Issue No: 1731

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Feature stories

At the launch of the portable aflatoxin test kit. (L to R) Mr Mphatso Dakama, country officer, Partnership for aflatoxin control in Africa (PACA), Malawi; His Excellency Mr Anil Kumar, acting Indian High Commissioner, Malawi; Dr Allan Chilimba, Dr Anitha Seetha; Dr Moses Siambi, Regional Director, ESA; and Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu, Deputy CEO, NASFAM, Malawi.

At the launch of the portable aflatoxin test kit. (L to R) Mr Mphatso Dakama, country officer, Partnership for aflatoxin control in Africa (PACA), Malawi; His Excellency Mr Anil Kumar, acting Indian High Commissioner, Malawi; Dr Allan Chilimba, Dr Anitha Seetha; Dr Moses Siambi, Regional Director, ESA; and Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu, Deputy CEO, NASFAM, Malawi.

First portable low-cost device developed for rapid detection of aflatoxins

A new technology that detects aflatoxins on location, can save lives and open export markets for African and Asian countries. The rapid test kit device is also affordable at under US$ 2. This exciting advancement combined with a mobile extraction kit that will be ready in two months, will be the first portable cost-effective way for farmers and others to detect aflatoxins instantly. Currently, the test can be applied to detect aflatoxin in groundnuts.

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The test kit launched officially on July 26 by Dr Allan Chilimba, Deputy Director, Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS), Lilongwe at ICRISAT-Malawi, requires limited technical knowledge or training and can be done on location by farmers, agro-dealers and food processors. For example it can be used by traders to check for contamination before concluding a sale. The rapid detection is useful for public health authorities to help identify suspected samples in cases of an outbreak of aflatoxin poisoning.

The new test is simple to perform and can detect contamination at levels of 10 parts per billion (ppb) in less than 15 minutes. While the competitive Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (cELISA) test, developed in 2000 by ICRISAT, which has to be done in a laboratory by trained technicians, and other analytical tests can take up to two days.

Dr S Anitha explaining about the aflatoxin test.

Dr S Anitha explaining about the aflatoxin test.

The compact portable device is based on the lateral flow immunoassay test (popularly known as the strip test like that used to detect glucose in human blood). If aflatoxin is present in the sample, then one pink line appears on the strip, whereas if the sample doesn’t have any aflatoxin, two pink lines will appear.

“The device will contribute to manage and reduce the entry of aflatoxins in the food value chains, improve diagnosis for local and export trade and support the food processing industry to maintain low exposure levels in food products in our local markets as well as for export markets,” said Dr Anitha Seetha, Scientist, ICRISAT, Malawi.

What is Aflatoxin?

Aflatoxin is a toxic substance produced by mold fungi (Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus) that can grow on poorly managed agricultural crops, particularly groundnuts.

If eaten in sufficient quantities, aflatoxin can cause serious sicknesses that can lead to liver and several other cancers.

Groundnuts for sale and export should be free from aflatoxin.

Therefore appropriate crop management is essential at pre- and post-harvest times.

Effects of aflatoxin

Aflatoxin is carcinogenic and can cause liver and other cancers in humans.

It is synergistic with hepatitis viruses B and C.

It lowers the body’s normal immune response to invasion by foreign substances.

It impairs growth in children, notably in Africa, and causes childhood cirrhosis in India.

In poultry and livestock, aflatoxin can cause feed refusal, loss of weight, reduced egg production, and contamination of milk.

Our work on combating aflatoxin:

Aflatoxin is carcinogenic. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 25% of all crops in the world are affected by aflatoxins. The WHO recently estimated that in 2010 around 20,000 people died globally from aflatoxin poisoning and an equal number fell ill.

Groundnut, maize, sorghum, pearl millet, chilies, pistachios, cassava and other food products are contaminated by aflatoxin each year. They not only affect human and livestock health but can also affect the marketability of food products. Many countries reject imports of agricultural products that exceed certain levels of aflatoxin, costing farmers millions of dollars every year.

“ICRISAT has been working with smallholder farmers in Africa to combat the aflatoxin problem. This kit will enable rapid and cost-effective deployment by the government and private sector to protect public health and also improve the export prospects for African countries,” said Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT.

Around 90 countries have regulations that establish maximum aflatoxin limits in food and feed products. The limits range from 4 ppb in the EU to 15 ppb in the USA.

Aflatoxin contaminated food can pose a serious health risk. Symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning include: liver cancer, fluid retention, increased incidence of Hepatitis B infection, and stunting in children. In poultry and livestock, aflatoxin can cause feed refusal, loss of weight, reduced egg production and contamination of milk. Tropical countries are primarily affected, which includes the majority of Africa, India and other south Asian countries.

The development of the sample extraction kit is currently underway and will be ready in two months so that the whole process can be carried out in the field or anywhere else. The kit has been developed by Dr Anitha Seetha.

Timeline (40+ years) on ICRISAT’s research on Aflatoxin:

Media release: First portable low-cost device developed for rapid detection of aflatoxins


  1. New varieties and management systems to improve productivity, food security and safety and market competitiveness (McKnight project).
  2. Intensification of maize-legume based systems in the semi-arid areas of Tanzania (Kongwa and Kiteto districts) to increase farm productivity and improves farming natural resource base (Africa RISING USAID)

Investor: McKnight Foundation and Africa RISING (USAID)

Partners: National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi-NASFAM, Farmers Union Malawi (FUM), Kamuzu Central Hospital, Nkhoma Hospital, Malawi and ICRISAT

CGIAR Research Program: A4NH

Ms Murro (L), using the 24 hour dietary recall method to document food consumption.

