February
Issue No: 1750
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In the media


Wild crops could save chickpeas from being blitzed, scientists say

They are nutritious, versatile and a dietary staple for millions of people from South Asia to Ethiopia, but scientists have warned that the humble chickpea is under threat from climate impacts such as higher temperatures, drought and pests.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/wild-crops-could-save-chickpeas-from-being-blitzed-scientists-say/

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The key to saving the chickpea could lie with a project cross-breeding domestic and wild varieties – found only in southeastern Turkey near the border with war-torn Syria – said a study published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

Unlike domestic crops, which receive dedicated care in the form of fertilisers and pesticides, their wild relatives are able to adapt to changing conditions, according to scientists.

“It will take another five years before it’s in the hands of a farmer in Ethiopia … but we are well on the road to being there,” Eric J. B. von Wettberg, a plant geneticist at the University of Vermont, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He said researchers were working with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), an India-based agricultural research body, to ensure that the resilient seeds make it to market once they are available.

About one in five people globally depend on legumes such as chickpeas as their primary source of protein, Von Wettberg said.

He called for better protection for and conservation of wild varieties of crops, which could have traits that would allow them to survive and thrive under climate pressures.

“They (wild crops) may be our most potent weapon against climate change,” said Chikelu Mba, plant geneticist at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“They are irreplaceable,” he said by phone, adding that chickpeas were vital for nutrition in many developing countries.

Scientists are also assessing wild rice varietals to combat climate change, with one species growing in northern Australia’s crocodile-infested waters raising hope for a more nutritious grain that is drought- and pest-resistant.


Government may adopt digital tech to reach small-scale farmers

To address numerous challenges bedeviling small scale farming in the country, the Federal Government may adopt phygital technology to reach farmers across the country.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/government-may-adopt-digital-tech-to-reach-small-scale-farmers/

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The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Bukar Hassan, while speaking during the presentation of the phygital smallholder value chains technology in Abuja harped on the need to provide extension services for small scale farmers.

He said: “If we want the small scale farmers find its right foot place in Agriculture, we must do exactly what we are saying here; we must provide the Farmer extension services, the knowledge he will need to evolve his farming skills from subsistence to commercial farming, and I believe this technology would help us solve so many problems”.

The Director General, Manobi Daniel Annerose said the project to be implemented in collaboration with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropic (ICRISAT), said the aim of the project is to reach 100,000 farmers before the end of 2018, and reach 50million farmers across Africa by 2020. The the project would monitor the production process to harvesting, transportation till it get to the final consumer.

Disclosing that the project has kicked of with an initial investment of $800,000, he said that the overall plan is to invest $50million within the next two years to enroll one million farmers and prepare the recruitment of 50million farmers in the next five years. He added that project would also ease financial lending to farmers as commercial banks would be provided

The Director, Research and Development Digital Agriculture Manobi, Pierre Sibery Traore, explained that the initiative is divided into two phases of agcelerant and phygital technology. He added that the agcelerant is the value chain orchestration platform that helps link smallholders farmers to financial services, insurance, offtakers that is agro industries, agro advisors and giving them technical support on how to meet their production target.

He said the essence of the project is to ensure the safe inclusion of the small scale farmers to the World Food Market stressing that because of the size of Nigeria economy the country would be a major supplier of food to the world in the coming decade and there is the need to set in motion the phygital infrastructure to make it happen.

Traore further explained that the organization is also launch the Nurturing Africa Digital revolution for Agriculture (NADIRA), explaining that the purpose was to embed in phygital agriculture the use of advance satellite technology.

He said they are working with the European Space Agency who have develop a system that has some satellite updating the earth and providing free data for up to 10meters for every five days all over the world.

He said the data would help monitor crop response in smallholder field in aerial time and embed the data stream into mobile telephoning and otherphygital infrastructure.

Feature stories


The Government of Maharashtra and a consortium led by ICRISAT have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a bold initiative for science-led development of agriculture in the drought-prone drylands of Vidarbha Region of the state.

The Government of Maharashtra and a consortium led by ICRISAT have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a bold initiative for science-led development of agriculture in the drought-prone drylands of Vidarbha Region of the state.

Government of Maharashtra and ICRISAT-led coalition to double farmer incomes by 2022

The project will benefit an estimated 55,000 farmer families directly and over 200,000 families indirectly through a wider spill-over effect leading to a doubling of family incomes over the next five years. The initiative comes in the wake of a recent announcement of a roadmap by the Government of India to target doubling of farmer incomes by 2022 across the country.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/government-of-maharashtra-and-icrisat-led-coalition-to-double-farmer-incomes-by-2022/

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The agreement was signed in the presence of Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis. Dr Peter Carberry, DDG, ICRISAT, and Dr Suhas Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center, attended the signing ceremony during ongoing Magnetic Maharashtra: Convergence 2018 event in Mumbai. The event was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 March.

“The project is driven by a partnership with research institutions, agricultural universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, non-governmental organizations, farmer organizations and private companies to bring holistic, participatory science-based solutions and technologies to the doorsteps of the farmers,” said Dr Wani.

The project will take a twin-pronged approach, involving scaling up of proven technologies and climate-resilient practices in 11 districts reaching 200,000 farmer families through a wider impact. The focus will be on an integrated livelihood approach in the selected districts through science-led development. New science tools like satellites, weather forecasting, crop and water balance simulation models and IT-based solutions will be used to help farmers make climate-smart decisions for better results.

Agroecozone-based land use planning and market-led crop diversification including high-value crops to benefit farmers through a value chain approach will be adopted.

On the whole there will be an emphasis on profitability, value addition and linking farmers to markets directly for enhanced incomes, improved family nutrition, and sustainable development.

