14) ICRISAT and Indian germplasm research A win-win in helping the rural poor (10 August 2004)

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the national agricultural research system (NARS) of India share an effective and fruitful relationship on germplasm exchange.

Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, today reiterated the win-win relationship shared by ICRISAT and the Indian NARS at the International Conference on Agricultural Biotechnology at New Delhi, organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

“Our collaboration has resulted in improving the livelihoods of rural poor,” Dr Dar said. The benefit from the relationship is mutual, he added, while speaking at the International Conference. While the scientists of the Indian NARS are the largest beneficiaries from the ICRISAT genebank, the maximum number of accessions from any country to the genebank has been from India. The genebank itself is named after the famous Indian agricultural scientist, Dr RS Paroda, who served as Chair and Vice-Chair of ICRISAT's Governing Board.

“The Indian scientists are the largest beneficiaries of the ICRISAT genebank,” Dr Dar said. “On an average they have been receiving over 12,000 germplasm samples annually for research. Eleven varieties from the basic germplasm material and 134 varieties and hybrids from breeding materials supplied by ICRISAT have been released for cultivation in India. ICRISAT has almost completed the restoration of the 44,822 germplasm accessions to NBPGR which was requested five years ago.”
On the other hand, India has contributed the maximum number of germplasm accessions from any one country, Dr Dar highlighted. The genebank has 32,307 accessions of the 11 crops that were received as donations from various institutions in India. Fresh germplasm collections were made (96 missions) which resulted in an additional 12,515 accessions. The germplasm accessions receive high priority and attention for regeneration, characterization, conservation and distribution.

“The focus of our research is on diversity assessment and developing representative core and mini-core collections to enhance utilization by the breeders. Most of these accessions have been characterized. Germplasm seeds are conserved in very precise (cool and dry) conditions. For each accession, adequate seed quantity is conserved to meet the requests of researchers and for posterity”, Dr Dar said.

The RS Paroda Genebank at the ICRISAT headquarters at Patancheru, close to Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, is a storehouse for germplasm of ICRISAT's five mandate crops – pearl millet, sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut. At present it has 113,849 accessions of these crops from 130 countries.

The germplasm stored in the genebank preserve the agricultural biodiversity that had existed and continue to exist in many parts of the world. The diverse collection of seeds contributes enormously towards achieving the global objectives of food security, poverty alleviation, environmental protection and sustainable development. These accessions are critical components of the plant breeding efforts aimed at increasing food security – both for short-term gains as well as for long-term increase in productivity. ICRISAT's genebank is among the largest within the network of 15 international agricultural research institutions under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

At ICRISAT, the germplasm in the RS Paroda Genebank serves as the basic building block for scientific research for crop improvement. In addition to use in conventional breeding programs, the germplasm also serves as the basis of ICRISAT's work on biotechnology by improving crops through marker assisted molecular breeding and transgenics. ICRISAT is implementing contained field trials of one transgenic groundnut variety resistant to the Indian Peanut Clump Virus and another transgenic groundnut variety resistant to the rosette disease. Contained field trials are also on for transgenic pigeonpea resistant to attack from the pod borer Helicoverpa armigera.

Impact of germplasm supplied to Indian NARS

Besides the utilization of germplasm in ongoing research at other institutes, 11 germplasm accessions (sorghum 6, pigeonpea 2, and 1 each of chickpea, pearl millet and small millet) supplied from the ICRISAT genebank have been directly released as cultivars in India. They have greatly benefited Indian agriculture. Pigeonpea germplasm accession ICP 8863 collected from farmer's field in India, was found very promising against fusarium wilt and was purified for the trait. The purified line was found high yielding and it was released in 1986 as Maruthi for cultivation in Karnataka state, India. This variety is grown on large hectarage in adjacent states, namely, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The value of benefit from ICP 8863 has been estimated at US$ 61.7 million by 1996 with 65% internal rate of return.

Parbhani Moti, a sorghum variety was released in Maharashtra, India, in May 2002. This variety is an excellent maldandi-type (predominant postrainy sorghum landrace in Maharashtra and Karnataka states of India) with large lustrous grains and high yield. This has been selected from a germplasm collection from Ghane Gaon, Sholapur, Maharashtra, made by ICRISAT genebank staff during 1989. Another example is the release of barnyard millet variety (PRJ 1) in Uttranchal state during 2003. This variety yielded 45.4% higher grain yield compared to the check variety VL 29. It provides substantial fodder yield as well. This variety is a selection from ICRISAT germplasm collection IEC 542 that originated in Japan.

In addition, scientists from ICAR institutions and state agricultural universities in India have released 134 varieties (21 sorghum, 58 pearl millet, 32 chickpea, 12 pigeonpea and 11 groundnut) selected from the breeding material provided by ICRISAT. The benefits drawn from these varieties have been very large. For example, the chickpea variety ICCV 10, released in Gujarat state produced 84% higher income compared to the local varieties. Chickpea varieties released in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have given an additional income of US$ 55 and US$ 80 per hectare, respectively. The first hybrid of pigeonpea (ICPH 8) is now under commercial production in India and it gives about 25% higher yields. Groundnut varieties ICGS 44 and ICGV 86564 are making great impact in the southern states and in Gujarat. At present, 60% of the pearl millet in India are hybrids. Seventy hybrids are being cultivated of which 60 have been developed from ICRISAT supplied research materials.

For more information, contact Dr CLL Gowda at c.gowda@cgiar.org or Dr Hari Upadhyaya at h.upadhyaya@cgiar.org

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