25 October 2013
No. 1594

Legumes projects to develop improved varieties and disease management to benefit poor farmers in India

Director General WD Dar speaking at the launch of the two legumes projects at ICRISAT headquarters. Also seen are (L-R) Drs CLL Gowda, JS Sandhu and RK Varshney. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Two comprehensive, four-year, US$2-million legumes projects were launched recently to develop and identify improved varieties of chickpea and pigeonpea along with best practices in crop production and management. The overall goal is to enhance production and productivity of the two crops to benefit resource-poor, smallholder farmers in India.

The projects “Developing chickpea cultivars suited to mechanical harvesting and tolerant to herbicides” and “Addressing Phytophthora blight disease: an emerging threat to pigeonpea production and expansion” are funded by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM).

“Synergies and convergence of efforts and resources are essential to achieve greater heights in production and productivity. Partnerships in research for development are the only way in which we can enhance the food and nutritional security and income generation of underprivileged farmers,” said Director General William D. Dar during the launch of the projects at the ICRISAT headquarters on 16 October.

Also speaking on the occasion, India’s Agriculture Commissioner, Dr JS Sandhu said, “I am very pleased about this partnership between NFSM, ICRISAT and other organizations within the national agricultural research system – a partnership that will lead to the improvement of productivity and production of chickpea and pigeonpea, the main sources of protein for more than a billion people in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.” He also highlighted NFSM’s mission and objectives to increase pulse production in India.

Welcoming the participants, Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes appreciated the much needed initiative to enhance chickpea and pigeonpea productivity. Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General – Research, thanked Dr Sandhu for his commitment in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, particularly those in the drylands of India.

Project coordinators Drs Pooran Gaur and Mamta Sharma presented the overview of the chickpea and pigeonpea projects, respectively. Work plans for the first year activities of the projects were also finalized.

The projects’ implementation partners include: ICRISAT, Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Punjab Agricultural University, Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, University of Agricultural Sciences – Dharwad, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Banaras Hindu University, and Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University.

These projects will be undertaken under the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

Participants of the projects’ launch. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) 2014 to be held in Abu Dhabi

For the first time, the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) 2014 to be held in Abu Dhabi on 3-5 February 2014 will present the world’s largest collection of game-changing sustainable agriculture innovations and bring together experts, investors and suppliers to show how thinking out of the box and thinking big can feed the world. ICRISAT is a partner in this endeavor.

Hosted by the city of Abu Dhabi in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, the forum with the theme “Driving innovation for an agricultural revolution” will demonstrate  how agriculture matters and how big ideas can be used to substantially increase food production in both arid and semi-arid climates and solve the world’s ever increasing food needs. The three-day event will have sessions devoted to how innovation transforms agriculture, agriculture as big business, big ideas, the big investment debate, the e-agriculture revolution, Africa as the frontier for arid farming, the NGO revolution, among others.

Among the leading speakers at the event will be Dr José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Dr Frank Rijsberman, Chief Executive Officer of the CGIAR Consortium; and His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Chairperson of the African Union.

The Forum will have presentations on innovations, a demonstration zone, incubator zone, exhibitions, investment meetings, case studies, seminars and workshops, and technical tours.

For details, see http://www.innovationsinagriculture.com

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ICRISAT participates in climate change symposium, explores collaborative opportunities with Sri Lanka

DDG-R CLL Gowda delivering the keynote address.
Photo: HK Anantha, ICRISAT

The current status of agriculture, risks of climate change, and strategies for sustainable agricultural development in Sri Lanka figured prominently at the 15th Annual Symposium of the Department of Agriculture (ASDA), held at the Plant Genetic Resources Center, Gannoruwa, Kandy in Sri Lanka on 7-8 October.

“Science-led innovations are vital in tackling climate change risks through sustainable natural resource management, crop improvement, and empowering farmers through the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach,” stressed Dr CLL Gowda, delivering the keynote address on behalf of Director General William D. Dar.

Dr Gowda also presented an invited paper on ICRISAT’s grain legume research, highlighting the need for legume improvement in view of increasing climate risks. He focused on resilience building through a crop improvement strategy and stressed on the combination of adapted cultivars, improved crops and natural resource management practices, and access to inputs and finance for enhanced productivity and income. ICRISAT’s Dr KH Anantha, Scientist (Watersheds) presented a paper on integrated watershed management and the Bhoochetana model for sustainable natural resource management and productivity enhancement. Dr KB Saxena, Principal Scientist (Pigeonpea), also attended the symposium.

Two ASDA 2013 awards, the Best Researcher and Best Agriculturist, went to two ICRISAT alumni, Drs Hemal Fonseka and Wasantha Chitral, respectively.

