Feature Stories

Delivering on seeds: First-ever compilation on ICRISAT’s seeds systems

ICRISAT’s Seed Systems: Models and Lessons Learned explains the rationale behind ICRISAT’s work on seed systems in the drylands, different approaches taken, and their impact on the ground. Improving farmers’ access to improved seeds in the drylands is seen as a cost-effective strategy to improve farm productivity and food security. Different models of seed systems are tested and developed by ICRISAT and its development partners in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia depending on the local context. It includes small seed packets, groundnut seed revolving fund in Malawi, support to community-based systems, farmer seed organizations or local seed ventures, and public-private seed partnerships like the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium for pearl millet and sorghum in India. ICRISAT’s vision on seed systems is demand-driven, holistic and working in partnership, along the crop value chain.

OAR link: oar.icrisat.org/10195

ICRISAT in Global News

Why groundnut is a must in one’s diet

Groundnut plays a vital nutritional role in the diet of many Africans and has many health benefits. In Sokoto, Nigeria, an exhibition showcasing groundnut-based products as healthy alternatives to processed foods was held as part of the USAID-funded Groundnut Up-scaling Project in Nigeria, with partners from Feed the Future Nigeria Livelihood Project, ICRISAT and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). 

Indian and French scientists decode pearl millet genome with positive implication for food security

Research decoding the genome of the pearl millet variety Cenchrus americanus (L.) Morrone has shed light on the cereal’s ability to survive temperatures up to 42 degrees Celsius, and could prove instrumental in improving food security for people living in semi-arid regions of Asia and Africa. The study, conducted by scientists from ICRISAT, India, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), France, and BGI Shenzhen was published in Nature Biotechnology in September. 

Going against the grain

In eastern Kenya, decreasing rainfall and failing maize harvests have farmers worried. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is working with partners like ICRISAT to convince farmers to switch to crops like sorghum, which crop researchers say are more climate resilient.

Meeting & Workshop


ICRA announces courses on agricultural education and outreach

International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA) has announced three new courses on agricultural education and outreach, research and agribusiness for the period of March - June 2018. The courses are for professionals in agricultural value chains and for educators working with smallholder farmers. Find more information on all their upcoming courses here.

ICRISAT scientist was awarded a Special Mention Certificate

Dr Jaba at the EET CRS 5th Academic Achievements Awards. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Jaba at the EET CRS 5th Academic Achievements Awards. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Jagdish Jaba, Scientist-Entymology, ICRISAT, was awarded a Special Mention Certificate in the Young Scientist category at the EET CRS 5th Academic Achievements Awards (2017). The award ceremony was organized by Education Expo TV on 10 September 2017 in Mumbai.

New Publications

Adapting Nyando smallholder farming systems to climate change and variability through modeling

Authors: Tobias OR, Gachene CKK and Lieven C

Published: 2017, African Journal of Agricultural Research, 12 (26). pp. 2178-2187. ISSN 1991-637X

Abstract: This study was conducted in Nyando, Kenya to model maize production under different climate scenarios and project yields up to years 2030 and 2050 using Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) under rain fed conditions. Three maize varieties were used; Katumani Comp B as early maturing variety, Hybrid 511 as a medium maturing variety and Hybrid 614 as a late maturing variety. Global coupled model Hadley Centre Global Environment Model version 2 (HadGEM2-ES) under representative concentration pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 was used to downscale Nyando’s climate data for the years 2030 and 2050. Past climate data for 53 years and current data was obtained from Kisumu Meteorological station while crop growth and farm management data was obtained from 70 farmers in Nyando. Results showed a decrease in yields across the years from 2015, 2030 and 2050 under both RCP 4.5 and 8.5. Average simulated yields for 2015 were 2519 kg ha-1 while projected yields under RCP 4.5 were 2212 and 2081 kg ha-1 in 2030 and 2050 respectively. Average yield projections under RCP 8.5 were 2184 and 1806 kg ha-1 for the years 2030 and 2050 consecutively. The study found that temperatures will increase and rainfall duration will reduce. Further, Katumani Comp B maize variety was not very affected by these changes in temperatures and rainfall compared to H511 and H614.


