September
Issue No: 1922
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Renewed focus


Pigeonpea plants in one of the gradient tunnels at the Centre of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection in ICRISAT, Patancheru. Photo: ICRISAT

Pigeonpea plants in one of the gradient tunnels at the Centre of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection in ICRISAT, Patancheru. Photo: ICRISAT

With a new research strategy and medium-term plan, ICRISAT’s reorganized research team all set to scale new heights

As a premier institution for dryland agricultural research for development, ICRISAT is uniquely positioned to make a difference in the lives of smallholder farmers in the global drylands. With a new Strategic Plan 2021-2025 and a revamped research structure, more efficient and supported by newly appointed Director-Business Development, ICRISAT launched a rolling three-year Medium-Term Plan 2021-23 to operationalize the Strategic Plan.

Read more about the medium term plan and the research structure.

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The Strategic Plan

In 2021, as the COVID pandemic continues to challenge the world, we reiterate our commitment to our stakeholders – most importantly, the smallholder farmers of the global drylands. As we give shape to our plan for the future, the five-year Strategic Plan 2021-2025 provides a new impetus and direction to ICRISAT’s research-for-development work.

“As we chart our course towards the future, this MTP 2021-23 will serve as a blueprint that guides us through known as well as unknown terrain and help us continue towards achieving our overall mission and fulfilling our vision of supporting smallholder farmers across the global drylands, as we have done for the past five decades, and will continue to do in the future” said Dr Hughes.

The three-year rolling Medium-Term Plan (MTP) 2021-23 is a clear, concise map to implement the Strategic Plan.

Impact pathway for ICRISAT’s MTP 2021-23.

Impact pathway for ICRISAT’s MTP 2021-23.

Outcomes and impacts

One of the key features of the MTP is that it outlines key activities, outputs and expected outcomes during the next three years from the newly restructured Global Research Programs On: Accelerated Crop Improvement; Resilient Farm and Food Systems; and Enabling Systems Transformation.

Over the next three years, working across regions of Asia, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and West and Central Africa (WCA), the interconnected activities of these research programs are expected to bring significant impacts, both socioeconomic – changing consumer behaviors, expanding markets and value chains, and creating jobs by connecting food systems to agribusiness; as well as institutional – creating enabling environments and policies for technology adoption and nutrition-sensitive value chain development, among other things.

Aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

ICRISAT’s work on its mandate crops, the highly nutritious and climate-resilient millets, sorghum and legumes, contributes significantly towards the UN SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger). Moreover, our efforts in the direction of developing, disseminating and implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions and technologies go towards meeting SDG 13 (Climate Action).

Our crosscutting activities also support the SDG 5.b – Enhancing the use of information and communication technologies to help empower women; and SDG 17.6 – Boosting regional and international partnerships for better access to science, technology and innovation.

Sharing information and creating opportunities

Additionally, the MTP defines ways and means of disseminating International Public Goods – intellectual assets created as a result of our research activities – as widely and promptly as possible through its Open Access Repository and other means.

It also links to the institutional financial plan and the extensive network of partners that collaborate on various initiatives with ICRISAT. With rapidly changing global scenarios, we aim to develop and nurture an agile, durable and reliable network of partners who can support our efforts towards better livelihoods for dryland farmers.

To move from a static to a dynamic corporate model, the MTP outlines a transformational approach to corporate functions to support delivery of more meaningful impacts to our stakeholders. An attitudinal change forms the basis of this approach; for instance, from a focus on mere publications to exhibiting thought leaderships, and from separately siloed teams to a well-integrated and interconnected services and products.

The key pillars that support the delivery of quality research include effective external and internal Communications, supportive Human Resources, effective legal support with shrewd risk management.  ICRISAT’s agile Finance team, coupled with forward-looking Institutional Services (and Procurement, Supply and Disposal Services, and Information Services), will provide strong support for ICRISAT to deliver excellence.

Over 2 billion people call the drylands of the world their home; a population that is burgeoning and dealing with various challenges in food production, hit especially hard by crises such as pandemics, climate change, water scarcity and conflicts. Under this scenario, it becomes imperative to support smallholder farmers in these regions who rely on rainfed agriculture and allied occupations for a living, as they grapple with decreasing productivity, water scarcity, poverty and malnutrition.

Click here for the Strategic Plan web page


The share of foundation, translational, local adaptive and scaling-for-impact research in the three Global research programs.

The share of foundation, translational, local adaptive and scaling-for-impact research in the three Global research programs.

ICRISAT introduces an invigorated research structure

A robust, more efficient research structure is part of the reorganization initiative at ICRISAT that aims at building a cohesive and interconnected body of work in agricultural research. The revitalized framework is expected to seamlessly integrate and deliver agricultural research outputs across the drylands of Asia and Africa. The strength of this framework is the deeply interlinked global and regional programs working towards common and interdependent goals.

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Under the leadership of Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, research will now be grouped under 3 Global research programs, implemented through 18 research clusters, supported by 3 Regional Directors – one each for Asia, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and West and Central Africa (WCA):

  • Accelerated Crop Improvement: This program will develop market-driven climate-resilient nutritious cultivars with high yield potential and accelerated genetic gain utilizing genebank accessions, genomics, breeding, physiology, disease-insect protection, together with modern tools of speed breeding and data-driven decisions. It will enable quick access of quality seed of improved varieties to farmers through improved seed systems.
  • Resilient Farm and Food Systems: The program will address the critical issues of water management and land degradation in the drylands. Innovations to help smallholders adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change on agriculture will be a focus of this program. Our continued success in watershed interventions and soil health improvement will be useful in increasing incomes, enhancing sustainability and imparting climate resilience.
  • Enabling Systems Transformations: This program will focus on nutrition, agribusiness innovation and women-youth empowerment. It will work to enable better policies and facilitate innovations, markets linkages and capacity development to transform farm and food systems and improve livelihoods and incomes of smallholder farmers in the drylands.

The three programs contain a blend of research modalities, viz. foundation, translational, local adaptive and scaling for impact.

The activities in the three Global research programs will be implemented in Asia, ESA and WCA as part of several initiatives/projects between 2021 and 2023 through partnerships with different stakeholders, including South-South collaboration for inter-regional technology transfer. The Accelerated Crop Improvement program will develop new market-driven crop varieties, while the Resilient Farm and Food Systems program will develop agronomic practices that conserve soil and water resources and minimize climate risk. Finally, the Enabling Systems Transformation program will explore socio-economic and policy environments for upscaling of new varieties and management practices in the drylands and even beyond.

As part of the restructuring at ICRISAT, three Regional Directors – one each for Asia, ESA and WCA – will now be responsible for regional implementation of the activities of the Global research programs, management of ICRISAT facilities and support in the respective regions, in addition to managing regional and country relationships with support from seven country representatives.

The 18 research clusters are grouped by their research activities in same/similar research areas. (See infographic below)

Apart from the global and regional clusters, our research support services play a crucial role in enabling the smooth and efficient functioning of the organization’s research activities. These are:

  • Farm and Engineering Services
  • Crop Improvement Operations Team
  • Sequencing and Genotyping Services
  • Rapid Generation Advancement Services
  • Phenotyping of Plant Biotic Stresses
  • Phenotyping for Abiotic Stresses and Nutrition
  • Data Management and Analytical Support

“In 2021, we carry on further into our journey with new hopes and goals, a clear vision and great expectations from ourselves and our partners to deliver the best possible support and outputs to the most important stakeholders – the smallholder farmers,” said Dr Hughes, emphasizing the significance of the new structure.

The research structure at ICRISAT

Feature stories


Study shows millets can reduce risk of developing cardiovascular disease

The consumption of millets can reduce total cholesterol, triacylglycerols (commonly known as triglycerides) and BMI according to a new study analyzing the data of 19 studies, with nearly 900 people. The study was undertaken by five organizations and led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

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The results published in Frontiers in Nutrition, brings critically needed scientific backing to the efforts to popularize and return millets back to diets, especially as staples, to combat the growing prevalence of obesity and being overweight in children, adolescents and adults.

The study showed that consuming millets reduced total cholesterol by 8%, lowering it from high to normal levels in the people studied. There was nearly a 10% decrease in low and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (commonly viewed as ‘bad cholesterol’) and triacylglycerol levels in blood. Through these reductions, the levels went from above normal to normal range. In addition, consuming millets decreased blood pressure with the diastolic blood pressure decreasing by 5%.