Also reported at:

Maharashtra govt, ICRISAT-led consortium ink MoU for Vidarbha agri devpt

Project: KISAN MITrA: Doubling Farmers’ Income in Vidarbha Region, Maharashtra (11 districts in Vidarbha region)

Funder: Project on Climate Resilient Agriculture (POCRA), Government of Maharashtra

Partners: Research institutes, agricultural universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, NGOs, Farmer organizations, private companies, and ICRISAT


Dr Hari D Upadhyaya with a personalised award featuring artwork by Sophie Munns. Photo: The Crop Trust

Dr Hari D Upadhyaya with a personalised award featuring artwork by Sophie Munns. Photo: The Crop Trust

Crop diversity takes centerstage with 10th anniversary of Svalbard Global Seed Vault

ICRISAT scientist receives global Legacy Award for contribution towards protection of crop diversity

Dr Hari D Upadhyaya from ICRISAT, India, has received the global Legacy Award, along with six other scientists, for exceptional contribution through his life's work on the preservation of crop diversity.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/crop-diversity-takes-a-center-stage-with-10th-anniversary-of-svalbard-global-seed-vault/

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Seven scientists who received the inaugural Legacy Award for dedicating their careers to crop conservation. Photo: The Crop Trust

Seven scientists who received the inaugural Legacy Award for dedicating their careers to crop conservation. Photo: The Crop Trust

“This award is unique as it recognizes ICRISAT’s work not only in conservation of germplasm for the global community but also our unparalleled efforts in making this diversity usable through outstanding research. ICRISAT has deposited over 111,000 accessions of its mandate crops and five small millets at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault,” Dr Upadhyaya said.

“Conservation of crop diversity is critical to safeguarding the future generation seeds and crops that would otherwise be lost to humanity. It is critical to work tirelessly and relentlessly, as we owe this to the future generation. I am humbled by this honor and happy for the recognition for fellow ‘gatekeepers’ of crop diversity,” he added.

Dr Upadhyaya is currently based at ICRISAT’s headquarter in Hyderabad as Head, Genebank, and Principal Scientist. ICRISAT’s Genebank initiative works to address the challenges of climate change, desertification, land degradation and a host of other factors that threaten to impact the productivity and resilience of crops in the drylands, with severe consequences for food security. Evaluating germplasm for traits of economic importance and using them in crop improvement programs with the help of modern tools can stave off hunger and preserve crop diversity for the future.

The award was formally conferred in Svalbard, Norway, today (25 February) to coincide with the latest shipments of more than 70,000 seeds to the iconic Seed Vault. These will take the total number of seed samples deposited there over the last decade to more than one million. Deposits are made by genebanks from all over the world, to back up their own collections safely and securely.

Several of the Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients have made an invaluable contribution to the vitally important genebanks of CGIAR, which conserve and share hundreds of thousands of seeds of food and forage crops. Duplicates of seeds from CGIAR genebanks make up the majority of varieties currently backed up in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The full list of Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients includes:

  • Daniel Debouck– International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia
  • Jean Hanson– International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ethiopia
  • Ahmed Amri– International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Morocco
  • Hari D Upadhyaya– International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India
  • Dave Ellis– International Potato Center (CIP), Peru
  • Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton– International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippines

In addition, a Legacy Award will also be given to Cary Fowler. Cary was one of the visionaries of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and worked tirelessly for its creation. He is currently a special advisor to the Crop Trust after serving as the organization’s Executive Director from 2007-2012, a period that saw the Vault being designed and constructed, as well as receiving its first shipments of seeds in 2008.

Also reported at:

ICRISAT scientist bags Global Legacy award

ICRISAT scientist receives global award


Participants at the sorghum fields to demonstrate the progress made by ICRISAT in developing feedstock for 1G and 2G biofuel production. Photo: ICRISAT

Participants at the sorghum fields to demonstrate the progress made by ICRISAT in developing feedstock for 1G and 2G biofuel production. Photo: ICRISAT

Companies, Government and ICRISAT to work together to meet the Indian Government’s biofuel target

A unique partnership of large corporates, the government and ICRISAT will work towards 2G biofuel plant feedstock planning and production for India’s upcoming 12 biofuel plants. Each plant has an outlay of ` 7.5 billion (USD 115,245,000) with a production capacity of 100,000 liters of ethanol per day.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/large-corporate-government-and-icrisat-to-work-together-to-meet-the-indian-governments-biofuel-target/

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As India does not have enough ethanol to blend with gasoline (petrol) to meet its blending targets (20% by 2017), 12 ligno-cellulosic biofuel plants are being set up, said Mr YB Ramakrishna, Chairman, Working Group on Biofuels, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India. He said the goal of the Government is to:

  • Promote biofuel production and utilization
  • Reduce crude oil and petroleum products imports
  • Increase self-reliance in transportation fuels
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are considered as a trusted research for development partner in feedstocks development and taking technologies to farmers for ensuring sustainable feedstocks production for the success of the 2G biofuel program,” said Dr A Ashok Kumar, Principal Scientist, Asia Program, ICRISAT.

Biofuel processing technologies presented by private companies reviewed

Various private companies from India and abroad made presentations on processing technologies available for biofuel production in 2G plants at a meeting held at ICRISAT. The monthly meeting of the Working Group was also held to review the progress of 2G biofuel plants establishment and other initiatives in the biofuels front.

Progress made by ICRISAT in developing biofuel feedstock

Participants of the workshop were taken to the sorghum fields and shown the progress made by ICRISAT in developing feedstock for 1G and 2G biofuel production. The genetic enhancement work done in improving the stalk yield, juice yield, percentage of sugar (brix) and ethanol yield were showcased to the group along with the efforts in commercialization of feedstock for biofuel production (Umakanth and Ashok Kumar 2016; Ashok Kumar et al., 2010 and Reddy et al., 2008).

Demonstrations were held on measurement of brix content in the field and the breeding methods followed to protect the grain yield while improving sorghum for biofuel traits so that farmers can get dual income from stalks and grain.

High biomass sorghum that gives higher ethanol yield and stands at a height greater than 4 m was shown to the group. Sorghum produces high biomass per unit of time, land, water, nutrient vis-a-vis other known 2G biofuel feedstock like sugarcane, paddy, corn and switch grass. The low-lignin containing brown midrib (bmr) introgression lines that increase the recovery of biofuel and reduce the cost of production were also shown (Castro et al., 2017).

Characteristics of sweet/high biomass sorghum that makes it a viable source for ethanol production.

As a crop As an ethanol source As bagasse
  • Shorter gestation period (3−4 months compared to 12-16 months in sugarcane)
  • Dryland crop
  • (Water requirement of 8000 m3 over two crops compared to 36,000 m3 over one crop)
  • Greater resilience
  • Farmer friendly
  • Meets fodder/food needs
  • Non-invasive/least invasive species
  • Low soil NO2/CO2  emission
  • Seed propagated
  • Eco-friendly process
  • Superior quality
  • Less sulfur
  • High octane
  • Automobile friendly
  • (up to 25% of ethanol
  • petrol mixture)
  • Higher biological value
  • Rich in micronutrients
  • Use as feed/for power
  • cogeneration/
  • biocompost

Source:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313114771_Sweet_sorghum_as_a_biofuel_crop [accessed Feb 23 2018].

