SATrends Issue 25  
December 2002



1.President of India and AP Governor Felicitate ICRISAT

Activities at the ICRISAT Headquarters in Patancheru, India, this month revolved around the 30th Anniversary celebrations, from 10 to 13 December.  The Loyalty Day celebrated on 12 December honored long service employees.  It was also an occasion on which three important facilities of the Institute were named after three very important persons whose contributions to the Institute are priceless – The Board Room after Dr Leslie D Swindale, the Library after Dr JS Kanwar, and the Genebank after DR RS Paroda.

Celebrations culminated on 13 December when the President of India, His Excellency APJ Abdul Kalam, accompanied by His Excellency the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Dr C Rangarajan, participated in a function at the Patancheru campus.

Director General Dr William D Dar welcomed the President to the campus, saying ‘Sir, we are doubly graced by this visit – not only are you the Head of State of this great country, you are also one of us – a scientist! We at ICRISAT share and support your dream of a food-secure India.’

dg-7.jpg (11270 bytes) The President was given a tour of the SatVenture, which exhibits samplings of the institute’s many facets.  Dr Kalam showed great interest in ICRISAT’s genetic resources collection and was fascinated by the “pyramid” of institute crops, displaying from bottom to top 1) wild relatives, 2) farmers landraces, 3) improved varieties, and 4) hybrids.  Another display which attracted the President’s attention were photographs from the Latur and Bhuj earthquake-affected areas, where ICRISAT gave relief aid, chiefly in the form of seed to help rebuild the area’s agriculture (right, at the Latur picture gallery). Dr Kalam also expressed a keen desire to receive ICRISAT’s publications on drought management research.

The President later addressed senior staff and distinguished invitees. In his keynote address, he urged India to double its agricultural output by applying scientific methods to ensure soil fertility. The President then launched a distance learning computer-based module for villagers. The launch featured a cordial conversation between the President and a group of village women through a teleconferencing arrangement.

Governor Rangarajan, presented a dazzling array of statistics on agricultural production, and recommended the use of technological innovations to increase crop yields in the drylands of India.

Dr Dar said that despite many successes over the past three decades, many challenges remain. Finding ways to improve the conditions for the world’s poorest people is still one of the most daunting of these challenges.

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2.Eastern African Farmers Pick their Pigeonpeas

Being involved in a selection process has many benefits. Earlier, research efforts were directed towards selection of improved varieties, with little consideration for farmers’ and consumers’ preferences. Involvement of farmers helps not only to build partnership (equal ownership) for technologies developed, but also shortens the research lag and increases the probability that farmers will adopt the new technology. However, the success of this farmer-researcher partnership requires a multidisciplinary research team that can work with farmers, and integrate feedback into the research program.

Participatory farmer evaluation provides a basis for determining whether a new technology meets end-user needs, puts in place interventions to promote and enhance adoption, and justifies continuing investments in technology development.

Pigeonpea farmers Tanz.jpg (10031 bytes) ICRISAT and partners conducted a study in two stages – 1) a participatory rural appraisal to understand farmers’ selection criteria, and 2) farmers were invited to the research stations at Kampi Ya Mawe and Kiboko in Eastern Kenya to evaluate the different varieties of pigeonpea being tested (left).

Before the evaluation, ICRISAT collected information on the farmers themselves. Most farmers had an average of 12.3 years of farming among the men, and 10.5 years among the women. Also, 78% of men and 72% of the women had completed primary education. However, the women had received twice the level of adult education compared to men.

Farmers listed the criteria used to select varieties, and ranked them in order of priority -- Drought tolerance, early maturity, high yield, pest/disease tolerance, and seed size were the most important. Seed color was ranked the lowest.

On-station, the farmers evaluated 12 varieties from each of three duration groups: short (determinate and non determinate growth habits), medium, and long duration. At the end of the evaluation participants identified 3-4 entries for testing on their farms.

Seed of improved varieties from all three groups was increased during the 2001/02 short rainy season at Kiboko under irrigation, and Kabete under rainfed conditions. The amount of seed generated for each variety was between 80 kg and 500 kg depending on the initial availability of seed. With the cooperation of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and Catholic Relief Services, Kenya, ICRISAT has now gone 1 step forward and has constituted on-station and on-farm nurseries for further distribution to target regions of adaptation in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda – all this with the full confidence that these seed were selected by the farmers themselves.

