SATrends ISSUE 40                                                                                                                  March 2004

  • New ACIAR project in South Africa
  • SAT Electronic Library
  • Programme sur les zones en marge du désert
  • Expanding Collaboration for VLS
  • Book :Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation: Prospects for Enhanced Application in Tropical Agriculture
  • 1. New ACIAR project in South Africa

    ICRISAT and its partners in Africa have developed a range of simple but effective methods to improve soil fertility management on smallholder farms. In southern Africa, much of the work has focused on Malawi and Zimbabwe. One key component has been promoting the use of low rates of Nitrogen fertilizer in combination with manure and soil/water conservation methods. Low rates of fertilizer application may not be “optimal”, in the sense that higher rates would give higher yields. But fertilizer is expensive. Low rates are all that smallholders can afford – and even one-third or one-fourth the normal recommended rates can still give very substantial increases in yield.

    With funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), this work is now being expanded and scaled out to South Africa.

    The target is Limpopo Province, a smallholder area vulnerable to frequent drought, with poor soils and declining productivity. The project aims to promote low doses of phosphorus, in addition to the successful low-N campaign; and will use market linkages as a means to stimulate adoption of low N and P rates, as well other improved practices.

    The key partner is Progress Mills Ltd, a private sector giant that is by far the largest purchaser of cereal grain in the province, and also supports a non-profit community development program. Other partners include Limpast (a non-profit community development trust created by Progress Mills and funded by the Maize Trust of South Africa), the Limpopo Province Department of Agriculture, and the Agricultural Research Council.

    Farmers displaying small packs of fertilizer
    The ACIAR project has 3 main activities.

    On-farm trials to compare low versus recommended (high) application rates of N and P, under smallholder conditions. This will help make rigorous comparisons, and simultaneously demonstrate to farmers that low application rates can boost yields and profits. The trials will be implemented jointly with Limpast.

    Crop simulation modeling to study farming risk and its implications for smallholder farmers. For example, one study will examine risk assessment methods used by Landbank, a parastatal credit institution, and how these methods influence the loans given to smallholders to buy fertilizer.

    Small packs of fertilizer to encourage farmers to buy. Few smallholders can afford to buy the traditional 50 kg bag of fertilizer. But with smaller packages (2, 5 and 10kg) many more will be willing to experiment. The small packs will be sold through the 90 grain collection outlets operated by Progress Mills.

    For more information contact

    2. SAT Electronic Library

    ICRISAT's Jaswant S Kanwar Library was established in1973 as the primary agricultural information resource of ICRISAT. The Library is committed to ensuring access to current, accurate agricultural information for a better quality of life for the people living in the semi-arid regions of the world.

    The SAT Electronic Library was created to facilitate access to bibliographies, abstracts, and digital documents, by ICRISAT's scientific community and partners from NARS, The SAT Electronic Library consolidates accesses to various resources and services available in-house and on the Internet. The various components of the Electronic Library are:

    Online Databases

    • SATSource Database – This bibliographic database is accessed through a user interface. The database contains bibliographical information on Sorghum, Millets, Chickpea, Pigeonpea, Groundnut and other related areas of ICRISAT's interest. The database covers a period from 1987 to date. This database also contains the catalog of the Library acquisitions.
    • SRLS Database – This is a Union Catalog of serials in International Agricultural Research Centers. This database contains serials holding information of 16 CGIAR Center Libraries. It has an application for online reprint requests, which facilitates automatic emailing of reprint requests to the selected IARC Libraries. However, the supply of reprints from these libraries will be governed by their own Document Delivery Policies
    • SCIRUS Search – This is the science-specific search engine made available on the Internet by the Elsevier Science Group. It enables the user to search the Elsevier Science databases while simultaneously searching the Internet. The search result will contain outputs from the databases as well as from the Internet.

    Agricultural Sites on the Web

    • This page provides links to agricultural information available on the Internet, including sites that contain online databases and full-text documents.

    Document Delivery Services

    • This section provides information about free and cost-based document delivery services available on the Internet.

    Full-Text publications

    • This page provides a link to the CG InfoFinder – a database of full-text publications from the CGIAR centers, free publications from CABI, and publications on the Internet

    Journal Content Pages

    • This page contains links to selected agricultural and biotech journals received in the ICRISAT-Patancheru Library. Each title contains the index of articles, abstracts and full-text of articles (where available)

    Since the SAT Electronic Library operates behind a firewall, anyone wanting access to it should register with the ICRISAT Library for username and password.

    For more information contact

    3. Programme sur les zones en marge du désert

    Le Programme sur les zones en marge du désert, autrement appelé le DMP selon le sigle de la forme anglaise Desert Margins Program, s'est doté d'un logo.

    Ce logo a été choisi par les 14 membres du comité de pilotage du DMP pendant la réunion annuelle de décembre 2003. Avaient été présélectionnés à la suite d'un concours lancé à cet effet 9 propositions de logo. Les symboles récurrents parmi ces propositions étaient le désert, la vie (représentée par des rivières, des arbres ou bien des animaux) et l'Afrique. Cette dernière notion a été écartée par le comité de pilotage car le DMP en tant que programme n'a pas de localisation géographique spécifique et limitée mais une portée mondiale et universelle. Le comité a également choisi de toujours accompagner le logo du sigle DMP, qu'il soit utilisé pour des documents préparés dans l'une ou l'autre des deux langues du programme, le français ou l'anglais. Par contre, en ce qui concerne le titre complet du programme, le choix de la langue reste ouvert et saura s'harmoniser au contexte.