Assessment of yield losses in groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.) due to arthropod pests and diseases in the Sudan Savanna of Ghana

Authors:  Tanzubil PB and Yahaya BS

Published: 2017, Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies, 5 (2). pp. 1561-1564. ISSN 2349-6800

Abstract: The present study was undertaken to assess the relative abundance and extent of damage caused by the various pests and diseases attacking groundnut in the Sudan savanna zone of the country during the 2015 and 2016 cropping seasons. Selective applications of fungicides and insecticides were deployed in field experiments to assess the damage caused by the key members of the groundnut pest/disease complex namely the soil pests, foliar insects, and foliar diseases. Results showed that most treatments significantly reduced the incidence of the targeted pests and diseases, resulting in lower crop damage and higher yields. Providing full protection to the crop (T6) gave the highest mean kernel yield (mean 930 kg/ha) followed by control of soil pests (T1) and leaf spots (T4) which recorded yields 677 and 640 kg/ha respectively. Totally neglecting pest and disease control (T7) resulted in 57.3% yield reduction, while controlling soil pests (T1), foliar diseases (T4) and foliar insects (T5) reduced yield losses to 27%, 32% and 37% respectively suggesting that these are key pests that need to be controlled to guarantee profitable and sustainable groundnut production in the study area.


Inbreeding effects on grain iron and zinc concentrations in pearl millet

Authors:  Rai KN, Govindaraj M, Kanatti A, Rao AS and Shivade H

Published: 2017, Crop Science, 57. pp. 1-8. ISSN 0011-183X

Abstract: The magnitude, direction, and pattern of inbreeding effects on trait expression in selfing generations have a direct bearing on single-plant and progeny-based selection efficiency. In the present study on a pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.] biofortification initiative, initial random mated S0 bulks of three diverse composites and their S1 to S4 population bulks derived from four generations of selfing were evaluated for 2 yr under irrigated and terminal drought stress for iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) concentrations. Both Fe and Zn concentrations were higher under terminal drought than under irrigated condition. Inbreeding had no significant effect on Fe and Zn concentrations in one composite and showed significant though marginal increase of both micronutrients in two composites. This finding, not unexpected, was in conformity with the earlier reports of predominantly additive gene effects and marginal partial dominance of genes determining low concentrations of these micronutrients observed in a low frequency of hybrids. The patterns of genetic changes in Fe concentration due to inbreeding were highly significantly and positively correlated with those in Zn concentration in all three composites. These results indicate that simultaneous single-plant and progeny-based early generation selection for Fe and Zn concentrations is likely to be effective to enhance the breeding efficiency for these micronutrients in pearl millet.


Genome-wide discovery of microsatellite markers from diploid progenitor species, Arachis duranensis and
A. ipaensis
, and their application in cultivated peanut
(A. hypogaea)

Authors:  Zhao C, Qiu J, Agarwal G, Wang J, Ren X, Xia H, Guo B, Ma C, Wan S, Bertioli DJ, Varshney RK, Pandey MK and Wang X

Published: 2017, Frontiers in Plant Science, 8 (1209). pp. 1-12. ISSN 1664-462X

Abstract: Despite several efforts in the last decade toward development of simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers in peanut, there is still a need for more markers for conducting different genetic and breeding studies. With the effort of the International Peanut Genome Initiative, the availability of reference genome for both the diploid progenitors of cultivated peanut allowed us to identify 135,529 and 199,957 SSRs from the A (Arachis duranensis) and B genomes (Arachis ipaensis), respectively. Genome sequence analysis showed uneven distribution of the SSR motifs across genomes with variation in parameters such as SSR type, repeat number, and SSR length. Using the flanking sequences of identified SSRs, primers were designed for 51,354 and 60,893 SSRs with densities of 49 and 45 SSRs per Mb in A. duranensis and A. ipaensis, respectively. In silico PCR analysis of these SSR markers showed high transferability between wild and cultivated Arachis species. Two physical maps were developed for the A and B genomes using these SSR markers, and two reported disease resistance quantitative trait loci (QTLs), qF2TSWV5 for tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and qF2LS6 for leaf spot (LS), were mapped in the 8.135 Mb region of chromosome A04 of A. duranensis. From this genomic region, 719 novel SSR markers were developed, which provide the possibility for fine mapping of these QTLs. In addition, this region also harbors 652 genes and 49 of these are defence related genes, including two NB-ARC genes, three LRR receptor-like genes and three WRKY transcription factors. These disease-resistance related genes could contribute to resistance to viral (such as TSWV) and fungal (such as LS) diseases in peanut. In summary, this study not only provides a large number of molecular markers for potential use in peanut genetic map development and QTL mapping but also for map-based gene cloning and molecular breeding.