How smallholder sorghum farmers will benefit

ICRISAT is striving to improve the market opportunities for drylands farmers and the 2G biofuels initiative offers a major platform for using sorghum, one of the mandate crops, as feedstock for commercial biofuel production. Each 2G plant needs close to 500 tons of feedstock per day and considering the average landholdings of 1 ha, 500 farm families get benefited per day by supplying stalks to 2G plant. In a year, the 2G plant operates for 300 days and directly benefit 150,000 farm families. For 12 plants the beneficiaries will be 1.8 million farm families. This partnership is unique and win-win for all the parties involved.

The workshop was held on 20 February at ICRISAT and was organized by the Working Group on Biofuels, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas with funding support from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.

For more information on biofuels visit ICRISAT’s EXPLOREit science portal

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal
6-affordable-energy 7-decent-work 8-industry-innovation 11-sustainable-cities 13-climate-action 17-partnerships-goals 


(L to R): Ms. Tgist, Dr Eyasu Abraha Alle, Dr Nigel Kirby, Dr Tilahun Amede and Dr David Bergvinson at the launch of Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals CRP in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

(L to R): Ms. Tgist, Dr Eyasu Abraha Alle, Dr Nigel Kirby, Dr Tilahun Amede and Dr David Bergvinson at the launch of Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals CRP in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

Partnering to strengthen value chain: Key focus at the launch of global program for grain legumes and dryland cereals

Over 150 participants from 25 countries met to identify better models for partnering as part of the launch meeting of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC). Dr Peter Carberry, Director of GLDC, set the framework from the start, underlining that the Program’s approach is how it can add value to what is already being undertaken. Linking initiatives and building on each other’s strengths will be a key focus of the approach.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/partnering-to-effectively-strengthen-whole-value-chains-key-focus-at-the-launch-of-a-global-program-for-grain-legumes-and-dryland-cereals/

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Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, H E Dr Eyasu Abraha Alle, who inaugurated GLDC, supported the value chain approach noting that, “grain legumes and dryland cereals are what have been termed as ‘Smart Food’ because they are: Good for you, Good for the planet, and Good for the farmer. However, they have received less attention and their value chains have not been as well developed. We need to do something different! Through partnerships like GLDC, we will build this whole industry from the consumer end and also develop the food processing industry and connect this right back to the farmers.”

He also challenged the team, “We have to work furiously for the drylands. Tackling the drylands means being climate smart. Grain legumes and dryland cereals are well adapted to the drylands and naturally nutritious. I challenge the CRP to come up with a strategy for the drylands of Ethiopia. These are Smart Foods and we need to diversify our diets with them.”

Jointly launching the Program was Dr Nigel Kerby, Board Chair, ICRISAT, who congratulated the whole team behind GLDC: “As Chair of the ICRISAT Board and on behalf of ICRISAT which has pulled together the partners and prospective for this Program, I take great pleasure in joining the 44 partner institutions and the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the launch of GLDC. I am very impressed by the commitment shown by the over 150 delegates at the launch, from many different disciplines and their belief in GLDC. I wish great success to GLDC over the next five years of the first phase.”

GLDC’s vision is to deliver improved rural livelihoods and nutrition by prioritizing demand-driven innovations to increase production and market opportunities along value chains. The program supports research for development purposes on six legumes (chickpea, cowpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, lentil and soybean) and three cereals (sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet). It will focus on the semi-arid and sub-humid dryland agroecologies of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The Program is a partnership of CGIAR centers, public and private organizations, governments and farmers worldwide.

United we stand: participants at the launch of GLDC.


Bhoosamruddhi is a perfect example of cross-sector partnerships to benefit the smallholder farmer in the vulnerable regions of the world

Bhoosamruddhi is a perfect example of cross-sector partnerships to benefit the smallholder farmer in the vulnerable regions of the world

Farmers, scientists and government design recipes for resilient and profitable agriculture in Karnataka

In order to improve livelihoods of struggling farmers in Karnataka, India, multiple CGIAR research centers came together to design and implement a long-term, multi-pronged strategy that was so successful that it was scaled up in several other regions and continued into successive phases. Farmer incomes increased by as much as 38% despite adverse climatic conditions and farmer-inclusive projects ensured sustainability.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/farmers-scientists-and-government-design-recipes-for-resilient-and-profitable-agriculture-in-karnataka-state/

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The first decade of this millennium, specifically between the years 2001 and 2008, was difficult for farmers in Karnataka state in southern India. Growth in the agricultural sector had been poor, with investors reluctant to pump any more money into the ‘losing proposition’ that was agriculture. Looking for answers, the state government approached ICRISAT, a member of the CGIAR System Organization.

In 2009-2010, ICRISAT proposed the Bhoochetana (Revival of the Land) initiative with the following:

  1. Creation of a State-Level Coordination Committee (SLCC), comprising of Secretaries of the State, Vice Chancellors of Agricultural Universities, and chaired by the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS). This Committee would have the power to make quick, abiding decisions that had to be implemented within a short stipulated period.
  2. Appointment of Farm Facilitators in each village – an active farmer who would be trained by an ICRISAT-led consortium to be the link between the Department of Agriculture and the farmers of his/her village.
  3. Starting with six districts initially, the farmland soils were tested for micro- and macronutrient deficiencies. Based on the ‘soil health report cards’ that the farmers received for their respective farms, they were provided subsidized fertilizers (micronutrients and secondary nutrients) that would improve the nutrient balance of the land.
  4. Effective monitoring and incentive-based rating systems were put in place to ensure complete adherence to the project procedures and goals.

After a successful pilot, the intervention was scaled up to the 30 districts of Karnataka. At the end of the first phase of the Bhoochetana project, over 4 million farmers had benefitted from the project, with their incomes increasing by 20-66%. From 2009–2012, the total benefits were over US$242 million, despite many districts being hit by drought consecutively in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The remarkable success of the Bhoochetana initiative spurred the Karnataka Government to try more science-based interventions in agriculture; but this time they wanted more institutions to contribute in a more diversified manner.

