly within a mean temperature range of 20–40°C, the optimum being 28–30°C. It can therefore be grown in summer and autumn in warm temperate and subtropical regions and at altitudes below 2000 m in the tropics. It is sensitive to frost. Mung bean is mostly grown in regions with an average annual rainfall of 600–1000 mm, but it can do with less. It withstands drought well, by curtailing the period of flowering and maturation, but it is susceptible to waterlogging. High humidity at maturity causes damage to seeds leading to seed discoloration or sprouting while still in the field. Mung bean cultivars differ markedly in photoperiod sensitivity, but most genotypes show quantitative short-day responses, flower initiation being delayed by photoperiods longer than 12–13 hours.

Mung bean grows in a wide range of soil types, but prefers well-drained loams or sandy loams with pH (5–)5.5–7(–8). Some cultivars are tolerant to moderate alkaline and saline soils.

Propagation and planting

Mung bean is propagated by seed. The 1000-seed weight is 15–40 g. There is no seed dormancy, but germination can be affected by a hard seedcoat. Mung bean is broadcast or dibbled in hills or in rows. Recommended sowing rates are 5–30 kg/ha for sole cropped mung bean, and 3–4 kg/ha under intercropping. Recommended spacings are 25–100 cm × 5–30 cm. For the more modern cultivars ripening in 60–75 days, maximum yields are obtained at plant densities of 300,000–400,000 plants/ha. The later-maturing traditional cultivars generally need wider spacing. Recommended spacings for sole-cropped mung bean in Kenya are 45 cm between rows and 15 cm within the row, with a seed rate of 6–10 kg/ha and a sowing depth of 4–5 cm.

Mung bean can be grown mixed with other crops such as sugar cane, maize, sorghum or tree crops in agroforestry systems. Short-duration mung bean is often relay-cropped to make use of a short cropping period. In Kenya mung bean is usually intercropped with maize, sorghum or millet; it is occasionally grown in pure stands or intercropped with other pulses. The usual practice here is to place 1–2 rows of mung bean between rows of a cereal, or to plant mung bean in the cereal row.


In pure stands, 1–2 weedings are necessary during the early stages of growth. In Kenya weeding is done using hoes and machetes. Farmers do not normally apply any inorganic fertilizer to a mung bean crop. Mung bean uses residues from fertilizer applications to the main crops in the system, though it responds well to phosphorus. Nutrient removal per t of seed harvested (dry weight) is 40–42 kg N, 3–5 kg P, 12–14 kg K, 1–1.5 kg Ca, 1.5–2 kg S and 1.5–2 kg Mg. The nutrient removal is much higher when crop residues are removed to be used for fodder.

In its major area of cultivation, the monsoon tropics, mung bean is mainly grown as a rainy season crop on dryland or as a dry-season crop after the monsoon in rice-based systems on wetland, making use of residual moisture or supplementary irrigation. In some areas where adequate early rains occur, an early-season crop can be grown before the monsoon. In semi-arid regions of Kenya with 600–800 mm rainfall evenly distributed over 2 rainy seasons, 2 mung bean crops are grown per year. In the Wei Wei Integrated Development Project in Sigor, Kenya, mung bean is grown under irrigation. In India mung bean is often sown as a fallow crop on rice land as a green manure.

Diseases and pests

The most important and widespread fungal diseases of mung bean are Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora canescens) and powdery mildew (Erysiphe polygoni). Less serious are scab (Elsinoë iwatae), anthracnose (Colletotrichum lindemuthianum) and rust (Uromyces spp.). Important bacterial diseases are blights caused by Xanthomonas and Pseudomonas spp. Mung bean suffers from several virus diseases but they are not well described, except for mung bean yellow mosaic virus (MYMV), which is widespread in South Asia.

