19) ICRISAT research records high impact in India

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has the strongest partnership with the Government of India, and it is a partnership that has been growing even stronger in the recent years. India is the greatest beneficiary from ICRISAT's research, and in the recent years the funding support from formal and non-formal sources in India has been increasing for the international agricultural research centers in India.

ICRISAT's recent research breakthroughs have the potential for increasing agricultural productivity in the drylands of India and also link dryland farmers with industry and market. With hybrid pigeonpea, ICPH 2671, expected to reach the farmers through the seed industry in 2008, there is expectation of an increase in pulse production in the country. ICPH 2671 is expected to increase productivity by more than 30%, and has a greater tolerance to drought due to higher root mass.

Similarly, through ICRISAT's partnership-based research the Institute was able to offer to India the world's first successful project on producing ethanol from the sweet sorghum. While ICRISAT's scientists bred sorghum varieties and hybrids with higher amount of sweet juice in their stalks, through the Agri-Business Incubator the Institute partnered with a private sector company, Rusni Distilleries, to convert the sorghum juice to ethanol. The Agri-Business Incubator project is supported with funds from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The plant went into commercial production in June 2007. ICRISAT and Rusni are now working with farmers to increase the area of sweet sorghum cultivation. Through this linkage the sorghum farmers of the drylands are linked to the market, without having to compromise on the food grain for their consumption.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the new projects have strengthened the existing collaboration that ICRISAT has with the Indian Government, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), state governments and the network of agricultural universities. Over the years, 142 improved varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut developed by ICRISAT have been released in India, raising production and the income of small farmers substantially.

Dr Dar added that it is a measure of increase of confidence and trust that the funding support from formal and non-formal sources in India for ICRISAT have been increasing in the recent years.

The support from the Government of India has increased from US$ 400,000 in 2005 to US$ 1.4 million in 2006, and is expected to rise to US$ 2.3 million in 2007. There have also been similar increases in contribution from state governments, foundations and trusts, and private sector companies, increasing the total funding package in India from US$ 1.3 million in 2005 to US$ 2.8 million in 2006, and an estimated US$ 4 million in 2007.

According to Dr Mangala Rai, Director General of ICAR, the partnership with ICRISAT through collaborative research projects signify the common goal to address poverty and hunger in the semi-arid regions of India.

Through the ICRISAT-ICAR collaboration, over 70 pearl millet hybrids cultivated on about 4.5 million hectares (about 50% of the area under pearl millet in the country) have contributed to cultivar diversity and increased the crop's national productivity. Similarly, ICRISAT-bred Maruti pigeonpea revived the crop in central India , especially in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. With ICRISAT scientists making a breakthrough in identifying and isolating the virus causing the sterility mosaic disease in pigeonpea, the Institute could reduce the prevalence of the disease. The large-seeded, high-value groundnut variety Asha (ICGV 86564) is a boon to groundnut farmers in many states.

In collaboration with ICAR, ICRISAT is also working on research into the genomics of pigeonpea, chickpea and groundnut, which will help improve these crops through the use of agri-biotechnological tools.

The most recent initiative that holds immense potential for advancement of agri-biotechnology research is the agreement between ICRISAT and the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, to establish a Center of Excellence in Genomics. The Center is expected to become a reality at ICRISAT by beginning of 2008.

Impact in Andhra Pradesh

ICRISAT's short-duration fusarium-wilt resistant kabuli chickpea varieties such as Swetha and KAK 2, and desi varieties Kranthi and JG 11 have triggered a chickpea revolution in Andhra Pradesh. The benefits: a 6-fold increase in area (from 60,000 to 360,000 ha) and a 20-fold increase in production (from 28,000 tons to 580,000 tons) during 1990 to 2006.

ICRISAT in collaboration with partners developed a strategy to reduce and avoid peanut stem necrosis disease, and this has resulted in reduction in crop loss for farmers. By using the integrated pest management technology, pigeonpea and groundnut farmers have reduced pesticide use by up to 100%. ICRISAT's groundnut variety, ICGV 91114, has become popular in Anantapur district for its ability to withstand drought and produce more.

Studying the impact of ICRISAT's work in 10 nucleus and 40 satellite watershed projects, it was found that farmers harvested 30 to 120% of various crops with micronutrient application and due to the other components of the package of interventions under the watershed project.

With the support from the Andhra Pradesh Government, ICRISAT has established the Agri-Science Park (ASP) to interface with the private sector. A food testing lab and more than 45 public-private partnerships have been initiated under the ASP, which include the partnerships under the Hybrid Seeds Consortia.

For further information, contact Dr CLL Gowda at c(dot)gowda(at)cgiar(dot)org.

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