Ms Murro (L), using the 24 hour dietary recall method to document food consumption. Photo: TCI

Study shows food gender bias with female adolescent’s diet deficient despite households being diet sufficient

Initial findings on intra household food and nutritional dynamics revealed that female adolescents were diet deficient despite households being diet sufficient. On the other hand male adolescents were diet sufficient even if the households were diet deficient. This indicates a clear gender bias in terms of allocation of food and consequently nutrition.

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Some other major findings of the study are:

  • For an adolescent girl the relative calorie allocation is less by nearly 18%.
  • Gender bias against females was strongest for vitamin A at 89%.
  • Occupation of the male head of the household was more important than age or education in influencing allocation. When the head was involved in non-farm work, there was considerably less bias in food allocation compared to when the head worked on his own farm.
  • Being part of Other Backward Classes (OBC) or Schedule Castes/Schedule Tribes (SC/ST), decreases the adolescents’ food allocation by 50% and 85% respectively, when compared to Forward Caste (FC).
  • There was no evidence for the role of female decision making in intra household allocation – no matter what her education level.
  • Undernourishment was positively linked to biased allocation in the case of vitamin A, calcium, iron and calorie intakes.
  • Both adolescents and the households as whole consumed more diverse diets on market days than normal days.
  • Limited access to certain food groups in the market (meat, eggs, milk) may be impacting household access to certain nutrients.

The 2-week study covered 58 households (21 in Kalman village and 37 in Shirapur village) in Maharashtra, comprising 81 adolescents (10-19 yrs), of which 35 were girls and 46 boys. The villages are part of the Village Dynamics in South Asia project led by ICRISAT.

Ms Archer (L), interacting with vegetable vendors.

Ms Archer (L), interacting with vegetable vendors. Photo: TCI

Ms Bae (R), collecting the food and nutrition data at the household level.

Ms Bae (R), collecting the food and nutrition data at the household level. Photo: TCI

Ms Archer (L), collecting anthropometry data of adolescents.Photo: TCI

Ms Archer (L), collecting anthropometry data of adolescents. Photo: TCI

The study on understanding the existing patterns of intra household allocation of food and nutrition dynamics was conducted by four students from Cornell University as part of their seven-week internship.

The interns interacted with key informants at the village level, on the various government policies and programs on nutrition, their availability and access at the village level. The programs discussed included the Public Distribution System (PDS), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Kishori Shakthi Yojana (KSY) under ICDS and the mid-day meal. One of the key objectives of the KSY is to improve the nutritional and health status of adolescent girls aged 11-18 years.

The four interns from Cornell University are, Ms Cairo Maria Archer, Ms Irene Bae and Ms Rachel Murro, undergraduate students in nutritional sciences, and Ms Dieynab Diatta, a Masters student in economics and management.

This Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) summer internship research project, supported by TCI, is a collaborative research activity between TCI and the Market, Institutions, Nutrition and Diversity unit, ICRISAT, and structured to provide an opportunity to all interns to conduct field-based research.

Ms Diatta (L), collecting policy information from village officials.

Ms Diatta (L), collecting policy information from village officials. Photo: TCI

Project: Women’s Empowerment in rural south asia: micro-level evidences on labor participation, institutions and food security

Investor: Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI)

Partners: TCI and ICRISAT

Chickpea farmer in Ethiopia. Photo: ICRISAT

Chickpea farmer in Ethiopia. Photo: ICRISAT

High yielding and disease resistant chickpea varieties released in Ethiopia

The National Variety Release Committee (NVRC) announced the release of three new improved chickpea varieties with better yield, disease resistance (wilt, root rot and ascochyta blight) and early maturity for production inhigh altitude areas (1800-2800 m) of Ethiopia.

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This was the outcome of a research collaboration between International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and ICRISAT. The breeding lines for these varieties were provided by ICRISAT and ICARDA. Chickpea crop improvement research collaboration among the three institutes has led to the release and promotion of more than 20 varieties in Ethiopia so far.

The released varieties are:
DIMTU (DZ-2012 CK-031/ICCV-10107)
DIMTU variety gave higher yield compared to the standard check, Minjar and the local check by 15.34% and 29.71% and had 100-seed weight advantage of about 78.92% and 144.71% over the standard check (Minjar) and local check respectively.

HORA (DZ-2012 CK-001/FLIP 04-9C)
The HORA variety is mainly proposed for its reasonably good grain yield in potential chickpea growing areas. Its seed yield advantage as compared to the standard check (Ejere) is 22.9% and local check (DZ 10-4) is 70.39% higher.

DHERA (DZ-2012 CK-009/FLIP 0163)
DHERA’s better seed yield advantage over standard check Ejere (10.7%) and local check (53.51%) along with very erect growth makes it suitable for mechanical harvesting.

No fertilizers, irrigation or pesticides were used on any of these varieties to achieve the increased grain yield during the trails. When compared to standard and local checks, all three varieties showed promising results on disease resistance.

The trials were conducted by researchers from the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center (DZARC), EIAR. Main contributors from DZARC, EIAR, were national chickpea breeders Dr Million Eshete, Mr Dagnachew Bekele, Mr Ridwan Mohammed and Mr Nigussie Girma.