The result was Bhoosamruddhi (Prosperity of Land), started in the year 2015: a multi-stakeholder development project that converged the capabilities of more than five CGIAR centers of scientific research and innovation.

With ICRISAT acting as the connecting link, reputed CGIAR organizations viz. the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) joined in a multipronged approach that targeted several problem areas faced by farmers. Indian institutions such as the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research; University of Agricultural Science, Karnataka; Department of Agriculture and Department of Horticulture also collaborated in the consortium with the international institutes, providing vital resources and inputs into the local needs of the farmers.

Four districts in Karnataka – Tumakuru, Raichur, Chikkamagaluru and Vijayapura – were chosen as the sites for the pilot projects.

CIMMYT provided improved maize cultivars suited to the region, apart from sharing important technologies such as zero-till farming. Zero tillage is a way of cultivating crops without ploughing the soil every year. This technique helps rainwater to infiltrate the soil better, and also increases retention of organic matter, thereby improving soil quality. Machinery such as zero-till multi-crop planters, laser levelers, relay planters etc. benefited the farmers by reducing drudgery and increasing efficiency on the farm. CIMMYT scientists recommended a balanced application of nutrients tailored to the soil requirements of the region; farmers now knew exactly which fertilizer to use in which area of their fields, eliminating the earlier wasteful practice of sprinkling generic fertilizers all over the field.

IRRI introduced improved rice cultivars for high yields; water-saving techniques such as direct seeded rice (DSR); and integrated weed management, leading to great savings for farmers.

ILRI’s innovative feed assessment tools – FEAST and TechFit – gave smallholder farmers easy methods to assess the availability and usage of local feed resources. With the help of these tools, it was easy to plan the best use of available resources for feeding livestock and improving their marketability.

ICARDA focused on providing cheap and high-quality fodder to livestock owners so that their livestock did not suffer during the dry months. It introduced cultivation of thorn-less cactus; this variety of succulent cactus thrived even on degraded lands, providing high-moisture feed for the animals even in times of water scarcity.

WorldVeg helped farmers grow vegetables such as mung bean, tomato etc. after the major crop was harvested. It provided them with low-cost polyhouses for maintaining temperature and humidity in very high temperatures during summer. Farmers added to their income by selling these vegetables profitably.

Apart from acting as the networking hub between the various organizations and the local government, ICRISAT also brought in its homegrown technologies such as accelerated aerobic composting by the addition of a concoction of microbes to shredded organic material such as leaves and stems. It also enabled farmers to have a bigger say in the crops they grow by practicing farmer participatory varietal selection. Along with appropriate soil and water management practices like broad bed and furrows (BBF), soil-test based nutrient management including deficient micro- and secondary nutrients. Preparation of quality compost using vermicompost was demonstrated to and adopted by the farmers.

The result of the collaboration among this exemplary consortium of change agents has been astounding. The International Food Policy Research Institute, which assessed the success rate of the Bhoosamruddhi initiative in the four districts, surveyed 472 beneficiary and 502 non-beneficiary farmer families. It noted an increase of up to 38% in income of farmers in these pilot regions.

Designing a system for many farmers to adopt technologies, improved varieties or breeds and farming practices is a veritable science of delivery. Building multi-stakeholder partnerships, or what Dr Suhas Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center, calls ‘A consortium approach’, is critical to achieving significant development impact on the ground. Bhoosamruddhi is a perfect example of cross-sector partnerships for the benefits of scientific advances and innovation to trickle down to the smallholder farmer in the vulnerable regions of the world.

Project: Improving Rural Livelihoods through Innovative Scaling-up of Science-led Participatory Research for Development

Funder: Government of Karnataka

Partners: CIMMYT, IRRI, ILRI, ICARDA, WorldVeg, line departments of Government of Karnataka, and ICRISAT


Dr Chris Ojiewo visiting the groundnut field trials together with researchers from Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute, led by Dr Omari Mponda. Photo: C Ojiewo.

Dr Chris Ojiewo visiting the groundnut field trials together with researchers from Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute, led by Dr Omari Mponda. Photo: C Ojiewo.

Changing lives of smallholder farmers with innovations and partnerships: The Tropical Legumes Project

Innovative technologies for seed multiplication, increased farmer involvement in varietal selection processes, and information and training about efficient farm management practices have raised incomes as well as awareness of farmers in a rural region in Tanzania.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/changing-lives-of-smallholder-farmers-with-innovations-and-partnerships-the-tropical-legumes-project/

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A partnership between the ICRISAT-led Tropical Legumes Project and the Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA) in Tanzania was facilitated by the Naliendele Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in 2007, with one of the goals being to enhance groundnut productivity and production in Tanzania. As a result of this outstanding partnership, numerous farmers’ lives have changed for the better in Mnanje B Village in Nanyumbu District, Tanzania, under the ‘Naliende Crop Improvement Program’.

Earlier, it was very difficult for the farmers in the region to access early generation seeds, especially of self-pollinated legume crops. Seed companies also avoided investing in these crops because of poor rates of seed replacement by farmers. Under the program, the ASA produced and promoted the ‘orphan’ crop seeds, with a long-term goal of making the seeds available to all farmers across Tanzania.

In 2007, the second phase of the Tropical Legumes project (TL II) capitalized on the ongoing partnership between the villagers and the NARI. NARI had earlier introduced participatory varietal selection (PVS) in the region and the villagers benefited immensely due to it.

TL II enabled the farmers further by engaging them in deeper discussions about their preference of groundnut varieties and supplied them with the ones that were most suited to and most desired by the farmers. The program has excellent irrigation facilities installed under TL II, making it possible to have multiple production cycles per year. Adoption of improved varieties, together with integrated crop management practices, has contributed to increased groundnut productivity.

Farmer Pesa of Mnanje village was unemployed and poor, until the program trained him on groundnut seed production techniques. Today, he is a wealthy groundnut farmer who also owns livestock and multiple rental properties.

Students of Mnanje Primary School listen to Mr Agili Mrekoni talk about the Groundnut School Garden Program. Photo: C Ojiewo

Students of Mnanje Primary School listen to Mr Agili Mrekoni talk about the Groundnut School Garden Program. Photo: C Ojiewo

First from right Mr. Nyirenda and some of his fellow farmers in one of the TV program explaining importance of improved varieties in their district.

First from right Mr. Nyirenda and some of his fellow farmers in one of the TV program explaining importance of improved varieties in their district.