Dr. S Anitha, the study’s lead author and Senior Nutritionist at ICRISAT, explained, “We were very surprised how many studies on humans had already been undertaken on the impact of millets on elements that impact cardiovascular diseases, and this is the very first time anyone has collated all these studies and analyzed their data to test the significance of the impact. We used a meta-analysis, and results came out very strongly to show significant positive impact on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

The study also showed that consuming millets reduced BMI by 7% in people who were overweight and obese (from 28.5 ± 2.4 to 26.7 ± 1.8 kg/m2), showing the possibility of returning to a normal BMI (<25 kg/m2). All results are based on consumption of 50 to 200 g of millets per day for a duration ranging from 21 days to three months.

These findings are influenced by comparisons that show that millets are much higher in unsaturated fatty acids, with 2 to 10 times higher levels than refined wheat and milled rice as well as being much higher than whole grain wheat.

“This latest review further emphasizes the potential of millets as a staple crop that has many health benefits. It also strengthens the evidence that eating millet can contribute to better cardiovascular health by reducing unhealthy cholesterol levels and increasing the levels of whole grains and unsaturated fats in the diet,” said Professor Ian Givens, a co-author of the study and Director at University of Reading’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) in the UK.

“Obesity and being overweight are increasing globally in both wealthy and poorer countries, so the need for solutions based on healthier diets is critical.  This new information on the health benefits of millets further supports the need to invest more in the grain, including its whole value chain from better varieties for farmers through to agribusiness developments,” said Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.

The study identified a number of priority future research areas including the need to study all different types of millets, understand any differences by variety alongside the different types of cooking and processing of millets and their impact on cardiovascular health. Given the positive indicators to date, more detailed analysis on the impact of millets on weight management is also recommended. All relevant parameters are also recommended to be assessed to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts millets consumption on hyperlipidemia and cardiovascular disease.

“A key recommendation from the study is for government and industry to support efforts to diversify staples with millets, especially across Asia and Africa. Given that millets are hardy and climate smart, returning to this traditional staple makes a lot of sense and is a critical solution that could be the turning point of some major health issues,” highlighted Ms. Joanna Kane-Potaka, a co-author and Executive Director of the Smart Food initiative, ICRISAT.


(L-R) Biofortified pearl millet, field visit of Hybrid Parents Research Consortium and iron-rich beans. Collage by GLDC, ICRISAT

(L-R) Biofortified pearl millet, field visit of Hybrid Parents Research Consortium and iron-rich beans. Collage by GLDC, ICRISAT

CRP-GLDC Golden Eggs contribute to ‘healthy diets’, ‘management tools and ‘scaling methods’

What are Golden Eggs? The R4D “products” developed during 10 years of CGIAR’s Research Programs/Platform, including breakthrough tools, technologies, prototypes, practices, policy options, networks and methods that are at a stage of application are considered as the “Golden Eggs”. These are products emanating from decisive multi-partner, multi-level, multi-disciplinary R4D achievements that are ready to be translated into impactful technical, methodological, organizational or institutional innovations.

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The CGIAR Research Programs compiled a list of 36 Golden Eggs for presentation at the virtual Transfer Marketplace event of the CGIAR on June 15-16, 2021, 36 Golden Eggs that were grouped into eight broad baskets. The Initiative Development Team (IDT) leaders of One CGIAR are expected to pick the Golden Eggs that can be considered for the new Initiatives to capitalize on the investments already made towards these CGIAR innovations.

Three Golden Eggs were identified from the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP-GLDC) to be part of two baskets, ‘healthy diets’ and ‘management tools and scaling methods’. These Golden Eggs targeting Africa and Asia towards the delivery of biofortified cultivars are based on the established partnership under ‘management tools and scaling methods’ like ICRISAT’s Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (PMHPRC) and the Alliance facilitated Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA).

1. Biofortification for nutrition security and market demand:

The CRP-GLDC includes crops of the future that are climate-resilient, nutritious and high yielding. These crops go beyond food security to achieve nutrition security without compromise on the yield. The goal is to make available more nutritious food to needy groups (women, children and marginalized populations) while increasing incomes of dryland farmers through sustainable market linkages and, thereby contributing towards Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 3 (No hunger and Good health and wellbeing). Besides, the GLDC crops are excellent crops for diversification of current narrow agri-food systems and offer resilience against the effects of climate change.

Research on GLDC agri-food systems delivers resilience in food and nutritional security as well as opportunities for market-oriented development for smallholder farmers while contributing to production system sustainability. Biofortification of GLDC crops is an effective and sustainable approach to address micronutrient malnutrition that offer scope for new value chains development to meet the dietary choices of the millennials and greater business opportunities. Going forward, biofortification is being mainstreamed in the crop breeding product profiles.

The biofortified cultivars of sorghum, pearl millet, lentils, beans and groundnut have been commercialized and are at various stages of scaling up. Public and private sector partners can access these cultivars to promote seed supply and/or develop value chains. Beans, lentil, pearl millet and sorghum biofortification for high grain iron and zinc address malnutrition in several beneficiary groups in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and South Asia, while groundnut biofortification for high-oleic content has clear market pull from the health and food processing industries in India, Myanmar Bangladesh and other countries. Biofortified Lentils have now been released in Bangladesh, Nepal and India, biofortified sorghum in India, biofortified pearl millet in Niger and India, and biofortified beans are released in 14 countries in Africa.

High yielding biofortified dryland crops cultivars are genetically stable and do not have trade-offs with yield and productivity traits. Besides, drought and heat stress tolerance and resistance to biotic stresses and early maturity are combined in the biofortified varieties making them resilient to the climate change effects. For climate change scenarios, the high yielding biofortified dryland crops can address not only the hidden hunger, but also provide food security that are often exacerbated by climate change impacts. To mainstream biofortification in GLDC crop breeding programs of CGIAR and NARS, studies on bioavailability and developing context-specific seed systems and increase awareness for large scale uptake of biofortified cultivars are the critical next steps.

Flagship Program 4: Variety and Hybrid Development
Research Lead: Janila Pasupuleti (ICRISAT)
Collaborators: Shiv Agrawal (ICARDA), Jean Claude Rubyogo (Alliance Bioversity-CIAT), Ashok Kumar A (ICRISAT), SK Gupta (ICRISAT) and Prakash Gangashetty (ICRISAT)

2. Research partnerships and farmer engagement: Strong partnerships, and beneficiary empowerment to participate contribute to successful design and delivery of the interventions. Substantial work on partnership models to develop pearl millet and sorghum hybrids and bean cultivars has produced very good results, and can be adapted in more geographies. The R4D partnership between IARC, NARS and private sector harness the power of crop improvement to generate ‘bankable’’ research products that catalyse private and public investments and generate multiple benefits along the value chains of GLDC crops in Asia and Africa.

Pearl millet and Sorghum: The global Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC) network established in 2000 by ICRISAT was a vehicle for fast delivery of pearl millet and sorghum hybrids to the farmers, which leads to rapid adoption of diverse range of hybrids on farm. The pearl millet and sorghum HPRC engages with over 40 private sector partners across the globe that has now been expanded to ESA and West and Central Africa (WCA) . These consortia have been very effective for the commercialization of biofortified pearl millet and sorghum cultivars also. Being in close contact with farmers (both seed as well as grain producers), the members of HPRC have better perception of farmers’ choice and needs, which has been very useful for priority setting for research on developing hybrid parents at ICRISAT. The delivery of improved germplasm through HPRC has been significant. For example, hybrids developed under Pearl Millet HPRC provided at least 20% higher grain and fodder than the varieties/other hybrids they replaced. At any point of time, at least 60 to 70% of sorghum or pearl millet hybrids cultivated in India are based on HPRC-bred improved lines.

Flagship Program 4: Variety and Hybrid Development
Research Lead: SK Gupta (ICRISAT)
Collaborators: ICRISAT, ICAR centers and SAUs of India, 30 private sector seed companies in India and abroad

Beans: The Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA; PABRA-Africa) established in 1996 is now a mature model of research and development partnership that brings together researchers from 31 NARS across sub-Saharan Africa, universities, the Alliance and other 540 value chain actors (private and producers’ organizations) from 31 countries grouped in three regional networks which have joint planning framework to coordinate research implementation and achieve synergy in outcomes.  Through  nine bean corridors, PABRA has adopted a food systems approach which links consumption to responsive  production systems supported by demand led  bean research .  Some of the results include more than 538 improved farmers and consumer demanded bean varieties, 45 of them biofortified with iron and zinc have been released where 21.5 M (including 58.1% women) farmers accessed improved varieties between 2015-2020. Bean productivity has doubled in Uganda and Ethiopia from 0.8 tons’ ha in 2008 to 1.6 tons/ha in 2018. Over 250 small and medium enterprises are commercializing various bean-based products and providing market opportunities for 4 million farmers (including 51% women).