The National Chickpea and Lentil Research Program,DZARC, will maintain 50 kg breeder seed of these varieties every year and plans are underway to get these varieties into sustainable seed systems and promotion under Tropical Legumes-III and USAID scaling projects.

“Tropical Legumes Phase III (TL-III) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presents an opportunity for different CGIAR centers to synergize their comparative advantage and expertise for the benefit of the smallholder farmer. Apart from ICARDA and ICRISAT, others like International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) were also involved in working together with their respective mandate legumes while exchanging experiences and lessons for the benefit of smallholder farmers in the dryland tropics,” said Dr Emmanuel Monyo, Theme Leader- Seed Systems & Project Coordinator, TL-III, ICRISAT.

Ethiopia supplies more than 60% of Africa’s global chickpea exports. In Ethiopia, 80% of the chickpea is marketed locally while 20% is exported mainly to Asia and Middle East. With this, the net
household income from chickpea trade is estimated at US$1,500-2,000 per ha.

Project: National Chickpea and Lentil Research Program, Ethiopia; TL III and USAID scaling project

Investor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,USAID, Government of Ethiopia


CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes

Dr Maureen Cheserek, Nutritionist, Egerton University, addressing mothers at Elgeyo Marakwet. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Maureen Cheserek, Nutritionist, Egerton University, addressing mothers at Elgeyo Marakwet. Photo: ICRISAT

Smart Food nutrition activities kick off in Kenya

To improve the nutritional status of women in the reproductive age and children below five years, an awareness drive under the Smart Food campaign has been launched in selected counties in Kenya. The aim is to promote increased consumption of nutrient dense, drought tolerant crops (sorghum, millets, pigeonpea, groundnut, cowpea and green gram) and appropriate dietary practices in the project areas using social behavior change communication approaches.

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The Smart Food team in Kenya will support the initiative, by disseminating nutrition knowledge with a focus on the first 1000 days of life. Various communication channels will be used specific to the community needs. As reported in the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2014, stunting stands at 26% and is highest in children aged 18-23 months (36%). This indicates that to avert malnutrition there is a need for awareness building on complementary feeding and the need to fully utilize the 1000-day window.

The Smart Food campaign aims at

  • Increasing the levels of awareness and utilization of millets and pulses;
  • Promoting proper infant and young child feeding practices and dietary diversity of women of reproductive age; and
  • Changing attitudes and practices that contribute to malnutrition in the selected communities.
  • To raise political and social leadership commitment to the Smart Food agenda, a task force has been formed with representatives from the ministries of Health, Agriculture and Education and ICRISAT. The objective of the task force is to develop a joint roadmap for the Smart Food campaign which includes the following activities:
  • Train focal persons in the ministries and leaders of social organizations in the counties to sensitize communities (using existing structures) with key MIYCN (maternal, infant and young child nutrition) messages and educate them on the nutrition value and health benefits of smart foods.
  • Hold a food and nutrition fair to create awareness about MIYCN and health benefits of smart foods
  • Sensitize communities using local radio programs and jingles.
  • Engage the First Ladies of the counties to drive the smart food nutrition agenda within their communities.
  • Work with existing social structures to train women and youth on Smart Food recipes for diversification of diets.
  • Ride on existing school events and competitions (drama, science congress, music festivals, athletics) to educate youth on nutrition and promote smart foods.
  • Sensitize early childhood development teachers and decision makers from hospitals, orphanages, local schools and restaurants on the nutritional benefits of smart foods (including Board of Directors/Management).
  • Train chefs/cooks of local institutions – restaurants, schools, hospitals, orphanages on Smart Food recipes and on appropriate technologies.
  • Organize a sensitization workshop for small and micro enterprises in the county on opportunities in product development using smart foods, training on food safety, quality standards and quality assurance, and initiate linkage with other influential players.
  • Educate urban consumers on nutrition and smart foods through social media.
  • Develop a cooking show that educates people on nutrition and promote smart foods.
  • Enlist support from the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, to promote nutrition through the Smart Food campaign

The strategic approaches adopted to improve the nutritional status are to improve access (physical and economic) to diverse quality food and support improved utilization of maternal and child health, and nutrition services. These will be realized alongside other objectives of increasing productivity of value chains and improving markets and expanded trade for the value chains.

Recently, 3-day Training of Trainers (ToT) workshops were conducted at Makueni, Elgeyo, Marakwet and Siaya. The trainings focused on agri-nutrition, MIYCN and on appropriate social behavior change approaches to be used during the cascade training down to the communities.

The strategy is to use existing government structures to transfer nutrition education by training various actors including agricultural extensions, health workers, teachers, community health volunteers, etc. The cascade trainings will also include other influencers like grandmothers, men, religious leaders, community elders and pupils/students.

Some topics covered during the training included: proper food choices and combinations, applied nutrition (selecting, preparing, cooking and distributing within households), classification of nutrients and their functions, definitions of malnutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight, overweight/obesity and micronutrient deficiencies), examples of diet related non-communicable diseases (signs and symptoms, dietary management), nutrition in the lifespan (pregnancy, newborn, infancy,  etc.), food hygiene, meal planning, and energy efficient cooking.

Prior to the ToT, a formative study was carried out in 5 of the 6 counties during April 2016, to seek inputs from mothers with children below 5 years through focused group discussions. About 244 mothers participated in the formative study and were sensitized on agri-nutrition with a special focus on smart foods. The process helped the team identify and understand the characteristics of the target communities’ (their interests, behaviors and needs) that influence their eating habits.