Drs Gowda and Saxena also had detailed discussions with officials and staff of Sri Lanka’s Department of Agriculture on possible future collaboration. Among the topics discussed were the re-introduction of pigeonpea in the northern and eastern provinces of the country which has a large Indian population that consumes pigeonpea dhal; testing of short- to medium-duration lines in different agro-ecologies; testing of Maruca-tolerant lines; processing and value addition and linking farmers to markets; testing  heat-tolerant, short-duration chickpea varieties (desi and kabuli)  in northern Sri Lanka in the dry season; strengthening current collaboration in groundnut improvement, mainly the medium-seeded confectionery types; fodder sorghum varieties; evaluating short-duration, blast-tolerant finger millet varieties; and arrangements for Sri Lankan students to conduct their MSc and PhD studies at ICRISAT.

Dr Hemal Fonseka (an ICRISAT alumnus) receives the Best Researcher Award from Dr CLL Gowda. Photo: HK Anantha, ICRISAT

Dr Saxena also visited research stations in Killinochhi, Maha Illupallama, and Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka where the development of agriculture is high priority and technical support from ICRISAT has been sought.  Dr Gowda visited the Grain Legumes and Oilseeds Research Center in Angunakolapelessa in the southern province to review the groundnut improvement program and interact with the scientists.

This year’s ASDA saw about 1,000 research and extension staff from Sri Lanka’s Department of Agriculture and some scientists from other countries attending. Among those who attended were Dr RRA Wijekoon, Director General of Agriculture; Mr W Sakalasooriya, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture; Mr Wasantha Yapa Abeywardena, private secretary to the Minister of Agriculture; and current and former Vice Chancellors of universities and government staff.

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Building capacity to develop climate resilient agriculture

Dr WD Dar speaking at the valedictory program, while (L-R) Drs R Kaur, AVR Kesava Rao and CLL Gowda look on. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

With a view to help empower highly vulnerable rural communities manage the risks associated with climate variability, an international training course was conducted for 14 national agricultural research system participants from the Democratic Republic of Congo and India on 7-18 October at the ICRISAT headquarters.

Topics covered during the training included: climate resilient agriculture, vulnerability and adaptation strategies, measurement of greenhouse gases in agriculture, climate change impacts on crop pests, climate projections and downscaling techniques, adapting agriculture to climate changes in east Africa, crop-growth simulation modeling, Integrated Agromet Advisories, crop insurance, ICT and abiotic stresses.

Welcoming the participants, Course Coordinator Dr AVR Kesava Rao stressed the need to assess the impacts of climate variability on agriculture and to identify and promote suitable adaptation strategies.

Course Director and Acting Research Program Director – Resilient Dryland Systems, Dr SP Wani discussed the importance of building resilience through adaptation and mitigation strategies. He underlined the urgency of sharing technologies and experiences and building partnerships to build resilience citing the Bhoochetana and other watershed projects in India, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Philippines as examples.

Learning Systems Coordinator Dr Rosana P Mula in her address encouraged the participants to share their knowledge and explore opportunities for fellowships, student exchanges and internships with ICRISAT.

Resource persons for the training included faculty staff of the Madras School of Economics, Chennai; Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru; Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi; Qatar Meteorological Department, Doha; Agricultural Insurance Corporation of India, Hyderabad; Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad; Directorate of Soybean, Indore; National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management, Baramati; India Meteorological Department, New Delhi; International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); and ICRISAT at Patancheru and from Ethiopia.

Director General William D. Dar and Deputy Director General – Research Dr CLL Gowda attended the valedictory program. In his message to the participants, Dr Dar emphasized the need to understand the mind of the farmers and to bring in the social dimension to research. He presented the certificates of completion to the participants.

Participants of the international training course. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Research Management Committee on Dryland Cereals meets to devise strategies and work plans for 2014-15

Dr WD Dar speaking at the inaugural of the meeting. Also seen are Dr Shoba Sivasankar (left) and Mr Serge Braconnier. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Members of the Research Management Committee of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals met for the first time at the ICRISAT headquarters on 21-22 October to brainstorm and devise work strategies for the 2014-15 research activities and Phase II of the program.

The Committee is part of the governance and management structure of the program, and will lead its research portfolio. The Committee is composed of seven Product Line Coordinators, Director of the Sorghum and Millets Innovation Lab, and a designate of the Director, Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), France.

Speaking during the inaugural of the meeting, Director General William D. Dar emphasized the importance of delivering the targets aspired for. He also underlined that dryland cereals, apart from being a major source for calories, are also gaining importance for their nutritional value, which would serve as a critical selling factor for these crops. “It is impacts that bring prosperity to the dryland farmers, and these impacts will determine whether we have succeeded or not,” he added.

Chairing the discussions, Dr Shoba Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals emphasized the need to discuss research for development in the current phase of the project within the context of building towards the next phase. Throughout the two-day session, she reiterated that the seed for the basic research for the second phase should be built into the ongoing first phase.

While putting together the ideas and work plan for the next phase of the program, the members took stock of the progress and gaps. The committee also brainstormed on the Intermediate Development Outcomes, Gender Strategy, and the Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy that the program should adopt and follow.

