Feature Stories


“I turned the desert green with sorghum”

On invitation from AREEO, a delegation from ICRISAT travelled to Iran to explore opportunities for collaboration towards transforming Iran’s agricultural systems. ICRISAT’s expertise in dryland crops can help Iran move towards sustainable agricultural practices to cope with climate change and environmental degradation.

ICRISAT in Global News

Pearl millet genes hold key to climate-proof cereals

A team of scientists from ICRISAT, India; Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), France; and BGI, Shenzhen, China; have discovered that pearl millet’s ability to thrive in high temperatures (up to 42˚C) is owing to certain genes in its DNA. This breakthrough research finding bodes well for the cereal as it can be used to fight malnutrition amidst severe climate change. 

ICRISAT scientists use double-defense biotech approach to produce aflatoxin-free peanuts

The groundnut crop around the world, especially in the dryland regions, is beset by a toxic fungus Aspergillus that produces deadly aflatoxin, which can lead to illness, malnutrition and even death. Scientists at ICRISAT have finally found a way to impart immunity to groundnut plants, using biotechnology tools.

Le mil, le sorgho et les légumineuses à grains sont des smartfood! – ICRISAT

Though millets and sorghum have been around since ancient times, they have been grossly underutilized in most parts of the world. Now, with awareness about their nutritive properties, more and more people are attempting to include them in their diets. More importantly, they constitute a solution to the major problems of poverty, malnutrition, climate change and environmental degradation.


Meeting & Workshop

Phytosanitary week

International Phytosanitary Awareness Week: 23–27 October


Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director – Innovation Systems for the Drylands, has been selected as a member of the new Executive Committee of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Program (AgMIP).

This nomination to the Executive Committee reflects the growing interest in, and impact of, scientific contributions of the AgMIP community through its global network of researchers.  Members of the Executive Committee are internationally recognized leaders for their sustained scientific and technical contributions to agricultural sciences, and they will play a major role in developing the AgMIP scientific pillars, partnerships, protocols, and projects, with active participation of AgMIP researchers and sponsors. 

Sad News

We regret to announce the passing away of Mr Emmanuel Mkuwamba, scientific support staff based at Chitedze, Malawi on 24 October 2017, due to complications arising from high blood pressure and diabetes. Emmanuel was instrumental in keeping alive the breeding pipeline for ESA’s groundnut breeding program and, along with Dr E Monyo, in rebuilding the program to provide germplasm to the whole region. In recent years, he also handled on-station and on-farm research activities because of his excellent skills in data collection and analysis. He will be deeply missed. Our condolences to Emmanuel’s family and colleagues for their loss.

New Publications

The genotypic and phenotypic basis of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) cultivars for irrigation-based production in Ethiopia

Authors: Girma N, Fikre A and Ojiewo CO

Published: 2017, Journal of Agricultural Science, 9 (8). pp. 229-236. ISSN 1916-9760

Abstract: Development of irrigation-based chickpea production is considered the most important alternative approach in combating climate change and maximizing productivity, especially in moisture-stress areas and in areas where water and land for irrigation is available. In central Ethiopia, where production of chickpea (especially Kabuli type) is becoming an important part of agriculture, although many superior varieties (both desi and Kabuli types) are available, they have been evaluated and released based on rainfed production. Hence, there is an urgent need for evaluation of varieties suited for irrigation-based production. Towards this goal, during the 2012/13 growing season, 14 Kabuli genotypes (previously introduced) and 24 desi genotypes (nurseries obtained from ICRISAT) were evaluated independently at three and one locations respectively (Kabuli at Debre Zeit, Ambo and Werer; desi at Debre Zeit) for production adaptation under irrigation. The result of combined analysis indicated five promising genotypes showing more than 20 kg/ha yield on average. All desi varieties showed maturity dates of under four months; six genotypes showed higher 100-seed weight and eight genotypes showed promising yield responses (> 2000 kg/ha). From these preliminary results, it can be deduced that irrigation can play a significantly complementary role to the rainfed system, provided the genetics by management is optimized through research and innovation.


