SATrends Issue 74 January 2007
  • Gain from goats
  • Sweet sorghum – more to chew on
  • Salinity tolerant chickpeas
  • ICRISAT adopts the SMTA
  • 1. Gain from goats

    Goats mean cash for farmers in the semi-arid tropics of Zimbabwe . With money from the sale of goats, farmers can buy food, pay school fees, and access better health care. As the reduction of the commercial cattle herd continues (–75% from 1996 to 2004), goats are becoming an increasingly attractive option. They also provide small-scale farmers the opportunity to create value-added products, such as meat, milk, skins and manure, at low cost.

    However, a recent ICRISAT baseline diagnosis study found that even though farmers raised goats for cash profit and as a risk management strategy during drought years, they very often cannot realize these benefits. Only 11% of a goat flock is sold and 7% slaughtered. The biggest outflow from goat flocks is simply mortality (26%), often as a result of feed shortages.

    ICRISAT, partnering with the agricultural research and extension service, Department of Livestock Production and Development, Desert Margins Program and the Netherlands Development Organization, studied goat production in six districts of Zimbabwe . A total of 825 households were randomly selected to evaluate the importance of goats, identify key challenges in goat production and explore improved market access.

    The study found that many women owned goats and actively participated in all aspects of goat management including slaughter and sales. Therefore, targeting women in goat production would significantly contribute to improving household nutrition and income. An important observation is that shortages of feed during the dry season are most critical constraints in goat production. Of the farmers surveyed, 93% cited feed shortages starting from July with a peak in September/October. Most farmers use crop residues to feed their goats and do not rely exclusively on the rangelands, although the nutritional value of crop residues in the dry season are low. Simple, inexpensive technologies, such as treatment of crop residues, can reduce mortality and improve the quality of animals.

    Farmers start investing in crop residues for dry season feeding of goats

    The most critical challenge to improving goat production systems is the development of effective market facilities. Improved market access would reduce transaction costs for traders and entail higher prices and better information for farmers, and thereby increase off-take.

    A new regional program – Implementation and Coordination of Agricultural Research and Training (ICART) / Competitive Regional Agricultural Research Fund ( CRARF) – will further evaluate the benefits of livestock production through improved feeding technology with market development as the necessary incentive. This approach will be developed, tested and demonstrated under local farming conditions and multi-stakeholder participation.

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    2. Sweet sorghum – more to chew on

    Sweet sorghum ( Sorghum bicolor (L) Moench) is well adapted to the Semi-Arid Tropics and is one of the most efficient dryland crops to convert atmospheric CO 2 into sugar. The crop is therefore gaining rapid importance as an alternative feedstock for bio-ethanol production.

    Despite the increasing industrial usage, farmers still consider sweet sorghum a multipurpose crop from which they also expect grain for human consumption and fodder from the stover. While the demand for sweet sorghum for ethanol production provides important income for dryland farmers, it also diverts biomass away from livestock, thus adding to the feed scarcity problem.

    Manufacture of marketable feed blocks, using the bagasse remaining after juice extraction (for ethanol) and the stripped leaves, could compensate for fodder loss and provide an additional source of income. Collaborative work between the International Livestock Research Institute, the National Research Center for Sorghum and ICRISAT strongly suggests the feasibility of this undertaking. Depending on the cultivars of sweet sorghum grown, yields of potential feed blocks made of leaf strippings and bagasse ranged from 4.2 to 8.1 t/ha with an in vitro digestibility ranging from 39.3 to 50.4%.

    Feed blocks, similar to this one made from sorghum stover, are envisaged with bagasse

    Surveys of fodder markets in Hyderabad in India showed that stover from ordinary grain sorghum is widely traded as livestock fodder. This stover is sourced from several States, transported over distances of more than 350 km and fetches retail prices that were, on a yearly average, about half the value of the sorghum grain. Higher quality stover fetched premium price with yearly mean stover in vitro digestibilities of 46.9 to 51.7% associated with prices of 3.1 to 3.9 Indian rupees per kg dry stover.

    Thus, fodder quality of feed made of leaf strippings and bagasse (as reflected in digestibility) is similar to premium stover from grain sorghum. By extrapolation, this feed could fetch prices of 3 rupees/kg and more. The manufacturing of feed blocks could therefore offer attractive additional income along a sweet sorghum utilization chain. The feed blocks could be made still more nutritious by adding sorghum grain distillery byproducts (where the grain is used for biofuel production) and/or by targeted fortification with other supplements. The end product would be an attractive sweet sorghum byproduct based feed block with a high density, and therefore excellent transport worthiness, and good fodder quality.