    Ce logo choisi par le comité afin de symboliser le programme est formé par la représentation d'une dune recouverte par un bleu dense, cela à l'intérieur d'un cercle duquel dépasse une feuille verte. La dune représente bien sûr la désertification et sa conséquence le désert. Le bleu représente autant, si ce n'est plus, l'eau que le ciel. Quand le bleu ciel serait un vide infini, le bleu dense du logo DMP s'affiche au contraire comme un volume plein et délimité. Sur le logo, il est d'ailleurs totalement prisonnier du cercle. Encadré et restreint, il est comme l'eau dans le DMP. La feuille symbolise la vie. Sa couleur est le vert standard de l'ICRISAT, qui est l'agence exécutrice du Programme. Dans le logo, cette feuille apparaît sortant du cercle où sont enfermés le bleu et la dune. On la perçoit comme une expansion, un accroissement, elle est un résultat, une production. Elle se dirige sur le ciel. Elle est un mouvement positif, un développement. Cette feuille sort du cercle telle la plantule se développe à partir de la graine. Elle est la vie. Nous avons donc un logo qui nous force à substituer au désert la graine, au désert la vie! Nous y sommes, voilà une bien belle figure de proue pour le DMP.

    Pour plus d'information contacter

    4. Expanding Collaboration for VLS

    As a part of ICRISAT's collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), ICRISAT and the National Center for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP) have agreed to strengthen their collaboration to improve the quality of survey data and to use it for policy analysis and advocacy. NCAP and its cooperating centers have evinced keen interest to make use of the Village Level Studies (VLS) methodology for improving the Social Science Information Repository (SSIR) database. This venture extends the VLS to 10 States in India.

     One of the Indian villages under study.

    A joint workshop organized in March 2003 helped to crystallize the contours of this collaboration. All collaborators agreed on common objectives and schedules for collecting village as well as household information. The objectives include tracking changes in livelihood options and developmental pathways of the rural poor; providing feedback on technologies, policies and markets to the relevant institutions; analyzing the impacts of investments on natural resource management and diversification strategies; and providing a socio-economic field laboratory for teaching and training.

    The village schedule seeks data to answer key questions about demographic changes, socio-economic issues, land use and cropping patterns, infrastructural investments and their maintenance, common property resources, governmental programs and village level administrative and management setups. The household schedule is designed to collect data required to answer questions such as: What is the asset-liability position of rural households? What are their income levels and consumption expenditure patterns? What benefits are the households receiving from the government welfare/development programs? Are the crop and livestock enterprises profitable?

    Besides the village and household schedules, a module was designed to assess the impact of the 2002 drought on the villages under study. The instruments developed by the VLS research team of ICRISAT are being used by all the cooperating centers. The ICRISAT team has also developed the software for data entry, analysis and generation of standard reports. The program is distributed on CDs to all cooperating centers, which have agreed to share the collected data with NCAP and ICRISAT, who will analyze the data together and develop synthesis reports and policy recommendations. Thus, in a short span of one year, the VLS methodology of ICRISAT was adopted by NCAP and its 10 cooperating centers. ICRISAT and NCAP will stand to benefit from the synthesis of data generated from a large set of representative villages drawn from many agro-climatic zones of the country. These studies should provide answers to the questions: Where should the investments on natural resource development and supplemental irrigation be concentrated? What policy interventions are needed to improve the incomes and employment levels of rural poor? What measures are needed to develop agriculture in less favorable areas?

    For more information contact

    5. Book :Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation: Prospects for Enhanced Application in Tropical Agriculture

    (Edited by R Serraj and published jointly by Science Publishers, USA and Oxford & IBH, India; published 2004)

    For many poor farmers, Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation (SNF) is an essential, cost-effective alternative or complementary solution to industrially manufactured N fertilizers, particularly for staple crops. Many grain legumes are major sources of protein for the subsistence of poorest farmer households, and SNF technologies have the potential to generate global environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution from inorganic N fertilizers. Research on SNF, particularly molecular genetic understanding of Rhizobium-legume symbiosis, has recently made significant progress, opening new possibilities to design strategies aimed at enhancing N-fixing capacity and legume productivity. This book contains papers from an international workshop held at Montpellier, France 10-14 July 2002, organized by ICRISAT. It is positioned in an “innovation systems” analytical framework, which analyses the relationship between agricultural research innovations and development, following a multidimensional integrated approach to soil fertility management, and the exploitation of current advances in plant genomics and bioinformatics. This book presents the state of the art of legume SNF research in international and advanced research centers and the status of their applications in various agro-ecosystems. It is recommended as an essential reading for scientists, students and agencies involved in agricultural research for development, especially in the areas of crop and soil science and tropical agriculture.

    For more information, contact: Dr R. Serraj (Principal scientist, ICRISAT-Patancheru, India)