SATrends Issue 84
November 2007
1. "ASHA" takes off in the Philippines

Groundnut in the Philippines is used mainly as food and in confections including peanut butter. ICRISAT’s collaboration with the Philippines in groundnut research and development dates back to the early 1980s under the aegis of the Asian Grain Legumes Network (AGLN, since then evolved to CLAN -- Cereals and Legumes Asia Network). Linkages were further strengthened when the Department of Agriculture – Cagayan Valley Integrated Agricultural Research Center, (DA-CVIARC) Region 02, Ilagan, Isabela began to promote its groundnut improvement program. Initial breeding material was provided by ICRISAT. Testing, evaluation and approval of NSIC Pn 11 or Namnama 1 (ICGV 90320) as a national variety in the Philippines in 2002 was the major achievement of this collaboration. In 2005, through a project of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Asha (ICGV 86564), a large-seeded confectionery variety, was introduced in the region.

Asha in Philippines Research Fellows Rolando D Pedro and Rosemary G Aquino admire the Asha harvested from their field.

Asha was evaluated along with commercially grown groundnut varieties in Region 02. The on-station trials were conducted during two wet (June- November) and two dry (Jan- May) seasons. During both 2005 and 2006 wet seasons, Asha gave the highest yield of 3.0 t ha-1 compared with 2.1 and 2.2 t ha-1, respectively, of the local check NSIC Pn 11. During the 2006 dry season, Asha outyielded local checks, NSIC Pn 11 and NSIC Pn 12 by 2.4% and 40%, respectively, and in the 2007 dry season, it outyielded NSIC Pn 11 by approximately 35%.

In the on-farm trials also, Asha maintained its superiority over local farmer grown varieties. In the 2006 wet season, the data obtained from a farmers field (Brgy. Arubub, Jones, Isabela) clearly indicated that Asha was the best (pod yield of 3.5 t ha-1) compared to two local varieties. In Basi, Solana, Cagayan, Asha variety (3.4 t ha-1) outyielded local checks.

Farmers appreciated this variety as it was planted in clay loam soil, where in the previous season, rice was grown in that field. In Mabuhay, Echague, Isabela, Asha variety gave a pod yield of 3.1 t ha-1, out yielding the popularly grown variety. Because of its stable high yield, Asha has a potential for fast-track adoption in both soil conditions. Scientists at DA-CVIARC have distributed 11.0 t of high quality seeds to 92 farmer–beneficiaries (FBs) to spread this variety in the Cagayan Valley. This project is an effective strategy to improve peanut farmers’ productivity and profitability and to expand groundnut production in the Cagayan valley region.

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2. Early chickpeas on the rise

Chickpea is largely grown on receding soil moisture after the rains. Terminal drought and heat stresses are the major abiotic constraints it faces in the semi-arid tropics (SAT), where it is grown in rainfed conditions. Therefore, early maturity is a highly desired trait in chickpea. This helps the crop to escape end-of-season stresses in the SAT and makes it possible to extend chickpea cultivation to new niches.

Development of early maturing varieties is one of the major objectives of ICRISAT’s chickpea breeding program. ICRISAT and the national agricultural research system (NARS) partners developed many early maturing, high yielding and fusarium wilt resistant varieties of desi and kabuli chickpea. Adoption of these varieties has led to increase in area and productivity of chickpea in short-season environments, for example, in central and southern India and in Myanmar.

Chickpea in Myanmar Fields of early maturing chickpea are now a common sight in Myanmar.

The chickpea area in Andhra Pradesh state of southern India has increased from 106,000 ha in 1996-97 to 394,000 ha in 2005-06. The most important development is the enhancement in chickpea yield during this period – it increased from 853 to 1,596 kg ha-1. Andhra Pradesh now has the highest chickpea yield in the country and it is almost double the national average. Increase in area and yields have led to a 7-fold increase in chickpea production in Andhra Pradesh during the past 10 years (See Fig.). The farmers in Andhra Pradesh are replacing cash crops such as cotton, tobacco, chilli and postrainy season sorghum with chickpea, and have transformed chickpea from a subsistence crop to a cash crop.

The short-duration desi and kabuli varieties developed through the partnership of ICRISAT and NARS in Myanmar have had wide adoption in that country. Over 90% of the chickpea area in Myanmar is now under ICRISAT-bred varieties. The kabuli varieties (ICCV 2 and ICCV 3) cover 54% of the area, while desi varieties (ICCV 88202 and ICCV 93944) cover 39% of the area. The adoption of these varieties has doubled chickpea production in Myanmar due to 26% increase in area and 50% increase in productivity. Myanmar is now one of the leading chickpea producing and exporting countries in the world.

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3. Cutting through carbon with Occam’s Razor

Back in the 14th century, William of Occam advocated, "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem (entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity)”; in other words: all things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one.

Today, the challenges of carbon (C) accounting lend themselves to the application of this principle. A discrete, yearly 2-pool System Object Model (SOM) composed of one stable and one labile compartment successfully predicted C decomposition in a controlled long-term fertilization trial in sub-humid Burkina Faso. In hindcast mode and after parameter estimation, it performed equally well as more complex RothC26.3 for total SOM simulation (+0.2% difference in RMSE), and exhibited comparable predictive skill on independent treatments, including those with residue incorporation. At comparable predictive levels, a simpler structure mitigates risks of equifinality and resulting simulation uncertainties.

West African millets and sorghums West African millets and sorghums are top biomass producers among world crops, and hold high potential for carbon sequestration.

Since 2002, ICRISAT works on stochastic data assimilation frameworks to monitor agricultural soil C sequestration. The goal is to develop operational monitoring methods for future C contracts, when that transitional win-win practice becomes an accepted process for the generation of Certified Emissions Reduction. The difficulty with C accounting is that measurements are subject to errors that are typically larger than the rates of change. At scales amenable to C trade (10-100Kha), high spatio-temporal uncertainties in production systems result from fragmented landscapes and irregular management patterns, errors in measurements (laboratory methods and remote sensing) and errors in dynamic C models. Adequate quantification of uncertainty in sequestered C mass estimates is a pre-requisite to contractual verification and compliance enforcement.

In operational systems, data assimilation reduces uncertainty by combining models and observations ‘on the fly’. Appropriate sampling design accounts for non-linearities in the system and allows for simpler model formulations. Model simplification is particularly relevant to the study of SOM dynamics, because the lack of fractionation methods and methodological unification to substantiate turnover-based pool structuration can increase uncertainty in model outputs: total soil C prediction is more an issue of formulation tractability and ease of computation than a problem of potential physical, chemical or biological orthodoxy.

With benefits of simplification including a better understanding of the system and various derived applications including upscaling, this model features an adequate level of complexity for spatial integration over patchy contract areas on relevant timespans. In fact, if statistical appraisal cannot positively identify outstanding performance across a set of models, then other evaluation criteria, including simplicity, should be considered.

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