Farmer Helena Petro outlines education and awareness creation as the major non-commercial benefits of participating in PVS trials. Participating farmers get to try new better varieties before others and often are the first to receive the seed and replace the old, poor-yielding varieties. Today, the farmers’ group produces up to 25 t/season of Quality Declared Seed of the high-yielding varieties and Naliendele buys it from them at good rates for supplying to other, more remote regions.

The program has introduced a groundnut school garden program in Mnanje Primary School, wherein schoolchildren are taught the basics of groundnut crop production and they apply the knowledge in their parents’ home-gardens. The school receives groundnut seeds from Naliendele and uses the grain for food and for income. In a recent competition among schools, Mnanje was topmost groundnut producer in the district.

Mr Adam Abdnilahi Nyirenda from Maugula village in Masasi district produces Nachingwea, Mangaka and Naliendele varieties released in 2009. He sells groundnut to buy inputs for cashew nuts; he no longer waits for subsidy. He appreciates varieties released in 2009 as high-yielding, disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, early-maturing and highly marketable. After appearing on radio and television to discuss the agronomic traits of the new varieties, Mr Nyirenda now receives calls and orders for seed from across the country, including the Lake Zone, more than 1500 km away. He has established a network of more than 20 individual farmers in the village; they produce QDS seeds and jointly sell to different groups within and outside the district. In the 2016/2017 season, Mr Nyirenda and his network produced six tons of the Nachingwea variety of groundnut.

Tropical Legumes and its partnership with ASA/NARI has played a significant role in making groundnut the second largest crop after maize on the basis of area, in Tanzania.

Mrs Pesa and Mr Mathayo Danford display various training material.

Mrs Pesa and Mr Mathayo Danford display various training material.

For more information on our work done in Tanzania, visit ICRISAT’s scientific portal EXPLOREit.

For more information about groundnuts, visit ICRISAT’s scientific portal EXPLOREit.

Project: Tropical Legumes III

Partners: ICRISAT (lead), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and other National Agricultural Research Systems Partners (NARS) from 7 African Countries and ICAR- Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur, (U.P.), India

Funder: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CRP: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals 

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal
1-no-poverty 7-decent-work 17-partnerships-goals


Disease and salinity resistant pigeonpea, currently under evaluation, might soon reach millions of Indian farmers. PC: Michael Major/Crop Trust

Disease and salinity resistant pigeonpea, currently under evaluation, might soon reach millions of Indian farmers. PC: Michael Major/Crop Trust

Distant cousins of domesticated crops harbor traits to feed a hungry planet

Recently, scientists found that more frequent flooding caused by storm and rainfall along with erratic temperature are responsible for the resurgence of phytophthora blight, a devastating disease that weakens pigeonpea stems irrespective of soil types and cropping patterns. With climate change, new invasive pests and changes in the farming landscape, strategic pulses like pigeonpea can dramatically fail. Crop breeders race against time to develop varieties that can adapt or withstand new risks but are sometimes at a loss to find appropriate traits from the pool of cultivated germplasm. However, their distant cousins (crop wild relatives) may harbor the qualities needed by the food crop to cope against emerging threats.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/distant-cousins-of-domesticated-crops-harbor-traits-to-feed-a-hungry-planet/

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Finding sources of resistance in crop wild relatives

Pigeonpea is an important pulse cultivated mainly in rainfed marginal lands of Asia, Africa and the Americas on 7 million hectares with an annual production of 5 million tons. India alone accounts for 80% of the area and more than two thirds of the global pigeonpea production. One main reason yields are low is because varieties grown by farmers are no longer resilient to recurrent or new diseases like phytophthora blight. The insect pest, Helicoverpa armigera Hübner, commonly known as the ‘pod borer’ continues to be a threat to all grain legumes. Soil salinity is another constraint to pigeonpea productivity which impairs seed germination and plant development as domesticated pigeonpea has unfortunately lost much of its genetic diversity to tackle these issues.

Untouched by humans, wild relatives of domesticated crops have adapted to harsh environmental changes and have developed resistance/tolerance to diseases, insect pests and climate extremes. These attributes can be harnessed from the wild relatives and crossed with domesticated crops to develop what plant breeders call pre-breeding introgression lines (ILs), aiming at creating new varieties that are high yielding and more resistant to extreme climate.

The fungus causing phytophthora blight in pigeonpea affects the plant at any growth stage. In most cases the roots remain healthy but the stem weakens causing it to dry out and eventually break off. PC: Michael Major/Crop Trust

The fungus causing phytophthora blight in pigeonpea affects the plant at any growth stage. In most cases the roots remain healthy but the stem weakens causing it to dry out and eventually break off. PC: Michael Major/Crop Trust

With an evolutionary distance of over 3,500 years, crossing wild relatives with domesticated pigeonpea is a delicate affair and calls for an intervention by a meticulous “plantsmith”. First, desirable traits from crop wild relatives need to be identified. Then suitable domestic recipients have to be selected for crossing. In pigeonpea, “The bottleneck is due to cross-incompatibility between cultivated and wild species, the likely transfer of undesired traits (linkage drag), and sterility in interspecific crosses, thus making it difficult to directly utilize wild species in breeding programs,” explains Dr. Shivali Sharma, Theme Leader – Pre-breeding Genetic Gains Program, ICRISAT.

Enhancing genetic diversity through ‘pre-breeding’

Overcoming this bottleneck is an arduous and time-consuming (8-10 years) process which has kept the benefits of crop wild relatives under-explored and out of most crop improvement programs. At ICRISAT, scientists engage in ‘pre-breeding’, offering a unique platform to enhance the utilization of genetic diversity from crop wild relatives for the genetic improvement of legumes (pigeonpea, chickpea and groundnut) and cereals (finger millet and pearl millet).

Pre-breeding: a link between genebanks and plant improvement programs (Sharma 2017:1136)

Pre-breeding: a link between genebanks and plant improvement programs (Sharma 2017:1136)

For pigeonpea, considerable genetic diversity is present in the genus Cajanus and 562 accessions belonging to 68 wild species of Cajanus and related genera are conserved in ICRISAT’s RS Paroda Genebank. These wild species not only exhibit resistance/tolerance to phytopthora blight, pod borer and salinity but also offer desired traits such as early flowering, high number of seeds per pod and high seed protein content.