The Nutrition Pathways map below depicts how ICRISAT is working to improve nutrition status of women and children in Kenya.avcd

Project: Feed the Future – Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) for Smallholder Farmers and Pastoralists with Technologies and Innovations in Kenya

Investor: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Partners: Egerton University, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Government of Kenya

CGIAR research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

Launch meeting of CINTRIN in Cambridge, attended by all partners of consortium. Photo: ICRISAT

Launch meeting of CINTRIN in Cambridge, attended by all partners of consortium. Photo: ICRISAT


New partnership to optimize use of nitrogen in cereal crops

A team of researchers from India and the United Kingdom (UK) have come together to develop new cereal crop varieties, that use nitrogen efficiently, which in turn, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make farming more profitable and sustainable. The partnership will explore natural variations of cereals and basic research in model plants to deliver new varieties of cereals with enhanced nitrogen use efficiency.

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With funding of £10 million (GBP) (US$13,084,500) through the Newton Bhabha Fund, UK; Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), UK; and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the Government of India, four new Virtual Joint Centers in Agricultural Nitrogen will be created.  These are delivered in partnership with BBSRC, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK and the DBT. The Centers comprise of multiple research organizations in India and the UK, with each center receiving a co-investment of approximately £2.5 million (UD$3,271,125).

The Cambridge-India Network for Translational Research in Nitrogen (CINTRIN), one of the four centres, is led by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), UK and ICRISAT – India. It also brings together the Department of Plant Sciences and Sainsbury laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK; the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), India; the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), India; ADAS UK Ltd., UK; and the agri-IT specialist KisanHub, located in Cambridge, UK and Pune, India.

The launch meeting of CINTRIN was held during end of June at Cambridge and attended by all partners of the consortium. Following this, the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between ICRISAT and DBT on 8 July for this research.

“The overarching aim of CINTRIN is to improve not only the income and livelihood of farmers by reducing the inputs cost, but also to save the environment by minimizing the negative impacts of excessive use of fertilizers,” emphasized Dr Rajeev Gupta, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT, who is leading the Indian team of CINTRIN.

“The natural variation for nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) will be studied in diverse germplasm of wheat, sorghum, pearl millet and foxtail millet. The findings will be applied to develop new breeding lines with enhanced NUE. CINTRIN will also use model plants such as Arabidopsis and Brachypodium for basic research which will be translated into crops in the future,” added Dr Gupta.

Dr Alison Bentley, Director of Genetics and Breeding, NIAB explains, “The CINTRIN partners will translate developmental biology research into innovation in nitrogen use by Indian farmers, by connecting developmental research, crop breeding, agritechnology and extension work. This will be enhanced by easily accessible data-driven methods of technology transfer, developed by the India and UK-based company, KisanHub.”

“We want to promote a new understanding of the science associated with optimization of crop nitrogen use, built on exciting discoveries in model plant species which have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about the nitrogen requirement of crops,” said Dr Bentley.

Professor Ottoline Leyser, Director, The Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge said, “We are excited to be participating in CINTRIN as this sort of collaboration is essential for our research to contribute to solving the pressing problems facing agriculture.”

The initiative will build on established research links between NIAB, the University of Cambridge and research institutes in India. Exchanges in personnel between India and the UK via CINTRIN will enhance the skills of the next generation of plant technologists and provide a standard for building capacity in fundamental plant sciences and translation into germplasm and agronomic outputs in
both countries.

Project: The Cambridge-India Network for Translational Research in Nitrogen (CINTRIN)

Investor: Newton Bhabha Fund, UK (Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), UK and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India)


UK: National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), ADAS UK Ltd, KisanHub, Department of Plant Sciences and Sainsbury laboratory, University of Cambridge

India: Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), ICRISAT

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals

Participants are introduced to automatic weather station. Photo: Oumar Diop, AMAP

Participants are introduced to automatic weather station. Photo: Oumar Diop, AMAP

Making the most of improved, accessible climate information

In a first of its kind in Mali, the Joint Agro-Meteorological Services Incubator (JAMSI) has been launched to build the capacity of the Mali National Weather Agency (Mali Meteo) to deliver improved climate services to farmers.

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The objectives of this initiative are to:

  • Improve Mali Meteo’s historical climate (rainfall and temperature) data through development of gridded data sets created by combining quality-controlled station data with satellite retrievals and other proxies;
  • Improve seasonal prediction as well as physical understanding of current trends related to the sub-seasonal distribution of rainfall;
  • Build the capacity of Mali Meteo to provide high quality climate services and explore options for leveraging its capabilities to provide climate information to the public and private sectors in Mali.
  • The availability of climate data will be improved by combining quality controlled data from the national observation network, which is very sparse over many parts of the country, with satellite estimates for rainfall and elevation maps, and reanalysis products for temperature.

As part of the JAMSI launch, six automatic weather stations were offered to Mali Meteo. “Implementation of the incubator activities will strengthen the capabilities of Mali Meteo, in the analysis and interpretation of weather forecasts at different levels, in relation to historical climate data, to provide climate services to help growers in their decision making. Establishment of a joint agro meteorological services incubator, will enable us to provide different users with reliable weather and climate information,” said Mr Djibrillah A Maïga, Director General, Mali Meteo. He thanked ICRISAT and other partners for the automatic weather stations and computers, saying that they will support the modernization of meteorological data collection in Mali.