The lessons are expanding to other GLDC crops including pigeon pea, groundnut, and soybean. The crop network groups (CNGs) established under the CRP-GLDC are based on these lessons.

Flagship Program 6: Common Bean for Markets and Nutrition
Research Lead: Jean Claude Rubyogo (Alliance Bioversity-CIAT)
Collaborators: Alliance Bioversity-CIAT and PABRA network

3. Multidimensional sustainability assessment tool for smallholder farming systems:

Assessing sustainable intensification in the baseline situation and in subsequent scenarios, based on incremental policy intervention and agricultural intensification strategies would be of great value in designing need based solutions and tracking progress of intensification strategies.

There is renewed focus by CGIAR and others to develop holistic solutions to improve multidimensional sustainability and resilience of the farming and food systems. This requires identification of indicators and associated metrics for farming systems sustainability assessment, to track progress, assess trade-offs and identify synergies. However, there has been a critical gap of a easy to use, comprehensive and flexible framework and a tool to cost effectively and quickly measuring the farming system sustainability, which is needed for designing context specific solutions.

Our multidimensional framework developed as part of the CRP-GLDC provides a user-friendly quantification tool for assessing farming systems sustainability, co-design and analyze tradeoffs for promoting context specific systemic solutions to address the challenges of smallholder farm and food systems in different ecologies, and cultures. It considers five major sustainability domains: environmental, economic, productivity, social and human well-being. Domains were divided into themes and sub-themes and 115 indicators been identified for sustainability measurement. The identified entry points are then evaluated using whole farm systems modelling to analyze tradeoffs and synergies and scaling context-specific strategies to improve sustainability and resilience of farming systems in vulnerable regions. This tool has been tested at a small scale in India and Niger and ready to be scaled following further testing and validation across the regions. This user-friendly/flexible tool once adapted across regions is likely to be very useful for researchers and development and policy actors to identify entry points and design domain-specific and more effective interventions and policies to improve sustainability and resilience of farming systems in vulnerable regions. The tool can assist to better target and tailor recommendations as well as track progress of implemented solutions (practices, technologies, policies) in a multi-dimensional sustainability context enabling to monitor impact on KPI’s and understand potential trade-offs.

Flagship Program 3: Integrated Farm and Household Management
Research LeadShalander Kumar (ICRISAT)
Collaborators: Soumitra Pramanik (ICRISAT), Anthony Whitbread (ICRISAT) and Katrien Descheemaeker (WUR)

References:

  1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105260
  2. https://mel.cgiar.org/projects/-15/133/policy-favours-biofortified-pearl-millet-in-india-to-combat-fe-and-zn-deficiencies
  3. https://mel.cgiar.org/projects/-15/370/high-oleic-groundnut-varieties-commercialized-in-india-meet-the-enhanced-shelf-life-needs-of-food-industry-and-consumer-health-benefits
  4. https://repo.mel.cgiar.org/handle/20.500.11766/5537
  5. https://repo.mel.cgiar.org/handle/20.500.11766/9756
  6. http://www.icrisat.org/jewels/The-Jewels-of-ICRISAT.pdf
  7. https://www.pabra-africa.org/
  8. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/219473162.pdf
  9. http://oar.icrisat.org/id/eprint/10626
  10. https://www.scienceforum2018.org/sites/default/files/2018-09/SF18_low_emissions_pathways_india_0.pdf
  11. http://oar.icrisat.org/11712/
  12. https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11766/11153
  13. https://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/113037
  14. https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/80540/PABRA20_Bean_Corridors_BRIEF.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y
  15. PABRA-Africa

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
2-zero-hunger 17-partnerships-goals 


ICRISAT works with NASA, USGS and others to map the world’s croplands

ICRISAT has mapped the croplands of South Asia and contributed to the mapping of croplands in Africa through a global effort to accurately determine the spread of agriculture in the world. Detailed maps at 30-m spatial resolution, higher resolution than previously available, produced under the NASA-supported GFSAD project show the world had 1.873 billion hectares of cropland in 2015.

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Adapted from an article published originally by Earth Data

ICRISAT has mapped the croplands of South Asia and contributed to the mapping of croplands in Africa through a global effort to accurately determine the spread of agriculture in the world. Detailed maps at 30-m spatial resolution, higher resolution than previously available, produced under the NASA-supported GFSAD project show the world had 1.873 billion hectares of cropland in 2015.

Using Landsat time-series big data and random forest machine learning algorithms on the Google Earth Engine cloud, ICRISAT mapped the spatial distribution of agricultural cropland extent and areas of South Asia for the Global Food Security-support Analysis Data (GFSAD) project. A comparison of the results with national statistics shows good correlation.

The project has helped improve previously published maps by using high-resolution remote sensing data acquired from multiple satellite instruments. GFSAD estimates also show that irrigated land accounted for 400 million hectares.

The project is a collaboration between the United States Geological Survey (USGS), NASA, Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, University of New Hampshire, California State University Monterey Bay, University of Wisconsin, Northern Arizona University, ICRISAT, US Department of Agriculture, US Environmental Protection Agency, Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development and Google.

Dr Prasad Thenkabail, Research Geographer at the USGS, led the development of the GFSAD dataset with funding from the Making Earth System Data Records for Use in Research Environments (MEaSUREs) competitive program through NASAs Earth Science Data Systems Program. Dr Murali Krishna Gumma, Cluster Leader-Geospatial and Big Data Sciences, led ICRISAT’s effort.

The GFSAD collection, its algorithms, cropland products and statistics can be freely accessed at https://lpdaac.usgs.gov/products/gfsad30saafgircev001/.


Millet consumption survey provides largest baseline for India

The results of the first ever large-scale survey on millet consumption in India has been published, offering government, central and states and the private sector valuable insights into consumer trends to help further mainstream these nutricereals.

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Consumer survey about millets 

The results of the 15,500 face-to face survey, coordinated by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and reported in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, showed that improving health and wellness, weight loss and taste were the top reasons for those consuming millets in urban areas.

The survey undertaken in seven cities, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai, was conducted in 2017 and data recently analysed in detail form an important baseline to track the changing consumer views about millets as more efforts are being made to promote millets.

Ms. Joanna Kane-Potaka, the study’s first author and Assistant Director General (External Relations) and Executive Director of the Smart Food initiative at ICRISAT said that health awareness alone would not be enough to influence the population to consume millets.

“The report emphasized these insights to show the need for tasty products and simple recipes made from millets as well as the need for changing the image of millets,” said Ms. Kane–Potaka.

In observing the study, Dr Suresh K Malhotra, Commissioner of Agriculture, Government of India said “the data provides good insights and is a baseline that will be useful across India and the world when we prepare for exciting initiatives in the run-up to the International Year of Millets in 2023”.

Prof. Prabhu Pingali, Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board added that the survey was an example of the Institute working closely with Government to provide scientific agricultural and related information to inform good public policy.

“Government can play a critical role in creating the enabling environment for more diversified and healthier diets, like millets, and to make them more accessible and affordable for all sections of society.

“Understanding consumers and their desires and perceptions is critical in designing these policies,” said Prof. Pingali.

In concluding, Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT said it is imperative for millet promoting initiatives to reach the whole population as these crops offer a multitude of benefits.

“They help farmers build climate-resilience, contribute to environmental sustainability and offer a range of nutritional benefits, including addressing micronutrient deficiencies and helping manage lifestyle disorders such as diabetes,” said Dr Hughes.

“IIMR has been widely promoting the health benefits of millets and developing nutritious products. This survey further emphasizes consumer interest and the need to keep reaching out to spread the good news about millets and exciting new ways to eat them,” Dr Vilas A Tonapi, Director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Millets Research, said about the survey.

“The data indicates that the early adopters of millets are consumers with a health problem and so they search for solutions. Second are the people who are health conscious and interested in healthy lifestyles. However, to make a big impact it will be important to reach the masses across markets,” commented Dr S Anitha, one of the study authors and Senior Scientist-Nutrition at ICRISAT.