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3.Nitrogen -- The Missing Link

Smallholder farmers in southern Africa are fighting a constant battle against declining soil fertility. Fertility of their soils is inherently low, and fertilizer is considered to be too expensive. The application rates recommended by extension services are far too high, partly because they are based on research conducted in higher-rainfall regions. Smallholder farmers in dry areas simply cannot afford to buy the recommended quantities. ICRISAT and its partners are helping to show that even small quantities of fertilizer can provide substantial yield benefits.

On-farm experiments in drier regions have confirmed the excellent response and profitability to low rates of nitrogen fertilizer – every 1 kg of ammonium nitrate applied to a hectare of farmland can yield up to 33 kg of extra grain. Computer simulations using crop models and long-term climate data show that yields can be significantly increased in most years using only small amounts of fertilizer. For example, even in a drought-prone area, simulation outputs show that in 92% of years, application of a single bag of fertilizer significantly increases yields, on average, by 600 kg per hectare.

The returns to fertilizer investment can be further improved by combining manure with fertilizer. Animal manure provides both nitrogen and phosphorus, and on-farm trials have shown that it is good substitute for the starter phosphorus fertilizer recommend by others. It can be used as a replacement for basal fertilizer, provided it is correctly applied – the best method is to “band” the manure along the planting row. However, manure is often low in nitrogen due to losses during storage, so it is best to combine manure with a small quantity of nitrogen fertilizer (as little as 25 kg AN ha-1) to increase yields significantly, even in very dry seasons. ICRISAT and partners are developing simple ways to store manure so that it retains nutrients for longer.

1 - Marketing of small packs of fertilizer, Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe.jpg (10509 bytes)ICRISAT’s resource management scientists are working with government research and extension staff, NGOs, fertilizer companies, and rural traders to find ways to improve fertilizer supply and trade. For example, outlets closer to the customer, smaller and more affordable packaging (right), and better information on how and when to apply fertilizer. They are also working with relief agencies involved in seed distribution. The aim is to provide not just seed, but also a little fertilizer, so that the seed can actually give the farmer more out of the precious rain when it falls.

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4. Rural Women in Knowledge Society

The rapid advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the last decade have led to creation of wealth in a significant way, and have led to unprecedented ways and opportunities for sharing of information sources and knowledge. Simultaneously, there has been a concern about the widening digital divide within and across nations, primarily caused by inequitable access to ICT and the benefits. The digital divide is more alarming in the context of marginalization of rural community and the widening information and opportunity gaps between rural and urban communities.

A number of experimental or pilot activities have been initiated all over the world, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which aim to address the challenge of narrowing the digital divide. Such projects have shown that a blend of innovative technology development, financing, and fostering use of ICT as a common resource can offer unprecedented opportunities for rural women and men to derive benefits from the use of contemporary ICTs. Many of these initiatives require sources of information, knowledge and expertise, which are available in considerable measure in the intergovernmental organizations and in the CGIAR system, which are working for enhancing food security and reduction of poverty.

Rural women 1.jpg (8823 bytes)In FAO, the importance of ICTs is recognized as tools that serve the rural community by improving the access, quality and current relevance of information to support their livelihood and food security strategies. The international community has emphasized the importance of access to information from a rights perspective, and opportunities are now available that allow blending the rights approach to information with the sustainable livelihoods approach. Prior to the World Summit on Information Society, it is important that we examine the value of ICTs for every segment of global society and particularly for those who have been marginalized in the previous phases of technological revolutions, namely rural communities, illiterate rural women and populations living in resource poor environment and isolated areas. ICTs offer the opportunity to mainstream their concerns into development as well as empowering them with information to connect to the outside world to explore alternative approaches to livelihood and life styles. (Left, rural women in India amazed at the Internet).

The FAO Regional Office for Asia and the pacific and ICRISAT are jointly organizing an Asian Regional Consultation on Rural Women in Knowledge Society during 16-19 December 2002. The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has come forward to co-sponsor this event. This consultation is designed to address two of the most critical components of the digital divide, namely the rural and the women, and to explore with partners, processes, designs and models that can have a positive bearing on these issues.The consultation will bring together key actors in some of the ICT4D projects in Asia, eminent academics analysing impact of ICTs among rural communities, partners from the corporate sector in ICTs and agri-business sectors, experts in open/ distance learning, and CGIAR experts based in Asia in training and information sciences and impact evaluation, innovators of applying ICTs for rural development, and the regional and global representatives from the FAO and UN Agencies.