JAMSI is a unique partnership between a national weather and hydrology agency and a CGIAR center. For Dr Mathieu Ouédraogo, representing the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Africa, “JAMSI is a great opportunity to capacitate the emerging national climate services, which closely reflects the philosophy of ‘Capacitating African Smallholders with Climate Advisories and Insurance Development (CASCAID)’ project and that of the overall theme of CCAFS on climate management. It will not only strengthen Mali Meteo’s network of terrestrial observations, but also catalyze synergies between public sector, private operators and non-governmental organizations who provide value added services towards intensified and sustainable agriculture.”05

According to Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, West and Central Africa, ICRISAT, public and private agro-meteorological services are an important component in the provision of advisory support services to smallholders and agricultural enterprises. “For a long time we have witnessed the capacity and know-how of farmers. When supported with scientific innovations, favorable policies and strong partnerships, it can enhance their productivity and revenues while improving the resilience of their lands and livelihoods.”

JAMSI was launched on 10 June as part of the CASCAID project.

Project: Capacitating African Smallholders with Climate Advisories and Insurance Development (CASCAID)

Partners: University of Ghana, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), Manobi, Washington State University, Agrhymet Regional Centre, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), University of Reading, UK, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), national meterological services and ICRISAT.

Investor: CCAFS

CGIAR Research Program: CCAFS

Farmers queuing up to get mini seed packs of improved varieties. Photo: Moustaph Diallo, Macina Film

Farmers queuing up to get mini seed packs of improved varieties. Photo: Moustaph Diallo, Macina Film

Seed fairs to promote climate resilient varieties in West Africa

Aiming to increase awareness of farmers on climate resilient varieties of groundnut and maize and create opportunities to network with diverse players along the value chain, two seed fair programs were organized at Sikasso and Kayes regions of Mali recently.

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The objectives were to:

  • Strengthen and stimulate linkages and information sharing among farmers on high yielding, drought and disease tolerant varieties;
  • Distribute small package of seeds of the improved varieties to farmers;
  • Create awareness of alternative seed sources and varieties;
  • Create forum for knowledge exchange on seed production systems among researchers, farmers and seed experts; and
  • Create working contacts between farmers, extension staff, researchers and agro-dealers on sustainable seed systems to support climate resilience for farmers.

The fairs included plenary sessions, group discussions and exhibition stands where 65 partners, including government agencies and private sector, exhibited their products and services to about 400 participants. The fairs offered an opportunity to create linkages that will help promote processing and value addition in Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire.

“The seed fairs have helped create partnerships among stakeholders for a better dissemination of new varieties,” said Mr Siaka Dembélé, Representative of the Regional Agriculture Directorate, Mr Dembélé also stressed on the continuity of such events as it provides training to extension agents, so they can advise more producers.

Around 300 farmers received mini-packs of improved groundnut varieties from ICRISAT through a voucher system. Along with the seeds farmers were exposed to appropriate agronomic practices and market links.

“I came to learn more about the new improved seed varieties. But more importantly I learnt about new practices. For example, I keep my seed with the rest of the crop that is highly vulnerable to insect attack. I do not measure the extent of damage caused by these insects on my seed. Now I am aware of that,” said Mr Seydou Diallo from Nangola village, rural commune of Niéna in Sikasso region.

Farmers discussed the challenges, constraints and opportunities in the seed production systems in West Africa. The dangers associated with aflatoxin contamination and how to mitigate it was stressed. Farmers were made aware of diet diversification and climate change resilience strategies. Commercial seed producers and processors were able to understand farmers’ needs, tastes and concerns.

“I learned that you can turn groundnuts into nutritious food. This encourages us to embrace this cultural advantage in Cote d’Ivoire. During the exchanges, we also learned that market access is a transboundary challenge for all stakeholders, including producers of all countries,” said Mr Diedhiou Augustin, a farmer from Korhogo in Côte d’Ivoire.

Ms Mariam Sissoko from the village of Same in Kayes region appreciated the participation of women during the fair and said “Women have spoken and expressed their views on important issues such as production, processing and marketing of seeds.”

The farmers were interviewed using structured questionnaires to evaluate the impact of the seed fair. Farmers were also willing to be part of the after-fair impact assessment study, intended in August 2016, after the planting period.

The fairs in the Sikasso and Kayes regions were declared open by the Governors of the respective regions, in brief opening ceremonies. Delegations from Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Direction Regional de l’Agriculture (DRA), Conseil Regional and various stakeholders including farmers, representatives of farmer associations  and cooperatives, seed companies, seed processors, local and international NGOs and other Mali agricultural professionals attended the events. The participants expressed that the program should be conducted annually.

The seed fairs were organized on 20-21 June at Sikasso and on 24-25 June at Kayes by ICRISAT.

Project: Increasing groundnut productivity of smallholder farmer in Ghana, Nigeria and Mali.

Partners: The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), USAID, national partners (Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Direction Regionale de l’Agriculture (DRA), NGOs, and private sector) and ICRISAT,.

Investor: Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and USAID/Feed the Future (FtF)

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes.

The transplanting machine in action. Photo: Rajesh Nune, ICRISAT

The transplanting machine in action. Photo: Rajesh Nune, ICRISAT

Public private partnership yields major benefits to farmers

The benefits to the farming community of partnerships between public research institutes and private companies have been demonstrated in East Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh, India, where machine transplantation has reduced the cost of cultivation by half, as well as increased yields by around 750 kg per ha.