“As this survey was undertaken in urban shopping centers, future studies should obtain similar consumer data in rural and peri-urban areas to compare various consumer segments and to develop better understanding of millet utilization. Moreover, repeated studies should be conducted to track these changes over time and their influences on changing consumer behavior,” said Dr S Nedumaran, Senior Scientist-Economist, ICRISAT, and a co-author of the study.

Key survey results

  • The survey showed that health and wellness were the most common factors influencing consumption of millets in urban areas, with 58% of the interviewees attributing this to consumption.
  • The single largest reason for eating millets was due to a health problem with nearly 30% of the people stating this, and the next largest reasons being people wanting to lose weight and liking the taste (about 15% each).
  • However, there was a significant gap between people who were very or reasonably health conscious (91%) and those who were sure millets were healthy (40%). This showed a potential to increase consumption through awareness of the health benefits of millets.
  • The major reason the respondents did not eat (more) millets was that it was not eaten at home. This was expressed by 40% of the respondents, indicating the potential to have a multiplier effect of reaching many people if promotions can reach and influence the decision maker in the household. The other factors that deterred consumption include limited availability, high price and longer cooking time.
  • The survey also revealed that the most commonly eaten form of millets was in ready-to-eat products followed by porridge, consumed by 46% and 38% of the respondents, respectively. This represents an interest in modern convenience products as well as in easy to prepare traditional foods, hinting at market opportunities for products that are both convenient and culturally sensitive.
  • Interestingly, taste was observed to be another major reason why respondents both did and did not eat millets, indicating that health awareness alone will not be enough to influence the masses to consume millets. The report emphasized these insights to show the need for tasty products and simple recipes made from millets as well as the need for changing the image of millets.
  • When asked about their main source of health and food information, about 85% of the people in the survey listed social media and friends/family. Social media was the single largest source, with half of all respondents listing this as a source of information. This shows social media is indispensable to the efforts to reach consumers.
  • Although there was a considerable proportion of people consuming millets frequently (49.6% said they consumed one or more times per week), there was also a reasonable proportion of people who had never or almost never consumed millets (34.9% never consumed millets or consumed up to two times a year). Bengaluru led in terms of consumption frequency, reflecting its reputation for being a city with a liking for organic and health foods including millets and Karnataka was the first state to have a millet mission in India. Delhi had the lowest consumption frequency.

Note: This study is part of a Frontiers journal special research topic – Smart Food for Healthy, Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems.

For more information, please contact:

Rohit Pillandi at +91 9949513812 or p (dot) rohit (at) cgiar (dot) org


The new Konark Wheel at ICRISAT. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The new Konark Wheel at ICRISAT. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Iconic wheel sculpture graces ICRISAT grounds again

Grand structure created by renowned artist Raghunath Mohapatra.

Once again, the majestic ‘Konark Wheel’ stands proudly at ICRISAT’s Hyderabad campus. It replaces the earlier wheel that stood in place for 20 years. The new wheel was unveiled by Prof Prabhu Pingali, Governing Board Chair, and Dr Jacqueline Hughes on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day 15 August 2021.

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The Konark Wheel is a replica of one of the 24 great stone wheels of the ‘sun chariot’ at the Sun Temple at Konark, Odisha, on the east coast of India. The Konark Sun Temple has 24 such massive wheels carved along the walls of its base, each wheel being 9 ft 9 in in diameter and having eight spokes.

The Konark Wheel at ICRISAT is not just any sculpture. It is an emblem of the sun – the supreme source of energy. For an agricultural research organization such as ICRISAT, the significance of the sun is enormous: Without the sun, there is no agriculture.

Almost since the time of inception of ICRISAT in Hyderabad, the Konark Wheel occupied a prime spot on the campus. The previous Konark Wheel was inaugurated by Dr C Rangarajan, then Governor of Andhra Pradesh, on 29 January 2002. In October 2020, a spell of torrential rain damaged the previous wheel, necessitating replacement.

Given its iconic significance to the spirit of ICRISAT, it was decided that a new one would be commissioned. After much deliberation, it was decided that Dr Raghunath Mohapatra, a master sculptor from Odisha, would be helming the sculpting of the new wheel. Dr Arvind Padhee, Director, Country Relations, ICRISAT, played a key role in commissioning Dr Mohapatra, a recipient of the Padma Shri (1975), Padma Bhushan (2001) and Padma Vibhushan (2013), to recreate an exact replica of the wheel.

The height of the wheel is 10 ft 6 in, and along with a grand base with elephant carvings, it stands tall at 12 ft 6 in. Like the previous wheel, this too is carved out of red sandstone. There are intricately engraved details on the axel, the spokes and the rim of the Konark Wheel at ICRISAT. The carving was done in Bhubaneshwar and the wheel was assembled at ICRISAT, under the guidance of Dr Mohapatra’s eldest son Mr Jashobant Mohapatra and a team of artisans.

Tragically, Dr Mohapatra and his two sons, Jashobant and Prashant, passed away in May this year. Talking about the exemplary artistic skill of the master sculptor, Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, said, “This glorious wheel is probably one of the last sculptures of Dr Mohapatra. We pay tribute to him today and remember him as someone who created an emblem that will guide us towards progress and prosperity.”

To mark the occasion of Independence Day, after the unveiling of the Konark Wheel, the Indian tricolor was unfurled by Prof Pingali and Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General, ICRISAT. “We should be proud of the progress made by India, especially in agriculture, food production and food self-sufficiency,” said Prof Pingali. “We should celebrate the enormous gains that agricultural research from ICRISAT and the national programs, with the support of our partners and donors, has yielded in recent decades.” He said he was sure that existing challenges of hidden hunger, undernutrition and overnutrition could also be tackled if we continued to work with the same sense of commitment and enthusiasm as in the past.

Interesting trivia:

Dr C Rangarajan, who inaugurated the Konark Wheel at ICRISAT in 2002, also signed the series of Rs 10 notes, as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. These 10-rupee notes carried the image of the original Konark Wheel at Odisha.

Author:

Rajani Kumar
Sr Officer – Communications


ICRISAT Governing Board Chair inspects a sorghum panicle at a demo rainfed plot at the ICRISAT heritage watershed site. Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

ICRISAT Governing Board Chair inspects a sorghum panicle at a demo rainfed plot at the ICRISAT heritage watershed site. Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

On a mission to take on a bigger role in enhancing livelihoods, nutrition and climate resilience in the global drylands

The visit of ICRISAT Governing Board Chair Dr Prabhu Pingali provided an opportunity for staff at headquarters to present the organization’s work and accomplishments and update on the latest research in the pipeline. Interacting with the staff, Dr Pingali shared his appreciation on the work being done. His observations mainly centered on creating greater visibility for ICRISAT’s success and impacts, taking the lead in publishing research and aiming at a bigger role in the global drylands by contributing to greater food and nutrition security, improved livelihoods and climate resilience of smallholder farmers.

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Dr Pingali had broad discussions on different subjects with the leadership of ICRISAT – Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director General, Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General – Research, Mr Angshu Sen Gupta, Director Finance and Operations and Mr Kunal Sarkar, Interim Director Human Resources.

At ICRISAT’s ihub. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr Pingali also visited laboratories as well as research fields and had detailed discussions with scientists of different disciplines on research progress.  On day one, the tour started with Mr Ram Kiran Dhulipala presenting an overview of the work and innovations in Digital Agriculture. Answering a query from the Board Chair,  Dr Srikanth Rupavatharam cited the research publications authored by ICRISAT staff and mentioned the high-profile partners and universities ihub is collaborating with and the income-generating avenues that were created. He also spoke of the growing use of apps like Plantix and drone technology. Dr Pingali evinced keen interest in the digital products like the Meghdoot app developed for the Government of India to deliver weather information to farmers. He took time to watch live the ICRISAT M&E tool MEASURE. He appreciated the fact that ICRISAT’s digital products were in demand amongst other CGIAR centers and public-private partners.

Dr Pingali browses through the Soil Atlas Map developed for Odisha state, India, at the Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory.

Dr Pingali browses through the Soil Atlas Map developed for Odisha state, India, at the Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory.

At the Center for Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology, Ms Annapurna Chittikineni explained about the facilities and services at ICRISAT including providing low-cost genomic technologies to a range of crops in more than 20 countries. Dr Rachit Kumar Saxena explained in detail the contribution of genomic technologies with regard to ICRISAT crops in terms of productivity, disease resistance, nutrition, stress tolerance and rapid generation. He said that there is a growing demand to apply these technologies to other crops as well. On a query from the Board Chair about visibility of our work, Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director – Accelerated Crop Improvement, updated the Board Chair on publications in prestigious international journals and the global impact of ICRISAT’s work on integration of advanced genome discoveries in crop improvement.