Limited-transpiration response to high vapor pressure deficit in crop species

Authors:  Sinclair TR, Devi J, Shekoofa A, Choudhary S, Sadok W, Vadez V, Riar M and Rufty T

Published: 2017, Plant Science, 260. pp. 109-118. ISSN 01689452

Abstract: Water deficit under nearly all field conditions is the major constraint on plant yields. Other than empirical observations, very little progress has been made in developing crop plants in which specific physiological traits for drought are expressed. As a consequence, there was little known about under what conditions and to what extent drought impacts crop yield. However, there has been rapid progress in recent years in understanding and developing a limited-transpiration trait under elevated atmospheric vapour pressure deficit to increase plant growth and yield under water-deficit conditions. This review paper examines the physiological basis for the limited-transpiration trait as result of low plant hydraulic conductivity, which appears to be related to aquaporin activity. Methodology was developed based on aquaporin involvement to identify candidate genotypes for drought tolerance of several major crop species. Cultivars of maize and soybean are now being marketed specifically for arid conditions. Understanding the mechanism of the limited-transpiration trait has allowed geospatial analyses to define the environments in which increased yield responses can be expected. This review highlights the challenges and approaches to finally develop physiological traits contributing directly to plant improvement for water-limited environments.


A sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) mutant with altered carbon isotope ratio

Authors:  Candela H, Rizal G, Karki S, Thakur V, Wanchana S, Alonso-Cantabrana H, Dionora J, Sheehy JE, Furbank R, von Caemmerer S and Quick WP

Published: 2017, PLoS ONE, 12 (6). pp. 1-19. ISSN 1932-6203

Abstract: Recent efforts to engineer C4 photosynthetic traits into C3 plants such as rice demand an understanding of the genetic elements that enable C4 plants to outperform C3 plants. As a part of the C4 Rice Consortium’s efforts to identify genes needed to support C4 photosynthesis, EMS mutagenized sorghum populations were generated and screened to identify genes that cause a loss of C4 function. Stable carbon isotope ratio (δ13C) of leaf dry matter has been used to distinguish species with C3 and C4 photosynthetic pathways. Here, we report the identification of a sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) mutant with a low δ13C characteristic. A mutant (named Mut33) with a pale phenotype and stunted growth was identified from an EMS treated sorghum M2 population. The stable carbon isotope analysis of the mutants showed a decrease of 13C uptake capacity. The noise of random mutation was reduced by crossing the mutant and its wildtype (WT). The back-cross (BC1F1) progenies were like the WT parent in terms of 13C values and plant phenotypes. All the BC1F2 plants with low δ13C died before they produced their 6th leaf. Gas exchange measurements of the low δ13C sorghum mutants showed a higher CO2 compensation point (25.24 μmol CO2.mol-1air) and the maximum rate of photosynthesis was less than 5μmol.m-2.s-1. To identify the genetic determinant of this trait, four DNA pools were isolated; two each from normal and low δ13C BC1F2 mutant plants. These were sequenced using an Illumina platform. Comparison of allele frequency of the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) between the pools with contrasting phenotype showed that a locus in Chromosome 10 between 57,941,104 and 59,985,708 bps had an allele frequency of 1. There were 211 mutations and 37 genes in the locus, out of which mutations in 9 genes showed non-synonymous changes. This finding is expected to contribute to future research on the identification of the causal factor differentiating C4 from C3 species that can be used in the transformation of C3 to C4 plants.


Relationships between soil seed banks and above-ground vegetation along a disturbance gradient in the W National Park trans-boundary biosphere reserve, West Africa

Authors:  Savadogo P, Sanou L, Dayamba SD, Bognounou F and Thiombiano A

Published: 2017, Journal of Plant Ecology, 10 (2). pp. 349-363. ISSN 1752-9921

Abstract: Vegetation succession depends on the availability of suitable propagules in the soils, thus knowledge of soil seed banks is essential for formulating effective strategies for restoring the vegetation of degraded sites. The W National Park, the only trans-boundary biosphere reserve in West Africa, is being extensively fragmented and degraded in recent decades. The aims of this study were to assess the reserve’s soil seed banks, their relationships with standing vegetation and bundle of disturbances and their potential significance for vegetation restoration.

The size and composition of the above-ground species vegetation were assessed in nine plots of 1 ha each representing a range of habitats with differing disturbance severity (low, intermediate and high). A total of 702 soil samples were taken from three layers (0–3, 3–6 and 6–9cm) and soil seed bank was analyzed using the seedling emergence technique.

