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4) DST and ICRISAT launch Center of Excellence on climate change for plant protection (13 Feb 2012)

Hyderabad, India Diseases and insect pests cause crop losses of over US$8.48 billion annually, and these losses are likely to increase by at least four folds under the climate change scenario.

Amid this looming threat to sustainable food production particularly in the dryland areas of India and other developing countries worldwide, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST-Climate Change Program), Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India launched the Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection (CoE-CCRPP)on 9 February 2012 at the ICRISAT Headquarters near Hyderabad.

The project, funded by the DST-Climate Change Program, is for a three-year period with an overall goal to establish facilities and provide opportunities for ICRISAT and partner institutes to conduct research-for-development (R4D) initiatives on climate change and its impact on diseases and insect-pests of legumes in the semi-arid tropics.

Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh in his address at the Indian Science Congress did mention about the CoE-CCRPP at ICRISAT and its role in building India’s climate change adaptation and mitigation capacities.

ICRISAT Director General William Dar, in his keynote address during the project launch, emphasized that “this partnership between DST and ICRISAT will have a major bearing on environment-friendly, pest mitigation strategies for the sustainable production of grain legumes and in increasing food security in the dryland areas – particularly in regions most vulnerable to climate change.”

Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Advisor, DST Climate Change Program (CCP) noted the merits of the CoE-CCRPP as being the only project among the 147 qualified projects under the Program that received full support after a long and stringent process of approval. “The project is a long-term commitment of DST, and we are confident that the knowledge and basic data to be generated from this initiative will be very useful for policy formulation on climate change at both the country and regional levels,” he added.

According to Dr Suresh Pande, ICRISAT Principal Investigator of CoE-CCRPP, global warming and climate change will lead to emergence of more aggressive pest and pathogen populations, resulting in heavy losses by pest and disease epidemics particularly in grain legumes such as chickpea and pigeonpea. CoE-CCRPP will, therefore, serve as the platform in the conduct of targeted research to better understand and mitigate the effects of climate change on plant and pest diseases, as they in turn affect sufficiency, quality and safety of food.

Dr Dave Hoisington, ICRISAT Deputy Director General, spoke of the Institute’s R4D initiatives that generate science-based solutions and pro-poor approaches for adaptation, particularly of rainfed agricultural systems to climate change. Meanwhile, Drs Hari Sharma and Mamta Sharma also of ICRISAT showed members of the Expert Committee of the Climate Change Program, DST the ongoing research on climate change and host plant x pest/pathogen x environment interactions conducted by the Institute’s legume scientists in controlled environment conditions. The launch meeting was attended by more than 40 participants from ICRISAT and DST.

For more information about ICRISAT, please visit www.icrisat.org.

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