Using advanced backcrossing- a scientific method to transfer desirable traits from wild relatives into domesticated varieties, ICRISAT pre-breeding scientists have successfully developed several populations from wild species: Cajanus cajanifolius, C. acutifolius, C. scarabaeoides, and C. platycarpus. Shivali Sharma’s team in collaboration with pigeonpea breeders has evaluated these pre-breeding populations and identified promising high-yielding introgression lines (ILs). These are being further evaluated across locations in collaboration with National Agricultural Research System (NARS) partners in India.

“Some of these pigeonpea ILs (ICPL 15028, ICPL 15036, ICPL 15042, ICPL 15048, ICPL 15061, and ICPL 15067) have been included in the Initial Varietal Testing (IVT) of the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on pigeonpea across different locations in India. One specific line – ICPL 15028 – has exhibited resistance to three major diseases: sterility mosaic disease, wilt and phytophthora blight, and as a result it is now being used as a donor in national crossing programs of India for developing new disease-resistant varieties,” adds Dr Sharma.

The team has also identified promising lines to combat phytophthora blight and salinity. These lines have already been shared with the Regional Agricultural Research Stations (RARS) in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh and Warangal, Telangana, for on-field testing.

Farmers regularly visit the field trials to make their own assessment of the new varieties and discuss with scientists. “We planted 23 ILs obtained from ICRISAT along farmer-preferred pigeonpea check lines. We are very excited to see the results. The newly developed lines resulted in 10% more yield compared to the popular variety. They are not only early maturing and require less space but also have very long shooting branches with more pods, thereby increasing the overall yield,” says Dr Jagan Mohan Rao, Plant Breeder, RARS-Warangal, one of the NARS partners.

Scientists examine the long shoots of the newly developed pigeonpea lines at the Regional Agricultural Research Station in Warangal. PC: Michael Major/Crop Trust

Scientists examine the long shoots of the newly developed pigeonpea lines at the Regional Agricultural Research Station in Warangal. PC: Michael Major/Crop Trust

These are being evaluated across multiple locations in different agroecological zones to identify stable high-yielding lines. “Next year, we will scale-out the trials using the most stable line at the national and state level to conduct advanced varietal trials – an essential part of the new varieties release process,” adds Dr Rao.

Further research on transferring pod borer resistance traits from the wild Cajanus species into popular pigeonpea varieties is currently in progress at ICRISAT.

“It is critical to bring in beneficial traits that are not present in the domesticated crop genotypes and the pre-breeding work at ICRISAT is highly impressive,” says Dr Benjamin Kilian, Plant Genetic Resources Scientist from the Global Crop Diversity Trust while visiting the pigeonpea pre-breeding trials.

The three-year research project on pigeonpea improvement is supported by the Government of Norway and managed by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and is implemented by ICRISAT in collaboration with NARS partners at RARS-Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University, Warangal, Telangana; and RARS-Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.

About the authors

Dr Shivali Sharma
Theme Leader – Pre-breeding
Genetic Gains Program


Dr.phil. Sangeetha Parthasarathi
Senior Communication Officer, SMC


Looking beyond the big staples

Improving nutrition through diet diversification and better food systems is key to good health and for this, we need to look beyond the big staples, says Dr Prabhu Pingali in this video blog.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/looking-beyond-the-big-staples/

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“Defining pathways to link agriculture and nutrition are important to improving nutrition and augment livelihoods in the rural parts of India,” Dr Pingali adds. 

ICRISAT and the Tata-Cornell Institute are working towards developing innovative technologies and practical solutions through field-based projects, academic research and policy analysis to address this nutritional gap. 


Striga weed wreaks havoc on sorghum but can be managed through the ‘Integrated Striga and Soil Fertility Management’ strategy, boosting resilience and profit. PC: C Masiga, ICRISAT

Striga weed wreaks havoc on sorghum but can be managed through the ‘Integrated Striga and Soil Fertility Management’ strategy, boosting resilience and profit. PC: C Masiga, ICRISAT

Resilience over profitability: Could agricultural research deliver on both?

“Although in recent years we are inclined towards separating the two issues while designing research, reviewing our agricultural research for development over the past 45 years shows that it is possible for research to develop win-win technologies,” says Kai Mausch lead author of a ‘new study’ looking at how ICRISAT research could improve both farmers’ resilience and their incomes.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/resilience-over-profitability-could-agricultural-research-deliver-on-both/

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“Subsistence and market-oriented farmers have different production objectives in mind and need different types of technologies. Yet, in many cases a technology can increase both profits and resilience through on-farm interactions or small changes in the technology and develop it into a win-win solution for the household,” adds Dr. Mausch. It is clear that the distinction can never be absolute and subsistence-oriented households need cash income and market-oriented households need to be resilient to cope with external shocks.

Comparing past success stories compiled by ICRISAT with the current strategy as outlined in the first generation consortium research programs highlights the push towards a clear segregation of the two high level targets.

Of the 13 technologies described under the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) initiatives for Dryland Cereals and Grain Legumes which are led by ICRISAT, the study found that 75% focused on raising productivity and were targeted at market-oriented farmers.

Other technologies, for example, the heat-tolerant chickpea designed specifically to overcome climate extremes were targeted at subsistence-oriented farmers, suggesting ICRISAT’s tendency to separate the two issues and target groups.

Has the twin-track approach evolved?

If solutions and technologies are to be more effective to match the complexities and diversities of smallholder agriculture, institutional learnings should be factored into research. To assess this, 20 of ICRISAT’s self identified success stories were analyzed, revealing that 65% of the technologies enhanced resilience and 85% increased profits. However, 50% of the technologies significantly increased both resilience and incomes, making a case for developing win-win technologies.

While looking in more detail at the win-win technologies, it appears that once the solutions/technologies were released to address one target, they often evolved differently than originally intended, shaped by the context and experimentation by farmers.

For instance, the Integrated Striga and Soil Fertility Management strategy for pearl millet and sorghum used in Mali, West Africa showed that a strategy to increase resilience can also increase profits after being rolled out. The parasitic nutrient sucking Striga weed haunts sub-Saharan Africa with a potential of wiping out more than 50% of major cereal crops. In addition to Striga resistant seeds, the strategy combined intercropping with cowpea or groundnut, micro-dosing fertilizer, manuring with compost, and hand-pulling Striga when it flowers. The farmers soon identified the market opportunity to sell cowpea/groundnut as a secondary source of income and thereby increased their overall profits while enjoying a stable cereal harvest.