At the Center for Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology.

At the Center for Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology.

The many success of the ICRISAT Development Center in scaling of proven technologies for holistic and significant transformation in the project sites through Natural Resource management and introduction of improved varieties were shared by Dr Kaushal K Garg, Dr KH Anantha and Dr Girish Chander. Successful initiatives with the Government of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and in the Bundelkhand region were shared. Mr Pushpajeet Lokpal Choudhari explained about the magnitude and importance of the soil analysis work at the internationally accredited Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory. The Board Chair browsed through the Soil Atlas created for Odisha state and a sample of the health cards distributed to farmers.

ICRISAT’s progress in modernizing breeding was detailed by Dr Harish Gandhi, emphasizing on the many merits of data-driven decision making for advancement of breeding material and rapid generation technologies.

Demonstration of a seed grader by the Crop Improvement Operations Team.

Demonstration of a seed grader by the Crop Improvement Operations Team.

Dr Sobhan Babu Sajja walked the chair through the process diagram from seed harvest to packaging of improved seed. A demo of the various machines for sorting and grading seed was followed by a peek into laboratories with restricted entry.

Emphasizing on the global importance of ICRISAT’s genebank work, Dr Vania Azevedo shared a detailed account of the wide and varied activities including the safety duplication at Svalbard Global Seed Vault. She spoke of the efforts being made to barcode all of ICRISAT’s accessions and the modernization and renovation that was being done at the cold storage units.

At the Rapid Generation Advancement facility.

At the Rapid Generation Advancement facility.

At the Rapid Generation Advancement facility, Dr Anupama Hingane informed that the facility with options for controlled light, humidity and temperature was unique to the public sector in India and can be availed by external agencies. She said that the RGA protocols developed by ICRISAT could shorten the time for developing breeding lines by almost two years.

Inside the Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection.

Inside the Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection.

The day ended with presentations by the Crop Protection team, Dr Rajan Sharma talked about the work of the Plant Quarantine unit and the various disease-screening procedures they follow to ensure safe germplasm exchange and their engagement with the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources. Dr Mamta Sharma gave an overview of the work at the Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection delineating the trend between rising temperatures and increased soil-borne diseases. Her work on the impact of high temperatures and carbon dioxide levels on decreased plant nutrition (especially iron and zinc) caught the interest of the Board Chair. Team members Dr Hari Kishan Sudini, Dr Jaba Jagdish and S Gopalakrishnan gave brief updates of their work.

At the genebank, Dr Vania Azevedo explains about the international standards that are maintained for seed packing and storage. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

At the genebank, Dr Vania Azevedo explains about the international standards that are maintained for seed packing and storage. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Field Visit on Day 2

Day two started with a visit to the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform. Dr Kiran Kumar Sharma briefly explained how the unit fosters public-private partnerships to bring science-based technologies, innovations, knowledge and products to the market for the benefit of smallholder farmers and the role of the Agri-Business Incubator and NutriPlus Knowledge Program for product development of nutritional foods and food safety initiatives. Ms Priyanka Durgalla explained about the various products developed by processors trained by ICRISAT in the Giri Poshana project that went into the making of the ‘’nutri-basket” distributed to women and children.Dr S Aravazhi informed that a similar approach will be implemented for the Walmart Foundation project.

Dr Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur during the visit to the Cell, molecular biology and trait engineering lab, shared updates on the aflatoxin research in groundnut, rancidity in pearl millet, Striga resistance in sorghum and improving protein content in pigeonpea. The Board Chair was shown the tissue culture lab and invitro tissue culture repository of the Genebank, where over 200 critical accessions of sorghum and pearl millet are being maintained for back-up and safety duplication as per international standards.

During the field visit, the Board Chair enquired about the yield of biofortified sorghum variety Dhanshakti and on the agroecologies suitable for finger millet cultivation. Highlighting an innovation for hybrid sorghum, Dr Harish Gandhi presented a poster on evaluation of Trifluoro methane sulfonamide to induce male sterility as an alternative to regular hand emasculations.

The success of pearl millet in the areas of mainstreaming nutrition, developing hybrids and fostering public-private partnerships was presented by Dr SK Gupta. The Board Chair expressed that successes like these have to be shared widely.

Dr Prakash Gangashetty talked about the super-early pigeonpea and showed on field the difference in vigor between promising short duration pigeonpea hybrids and normal varieties. He explained about the role of cytoplasmic male sterility in developing short duration pigeonpea hybrids for improving yield gains.

At the groundnut fields growing high-oleic varieties Girnar 4 and 5, Dr P Janila said that modern technologies have helped reduce the breeding cycle substantially. She mentioned about the growing demand for these varieties that come with health benefits and better shelf life. The keen interest shown by the Telangana Government to develop the value chain of these varieties reaffirmed the value of ICRISAT’s work.

Dr S Srinivasan in his presentation spoke on how breeding cycle time was drastically brought down in chickpea through Rapid Generation Advancement technologies leading to growing more than 6-7 crops in a year. He also spoke of the growing demand for machine-harvestable chickpea in India and Africa and the growing cultivation of chickpea in Africa.

Presenting a poster on product pipelines, Dr Ashok Kumar explained the advance planning that went into developing varieties and the continuous R&D that went into the breeding pipeline to create better replacements for existing varieties in line with market demand.

The field trip ended with a visit to the ICRISAT heritage watershed site. A lush rainfed sorghum crop intercropped with pigeonpea was standing in the field. Dr Kaushal Garg explained to the Board Chair how improved varieties when grown with good soil and water management practices give the best results. He said that the ICRISAT Development Center (IDC) creates the synergies for the coming together of crop research and agronomy, adding enormous value to the work of ICRISAT and resulting in enhanced yields and improved farmer incomes.

New varieties


New groundnut variety ‘Kalinga Groundnut-101’ (ICGV 02266) released in Odisha state of India. Photo: D Deshmukh, ICRISAT

New groundnut variety ‘Kalinga Groundnut-101’ (ICGV 02266) released in Odisha state of India. Photo: D Deshmukh, ICRISAT

Groundnut variety tolerant to drought and foliar fungal disease with superior haulm quality released in Odisha, India

After a gap of 14 years, Odisha state in India officially released a new groundnut variety ‘Kalinga Groundnut-101’ as an alternative to ‘Devi’, the ruling variety. Both the varieties are of ICRISAT origin. The new variety has a pod yield and kernel yield advantage of 12.1 % and 20.7% respectively. It is tolerant to drought, foliar fungal diseases, late leaf spot and rust. Studies show that the superior haulm quality has the potential to increase milk yield in cattle by 11%.

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Kalinga Groundnut-101 (ICGV 02266) was released by the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) at the State Varietal Release Committee (SVRC) meeting held in Bhubaneshwar on 9 Aug 2021. The state releases its own groundnut variety after 14 years. It released Devi (ICGV 91114) in 2007, which is now a popular variety in the state.

Kalinga Groundnut-101 is suitable for cultivation under residual soil moisture in post-rainy season, irrigated conditions of summer season, and can be grown in rainfed uplands during rainy season for the State of Odisha.  In the national-level All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Groundnut (AICRP-G) testing, the mean pod yield ranged from 2,234 to 4,167 kg/ha with a kernel yield of 1,616 to 2,979 kg/ha. The advantage over national check TAG 24 with pod yield and kernel yield is 34.5-45 %.  It is a medium duration variety maturing in 125-131 days in post-rainy season.

For on-farm testing, 45 “minikit” traits were conducted at Bargarh, Bolangir, Kalahandi and Ganjam districts of Odisha during the rainy season (minikits are on-farm trials, given by universities or government agencies to introduce or popularize the new variety). In these trials, Kalinga Groundnut-101 recorded a mean pod yield of 1,726 kg/ha. The pod yield range across the 45 minikits is 1,450-2,120 kg/ha)

The justification at the State Varietal Release Committee meeting for the release of Kalinga Groundnut-101 is as follows:

  • It is a suitable replacement for “Devi”, the ruling variety in the state, due to pod yield and kernel yield advantage of 12.1 % and 20.7% respectively
  • Tolerant to drought and foliar fungal diseases, late leaf spot and rust
  • Shelling outturn of 72% and kernel oil content of 50%
  • Medium-bold elongated kernels with light tan testa having 100 kernel weight of 46 gram
  • The leaves remain green up to harvest and fodder quality is good so it can be used to supplement cereal fodder (dual-purpose variety). The In Vitro Organic Matter Digestibility (IVOMD) is 65.2, similar to Devi variety (ICGV 91114).