Generally, seeds of non-woody taxa dominated in samples from all soil depths and habitats of all disturbance severities. The mean soil seed density was 17.8, 24.4 and 26.3 seeds/dm3 in samples from the least, intermediate and most disturbed sites, respectively, and highest in the upper soil layers in all cases. The results indicate that there is limited potential for restoring woody vegetation solely from soil seed banks, and that woody species in the region rely more on recently shed seeds trapped in the standing dead biomass and litter on the ground than soil seed banks for regeneration. Thus, human intervention is needed to accelerate forest recovery, mainly through alleviating anthropogenic impacts on the ecosystem (for instance, avoiding destruction of new seeds by intense fire), and site manipulation to improve environmental conditions for seedling establishment and growth. Other ways of restoring forests than through the soil seed bank (e.g. sowing seeds collected elsewhere, and planting tree seedlings) could also be relevant.


Protease inhibitors of Cajanus conferring resistance to pod borer of pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan L. Millsp).

Authors:  Srikanth S, Swathi M, Kollipara P, Rao MV and Mallikarjuna N

Published: 2017, Electronic Journal of Plant Breeding, 8 (1). pp. 26-37. ISSN 0975-928X

Abstract: Pigeonpea is susceptible to pod borer damage with resistance lacking in its primary gene pool. Many Cajanus species harbor high levels of resistance. Host plant resistance can play an important role in minimizing the extent of losses due to insects and pests as well as the use of insecticides/pesticides and thus protect the environment. A major initiative was undertaken to tap the defence genes from wild relatives of secondary and tertiary gene pool through wide hybridization and thereby introgress resistance to pod borer. A range of interspecific derivatives derived from C. lanceolatus, C. cajanifolius, C. volubilis and C. platycarpus along with their parents were screened for the pod borer resistance under unprotected field conditions at ICRISAT, Patancheru, India. Biochemical basis of resistance was also identified by studying the levels of defence proteins active against bovine pancreatic trypsin, chymotrypsin and trypsin-like enzymes of H. armigera mid-gut proteases. Protease inhibitor profiles of parents and interspecific derivatives differed in terms of activity units, number and intensities of activity bands visualized on gelatin-PAGE. As the protease inhibitors are anti-nutritional factors, parents and interspecific derivatives, which resulted in high levels of Helicoverpa gut protease inhibitor (HGPI) units were screened for Human pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (HPTI) activity levels. Samples with high ratio of HGPI/HPTI represent less or no effect on human pancreatic trypsin and high effect on insect gut proteases.


Induced systemic resistance and evaluation of bio-control agents for management of pigeonpea wilt caused by Fusarium udum

Authors:  Ravikumara BM, Naik MK, Sharma M, Sunkad G, Patil AG, Muniswamy S and Viswanath KP

Published: 2017, Journal of Pure and Applied Microbiology, 11 (1). pp. 291-305. ISSN 0973-7510

Abstract: The performance of the four fungal and two bacterial bioagents were evaluated for the bicontrol efficacy and ability to induce systemic resistance against Fusarium udum causing wilt of pigeonpea which is posing a serious threat to pigeonpea growing regions of India. Among the six isolates, maximum mycelial inhibition was noticed in Trichoderma harzianum (Th- R) as compared to other biocontrol agents. Among contact fungicides, maximum inhibition (>75 %) of mycelium was recorded in Mancozeb and capton at 0.20 and 0.3 % concentrations. More than 90% inhibition was recorded among the systemic fungicides at all the all the concentrations except thiophanate methyl which recorded 53.67 % inhibition at 0.05 % concentration. Among different treatment combinations of biocontrol agents, the highest vigour index was recorded in P. fluorescense (RP- 46) + P. putida (RP- 56) treated seeds in both the cultivars (Moderately resistant and susceptible). The level of expression of defense related enzymes (PO, PPO & PAL) was more in moderately resistant cultivar(BSMR- 736) rather than susceptible one(ICP- 2376). In glass house experiment seeds treated with P. flourescens (RP- 46) + P. putida (RP-56) recorded least wilt incidence as compared to other treatments. In both Kharif seasons of 2013/14 and 2014/15 recorded significantly lowest wilt incidence and highest yield in soil drenching with 0.2 % Carbendazim fungicide. Among the biocontrol agents, seed treatment @4 g / kg seeds + soil application of PGPR (P. flourescens & P. putida) consortium @ 25kg/ ha in FYM @ 50 kg/ ha, recorded least wilt incidence and highest yield.












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