This example shows that although the technology was not designed to address resilience and incomes at the outset, due to experimentation by farmers and researchers, the technology got fine-tuned, eventually emerging as a win-win solution that delivered resilience as well as higher incomes.

“Most commodity CRPs want to see the commercialization of smallholder agriculture, viewing agriculture as a business venture. A view that has been encouraged by the funding community. The review process of the two CRPs led by ICRISAT urged scientists to link technologies to market-oriented and subsistence-oriented farmers separately. The outcome of this is yet to be seen, but it is likely to discourage broader thinking about technologies, their emergence in farmer fields and to detect win-win options,” Dr. Mausch added.

Another fall out from this divergence and from the increasing focus on market-orientation and profits lingers on, posing a larger societal threat. More and more resource-poor smallholder farmers, especially in the global drylands are facing new challenges introduced by extreme climate, environmental and institutional crises. Without relevant context-specific technologies to ensure their resilience in the short run and possibly help transition in a sustainable manner from subsistence to becoming self-sufficient and market-oriented, they run the risk of being left out of prosperity. Factoring in smallholder diversity including gender in agricultural research is highly important. Effective solutions for both groups are needed and keeping a look out for win-win technologies becomes even more critical.

The brand new CRP on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC) takes a systems approach to increase productivity, profitability, resilience, and marketability of critical and nutritious grain legume and cereal crops grown in the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and appears to have captured the lessons from the previous phase to heart.

The CRP on GLDC is an initiative of ICRISAT along with 8 CGIAR research centers and 46 partners from industry, government and civil society.

About the author

Sangeetha, Parthasarathi
Senior Communication Officer, SMC


The focus is now on the “profitability” rather than simply the “productivity” aspect of farming. (Express Photo/Praveen Khanna)

The focus is now on the “profitability” rather than simply the “productivity” aspect of farming. Photo: Praveen Khanna, ExprThe focus is now on the “profitability” rather than simply the “productivity” aspect of farming. (Express Photo/Praveen Khanna)

Agriculture policy: An actionable strategy to make doubling of farmers’ income possible

The Modi government has further launched a number of schemes for achieving sustainable agricultural growth. The focus is now on the “profitability” rather than simply the “productivity” aspect of farming.

The most vital point of the ambitious goal to double farmers’ income (DFI) by 2022 — the 75th year of India’s Independence — set by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the paradigm shift in the agricultural policy space that it entails. The focus is now on the “profitability” rather than simply the “productivity” aspect of farming.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/agriculture-policy-an-actionable-strategy-to-make-doubling-of-farmers-income-possible/

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The Modi government has further launched a number of schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil Health Card, Neem-coating of Urea and e-NAM (electronic National Agriculture Market) for achieving sustainable agricultural growth.

This article focuses on a few broad actionable strategies that the Centre as well as state governments may prioritise in order to make DFI a reality.

Institutional and Governance Reforms

There are many reforms — relating to agricultural marketing, warehousing, land leasing, contract farming, etc. — that have been recognised as key to meeting the DFRI objective. Similarly, replacing open-ended subsidies with direct benefit transfers for fertilisers and seeds would not just help target the right end-users and plug pilferages in the system, but also promote more efficient and judicious application of these inputs. In addition to these are issues concerning revitalising the farm extension network, skilling youth for setting up scientific agri-food system enterprises, strengthening the institutional credit structure, improving post-harvest management and promoting farmer producers’ organisations/companies (FPO/FPC).

Agriculture in India is a state subject. Past experience shows that no agricultural development on the ground is possible without meaningful interventions by state governments. To bring them on board on the above institutional and governance reforms, which will align their policies to a broad framework and yet allow for adoption of state/region-specific strategies, there is need to convene a meeting of the NITI Aayog or the National Development Council. Such a meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister and with all chief ministers in attendance, would provide necessary impetus to the process – similar to what the GST Council has achieved in the field of indirect taxation.

Climate-smart agri-technologies

Adaptation and mitigation strategies to address climate change challenges have to be at the fore-font of any agricultural policy agenda today. Research, too, has to be designed to suit local crop ecology and promote sustainable farm management in terms of soil, water and energy use. Fortunately, a large gene pool is available in many crop species, which allows for breeding and developing new varieties/hybrids tolerant to multiple stresses, both biotic and abiotic. The rationale of climate-smart-agriculture (CSA) has to be appreciated by decision-makers and stakeholders at all levels. DFI by 2022 is not achievable, without making farmers resilient to climate change impacts and promoting CSA practices that sustainably increase their productivity and incomes.

Food and Nutrition Security

There can be no inclusive growth without nutrition security. That would entail a shift in focus from calorie intake towards delivering nutrition. The DFI initiative offers an opportunity to align even farm policies in that direction. Neglected crops such as pulses and millets are fortunately now receiving attention, not only because of their high protein and nutrition-dense characteristics, but also for their climate resilience and low carbon and water foot-prints. Moreover, consumer demand and dietary patterns are slowly changing, creating a potential market for growers of these “smart crops”. The government should also move from a “cereal-centric” policy focused on subsidised procurement and distribution of rice and wheat to a diversified mix of nutritious millets and legumes. The recently launched National Nutrition Mission, procurement operations/buffer stocking of pulses, inclusion of millet-based food products in mid-day-meals programmes and additional incentives beyond support prices for growers of these crops in some states have sent positive signals that align farm policies to strategies for combating hunger and malnutrition.

Stable Farm Export Policy

India ranks second in overall agricultural production, next only to China. But the country’s export basket hardly reflects its huge crop diversity and potential to generate a significant farm trade surplus. Without an open and stable farm export policy, there’s no predictability for farmers to access global markets and obtain the best possible prices for their produce. Movement to high-value crops (in protected cultivation, wherever possible), developing and exploiting the market for organic produce, creating farm export clusters, complying with international food-safety requirements, and doing away with multiple authorities for monitoring/regulating agricultural trade are the need of the hour. It calls for an aggressive agricultural trade policy.

An integrated value-chain approach

Farmers must be integrated into modern value chains that can raise their incomes and also minimise the risks arising from middlemen and markets. There should be integration of post-harvest, marketing and processing infrastructures, adding value and quality to the raw produce of farmers. Also, technologies suited to respective agro-ecologies need to be put in place here and demonstrated to growers whose produce can be aggregated through FPOs/FPCs.