Groundnut haulms are considered valuable for livestock in Asia and Africa. Research by ICRISAT and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has confirmed that one of the most important drivers for adoption is its contribution to milk production – on-farm trials showed cattle fed on ICGV91114 fodder gave an average of 11% more milk per day than those fed fodder from local cultivars. Yet another study at ILRI showed, the weight gain in sheep for different groundnut cultivars varied from 65 to 137 g/day indicating the value of groundnut fodder quality on livestock productivity.

Dr Janila Pasupuleti, Principal Scientist (Groundnut Breeding) and Flagship Leader of CRP-Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP-GLDC) noted that the collaborative work between ICRISAT and ILRI resulted in identification of groundnut lines with better haulm quality. The haulm quality assessment is now streamlined in breeding pipelines of ICRISAT’s mandate crops with the joint efforts of the two CRPs GLDC and Livestock.

Read more about our research on groundnut on EXPLOREit

Project: Scaling-up of Improved Groundnut Varieties through Established Seed System in Various Cropping Systems of Smallholder Farmers in Odisha

Funder: Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Government of Odisha

Co-funders: OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Tropical Legumes II (TL II) project, CRP-Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP-GLDC)

Partners: Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and ICRISAT

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger 17-partnerships-goals 

Capacity building


Participants at the science communication training at ICRISAT, Mali. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Participants at the science communication training at ICRISAT, Mali. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Training on science communication to engage funders and stakeholders

Communicating research findings to policy makers, peers and civil society is crucial for research uptake and development. To meet this goal, a one-day training session on messaging through newsletters and journal articles was held for participants of the International Training Programme on Climate Change – Mitigation and Adaptation of the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) at ICRISAT, Mali.

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Dr Benoît Govoeyi, Consultant at ICRISAT. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Dr Benoît Govoeyi, Consultant at ICRISAT. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Dr Assoumane Maiga, a consultant for the training, made a presentation on the specific case of communicating about climate. As climate change is a global problem with far-reaching implications, it is essential that messages on climate change are successfully communicated to many different groups he said. He emphasized on the importance of tailoring messages to suit different segments such as policy makers, peers and civil society.

Dr Benoît Govoeyi, a consultant at ICRISAT-West and Central Africa (WCA), focused on writing for scientific papers and journals and the need to contribute to the society to help cope with the challenges encountered by target communities. “How your findings provide a solution to the problems, how your results impact certain vulnerable social groups and how these results will benefit the target populations is important. The scientific work leading to your publication e.g., methodology of sampling, focus group discussion, data collection, analysis and references, determine the relevance of your paper,” he said.

Ms Agathe Diama, Head Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Ms Agathe Diama, Head Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Ms Agathe Diama, Head Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA, led the session on writing engaging articles for the ICRISAT newsletter Happenings. She spoke of the evolution of Happenings from being a weekly staff newsletter to growing into a newsletter telling donors and partners about the work at ICRISAT. The focus of Happenings is on partnerships, told through stories that highlight the work of partners with the farming community, farmers’ organizations, National Agricultural Research System partners, donors, other research organizations, universities and technical support organizations among others. The most preferred stories for Happenings, she said, are either on science advancements and/or on how this is achieving development and shared tips on conveying science in an interesting and engaging manner.

Quick tips for Happenings articles:

  • Use gender inclusive language and partner inclusive language at all times.
  • When reporting on important visitors/workshops/trainings, focus more on the substantive discussions that took place, any decisions taken, any plans formulated, etc.
  • Good photographs are important. Giving the right credits and getting the consent of the person or community featured is mandatory.
  • Finding a human interest angle is crucial.
  • Stories need to be backed by relevant scientific data.

Dr Nadine O Worou, Program Manager ICRISAT-WCA, emphasized on collaborative work for improving and adding value to scientific publications. “Students and researchers should not hesitate to collaborate as much-rewarded publications are known to be a result of team work,” she said.

ICRISAT and partners (Mali Meteo, Institut Polytechnique Rural de Formation et de Recherche Appliquée Katibougou (IPR-IFRA)) organized the training held on July 7 at ICRISAT-Samanko, Mali under the ASDI funding through the collaboration with SMHI. The training was coordinated by Dr Nadine O Worou.

Read more about climate change and dryland stresses on EXPLOREit

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
13-climate-action 


Screenshot of the virtual training for researchers in Pakistan.

Virtual training in the use of remote sensing for the agriculture sector in Pakistan

A virtual hands-on training program on developing geospatial maps for supporting insurance products using Google Earth Engine and semi-automatic techniques was conducted for participants in Pakistan as part of the project “Strengthening Post-COVID-19 Food Security and Locust Attacks”.

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The nine participants were from the PARC Agrotech company (PATCO) technical team and crop reporting service teams from Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan. They were introduced to remote sensing and its applications in agriculture. Hands-on training using Google Earth Engine (GEE), Image Processing Software – ERDAS 2015 and various automatic classification techniques was provided along with several applications for using these modern tools.

With the demand for crop insurance increasing in developing countries, it has become vital for stakeholders/policy makers to gain access to spatial information on crop type, crop health and stress at field level.

Crop insurance is an area that extensively uses crop type maps at various levels. Crop type and crop health maps generated using remote sensing technology are used to optimize the sampling of crop cutting experiment (CCE) locations. CCEs are the basis for crop yield estimation to determine crop loss. Crop acreage estimation at village/sub-district level helps in making informed decisions on claims of failed sowing and helps prevent ‘false insuring’ of more land than what is planted under a particular crop. The satellite-derived crop area statistics provide the basis for assessing national statistics and augment the decision-making and planning process by providing accurate information of even inaccessible areas. In addition to national-level assessments, the crop area and extent maps obtained from this classification technique can be used for village-level crop assessment for micro-level crop management and advisory.

Figure 1. Crop classification in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan.

Figure 1. Crop classification in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan.

The processing of high-resolution satellite imagery with the help of remote sensing techniques gives crop information, but takes time in processing the imagery manually. In order to get information in real time, machine-learning algorithms such as Random Forest and Support Vector Machines together with cloud computing platforms such as GEE provide updated high-resolution satellite imagery from Landsat and Sentinel-1&2. Processing the imagery using Google Earth Engine saves a lot of time.

This training included both automatic and semi-automatic techniques to monitor various themes such as crop type, irrigated vs. rainfed, crop stress, crop intensity and so on. To validate the importance of remote sensing, Dera Ismail Khan district was selected for a case study. Participants did the processing and crop classification using Sentinel-2 time series data and spectral matching techniques for the crop year 2020-21(Figure 1).

ICRISAT collaborated with PATCO and Research and Development Foundation, an NGO based in Hyderabad, Pakistan, for the training held from 26-29 July. The training was conducted by ICRISAT’s Geospatial Sciences and Big Data staff – Dr Murali Krishna Gumma, Cluster Leader, Mr Ismail Mohammed, Senior Officer – Data science and Mr Pranay Panjala, Scientific Officer-Remote Sensing.

Acknowledgments: We would like thank Ms Noriko Sato, Natural Resources Specialist ADB; Dr Takashi Yamano, Senior Economist, ADB for their support in organizing this training course.

Project: Äsian Development Bank’s TA 6663-PAK: Strengthening Post-COVID-19 Food Security and Locust Attacks, Pakistan
Funder: Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Partners: PARC Agrotech Company Private Limited LTD (PATCO), Research and Development Foundation (RDF), an NGO in Hyderabad, Pakistan and ICRISAT
CRP: Water Land and Ecosystems

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
17-partnerships-goals 

Announcement

Ms Anita Pirani joins ICRISAT as Director – Business Development

Ms Pirani joined ICRISAT on 23 August 2021. She has over 18 years of experience in international development leading teams in corporate business development strategy, business development practices, program design and implementation. Ms Pirani is adept at building and managing strategic partnerships with multiple stakeholders including governments, donors, NGOs, civil society, and private sector to work towards achieving a common objective. She has supported programs in over 21 countries and worked with over 10 NGO’s develop long terms growth strategies. She has supported organizations to win grants ranging from US$ 500,000 to US$ 300 million from both global and bilateral programs.

With a diploma in law from Leeds University and degree in International Relations from Wellesley College, Ms Pirani is excited to work to drive sustainable organizational growth and performance, and develop tools and resources to improve effectiveness of institutional business processes and staff capacity.