Understanding growth and development of three short-season grain legumes for improved adaptation in semi-arid Eastern Kenya

Authors: Sennhenn A, Njarui DMG, Maass BL and Whitbread AM

Published: 2017, Crop and Pasture Science, 68 (5). pp. 442-456. ISSN 1836-0947

Abstract: Short-season grain legumes play an important role in smallholder farming systems as source of food and to improve soil fertility through nitrogen fixation. However, it is not clearly understood how these diverse legumes contribute to the resilience of such systems in semi-arid environments. We describe the growth, development and resource-use efficiency (focusing on radiation, RUE) of three promising short-season grain legumes: common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.) and lablab (Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet). Planting density strongly influenced the production success of cowpea and lablab, with high plant densities leading to vigorous growth habit with low podset establishment. Such information on temporal and spatial differences in growth, development and resource-use efficiency is highly valuable for crop-modelling applications and for designing more resilient farming systems with short-season grain legumes.


Marker-assisted introgression of resistance to Fusarium wilt race 2 in Pusa 256, an elite cultivar of desi chickpea

Authors:   Pratap A, Chaturvedi SK, Tomar R, Rajan N, Malviya N, Thudi M, Saabale PR, Prajapati U, Varshney RK and Singh NP

Published: 2017, Molecular Genetics and Genomics. pp. 1-9. ISSN 1617-4615

Abstract: Fusarium wilt caused by F. oxysporum f. sp. ciceris causes extensive damage to chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) in many parts of the world. In the central part of India, pathogen race 2 (Foc 2) causes severe yield losses. We initiated molecular marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) using desi cultivar, Vijay, as a donor to introgress resistance to this race (Foc2) in Pusa 256, another elite desi cultivar of chickpea. To confirm introgression of resistance for this race, foreground selection was undertaken using two SSR markers (TA 37 and TA110), with background selection to observe the recovery of recurrent parent genome using 45 SSRs accommodated in 8 multiplexes. F1 plants were confirmed with molecular markers and backcrossed with Pusa 256, followed by cycles of foreground and background selection at each stage to generate 161 plants in BC3F2 during the period 2009–2013. S Finally, 17 BC3F4 and 11 BC3F3 lines were obtained which led to identification of 5 highly resistant lines of Pusa 256 with Foc 2 gene introgressed in them. Development of these lines will help in horizontal as well as vertical expansion of chickpea in central part of India.


Possible effect of threshing method on grain iron and zinc density estimation in pearl millet: a contribution to biofortification breeding

Authors: Govindaraj M

Published: 2017, Electronic Journal of Plant Breeding, 8 (2). pp. 668-673. ISSN 0975-928X

Abstract: In crop biofortification research, threshing part is the primary place of contamination while dealing with grain mineral traits such as iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) density. Thus, the type of threshing operation is one of the important and effective factors for efficient grain mineral traits determination. This study is aimed at the effects of threshing methods, namely power-operated single-head thresher and manual-hand threshing on Fe and Zn density estimation. This study indicated that high levels of consistency on ranking of test entries and threshing method has no effect on grain Fe and Zn estimation. Therefore, single-head thresher will be a reliable and faster method for large-number of breeding materials threshing and its grain micronutrient determination in pearl millet biofortification.


Characterization of post-rainy season grown indigenous and exotic germplasm lines of sorghum for morphological and yield traits

Authors: Badigannavar A, Ashok Kumar A, Girish G and Ganapathi TR

Published: 2017, Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, 5 (2). pp. 106-114. ISSN 22879358

Abstract: Sorghum is a major staple crop and vital for the marginal farmers in Asian and African countries. Landraces or germplasm lines adapted to biotic and abiotic stresses are the prime source of adaptive traits in the crop breeding programs. In order to assess the genetic variability, 141 exotic germplasm lines and 36 popular varieties were evaluated for eight agro-morphological traits. Cluster analysis resolved all the genotypes into four major clusters. Among germplasm lines, TSG-313 had high seed weight of 7.05 g/100 seeds, while TSG-325 had highest grain yield of 124.4 g/plant as against control variety. Germplasm lines with high heritability scores would help us to utilize them in recombination breeding.


Trade-offs between non-farm income and on-farm soil and water conservation investments of smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics of India

Authors: Nedumaran S and Singh NP

Published: 2017, Agricultural Economics Research Review, 30 (1). pp. 47-56. ISSN 0971-3441

Abstract: This paper has examined the trade-off between non-farm income and on-farm soil and water conservation (SWC) investment by smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics (SAT) of India. A dynamic bio-economic simulation model has been used to assess the impact of improved off-farm employment opportunities on household welfare, land degradation and labor allocation for SWC activities. The simulation results have revealed that improved non-farm employment opportunities increase household welfare but reduce the households’ incentives to deploy labor for SWC measures, leading to higher levels of soil erosion and rapid land degradation. The study has suggested that there is the need of other complementary policy interventions to protect the natural resource base because improvement in non-farm income opportunities does not produce a win-win solution in watersheds in the SAT region.