Mr Serge Braconnier from CIRAD actively participated in the meeting. Mr Ndiaga Cisse from the Centre d’Etude Regionale pour l’Amélioration de l’Adaptation à la Sècheresse (CERAAS), Senegal and Mr Ramesh Verma from ICARDA, Morocco – Product Line (PL) Coordinators for PL1 and PL5, respectively – participated in the meeting.

Participants of the meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Progress on climate change data collection evaluated

Approximately two years of data collection from eight project sites in Africa is coming to a close. The data collection process which began in January 2011 uses the ‘temperature analogue site’ approach to investigate what may happen to crop production in the future if temperatures rise. It has collected data from four pairs of sites, two in Kenya and two in Zimbabwe; each site in a pair with similar rainfall but different mean temperatures (by 2-3 degrees Celsius). So in theory, crop performance at the hotter site of the pair should reflect what the cooler site will be after the climate changes. Data from on-station trials, household surveys and participatory exercises can be used to analyze actual crop performance, model future yields under a range of predicted climate change scenarios, and link these to farmers’ current and likely future strategies, disaggregated by gender, for dealing with the effects of climate change.

The CALESA project (Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Climate Analogue Locations in Eastern and Southern Africa) funded by GIZ held its end-of-project meeting on 16-18 October at Naivasha, Kenya.

The meeting’s objectives were to evaluate progress made in data collection from eight project sites and to finalize tasks, responsibilities and a timetable for the production of the final report and ancillary publications and materials.

Project partners from ICRISAT Bulawayo, Addis Ababa and Nairobi offices; the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute; Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany; and Midlands State University, Zimbabwe attended the meeting.

Participants of the CALESA project meeting held at Naivasha, Kenya. Photo: ICRISAT

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ICRISAT and Agrinnovate explore collaboration on soil/water and tissue testing laboratories and seed/farm centers

Dr Dileepkumar handing over the IS-SI brochure to Dr Pandey, with Dr G Narendra Kumar. Photo: ICRISAT

ICRISAT and Agrinnovate are exploring the possibility of collaborating in the areas of setting up soil, water and tissue testing laboratories in Nairobi, Kenya; an Agricultural Seed Production-cum-Demonstration Center in the Republic of Rwanda; and Farm Science Centers, as part of efforts to implement three approved proposals under the ICRISAT South-South Initiative (IS-SI) platform.

A meeting was held recently between Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku, Coordinator, IS-SI and Global Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation; Dr G Narendra Kumar, Director, Country Relations and Business Affairs; and Dr Pandey, Chief Executive Officer, Agrinnovate on moving the proposals forward.

Agrinnovate is interested to partner with ICRISAT, given the latter’s presence in the regions, in implementing the proposals. Under the project, eight Farm Science Centers are to be set up in different regions of Africa. The African Union and the Ministry of External Affairs (Government of India) have identified the location of four sites in Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Liberia and Burundi. 

ICRISAT’s South-South Initiative provides a platform for focused and systematic international relationships critical for a more effective and inclusive development cooperation between India and Africa.

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Training on the use of GPS Juno for biomass assessment

Field testing of the data collected using the data dictionary.

The GPS Trimble Juno 3D is an efficient and effective way of controlling data quality and data entry errors in emergency responses and other scenarios which require the real-time picture of any given situation.

Under the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, a training program on the use of the GPS Trimble Juno 3D was conducted in Niger and Nigeria to ensure that implementing teams from these countries are well-equipped in the use of the protocol to standardize procedure and collect data.

The training program was held on 15-16 September in Zango Daura (Katsina), Nigeria, for partner representatives from Bayero University of Kano, ICRISAT Niger, and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN).

The participants were trained in data entry using a “data dictionary” created in Juno Trimble GPS. The sessions consisted of presentations on procedures and approaches developed in the protocol document based on a case study of Kani site (Mali). A field test was organized in Ishiyawa (Nigeria) where data was recorded using a GPS. This was followed by discussions and observations from participants, which were used to revise and finalize the protocol.

The year 2013 activities of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems are being implemented in four of the five targeted action sites, namely Kani (Mali), Ishiyawa (Nigeria), Gourjia (Niger), and Yagtuori (Ghana). A Farm Household Survey and a Full Biomass Assessment have to be completed in those sites by the year end.

During the Inception Phase of the program in 2012, a Full Biomass Assessment Protocol was developed containing guidelines pertaining to procedures and approaches for conducting a Rapid Rural Appraisal, annuals biomass assessment, perennials biomass assessment, landscape-based sampling design, and data collection sheets. The protocol was tested in some localities like Oumarbugu in Mali and Tolon Kumbugu in Ghana from October to November 2012.

The training on the use of the GPS Trimble Juno 3D was conducted by ICRISAT Scientific Officers Ibrahim Maikano and Manda Sissoko.

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