Photo: ICRISAT

Photo: ICRISAT

The benefits of investment in genomics research are manifold

The return on investment in crop genomics research is manifold but to realize the full potential and reap optimum benefits from it, there is a need for enhanced strategic investment in upstream research and enabling an environment for adoption of these technologies at large scale, Dr Rajeev K Varshney opined recently during a virtual talk.

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Speaking at the virtual regional workshop on “Investment in modern agricultural biotechnology and its socio-economic impact on livelihoods of farmers in Asia-Pacific”, Dr Varshney highlighted some of the key areas where genomics research has made or exhibits significant potential to make an impact. Some of those areas are: a) Higher produce and more income to farmers, b) Better nutrition to society, c) Generating or saving revenues to national governments, d) Faster varietal development with higher precision and lower cost, e) translating genomics intelligence from one crop to other crops and f) Environmental sustainability.  The workshop was organized by the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) under its Asia-Pacific Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology and Bioresources (APCoAB) program on 2 August 2021.

Genomics-assisted breeding (GAB) has delivered high-yielding varieties in several crops and adoption of such varieties can provide higher produce and more income to smallholder farmers. For example, the new chickpea varieties: PUSA (BMG) 10216 has shown a higher yield of 11.9% over PUSA 372, Super Annigeri-1 MABC-WR-SA-1 has shown increased yield potential of 7% over Annigeri-1 and PUSA Chickpea 20211 (aka Pusa Chickpea Manav) has recorded yield potential of 3915 kg/ha under wilt stress condition over the recurrent parent PUSA 391 which yielded 1877 kg/ha.

Similarly, Geletu, the first-ever high yielding chickpea variety developed through GAB and released in Ethiopia, has delivered the highest grain yield of 3822 kg/ha at Arsi Robe, Ethiopia, which translates into a yield advantage of 15% over the check variety ‘Teketay’ and 78% more than local check.

In the case of delivering higher nutrition for consumers and society, there are varieties developed through GAB that are delivering results on this front. For example, Girnar 4 and Girnar 5 groundnut varieties have kernel oleic acid content of about 80% (of total fat content) as against 40-50% in normal groundnut. Oleic acid reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (considered ‘bad’ cholesterol) and maintains high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels or ‘good’ cholesterol, making groundnuts healthier than they already are.

Similarly, in the case of maize, improved hybrids like PUSA Vivek QPM9, HQPM7 are provitamin-A rich hybrids and PMH1 and PMH6 are low phytate maize hybrids developed through GAB.

High-yielding varieties developed through GAB can enhance national crop production and the surplus produce can be exported to other countries, providing more revenues. For example, Basmati, high-quality rice has been the major agricultural export commodity in India that has earned foreign exchange to the tune of US$ 4.4 billion during 2019-2020. Improved Basmati rice varieties (Pusa Samba 1850, Improved Samba Mahsuri, DRR DHAN 42 and DRR DHAN 57) resistant to various diseases developed through GAB will be helpful to improve export revenue. On the other hand, high yielding GAB varieties can help countries save lower import costs.

With the adoption of GAB approaches in crop breeding programs, the time duration for each generation, which usually takes one generation per year in the field, can be advanced to 2-3 generations per year in greenhouses. Furthermore, with the Speed Breeding approach, this can be advanced to 4- 6 generations per year, by shortening the breeding cycle and rapid generation advancement, thereby ensuring faster varietal development in half the time it takes through traditional approach.

Secondly, GAB approaches are helpful to avoid/ minimize linkage drag through a precise selection of lines for a specific trait with the help of molecular markers and thus are cheaper as this saves costs incurred on generation advances/ field trials of larger populations.

Translating genomics intelligence from one crop to other crops is another important aspect of GAB approaches. For example, the genes in the pearl millet crop responsible for its ability to withstand a soaring temperature of over 420C and its exceptional drought tolerance can be used for improving heat and drought tolerance in other cereal crops like rice, maize and wheat. Similarly, in the case of legumes, the genome sequence of pigeonpea helped in the identification of one gene (CcRpp1) conferring full resistance to Asian soybean rust in soybean. Such examples show that a genome sequencing of one crop can be helpful not only in that crop, but can also serve as a resource for developing improved varieties with desired traits in other crop species.

Another important area where GAB can create significant impact is towards environmental sustainability. In traditional breeding approaches, the varieties are prone to biotic stresses like pest and disease, calling for treatment with several fungicides, insecticides and other pesticides, costing huge money and negative impact on the health of both humans and animals, loss of biodiversity and to the environment. All these can be minimized by deploying varieties that are resistant to biotic stresses and GAB has already delivered many varieties resistant to various biotic stresses in rice (bacterial wilt, blast, etc.), chickpea (Fusarium wilt) and other crops.

The above examples, highlighted by Dr Varshney during the talk, demonstrate that there are significant advantages of investing in upstream genomics research in the long term. However, to ensure the full potential of these advanced tools and technologies, there is a need for enhanced investment in R&D at both international and national levels. In addition, governments need to look at tools and technologies with a positive lens and create an enabling environment for faster and large-scale adoption.

Author:

Nilesh Mishra
Senior Scientific Officer, ICRISAT


ICP 7035. Photo: ICRISAT

ICP 7035. Photo: ICRISAT

A monk’s souvenir that became pigeonpea’s crown jewel

ICP 7035, a landrace of pigeonpea from India is a rare line with resistance to multiple diseases, is hardy and a consumer’s delight. Found by chance under unusual circumstances, the landrace has shown the importance of conserving biodiversity. Though It has proved to be a worthy cultivar and parent in breeding programs, scientists say its potential is yet to be fully tapped.

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When it was first found as an isolated pigeonpea plant nearly 50 years ago at a monk’s retreat alongside the Narmada, one of India’s longest rivers, no one knew what a fortuitous find ICP 7035 would prove to be. Among the few known lines resistant to all the major biotic production constraints of pigeonpea, this landrace has been overwhelmingly responsible for the crop’s cultivation in China, Fiji, India, Myanmar and Nepal, and it continues to be among the most-sought versions of the crop.

ICP 7035 was found during a germplasm collection trip organized by Dr Devendra Sharma who was the first pigeonpea breeder at ICRISAT. It was collected from Bhedaghat in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on 8 April 1974, about two years after ICRISAT’s establishment. It was given the identification number “7035” on its arrival at the ICRISAT Genebank two months later. Pigeonpea is said to have originated in Madhya Pradesh.

Dubbed “green plague” in South Asia, Sterility Mosaic Disease (SMD) renders infected pigeonpea plants sterile and inhibits flower production. SMD is known to lay waste to entire fields. Though known for many decades, the disease’s cause, the Pigeonpea Sterility Mosaic Virus (PPSMV), was discovered only in 2000. Interestingly, ICP 7035 could resist multiple strains of PPSMV, including the virulent Bengaluru strain.

The landrace was released as cultivars in Fiji (Kamica), China (Guimu 4) and Indian states like Telangana and Karnataka where PPSMV is endemic, the authors of a recently published article note. The article pays tribute to former ICRISAT scientists, the late Drs Devendra Sharma and L Janardan Reddy, who were instrumental in ICP 7035’s discovery, by naming them authors.

Other traits of ICP 7035 that made it desirable both as a cultivar and a trait donor in pigeonpea crop improvement are resistance to stem blight, powdery mildew, halo blight and leaf spot disease. It was found to tolerate infestation by Helicoverpa pod borer and the pod fly Melanagromyza obtusa. It is a dual-purpose variety as it can be used as both a vegetable and dal (dried and split for easy cooking). When green, it packs a high soluble sugar content (around 77% higher than other vegetable pigeonpea cultivars) which is a consumer- and market-preferred trait.

The abnormal structure of ICP 7035’s flowers restricts out-crossing. Cross-pollination is a threat to genetic purity and pigeonpea is easily cross-pollinated. The landrace’s low potential to outcross adds to its attraction.

“It is important to point out that ICP 7035 is a precious genetic stock of pigeonpea. It is an ideal donor for broad-based PPSMV resistance breeding. In this context, resistant cultivars should be bred at a rapid speed for one or more biotic constraints. This can be accomplished by integrating some latest molecular tools in the breeding programmes,” the authors of the article concluded while advocating tapping the full potential of the landrace in pigeonpea improvement.

The article titled “A unique pigeonpea landrace with multiple properties” was authored by former ICRISAT pigeonpea breeder Dr KB Saxena and Principal Scientist Dr Rakesh Srivastava, and was published in the Journal of Food Legumes.