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    3. Salinity tolerant chickpeas

    Salinity is an ever-increasing problem in agriculture worldwide, especially in South Asia ( India , Pakistan ) and Australia . Improved genotypes that are better adapted to saline conditions are needed to enhance and sustain production in these areas. A screening of 263 accessions of chickpea showed a six-fold range of variation for seed yield under salinity, with several genotypes yielding 20% more than a previously-released salinity tolerant cultivar, CSG 8962.

    A strong relationship was found between the seed yield under salinity and the seed yield under a non-saline control treatment, indicating that the seed yield under salinity was explained in part by a yield potential component and in part by a component of salinity tolerance per se . Seed yields under salinity were therefore computed to separate the yield potential component from the salinity tolerance component.

    The range of variation in yields under salinity was similar in both kabuli and desi chickpeas, indicating that breeding for salinity tolerance can be undertaken in both types. However, in the genotypes evaluated, desi genotypes had a higher average salinity tolerance component than the kabuli genotypes.

    Seed yield (g per 4 plants) of 263 chickpea genotypes, including 211 genotypes from the mini-core collection of ICRISAT, under salinity conditions. ICCV2 and JG62 are the parents of a breeding line developed at ICRISAT and they show large contrast for salinity tolerance. This opens a “fast-track” for QTL identification. CSG 8962 is a previously released salinity tolerant genotype. Our screening identified 3 and 7 genotypes yielding significantly 10 and 20% better than CSG 8962.

    The salinity tolerance component was highly correlated to the ratio of seed yield under salinity to that of the control, indicating that both parameters can be used to assess salinity tolerance. A similar ratio was calculated for shoot dry weight at 50 days after sowing. However, no significant correlation was found between the shoot dry weight ratio and the yield ratio, indicating that differences in salinity tolerance among genotypes could not be inferred from genotypic differences in the relative shoot dry weight at the vegetative stage.

    Picture of tolerant and a sensitive chickpea accessions under salinity treatment. The picture shows that, though the biomass can be relatively similar, the number of pods is very different in the two genotypes. The graph below then shows that the degree of tolerance of genotypes is closely linked to the ability to maintain a high pod number relative to control under salinity.

    The major trait related to salinity tolerance appeared to be the ability to maintain a large number of filled pods, whereas seed size, though somewhat decreased under salinity, was similar in tolerant and sensitive genotypes . Salinity tolerance was also not related to the Na + or K + concentrations in the shoot.

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    4. ICRISAT adopts the SMTA

    A model agreement for access and benefit sharing of genetic resources was approved at the first session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in June 2006 , at Madrid , Spain . The Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) was adopted by Parties of the Treaty as a guide for legal contracts for the 35 different crops and 29 forages under the Multilateral System of Access (MLS) and Benefit-sharing. The Treaty was negotiated under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and entered into force in June 2004 and aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) .

    Entered into between the Provider and the Recipient, the SMTA is to be implemented and interpreted in line with objectives and legal measures specified in the Treaty (see]. The material transferred is to be used/conserved only for research, breeding and training for food and agriculture, and not for chemical, pharmaceutical and other non-food/feed industrial uses.

    Dr Victoria Henson-Apollonio, Manager, CGIAR Central Advisory Service on IP, at the seminar on SMTA she delivered at ICRISAT-Patancheru

    The recipient is not allowed to take IP protection on the material or its genetic parts of components in the form received, but can make third party transfers under similar terms by notifying the GB. Once notified, the recipient has no further obligations.

    Access to ‘PGRFA under Development' is at the discretion of the developer and the transfers can be subject to additional conditions.

    Access to PGRFA protected by intellectual property rights must be consistent with the relevant international/national laws. If a product is commercialized and that incorporates material accessed from the Multilateral System, and if it is not available without restriction, then the recipient has to make a fixed percentage of payment to the System. Where the product is available without restriction, the recipient is encouraged to make voluntary contributions to the Multilateral System. The normal rate of benefit sharing (if the product, derived from material accessed from the MLS, is commercialized, and is not available to others for research and breeding ) is set at 1.1% of the sales less 30%. The recipient can also opt for an alternative payment scheme at a discounted rate of 0.5% over a period of validity of 10 years, renewable after every 5 years subsequently.

    Finally, the SMTA provides three possible ways of expressing acceptances, a) signature; b) shrink-wrap, ie, enclosing a copy of the SMTA in the package so that the material constitutes acceptance upon opening; c) click-wrap, ie, acceptance of the terms and conditions on the internet website by clicking the appropriate icon.

    All the CGIAR Centers holding collections of PGRFA have signed agreements with FAO acting on behalf of the Governing Body on 16 October 2006, placing their in trust collections of PGRFA within the purview of the Treaty. Accordingly, all transfers of PGRFA of crops listed in Annex 1 to the Treaty are subject to the terms and conditions of the SMTA effective 1 January 2007.

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