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Developing farmer field laboratory and sites of learning to pilot new technologies, ICRISAT has introduced machine transplanting on a pilot basis under the Private Public Partnership (PPP) mode in 16 ha under the Rythu Kosam program. ICRISAT and the pilot site farmers entered into a PPP agreement with KUBOTA India, a Japanese farm machinery company.

Several awareness programmes were conducted in the pilot village of Lingumparthy in Yeleswaram mandal, regarding the benefits from cost reduction and increased yields the farmers would obtain by adopting machine transplanting. These programmes were conducted by Dr Rajesh Nune, Visiting Scientist, ICRISAT, Mr Bharat Chandra, Scientific Officer, ICRISAT and Ms T Sangeeta, Research Technician, ICRISAT Development Centre, along with Nature Volunteer Organization, a local NGO.

Nearly 120 farmers showed interest in being part of the pilot initiative. Data such as preferred seed variety, date of sowing, proposed area of machine transplantation, etc., was collected from the interested farmers. KUBOTA procured seeds of the farmer preferred varieties, raised the nursery of different varieties of paddy at the Maruteru Research Station (West Godavari), transported the saplings to the farmers’ fields and transplanted them using the machine, in the first week of August 2015.

The cost incurred by the farmer for this was ` 7,500 (US$ 112) per ha, which was half of what a farmer usually spends, ` 15,000 (US$ 223), for the above work. Another issue addressed through this intervention is the labour shortage, which is a major problem in this village.

Through crop cutting experiments in machine transplanted fields and control fields, it was demonstrated that on an average, the machine transplanted fields showed increased yield of around 3-5 bags (approximately 750 kg per ha) compared to the control fields.

In rabi (post rainy) 2015-16, farmers from Siripuram village, located adjacent to Lingumparthy village, have also come forward and joined the PPP mode. The area under machine transplantation has now expanded to 80 ha.

Under the Rythu Kosam program, KUBOTA India will set up a “Custom Hiring Centre” in the pilot village, where  farmers will have access to all farm equipment of the company and can hire them for their fields on a first-come-first-serve basis. Additional farmer support will also be made available at the centre.

Project: Transforming Agriculture and Allied Sectors through the Primary Sector Mission – Rythu Kosam

Investor: Government of Andhra Pradesh

Partners: Government of Andhra Pradesh, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Dr YSR Horticultural University, Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University, private industries such as KUBOTA India, Mahindra and Mahindra, John Deere, Science for Society, Jain Irrigation, etc. national and international agricultural research institutes and ICRISAT.

Women groups exhibiting their products. Photo: TA Azeez, ICRISAT

Women groups exhibiting their products. Photo: TA Azeez, ICRISAT

Building efficient supply chains in Nigeria

Building efficiencies across the supply chain, from input supply to marketing, is key to achieving success. To this end a first of its kind ‘Agricultural Inputs Fair’, was organized in Kano, Nigeria. The aim was to provide farmers with good quality inputs (improved seed varieties, agro chemicals and equipment), at affordable prices from genuine sources, and link them to agricultural extension services.

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At the fair, nearly 70% (4,500 kg) of assorted improved varieties of seeds brought to the fair by different seed companies were sold to farmers, amounting to NGN 903,600 (US$3,204).

The three-day programme was attended by around 1,800 farmers of which 484 were women. This overwhelming response has enthused the organizers to hold such input fairs on an annual basis to provide the necessary platform for interaction with farmers and agricultural inputs companies for higher productivity and income to farmers.

Invitees to the opening ceremony included Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Executive Governor of Kano State, and Prof Hafiz Abubakar, Deputy Executive Governor of Kano State;Dr Muhammad Sanusi II CON, Emir of Kano represented by Hakimin Kura, Alhaji Bello Ado Bayero; Nasiru Gawuna, Hon. Commissioner of Agriculture; Ahmad Rabi’u Bako,Hon. Commissioner of Natural Resources, Commerce & Industry and Murtala Sule Garo, Hon. Commissioner of Ministry for Local Government Affairs.

Under the auspices of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program Phase 1 (ATASP-1) and USAID Groundnut Upscaling Project, ICRISAT Nigeria in partnership with Fadama Development project Additional Finance (Fadama III AF), organized the agricultural inputs fair, hosted at Hadejia-Jama’are River Basin Development Authority premises Kura, Kura LGA, Kano State from 26 to 28 May.

Project: Agricultural transformation agenda support program phase 1 (ATASP-1) and USAID Groundnut Upscaling Project

Investor: Nigeria Federal Government through Africa Development Bank, World Bank and USAID

Partners: Fadama Development project Additional Finance (Fadama III AF) and ICRISAT

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Systems, Dryland Cereals and Grain Legumes.

Farmer recieving his Soil Health Card from the Village President Kalamma. Photo: ICRISAT

Farmer recieving his Soil Health Card from the Village President Kalamma. Photo: ICRISAT

Village by Village: Soil health being addressed in Telangana

Through a combination of government and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects, Telangana State is starting to see a rise in soil health initiatives – one key component to making farming profitable.