Assessing the adoption of NERICA varieties in Western Burkina Faso

Authors: Ouédraogo M and Dakouo D

Published: 2017, African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AfJARE), 12 (1). pp. 1-16. ISSN 1993-3738

Abstract: This paper aims to assess the actual and potential adoption rate of NERICA (New Rice for Africa) rice varieties and identify the determinants of their diffusion and adoption in Burkina Faso. The surveys were conducted in 2009 among 300 rice farmers in 10 villages participating in the rice varietal selection tests. The average treatment effect (ATE) method made it possible to determine a common rate of exposure to and adoption of NERICA of 17% in 2008, and a potential adoption rate of 37%. This means that there is an adoption gap of 20% due to the incomplete diffusion of NERICA, which must be addressed by carrying out more actions to disseminate these varieties. The contact with agricultural research services is a key factor determining the awareness and adoption of NERICA in Burkina Faso.


Harnessing finger millet to combat calcium deficiency in humans: Challenges and prospects

Authors: Puranik S, Kam J, Sahu PP, Yadav R, Srivastava RK, Ojulong H and Yadav R

Published: 2017, Frontiers in Plant Science, 8 (1311). pp. 1-16. ISSN 1664-462X

Abstract: Humans require more than 20 mineral elements for healthy body function. Calcium (Ca), one of the essential macrominerals, is required in relatively large quantities in the diet for maintaining sound overall health. Finger millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.], a crop with inherently higher Ca content in its grain, is an excellent candidate for understanding genetic mechanisms associated with Ca accumulation in grain crops. In this review, we assess some recent advancements and challenges for enrichment of its Ca value and present possible inter-disciplinary prospects for advancing the actual impact of Ca-biofortified finger millet.


Agronomic evaluation of cowpea cultivars developed for the West African Savannas

Authors: Kamara AY, Ewansiha S, Ajeigbe H, Omoigui L, Tofa AI and Karim KY

Published: 2017, Legume Research: An International Journal, 40 (4). pp. 669-676. ISSN 0250-5371

Abstract: The goal of this research was to evaluate diverse cowpea genotypes developed over the past four decades in the Nigerian Sudan Savannas for their agronomic performance and to identify groups of cultivars with similar quantitative characters. Characterization would facilitate the efficient synthesis of breeding populations for further improvement of cowpea. Also superior genotypes with desirable characteristics could be identified and disseminated in the dry savannas of West Africa. Significant variations were observed in the agronomic characteristics of the cultivars in this study. These cultivars could be evaluated on-farm for eventual release to farmers. They could also be used in breeding programs for improvements in grain and fodder yield of cowpea.


Genome-wide sequencing of longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.) provides insights into molecular basis of its polyphenol-rich characteristics

Authors: Lin Y, Min J, Lai R, Wu Z, Chen Y, Yu L, Cheng C, Jin Y, Tian Q, Liu Q, Liu W, Zhang C, Lin L, Hu Y, Zhang D, Thu M, Zhang Z, Liu S, Zhong C, Fang X, Wang J, Yang H, Varshney RK, Yin Y and Lai Z

Published: 2017, GigaScience, 6 (5). pp. 1-14. ISSN 2047-217X

Abstract: Longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.), an important subtropical fruit in the family Sapindaceae, is grown in more than 10 countries. It is a source of traditional medicine with polyphenol-rich traits. To gain insights into the genomic basis of longan traits, a draft genome sequence was assembled. The draft genome (about 471.88 Mb) of a Chinese longan cultivar, “Honghezi,” was estimated to contain 31 007 genes and 261.88 Mb of repetitive sequences. No recent whole-genome-wide duplication event was detected in the genome. Whole-genome resequencing and analysis of 13 cultivated D. longan accessions revealed the extent of genetic diversity. These data provide insights into the evolution and diversity of the longan genome. The comparative genomic and transcriptome analyses provided information about longan-specific traits, particularly genes involved in its polyphenol-rich and pathogen resistance characteristics.












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