12) ICRISAT proposes a Biopesticide Research Consortium (7 September 2004)

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has initiated the process that could result in the establishment of a Biopesticide Research Consortium (BRC), in collaboration with the private sector.

The BRC will help enhance the use of biopesticides by farmers. The partnership research will validate protocols for low-cost, commercial-scale production of microbial biopesticides developed at ICRISAT. Further, the partnership research will promote agricultural practices that will enable to protect their crops at affordable prices.

Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, said that the initial response to the idea of the consortium has been positive from the private sector. The idea of the consortium is another trailblazing initiative of the Institute where public-private sector partnership is developed for producing biopesticides, which will help the rural poor in increasing their agricultural productivity.

The Biopesticide Research Consortium will use the lessons learned from the very successful hybrid parents' research consortium between ICRISAT and private sector seed companies, Dr Dar added.

ICRISAT will transfer, to the private sector companies that become members of the consortium, the technologies for the preparation of biopesticides found successful in the campus and selected farmers' fields. It will also share the agricultural practices that can prevent pest attack on crops.

Over the last five years, ICRISAT has tried and found successful a protocol for preventing the attack of the pod borer, Helicoverpa armigera, on pigeonpea and cotton. For the first four years the trials were held within the ICRISAT campus at Patancheru. In 2003-04 the on-farm participatory trials were held at Kothapally village in partnership with scientists of the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University and state department of agriculture Andhra Pradesh, and this year's trials are being held at Kothapally and Yellakonda villages, both in Andhra Pradesh.

Up-scaled technologies for the production of two biopesticides that kill the larvae of Helicoverpa are being fine-tuned. While one uses the bacterium Bacillus megaterium (strain BCB-19), the other uses the fungus Metarrhizium anisopliae, both developed at ICRISAT. The technology for the production of biopesticide using Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus, which ICRISAT had developed earlier, is also available for the BRC.

These biopesticides are eco-friendly and are pro-poor. ICRISAT's trials with the two biopesticides in the fields of 17 farmers from the Kothapally village during 2003-04 have shown that total cost of application can be reduced to about Rs 1,000 per acre per season, in comparison to over Rs 3000 per acre season for chemical pesticides spent presently by most cotton farmers.

In addition to the spraying of the two biopesticides, the protocol of crop protection, developed by ICRISAT, includes spraying the wash of compost of glyricidia and neem leaves and twigs prepared using a method modified at ICRISAT. Womens' self-help groups at Kothapally have been trained to produce and supply this wash to farmers. The other practice suggested is the growing of trap crops that attract Helicoverpa. For instance, growing one row of pigeonpea after seven rows of cotton can help trap the bollworm to the pigeonpea crop and save the cotton crop.

ICRISAT has received an encouraging response from the private sector for its initiative to launch the BRC. In the first meeting held at ICRISAT, 37 established and start-up biopesticide manufacturers representing 33 companies participated.

For further information, contact Dr OP Rupela at o(dot)rupela(at)cgiar(dot)org.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.