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Farmers studying their Soil Health Cards

Farmers studying their Soil Health Cards

The next steps will be to conduct on-farm trials to show the yield gains and net profits.Recently ICRISAT coordinated soil testing right down to individual farm level, identified by Geographic Information System (GIS) coordinates, including micronutrient deficiencies. This level of detailing has rarely been undertaken. Based on the above exercise, the first set of soil health cards were delivered to 79 farmers of the Naganpally village on 19 June. They were trained on collecting soil samples from their fields and nutrient deficiencies in these samples were then identified at ICRISAT laboratories and fertilizer recommendations given separately for 16 different crops (ranging from paddy to millets) to each farmer. As a result, every farmer has a Soil Heath Card, which saves them money by not over fertilizing, as well as maximizing yields.

This was part of the CSR of Ramoji Foundation in two villages. Other villages have also benefited through CSRs of SABMiller (10 villages) and Asian Paints (6 villages), and with the Medak Collector (20 villages).

Karnataka is the first state to have achieved soil micronutrient mapping at farm level across the whole state and this has been published as a Soil Fertility Atlas by the Government of Karnataka and ICRISAT five years ago. Currently Karnataka is the only state to have achieved this, as in many areas information of only macronutrients are collected at the district level. The precision of collecting soil micronutrient details will mean more accurate recommendations to the farmers. The initiative with farmers was monitored and recorded, showing up to 20 to 66% productivity gain across districts.

“Soil heath cards are one key step in a holistic approach. ICRISAT has a strong belief in a holistic approach, as any one intervention will only deliver its full advantage when all part of the value chain are also developed. Typically this includes watershed management, access to seeds of improved crop varieties,  integration with livestock, on-farm practices including water use efficiency, links to markets, processing and agribusiness,” said Dr Suhas P Wani, Director ICRISAT Development Center.

Participants at the knowledge management training program. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Participants at the knowledge management training program. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Knowledge management in agriculture – Past training

To build capacities of partners in managing the knowledge generated in the course of agriculture research, a training program was organized for the Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC) recently.

The participants were trained on open access, managing a digital library, working with online bibliographic databases, on-line journals e-books, e-library platforms and digitization.

The 5-day capacity building program was organized by ICRISAT’s Strategic Marketing and Communication department, during 19-25 June at ICRISAT-India. A total of 12 participants including policy makers took part in the training.


New seminars in the Take 2 series.

sibiriSpurring a transformation for agriculture through remote sensing- including landscape scale monitoring of smallholder crop response to fertilizer applications & MANOBI’s research & development strategy on digital agriculture

Dr Pierre C Sibiry Traore, Senior Scientist, Remote Sensing, ICRISAT, Bamako, Mali.

danielmAgri™: Inclusive business development services to transform smallholder agriculture.

Dr Daniel Annerose, CEO Manobi Corporation, Dakar, Senegal.


bellConservation agriculture and mechanisation for smallholder agriculture: a win-win for agriculture and the environment.

Dr Richard Bell, Professor- School of Agricultural Sciences, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia.


Dr-Andre-Butler.00_02_20_19.Still001No Policy is an Island: Finance and Food Security in India

Dr Andre Butler, Research Fellow – Institute of Financial, Management and Research (IFMR), Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Ms-Deepa-Jaganathan.00_01_43_05.Still001Fine mapping of QTL-hotspot for drought tolerance in chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.)

Ms Deepa Jaganathan, Research Scholar – Genetic Gains Program, ICRISAT, Hyderabad, India

Dr-Andy-hall.00_01_18_21.Still001Innovation systems research: where we came from and where we could go

Dr Andy Hall
Project leader – Food Systems Innovation, Agriculture Flagship, Commonwealth, Scientific Industrial and Research, Organization (CSIRO), Australia

IYP Video

Pre-breeding funding key to pulse revolution

A new IYP video on the importance of funding pre-breeding activities to attain pulse revolution is available here.

Unrestricted and assured funding for pre-breeding activities can exploit new and diverse sources of variation in the chickpea and pigeonpea genepools. By bridging the huge gap between the collection of genetic materials and that utilized, it is possible to bring about a pulse revolution in these times of climate change according to Dr Shivali Sharma, Theme Leader - Pre-breeding, Genetic Gains Program, ICRISAT


Workshops Announcements and Abstract invit

Workshop on “Energy and agriculture in Smart Villages in India” (22-23 Sept 2016) 

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1.3 Billion people live without access to electricity. We believe the Smart Villages concept is key to the sustainable development of off-grid communities.

Applications Invited: Practitioners and researchers are invited to give presentations on their current work at the upcoming workshop on Energy and agriculture in Smart Villages in India. We encourage people from India and South Asia to apply.

About the workshop: The workshop will bring together experts from the domains of research, entrepreneurship, gender, ICT, business, finance, policymaking and non-profit work, to discuss linkages between energy, agriculture and climate change, particularly as they pertain to rural villages in India and South Asia more broadly.

Smart Villages and ICRISAT invite applications from those working on the above topics, including companies. Those selected will have the opportunity to give a presentation on their current work.

Poster presentation: Exhibits of current work of participants and companies through relevant posters will be possible at the workshop.

How to apply: Send an abstract of your proposed presentation as well as a 1-2 page curriculum vitae. A limited number of bursaries for travel and accommodation are available to identified presenters.

Send applications to: Professor Sir Brian Heap,

Application deadline: 1 September 2016
For more information about Smart Villages, see here.