Authored by Rohit Pillandi. Rakesh Srivastava contributed to the writing of this article.

Publications

Identifying anti-oxidant biosynthesis genes in pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.] using genome-wide association analysis

Authors: Yadav CB, Tokas J, Yadav D, Winters A, Singh RB, Yadav R, Gangashetty PI, Srivastava RK and Yadav RS

Published: Frontiers in Plant Science (TSI), 12. pp. 1-13. ISSN 1664-462X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11869

Development of sorghum genotypes for improved yield and resistance to grain mold using population breeding approach

Authors: Aruna C, Das IK, Reddy PS, Ghorade RB, Gulhane AR, Kalpande VV, Kajjidoni ST, Hanamaratti NG, Chattannavar SN, Mehtre S, Gholve V, Kamble KR, Deepika C, Kannababu N, Bahadure DM, Govindaraj M and Tonapi VA

Published: Frontiers in Plant Science (TSI), 12 (687332). pp. 1-19. ISSN 1664-462X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11870

Designing future crops: Genomics-assisted breeding comes of age

Authors: Varshney RK, Bohra A, Yu J, Graner A, Zhang Q and Sorrells ME

Published: Trends in Plant Science (TSI), 26 (6). pp. 631-649. ISSN 1360-1385

http://oar.icrisat.org/11871

Rural aspirations: Reflections for development planning, design and localized effects

Authors: Mausch K, Harris D and Revilla Diez J

Published: The European Journal of Development Research (TSI), 33 (4). pp. 795-808. ISSN 0957-8811

http://oar.icrisat.org/11872

Effects of Maruca vitrata multi-nucleopolyhedrovirus and neem oil, Azadirachta indica Juss on the eggs of the cowpea pod borer, Maruca vitrata Fabricius (Lepidoptera: Crambidae)

Authors: Traoré F, Waongo A, Ba MN, Dabiré C, Sanon A, Tamò M and Pittendrigh BR

Published: International Journal of Tropical Insect Science (TSI), 39 (4). pp. 333-339. ISSN 1742-7592

http://oar.icrisat.org/11873

Modelling small-scale storage interventions in semi-arid India at the basin scale

Authors: Horan R, Wable PS, Srinivasan V, Baron HE, Keller VJD, Garg KK, Rickards N, Simpson M, Houghton-Carr HA and Rees HG

Published: Sustainability (TSI), 13 (11). pp. 1-28. ISSN 2071-1050

http://oar.icrisat.org/11874

Global transcriptome profiling identified transcription factors, biological process and associated pathways for pre-harvest aflatoxin contamination in groundnut

Authors: Soni P, Pandey AK, Nayak SN, Pandey MK, Tolani P, Pandey S, Sudini HK, Bajaj P, Fountain JC, Singam P, Guo B and Varshney RK

Published: Journal of Fungi (TSI), 7 (6). pp. 1-18. ISSN 2309-608X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11875

Single seed-based high-throughput genotyping and rapid generation advancement for accelerated groundnut genetics and breeding research

Authors: Parmar S, Deshmukh DB, Kumar R, Manohar SS, Joshi P, Sharma V, Chaudhari S, Variath MT, Gangurde SS, Bohar R, Singam P, Varshney RK, Janila P and
Pandey MK

Published: Agronomy (TSI), 11 (6). pp. 1-15. ISSN 2073-4395

http://oar.icrisat.org/11876

Molecular genetic diversity and population structure in Ethiopian chickpea germplasm accessions

Authors: Getahun T, Tesfaye K, Fikre A, Haileslassie T, Chitikineni A, Thudi M and Varshney RK

Published: Diversity (TSI), 13 (6). pp. 1-15. ISSN 1424-2818

http://oar.icrisat.org/11877

Temperature and soil moisture stress modulate the host defense response in chickpea during dry root rot incidence

Authors: Sharath Chandran US, Tarafdar A, Mahesha HS and Sharma M

Published: Frontiers in Plant Science (TSI), 12 (653265). pp. 1-15. ISSN 1664-462X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11878

Variability and trait-specific accessions for grain yield and nutritional traits in germplasm of little millet (Panicum sumatrense Roth. Ex. Roem. & Schult.)

Authors: Vetriventhan M, Upadhyaya HD, Azevedo VCR, Allan V and Anitha S

Published:  Crop Science (TSI), 61 (4). pp. 2658-2679. ISSN 0011-183X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11879

Understanding farmers’ trait preferences for dual-purpose crops to improve mixed crop-livestock systems in Zimbabwe

Authors:  Melesse MB, Tirra AN, Ojiewo CO and
Hauser M

Published: Sustainability (TSI), 13 (10). pp. 1-20. ISSN 2071-1050

http://oar.icrisat.org/11864

Dissection of the genetic basis of yield-related traits in the Chinese peanut mini-core collection through genome-wide association studies

Authors: Zhou X, Guo J, Pandey MK, Varshney RK, Huang L, Luo H, Liu N, Chen W, Lei Y, Liao B and Jiang H

Published: Frontiers in Plant Science (TSI), 12 (637284). pp. 1-14. ISSN 1664-462X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11865

Genomics and breeding innovations for enhancing genetic gain for climate resilience and nutrition traits

Authors: Sinha P, Singh VK, Bohra A, Kumar A, Reif JC and Varshney RK

Published:  Theoretical and Applied Genetics (TSI), 134 (6). pp. 1829-1843. ISSN 0040-5752

http://oar.icrisat.org/11866

Understanding the aspirations of farming communities in developing countries: A systematic review of the literature

Authors: Nandi R and Nedumaran S

Published: The European Journal of Development Research (TSI), 33 (4). pp. 809-832. ISSN 0957-8811

http://oar.icrisat.org/11867

The effect of women’s nutrition knowledge and empowerment on child nutrition outcomes in rural Ethiopia

Authors: Melesse MB

Published: Agricultural Economics (TSI). pp. 1-17. ISSN 0169-5150

http://oar.icrisat.org/11868

Extent and management of acid soils for sustainable crop production system in the tropical agroecosystems: A review

Authors:  Agegnehu G, Amede T, Erkossa T, Yirga C, Henry C, Tyler R, Nosworthy MG, Beyene S and Sileshi GW

Published: Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B — Soil & Plant Science (TSI). pp. 1-18. ISSN 0906-4710

http://oar.icrisat.org/11858

Identification of new sources of resistance to dry root rot caused by Macrophomina phaseolina isolates from India and Myanmar in a mungbean mini-core collection

Authors: Pandey AK, Yee M, Win MM, Moh Lwin HM, Adapala G, Rathore A, Sheu ZM and Nair RM

Published: Crop Protection (TSI), 143. pp. 1-12. ISSN 0261-2194

http://oar.icrisat.org/11859

Better before worse trajectories in food systems? An investigation of synergies and trade-offs through climate-smart agriculture and system dynamics

Authors: Jagustović R, Papachristos G, Zougmoré RB, Kotir JH, Kessler A, Ouédraogo M, Ritsema CJ and Dittmer KM

Published:  Agricultural Systems (TSI), 190 (103131). pp. 1-15. ISSN 0308-521X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11860

Deciphering genotype-by-environment interaction for target environmental delineation and identification of stable resistant sources against foliar blast disease of pearl millet

Authors: Sankar SM, Singh SP, Prakash G, Satyavathi CT, Soumya SL, Yadav Y, Sharma LD, Rao AR, Singh N and Srivastava RK

Published: Frontiers in Plant Science (TSI), 12 (656158). pp. 1-18. ISSN 1664-462X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11861

Construction of a high-density genetic map and QTL analysis for yield, yield components and agronomic traits in chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.)

Authors: Kulwal PL, Barmukh R, Soren KR, Madugula P, Gangwar P, Shanmugavadivel PS, Bharadwaj C, Konda AK, Chaturvedi SK, Bhandari A, Rajain K, Singh NP, Roorkiwal M and Varshney RK

Published: PLOS ONE (TSI), 16 (5). pp. 1-18. ISSN 1932-6203

http://oar.icrisat.org/11862

Regulatory non-coding RNAs: a new frontier in regulation of plant biology

Authors: Bhogireddy S, Mangrauthia SK, Kumar R, Pandey AK, Singh S, Jain A, Budak H, Varshney RK and  Kudapa H

Published: Functional & Integrative Genomics (TSI), 21 (3-4). pp. 313-330. ISSN 1438-793X

http://oar.icrisat.org/11863

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