The consultation itself will be a process-based one and demonstrate multi-sectoral collaboration on UN FAO, other relevant UN Agencies, CGIAR System, Private sector (both commercial and non- government) and government representatives.

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5.Highlights of Previous Issues:

November 2002:   Searching for the Fountain of Youth • Topcross Hybrids, Topnotch Survivors • LEADing from the Front • Alfisols of the Semi-Arid Tropics: Problems and Potentials

October 2002:   King Baudouin Award - Yet Again! • Nibble a Needlefull • The "Earthworms" of the Sahel • Grow Pearl Millet, Fulfill Your Dreams

September 2002: "Donkey Work" for Peanuts • Wealth from Weeds • Andhra Pradesh Farmers go High-Tech

August 2002: Breaking New Ground with Groundnuts •   A Custard Apple a Day... • Gerrymandering the Gene Pool Part 4 • Mineral and Manure: A Winning Combination

July 2002: Gerrymandering the Gene Pool Part 3 • Peanut Paternity Suit? • The Winds of Change in West Africa • Insect Problems? Try a Little Wax and Hair

June 2002: Gerrymandering the Gene Pool Part 2 • Tribal Treasure Troves • The Return of the Native • Poverty and the Perch

May 2002: Gerrymandering the Gene Pool • Snap, Crackle, and Pop • Checking Africa's Pulse • High Tech for an Old Problem

April 2002: Disaster Relief with a Difference • From Crop to Tabletop • Golden Millet, Naturally! • The "Green" to "Blue" Water Continuum

March 2002: On the Wild Side • A Handful of Seed • Here's to Fungus - hic!

February 2002: 36 Percent -- and Rising • Of Stalk and Livestock • Stalking the Enemy • Sorghum Scoop from Mali

January 2002: Back to the Drawing Board • Weed Better, Weed Faster • With Minds of their Own! • Closing Ranks against the Pod Borer

December 2001: It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a Super scientist! •   Viva Sorgo! • Small is Big! • Abortion Leads to Rebirth

November 2001: Sorghum Products: Poised to Take Off • Cash from Cattle Food • Empowerment Through Technology • Outwitting an Unfair Bug

October 2001: Backing a Winner • More than a Thousand Words • Sowing a New Future for Eritrea • A Casting Coup: Farmers' Day 2001

September 2001: Don’t Get Left on the Shelf • Nigeria Targets ‘Groundnut Leprosy’ • Two Heads Are Better than One • Desperately Seeking Seeds

August 2001: Finding Chinks in the Armour •   Brazilian Farmers get a Boost from the Sahel • Sahelian Partners Smash the Ivory Tower • What You See is What You Get - Simulation Modeling for Successful Farming

July 2001: Balaji Makes IT Waves • A Hot Date in the Sahel • It All Adds Up • More from Less • That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles

June 2001: Space-Age Partnership in West Africa • Bad Taste is Good • Out of Africa • Seed Priming: Rhapsody in Simplicity

May 2001: Dodging Drought in Kenya • Vietnam and ICRISAT Save Watersheds • Farmers Enrich Malawi's Soils • Groundnut Mystery Disease Identified

April 2001: Women Farmers Guide Scientists in Namibia •   Ashta Puts it Faith in IPM • Sahelian Farmers Place Their Bets • China and Pigeonpea: Love at Second Sight

March 2001: Agriculture: an Ally Against Global Warming? • Breaking the Spell of Witchweed • Groundnut Taking Root in Central Asia and the Caucasus • Zimbabwean Smallholders Drive the Research Agenda

February 2001: Somalia: Seeds Deliver Hope Amidst Chaos • The CGIAR Fights Desertification in Africa • Creating the World's First Molecular Marker Map of Chickpea • Aflatoxin and Cancer: Cracking a Hard Nut in Developing Countries

January 2001: Things Grow Better with Coke®: Micro-fertilizer System Sparks 50-100 Percent Millet Yield Increases in the Sahel • Groundnut (Peanut) Production Accelerates in Vietnam •   Pigeonpea Broadens Farmer's Options in Sudan •   Private Sector Invests in Public Plant Breeding Research at ICRISAT.

December 2000: International Symposium on SAT Futures • Centers Team Up to Help East Timor • Spatial Variability in Watersheds • World's First Cytoplasmic Male-Sterile Hybrid Pigeonpea • Groundnut (Peanut) Variety Boosts Malawian Agriculture • National Researchers Persevere in El Salvador • ICRISAT Celebrates India-ICRISAT Day • ICRISAT and World Vision International Work Together in Southern Africa.