SATrends Issue 70 September 2006
1. Pearl millet a blessing in disguise

Pearl millet is the cheapest source of dietary energy, protein and some important micronutrients such as iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn). For example, the cost for 100 g protein from pearl millet (with 10-12% of grain protein) is Rs 5.40, which is less than half the price of rice and pulses for the same quantity. For micronutrients such as Fe (at 70-80 mg kg-1 grain) and Zn (30-40 mg kg-1 grain), pearl millet is 2-4 times more cost-effective. Pearl millet is even an inexpensive source for the above nutrients by several times when compared with animal products, fruits and vegetables.

To unravel regional consumption patterns of pearl millet, a recent study conducted by ICRISAT used household data drawn from the 55th round of the consumer expenditure survey (1999/2000) carried out by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO). Eight NSSO regions spread across three states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan were selected for the study as theyaccount for the bulk of pearl millet production in India.

Per capita consumption was highest (92 kg/person-1/annum-1) by the rural population in the western region of Rajasthan (WRR), followed by dry areas of Gujarat (DAG). In both these regions, pearl millet accounts for more than 50% of total cereal consumption (Table 1). The other major pearl millet consuming regions are inland central, inland western and inland northern regions of Maharashtra, Saurashtra region and northern plains of Gujarat and northeastern Rajasthan. The study, however, found that consumption declines with urbanization and income growth.

In the regions mentioned above, pearl millet on an average ( all rural households) contributes 15-50% of total protein, Fe and Zn intake. For low-income households the contribution of pearl millet to the above nutrients is higher still, since the crop is their main staple. Thus, the humble pearl millet is actually a blessing in disguise for millions of poor households in rural areas.

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2. Asha a money spinner in Anantapur

About 70-80% of groundnut production in India is used for edible oil and about 20-30% is used for other purposes. Most of the Indian groundnut cultivars have small and medium-sized kernels. The groundnut for export is hand-picked selection (HPS) of premium kernels from the produce of varieties with medium-sized kernels.

At ICRISAT, a significant amount of time and resources are spent in developing improved germplasm with large-sized kernels and traits of local adaptation. Variety ICGV 86564, named ASHA (which means 'hope' in Hindi) by ICRISAT, is a big success in the Philippines.

ASHA, a high-yielding, large kernel groundnut variety for table use, has an average 100-seed weight of 90 g with 22% protein content 51% oil content, O (Oleic fatty acid)/L (Linoleic fatty acid) ratio of 1.9, polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acid ratio of 1.2 and Iodine value of 91. The higher the O/L ratio and the lesser the Iodine value, the more stable and longer is the shelf life of groundnut products. The variety gives better kernel grade profile in the postrainy season (rabi and summer seasons). Under good management, it can yield up to 5 t ha-1.

When Mr Surendranath Reddy of Tarimala Village, Singanamala Mandal of Anantapur district heard of Asha, he collected the seed from ICRISAT on 3 January 2006 and planted them on a 0.2-hectare plot.

downy mildew A surprised but happy Mr Surendranatha Reddy with ASHA plants full of pods.

After land preparation in his sandy loam field (ideal for groundnut), he applied 150 kg castor cake powder ha-1, 125 kg single super phosphate ha-1, 80 kg murate of potash ha-1 and 15 kg urea ha-1 as a basal fertilizer dose. The seeds were treated with 25 mL Confidor (insecticide) before planting them on 5 January 2006. The crop was harvested on 18 May 2006 (135 days after sowing). The pod yield of 1040 kg (5.2 t ha-1) with large kernel size surprised Mr Reddy, who invested Rs 9,400.00 on this project. He then hand-picked 100 kg jumbo kernels (20-25 seed count ounce-1) from his produce and sold them at a premium price of Rs 100/ kg-1. Farmers from the neighboring villages are willing to pay Rs 75.00 kg-1 for the seed (smaller than Jumbo size). Realizing the demand, Reddy confidently bought 600 kg Breeder seed from ICRISAT for seed multiplication in the 2006 rainy season. True to its name, Asha brought hope to a smallholder farmer.

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3. ICRISAT launches agro-ecotourism complex

ICRISAT Headquarters in Patancheru, India now boasts an agro-ecotourism complex in its verdant grounds. Launched on 11 September by Director General William Dar, the complex is located at the site where Manmool village formerly stood, and consists of a castle, temples, mosque, chapel, a park, a lake, a golf driving range and a running track.

In his inaugural speech, Dr Dar said that the facility demonstrates a fine blending of agriculture and environmental conservation. With protection and conservation measures implemented at the 3,500-acre ICRISAT-Patancheru campus, the place offers a placid ambience amidst a scenic dryland agrarian environment to visitors. To this, ICRISAT has added a few modern facilities such as a golf driving range and a conference facility.

Dr Dar added that the agro-ecotourism complex provides opportunities for staff members of ICRISAT to rejuvenate their physical and spiritual health. This in turn will help them to be more enthusiastic while improving agricultural productivity and strengthening the livelihoods of the poor and marginal farmers in the semi-arid tropics.

Cinzana Research Station Manmool Castle.

Rex Navarro, who was the MC for the event, welcomed the gathering and made an introduction about the agro-ecotourism complex. To start the proceedings Mrs Betty Dar unveiled the plaque for the renovated Mamool Castle. This 16th century structure was used by Manmool Village as an administration building. ICRISAT gave it its present sobriquet and renovated it to be more functional. A photo-exhibition called The Manmool Metamorphosis displayed within the castle features photographs of Manmool from 1972 to the present day. Later, Dr Dar unveiled the master plaque for the agro-ecotourism complex that describes all the components of the complex. The main meeting was held at a freshly created stage near the nursery, which overlooks the Manmool oval and running track.

The location of the complex at Manmool is historic, since it is the original site where ICRISAT's research activities began. According to Hindu legends, Manmool is believed to have been a town called "Mandagola". Folklore has it that "Manmool" is adapted from the original village name "mandu-moola", where 'mandu' stands for 'medicine' (cure and healing) and 'mool' means 'roots'. Manmool, in this context, could mean the "roots of healing."

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