ICRISAT is hosting “International Conference on Statistics & Big Data Bioinformatics in Agricultural Research (21-23 Nov, 2016)

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The 70th ISAS Annual International Conference on “Statistics & Big Data Bioinformatics in Agricultural Research” is being organized by International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) at ICRISAT Patancheru during November 21-23, 2016.

For more details please visit Brochure   icon_pdf

Conference Theme
1. Design of Experiments & Phenotyping
2. Bioinformatics
3. Data Science Teaching & Scientific Communication
4. Open Sources Statistical Computing
5. Big Data Analytics
6. Statistical Genetics & Genomics
7. Genomic Selection & Genome-Wide Association Mapping
8. Bayesian Statistics
9. Geostatistics & Remote Sensing
10. Statistical Modelling & Forecasting
11. Data Management
12. Advances in Statistical Sampling

For benefit of young researchers and students in plant breeding and agricultural statistics two parallel pre-conference workshops will also be organized on November 20, 2016.

  • Application of R in Bioinformatics
  • Breeding Data Management & Analysis using BMS & VSNi tools

Call for Abstracts: The International Conference on “Technical Advances in Climate-smart Agriculture and Sustainability” (16-18 Jan 2017)

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The International Conference on “ Technical Advances in Climate-smart Agriculture and Sustainability” seek contributions on the following topics:

Climate Change: Impact and adaptation aassessment, mitigation, drought/flood prediction and resilience, disaster management, geological and geophysical proxies.

Water Resources: Modeling and management, irrigation, nutrient-cycling, hydrology, hydraulics, water technology, ecological design, food-water-energy nexus, environmental and geographical concerns.

Agriculture: Modeling and management, soils, pest management, impact of nuclear radiation on agricultural product, organic farming, new and improved crops, urban farming, agro technology.
Technical Leapfrogging: Mechanization, renewable energy, bio/nano-technology, pollution prevention and remediation, informatics, geospatial analysis, remote sensing.

Livelihood and Sustainability: Health, environmental justice, inclusiveness across gender and marginalized groups, community governance, civil society and NGO roles.

The conference offers an interdisciplinary platform to technocrats, scientists, government officials and development workers to learn and discuss promising new approaches for integrating science, technology, policy, and action. The conference will focus on integration of issues and solutions from earth science, environment science, engineering and social sciences for smart-agriculture strategies.

Conference date: 16-18 January 2017
Abstract submission deadline: 31 August 2016
For more details on registering for the conference, click here.

InterDrought-V Conference 2017 (21-25 Feb 2017)

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Interested in sharing your research or networking and learning about ongoing research, globally, in the areasrelated to different aspects of drought, crop physiology, genomics, biotechnology, or integrated breeding forcrop improvement. Then register for the InterDrought-V conference

The conference topics include:

  • Setting the biophysical context
  • Maximizing dryland crop production
  • Plant productivity under drought
  • Effective capture of water
  • Transpiration efficiency
  • Vegetative growth
  • Reproductive development, yield, yield quality
  • Breeding for water-limited environments
  • Agronomic management for water-limited environments

Abstract submission deadline: 15 Dec 2016 (For details click here)
Conference dates: February 21-25, 2017
Venue: Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), Hyderabad, India


New Projects

Scaling-up and popularization of high yielding pigeonpea hybrids for enhancing productivity of small and marginal farmers of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Odisha states of India

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Principal Investigator: S P Wani / C V Sameer Kumar

Period: 2016 – 2017

Investor: National Food Security Mission, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Govt. of India

Synopsis: The project objectives are as follows:

  • To enhance the productivity of pigeonpea-based systems using high-yielding hybrids along with improved land, water and crop management practices including soil testbased nutrient management options.
  • To promote cultivation of early maturing high-yielding pigeonpea hybrids in alfisols and medium duration hybrids in vertisols.
  • To develop village-level seed systems to achieve selfsufficiency in seeds of farmer-preferred improved varieties of pigeonpea.
  • To build capacity of farmers and Self Help Groups (SHGs) in sustainable pigeonpea production technology components as well as sensitization of the policy makers for sustainable pigeonpea production techniques in the targeted states.
  • To provide technical back-stopping for refinement of pigeonpea production technologies and also undertake strategic research to address the constraints identified by the farmers and other stakeholders in the target areas.

Documenting Adoption of Natural Resource Management (NRM) Practices: Evidence on Microdosing and Conservation Agriculture in Zimbabwe and Niger

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Principal investigator: Kizito Mazvimavi

Period: 2016 – 2017

Investor: FAO, Italy

Synopsis: This study focuses on determining the levels of adoption of Microdosing (MD) and ConservationAgriculture (CA) in Zimbabwe and Niger by undertaking the following activities:

  • Description and clear definition of MD and CA technologies, including what qualifies as adoption of MD and CA within each country context;
  • Compilation and collation of existing data on MD practices in Zimbabwe and Niger and CA practices in Zimbabwe;
  • Based on the existing data sets: estimation of current levels and intensities of adoption of the NRM technology to produce the relevant country-practice combinations reports;
  • Conduct a survey of MD adoption by households in Zimbabwe (Nkayi, Hwange, Zvishavane, Chivi, Masvingo, Chirumanzu, Tsholotsho and Inzia districts), representative at the level of the most significant regions in the country for this technology, using hand-held devices with digital and geo-referenced data collection forms developed by the ICRJSAT data handling team. The data will be synchronised with ICRJSAT Data Servers in real time).

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