The main insect pests are aphids (Aphis fabae, Aphis craccivora), bean fly (Ophiomyia phaseoli), thrips (Megalurothrips sjostedii), pod borers (Heliothis spp., Etiella zinckenella, Maruca testulalis) and pod-suckers such as the green stink bug (Nezara viridula). In the drier areas of Kenya the apion weevil (Apion soleatum) may cause heavy losses. Stored mung bean seed is attacked by bruchids (Callosobruchus spp.). In Africa it is common to use ash made from neem (Azadirachta indica A.Juss.) leaves or cow dung to protect seeds against storage pests. Insecticides are seldom used on mung bean in tropical Africa.


When grown for the mature seed, mung bean is usually harvested when the pods begin to darken. Harvesting is highly labour intensive as the pods of most local cultivars of mung bean are highly susceptible to shattering and mature at different times. Mung bean is generally harvested in 2–5 hand-pickings at weekly intervals. In Kenya individual pods are picked as they mature. Where the crop matures uniformly, the entire plant is harvested and sun-dried before threshing. Short-duration cultivars, which ripen more uniformly, may be processed as whole plants with small rice threshers. Cultivars differ markedly in harvesting efficiency, depending on position (above or within canopy) and size of pods.


Average mung bean yields are low: 300–700 kg/ha. Under irrigation in Kenya yields are obtained of 1.25 t/ha. Yields over 3 t/ha have been obtained in trials.

Handling after harvest

Handpicked pods are dried in the sun. Shattering can be speeded up by beating with a stick or by trampling. Seed is cleaned by screening and winnowing, and dried to a moisture content of 10–12% before storage. Properly dried mung bean seeds maintain high viability over a long period. Seed stored by small farmers for sowing is often of poor quality because of bruchid damage.

To prepare mung bean sprouts, the seeds are soaked overnight, drained, placed in containers in the dark, sprinkled with warm water every few hours, and kept for 4–5 days at a temperature of 24°C and a relative air humidity of 60–70%. One kg of mung bean seed produces 6–10 kg sprouts.

Genetic resources

Large germplasm collections of mung bean are held in the Philippines (National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Los Baños, about 6900 accessions), Taiwan (Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre (AVRDC), Shanhua, about 5600 accessions), United States (Southern Regional Plant Introduction Station, Griffin, Georgia, about 3900 accessions), India (National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, New Delhi, about 3000 accessions) and China (CAAS, Beijing, about 3000 accessions).

In tropical Africa germplasm collections of mung bean are held in Kenya (National Genebank of Kenya, Crop Plant Genetic Resources Centre, KARI, Kikuyu, 330 accessions), Nigeria (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, 125 accessions) and Ethiopia (International Livestock Research Institute, Addis Ababa, 40 accessions).


In many traditional mung bean growing regions farmers still grow old landraces. Many cultivars have been developed from those landraces by pure-line selection. The traditional late robust types may be replaced by new types useful for short seasons and multiple cropping systems with mung bean occupying the land for short periods between major crops. These new types are short plants with high harvest index, reduced photoperiodic sensitivity and a relatively uniform maturity. Many modern cultivars with improved resistance to major diseases and pests have been released in the major producing countries. Sources of resistance have been identified in germplasm of mung bean and related species. Among the Asiatic Vigna species, black gram (Vigna mungo) shows most promise for interspecific hybridization with mung bean. AVRDC in Taiwan is working on the development of mung bean tolerant to diseases (leaf spot, powdery mildew) and pests (bean fly, bruchids).

Information on mung bean breeding in Africa is scanty. In Kenya mung bean improvement work has been carried out by the National Dryland Farming Research Station, Machakos since the late 1970s. Germplasm was collected locally and was introduced from elsewhere, mainly from India and AVRDC. Promising lines were selected and 2 cultivars (‘KVR22’ and ‘KVR26’) have been released. ‘KVR22’ has a determinate growth habit and golden-yellow seed colour; it flowers in 55–60 days and matures uniformly in 80–90 days after germination. It has shown high resistance to MYMV, moderate resistance to powdery mildew and tolerance to aphids, but it is susceptible to thrips and apion weevil. ‘KVR26’ has a determinate growth habit and a green seed colour; it flowers in 40–45 days, and matures fairly uniformly in 60–65 days. It is much appreciated for its high yield, earliness and large seed size.

