Promoting the understanding and appreciation of agricultural research and the vital role it plays in human advancement


Sorghum farming helps Kenyan farmers cope with drought

Most parts of Kenya went without rain in the year 2016. According to the Kenyan Government a total of 1.3 million Kenyans are affected by drought. All hope is however not lost. Despite minimal rainfall, farmers in Tharaka Nithi County are defying the harsh weather conditions by farming alternative crops.  With the help of ICRISAT, Mr Shadrack Kithome, a farmer from Chiakariga Ward in Tharaka Nithi County, has adapted to the farming of drought tolerant crops.  Chiakariga ward lies in a semi-arid region where rainfall averages 150mm to 800mm annually with high temperatures during hot seasons. “I was able to get quality sorghum seed from ICRISAT, and I planted in the month of October. The rains came once in the...
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Study reveals pulses as important source of protein in India

Pulses continue to be a major source of protein in Indian diets and play a vital role in sustaining agricultural growth. Increasing pulse production is therefore important for improving food availability, soil health, diet quality and nutrition security. Today is Global Pulse Day. And a study by ICRISAT reveals that there is reason for optimism on the pulse production side in India. While trends in the area under pulses did not increase significantly from 2000 to 2014, apart from some fluctuations in area here and there, production has shown an upward trend (Figure 1). This is the result of a recent study on the “Role of Pulses in Enhancing Nutritional Status of Rural Poor: Micro-Level Evidence from Semi-Arid Tropics of...
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Women and youth in pulse value chains: opportunities for inclusion of smallholders

This post was featured in The 2016 International Year of Pulses has brought global attention to the important roles that pulses play in food, environment, and livelihood systems around the world. Smallholder farmers grow a significant portion of pulse crops and 67% of global pulse production happens in Africa and Asia. Through different value chains, pulses are moved from areas of production to areas of consumption around the globe. Pulse value chains are highly diverse, ranging from long-distance commodity export to local markets featuring traditional landraces. All pulse value chain actors are important, and the efficacy and equity of these value chains depends on a better understanding of their major actors, including smallholder farmers. It is equally important to...
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Super-early pigeonpea: Dodging climate change in the drylands

Pigeonpea in India has seen a change in its status from an orphan crop to a cash crop in the last few years thanks to its rising price. Its long maturity duration and low yield restrict its cultivation as a sole crop. Changing rainfall patterns, rise in annual temperatures and erratic climatic patterns together with the crop’s photo and thermo sensitivity have restricted its expansion to wider latitudes and altitudes. However, the crop’s potential to contribute to food security, nutrition, forage and income generation is indisputable. As pigeonpea is mainly cultivated in rainfed areas, when sowing is done at the onset of monsoons and followed by a long dry spell, dry germinated seedlings compel resowing. When the crop is in...
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The “so what” question: Integrating and communicating gender research

The CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network held its annual meeting at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) headquarters in Cali, Colombia earlier this month. The meeting was attended by gender specialists and coordinators from across the spectrum. All the sessions were interactive and participatory.  Gender Research Coordinators gave flash talks of 5 minutes. An interesting series of talks were on how gender research is being used to influence the way CGIAR Research Programs conduct research to be gender responsive. The Gender Network will cease to be after 31 December 2016.  It will take on a new form from January 2017 as a CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research coordinated and hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies,...
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Open source PhenoApps pave the way to efficient data collection in plant breeding

In an effort to introduce new technology into plant breeding programs, members of the Poland Lab at Kansas State University have developed several free PhenoApps for collecting data with Android smartphones and tablets. By fundamentally designing these tools for plant breeders and geneticists, the group hopes to improve specific areas in the plant breeding process where data management remains difficult. Field Book, developed to replace paper field books, gives breeders a simple interface to collect data on field research plots. It was created because other digital note-taking tools were too complex, didn’t allow for fast and flexible data entry, or were prohibitively expensive. Field Book reduces transcription errors, seamlessly collects metadata, and allows for rapid data analysis. Data collected is...
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Listening to people and getting a response is like physics

Mrs Salamatu Garba is the Executive Director of Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), an NGO in Nigeria that coordinates the activities of smallholder farmers to help them practice sustainable agriculture. Agathe Diama in a freewheeling conversation spoke to her about the role of rural women in agriculture.  Q: What is your vision of sustainable agriculture? Salamatu Garba: Sustainable agriculture and development is a holistic approach that addresses the welfare of the farmer and his importance to society. Society has made the farmer feel that his is a vocation that you take up when you are not important or when you fail in school! Sustainable agriculture is about giving the farmer a voice that will make him more relevant across the...
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Biofortified pearl millet varieties to fight iron and zinc deficiencies in India

Full article Micronutrient malnutrition because of iron and zinc deficiencies is a serious public health problem in low-and middle-economy countries worldwide.  In India alone, about 80% of the pregnant women, 52% of non-pregnant women, and 74% of children in the 6-35 months age group suffer from iron deficiency.  About 52% of children below 5 year are zinc deficient. Iron deficiency causes varying degrees of impairment in cognitive performance, and learning ability, lowered work capacity, and pregnancy complications (e.g., maternal mortality, and babies with low birth weight). Zinc deficiency in children causes stunting, makes them vulnerable to diarrhoea, pneumonia, and can lead to death from these infections. Crop biofortification, which refers to the breeding of cultivars with higher levels of micronutrients,...
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Crop simulation models: predicting the future of pulses

This post was featured in From the past to the present, pulses benefit agricultural systems Pulse crops have always been playing a beneficial and central role in crop rotations. Even the Romans and ancient Chinese already knew the benefit of using peas and soybean. When pulses are used as a ‘break crop’ for pests or diseases, wheat yield has been shown to increase by up to 1.2 tons per hectare [1] and the benefit even lasts for an additional wheat crop. Pulse crops have the natural capacity to fix nitrogen gas from the atmosphere, thanks to an association with soil bacteria called rhizobium, something that other crops like rice, wheat or maize cannot do. This brings ‘free’ nitrogen fertilizer...
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Climate-smart crops for Myanmar’s dry regions

A research study in Myanmar seeks to identify crops with the lowest risk options for intensifying dryland cropping systems. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is one country where vast tracts of rice fields span as far as the eyes can see. The abundance of natural resources and low labor costs favor the agriculture sector, which contributes 45% of the country’s gross domestic product. It comes as no surprise then that this sector is the primary livelihood source to 70% of the country’s population. However, Myanmar’s agriculture depends highly on monsoon rains. The country’s Central Dry Zone (CDZ) area, which makes up about 13% of the total land area, and contributes 20% and 54% to the country’s total rice and pulse production, respectively, receives...
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