SATrends ISSUE 41                                                                                                                  April 2004

  • Spreading the word on fertilizer
  • Sterility to Fertility!
  • Et maintenant, on se permet de rentrer par la fenêtre!
  • Managing Intellectual Assets
  • 1. Spreading the word on fertilizer
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    Next to drought, poor soil fertility is the single biggest cause of hunger in Africa. But smallholder farmers use very little manure, and even less chemical fertilizer. National extension recommendations on fertilizer use are ignored, largely because few smallholders can afford to buy the quantities recommended.

    ICRISAT has been trying to promote more realistic recommendations that smallholders are more likely to adopt. Of course the higher rate gives higher yields. But the returns on a small investment – which is all the farmer can afford – are much better at the lower rate. On-farm trials in Zimbabwe have shown large yield gains from the application of as little as one 50-kg bag of ammonium nitrate per hectare, one-quarter the recommended rate of nitrogen. The gains are even larger when fertilizer is combined with animal manure and crop residues, better weed control, and simple water management methods.

    The high payoffs to using small doses of chemical fertilizer depend on good targeting. The common practice of broadcasting fertilizer is wasteful. Instead, apply the fertilizer directly to the base of the plant – one-third of a Coke bottle capful is enough for three plants!

    Farmer applying a small dose of fertilizer to the plant.

    Farmers in pilot areas of southern Zimbabwe are successfully using low doses, and reaping the benefits. Now, with help from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the message is being spread much wider. DFID is funding a large-scale relief program in Zimbabwe this season, distributing seed to 160,000 small-scale farmers. Following ICRISAT's advice, each farmer is also given 25 kg of ammonium nitrate. ICRISAT produced an illustrated pamphlet in two local languages, Shona and Ndebele, which describes how and when to apply the small doses. The fertilizer and pamphlets are being distributed by a consortium of partners – CARE, Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services, Fosenet, Save the Children, and FAO. Follow-up surveys will help assess whether the pamphlets were useful, and whether farmers followed the advice.

    ICRISAT is also providing technical support for another massive promotional effort. NGOs are setting up 1200 on-farm trials across the country, to promote the small-dose approach. In each trial, the farmer selects a crop, and compares results with and without fertilizer.

    ICRISAT's soil fertility research, with its emphasis on increasing fertilizer-use efficiency, ties in perfectly with the DFID program. It's a powerful combination – solid science, donor commitment, and a network of implementing partners – that will mean better fields and bigger harvests for 160,000 families, or over 1 million people in Zimbabwe.

    For more information contact s.twomlow@cgiar.org

    2. Sterility to Fertility!
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    The world's largest concentration of pigeonpea cultivation is in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Africa, where it is an important subsistence crop. Pigeonpea seed is a source of dietary protein and also the source of revenue for millions of rural poor in Africa and Asia.

    Pigeonpea production in India is seriously threatened by sterility mosaic disease (SMD), first recognized over seven decades ago. The disease name comes from the mosaic patterns on leaves and the lack of flower production (sterility) in infected plants. The disease stimulates due to excessive vegetative growth and the plants look normal, which makes it difficult for the farmer to detect the disease until flowering stage. Sometimes, still unaware of infection, the farmers resort to chemical sprays hoping to induce flowering – a futile exercise costing them additional losses. Losses due to SMD are over US$300 million per annum.

    The causal agent of SMD is transmitted by a tiny arthropod mite, Aceria cajani, which remained unidentified despite decades of research. ICRISAT-led research with a consortium of partners from national and international centers, funded through Crop Protection Programme of UK Department for International Development (DFID), has achieved vital breakthroughs in the identification, detection and transmission of the SMD causal agent, now confirmed as the virus named Pigeonpea sterility mosaic virus (PPSMV). This has enabled development of procedures for precise identification of the virus and its variants (isolates). The research also resulted in selection of broad-based SMD-resistant pigeonpea cultivars that resist 'sterility' in the endemic areas. Six of these cultivars, ICP 7035, ICPL 87051, ICPL 96053, ICPL 96058, ICPL 99050, and ICPL 96061, are being evaluated on-station and on-farm at many locations in India.

    Crop at maturity. SMD-affected crop (right) are pale green, bushy, and without any flowers or pods. Healthy crop (left) with normal vigor.

    Efforts to tap SMD resistance in wild pigeonpea germplasm resulted in identification of 7 accessions (ICP 15615, 15626, 15926, 15700, 15701, 15725, 15734) from two wild species Cajanus albicans and C. scarabaeoides. Efforts are continuing to identify more resistant lines for testing and adoption by farmers in diverse agro-ecological regions.

    Additionally, efforts are also being made through village-level training programs and field days to increase awareness among farmers about the disease, methods to control its spread, and to provide resistant cultivars through NGOs and NARS in India. Consequently, farmers can now see a possible end to the 'sterility' in pigeonpea plants, through cultivation of varieties that retain 'fertility' in endemic areas, and produce good harvests.