Direct in-vitro plant regeneration in mung bean is possible using cultured shoot tips, cotyledons and cotyledonary node explants. Regeneration through organogenesis from callus has also been reported. Somatic embryogenesis has been induced from mature cotyledons, hypocotyl, nodal segments and leaf explants. AVRDC uses molecular markers to select for resistance to diseases and pests and has worked on gene mapping using RFLP and isozyme electrophoresis. Agrobacterium -mediated genetic transformation of mung bean has been achieved.


Mung bean is a suitable crop for tropical Africa, especially the semi-arid regions, because of its short crop cycle and nutritional quality. Furthermore, it has a niche on the international market for the production of bean sprouts. However, it has not yet become important in tropical Africa, which may be due to its low yields, susceptibility to diseases and pests, high labour requirement (weeding, harvesting), lack of suitable cultivars and good quality planting material, and lack of information on its potential benefits. It therefore deserves increased attention from research and extension.

Major references

  • Dana, S. & Karmakar, P.G., 1990. Species relation in Vigna subgenus Ceratotropis and its implication in breeding. Plant Breeding Reviews 8: 19–42.
  • Kay, D.E., 1979. Food legumes. Crops and Product Digest No 3. Tropical Products Institute, London, United Kingdom. 435 pp.
  • Lawn, R.J., 1995. The Asiatic Vigna species. In: Smartt, J. & Simmonds, N.W. (Editors). Evolution of crop plants. 2nd Edition. Longman, London, United Kingdom. pp. 321–326.
  • Lawn, R.J. & Ahn, C.S., 1985. Mung bean (Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek / Vigna mungo (L.) Hepper). In: Summerfield, R.J. & Roberts, E.H. (Editors). Grain legume crops. Collins, London, United Kingdom. pp. 584–623.
  • Mayeux, A., 1990. Mung bean: prospects for cultivation in Botswana. The Bulletin of Agricultural Research in Botswana 8: 5–9.
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2002. Field crops technical handbook. 2nd Edition. Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nairobi, Kenya. 219 pp.
  • Muthoka, M.S. & Shakoor, A., 1988. Mungbean improvement and production in the semi-arid areas of Kenya. In: Mungbean. Proceedings of the second international symposium, Bangkok, Thailand, 16–20 November 1987. Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre, Shanhua, Taiwan. pp. 601–608.
  • Poehlman, J.M., 1991. The mungbean. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, United States. 375 pp.
  • Siemonsma, J.S. & Arwooth Na Lampang, 1989. Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek. In: van der Maesen, L.J.G. & Somaatmadja, S. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 1. Pulses. Pudoc, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 71–74.
  • Westphal, E., 1974. Pulses in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and agricultural significance. Agricultural Research Reports 815. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 263 pp.

Other references

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  • Burkill, H.M., 1995. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, Families J–L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 857 pp.
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  • Devi, P., Radha, P., Sitamahalakshmi, L., Syamala, D. & Kumar, S.M., 2004. Plant regeneration via somatic embryogenesis in mung bean (Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek). Scientia Horticulturae 99(1): 1–8.
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  • Hafeez, F.Y., Asad, S. & Malik, K.A., 1991. The effect of high temperature on Vigna radiata nodulation and growth with different bradyrhizobial strains. Environmental and Experimental Botany 31(3): 285–294.
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Sources of illustration

  • Siemonsma, J.S. & Arwooth Na Lampang, 1989. Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek. In: van der Maesen, L.J.G. & Somaatmadja, S. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 1. Pulses. Pudoc, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 71–74.


  • K.K. Mogotsi, Botswana College of Agriculture, Private Bag 0027, Gaborone, Botswana

Correct citation of this article

Mogotsi, K.K., 2006. Vigna radiata (L.) R.Wilczek. In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 4 December 2022.