    For more information contact p.lavakumar@cgiar.org

    3. Et maintenant, on se permet de rentrer par la fenêtre!
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    Three new community radios have been installed in Niger through a project coordinated by ICRISAT to improve information diffusion and decision-making skills of local farmers.

    L'animateur radio, ici en reportage auprès d'une femme productrice des très réputées chèvres rousses, est non seulement un diffuseur mais aussi un collecteur d'informations.

    Devinette: Imaginez une équipe composée d'un technicien agricole et d'un chercheur écologue par exemple, puis alors veuillez ajouter un interprète et aussi un représentant villageois et encore le gérant de la boutique communautaire d'intrants1. Imaginez maintenant qu'ils désirent proposer à une famille paysanne une technologie permettant de lutter efficacement et à moindre coût contre cette invasion en cours du champ attenant par un insecte ravageur! Ils sont devant la maison de cette famille. Mais voilà, la porte de la maison reste close! Que vont donc faire nos 5 partenaires?

    Réponse: Et bien SATrends vous annonce que, désormais, ces cinq-là ou n'importe quels autres détenteurs d'informations et de technologies susceptibles d'aider les habitants du district de Dantiandou, au Niger, ne se démontent plus, ils passeront par la fenêtre! Oui, vous avez bien lu, les acteurs du développement maintenant, par mesure d'efficacité, peuvent être reçus par la fenêtre. Et encore plus fort, ils sauront proposer leur aide dans toutes les maisons en un même temps afin de démultiplier leur impact!

    Explication: Dantiandou est fier de vous annoncer la fin des travaux de construction de sa radio rurale, à vocation agricole et surtout communautaire, qui permettra d'atteindre toutes les maisons 30 km à la ronde. C'est une distance qu'un paysan peut couvrir, aller et retour dans une journée, sans trop grande difficulté, pour, par exemple, venir visiter la boutique d'intrants dont la radio s'est fait l'écho car elle vient de recevoir les graines de la variété d'arachide que l'organisation paysanne locale propose de cultiver cette saison en réponse à la sécheresse prévue. Cet exemple montre la potentialité de ce nouveau dispositif installé non seulement à Dantiandou mais sur chacun des trois sites du projet nommé Amélioration des conditions de vie des producteurs sahéliens grâce à la mise en place d'outils bio-économiques d'aide à la décision coordonné par Dr Bruno Gérard de l'ICRISAT. L'ACMAD a été chargé de l'installation du matériel technologique et de la formation des animateurs radios et MOORIBEN, fédération de producteurs, du dossier administratif, de la construction des bâtiments et du montage de l'organigramme des responsabilités: une association chargée de la gestion de la radio, un bureau exécutif et un comité de contrôle de la qualité, de l'éthique et de la déontologie des émissions.

    Et avec ça, même fenêtre fermée saura recevoir les informations !

    1-Est appelé intrant tous les produits entrant dans la production agricole (semences, engrais, outils…)

    Pour plus d'information contacter b.gerard@cgiar.org

    4. Managing Intellectual Assets
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    In accordance with its mission, ICRISAT generates international public goods through the research carried out by the scientists working in the Institute and in partnership with others, particularly the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) of the countries of the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. ICRISAT makes every effort to ensure that research knowledge and products developed by the Institute are actively disseminated and used for the benefit of people in the developing world, and for society in general. ICRISAT believes that access to its outputs should be fair and equitable.

    Considering the emerging challenges and issues of the semi-arid tropics, and the changing agricultural scenario, ICRISAT has strengthened its position in the area of Intellectual Property (IP) management. Towards this, ICRISAT introduced the concept of intellectual asset management with support provided by the CG Central Advisory Service (CAS).

    An intellectual asset identification form and an on-line software application based on this form were developed. The form facilitates capture of information necessary for the evaluation of an asset, and provides timely protection of the asset. It also helps trigger the future strategy towards commercialization and licensing agreements in line with ICRISAT's mission.

    Screen image of the initial form.

    The form has all the necessary elements that provide the basis for the other management steps such as details of additional and collaborating inventors and description of the invention, which is the heart of the disclosure. The form, which eventually becomes a formal record of Institute inventions, asks several simple questions, which are pertinent for evaluation of the invention and impact assessment. It also determines a critical point for the “retention” of assets in an exit interview when a staff member leaves the organization.

    ICRISAT leads the CG system in development of this software application, which is targeted for the global ICRISAT Intranet. It can also be launched on the Internet to serve future needs. The software has built-in protection for confidentiality.

    As part of its policy to maximize the utilization of software for research, training and further development, ICRISAT is making the software available through a Material Transfer Agreement developed under the “open access” initiative. Recipients are encouraged to use the software for research and development purposes, with the stipulation that ICRISAT is provided with a full set of software, source code and related documentation, in the event of modifications and/or developments of the software.

    For more information contact b.hanumanth@cgiar.org