Digital Agriculture as backbone for modern farming

Use of ICT has been successfully tested for timely delivery of cropping, weather and price information to farmers. While information on markets leads to better price discovery and enables producers to capture a higher proportion of the marketable value, delivery of advisory services through digital and social media platforms can take care of the inadequacies of traditional farm extension delivery systems. All these digital agriculture initiatives require a robust data infrastructure, which, when integrated with Aadhaar, will also make for a monitoring and evaluation system to track farmer incomes and implementation of various government programmes and subsidy-linked schemes. Private agri-business agencies should also be made meaningful partners in this endeavor.

Two years have passed since the Prime Minister first gave the clarion call for DFI. The latest Union Budget for 2018-19 has proposals taking this vision forward, while rightly emphasising growth in farm incomes, as opposed to just production. But for these to translate into results on the ground requires actionable strategies on the lines suggested. And there’s no time to lose!

About the author:

Dr Arabinda Kumar Padhee
Director, Country Relations and Business Affairs
ICRISAT,

Events


Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director External Relations and Strategic Marketing, ICRISAT, moderated a discussion on Smart Food at the Deccan CSR Summit Photo: NGO Box

Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director External Relations and Strategic Marketing, ICRISAT, moderated a discussion on Smart Food at the Deccan CSR Summit Photo: NGO Box

Panel discussion on integrating Smart Food across programs at Deccan CSR Summit

At the recent Deccan CSR Summit a panel discussion was held on ‘Integrating Smart Food across programs’ to discuss ways in which Smart Food can be included into existing initiatives. The discussion focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) engagement on health/nutrition, agriculture development, entrepreneurship programs, education and agribusiness programs, among other aspects.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/panel-discussion-on-integrating-smart-food-across-programs-at-deccan-csr-summit/

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Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director External Relations and Strategic Marketing, ICRISAT, moderated a discussion on Smart Food at the Deccan CSR Summit Photo: NGO Box

Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director External Relations and Strategic Marketing, ICRISAT, moderated a discussion on Smart Food at the Deccan CSR Summit Photo: NGO Box

Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director External Relations and Strategic Marketing, ICRISAT, moderated the discussion. The flagship summit brought together companies, foundations, not-for-profits, entrepreneurs and policy makers under one roof on 22 February in Hyderabad.

She set the tone for the discussion by underlining that Smart Food is good for the consumer (highly nutritious), good for planet (sustainable) and good (viable) for the farmer. Millets and legumes are recognized as Smart Foods. They are growing in popularity with increasing awareness among consumers and food companies.

“We are calling for programs that support farmers to educate them about nutritional value of these crops and their environmental value. There is a need to help entrepreneurs who want set up businesses and marketing of Smart Food,” she added, defining the scope of discussion while inviting the panellists to present.

The panel had a wide range of participants in terms of the organizational affiliations and sectors they represented.

Following are the panellists and the theme or topic they spoke on:

  • Leigh Fisher, CSR External Relations & Partnerships, The Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad, spoke on how education or nutrition CSR programs can incorporate Smart Foods (like millets) to have a better outcome and how best to do this.
  • Dr Dayakar Rao, PI Center of Excellence for Agribusiness, ICAR-International Institute of Millets Research, spoke on how agribusiness incubation can support SMEs and the role CSR can play.
  • HG Satya Gaura Chandra Dasa, President, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana and Hare Krishna Movement-Hyderabad, spoke on approaches to bringing Smart Food into meal schemes.
  • Sitaram K, Founder & Managing Trustee, GrameenMall Foundation, spoke about working directly with farmers to improve livelihoods through Smart Food.
  • Dibyajyoti Borgohain Saikia, Co-Founder, Ind Millet Foods, spoke on challenges of SMEs and how CSR can support SMEs in Smart Food.
  • Sridhar Iriventi, Founder and Director of GoBhaarati, spoke on how CSR can influence bottom-of-the-pyramid kitchens in to preventive pharma, using Smart Food.


Charity Ngilu, Governor of Kitui County, Kenya (one of the Chief Guests at the Conclave) at the GLDC stall.

Charity Ngilu, Governor of Kitui County, Kenya (one of the Chief Guests at the Conclave) at the GLDC stall.

ICRISAT at Pulses Conclave hosted by IPGA in New Delhi

ICRISAT, Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC) team participated in the Pulses Conclave 2018 held from February 14th to 16th, 2018 at Delhi, India. The biennial event was hosted by the India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA), which is considered as the apex body of India's pulses and grains industry and trade.

Link to Happenings story: http://www.icrisat.org/icrisat-at-pulses-conclave-hosted-by-ipga-in-new-delhi/

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IPGA is one of the partners in the CRP on GLDC that is led by ICRISAT.

As a support partner for the Conclave, ICRISAT showcase activities proposed under its newly unveiled flagship research program. Visitors to the exhibit stall were provided with an overview of GLDC, and partnership opportunities were explored with other exhibitors who comprised of trade associations, and participants offering value-added services in the pulses value chain. ICARDA also participated in the event.

Presence of GLDC team at the conclave created awareness about CGIAR’s role in general, and CRP-GLDC in particular. GLDC focus research areas among selected grain legume crops (cowpea, chickpea, pigeonpea, and lentils) were an exact match with many discussion and deliberations at the conclave. Dr D Kumara Charyulu of ICRISAT made a presentation on the newly launched CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals at the Conclave.

Among the visitors to the stall was H.E. Charity Ngilu, Governor of the Kitui County from Kenya and her team who showed interested in ICRISAT’s research work. Since Smart Food Kenya already is working in the county, this conversation could lead to opening of GLDC-related activities in the region.

Awards and Fellowships


ICRISAT shares its knowledge repository with National Digital Library

ICRISAT was recently recognized for its significant contribution towards content curated in the National Digital Library of India (NDL India). Over 20,000 information resources (including 8000 publications by ICRISAT scientists and over 12,000 articles related to ICRISAT’s mandate crops) have been shared with NDL India. By being included in the virtual repository, the visibility of the ICRISAT’s research will be enhanced manifold, increasing the reach of the research articles and findings to larger circles.

NDL India is an all-digital library that stores information (metadata) about different types of digital content (books, articles, videos, audios, these and other educational material) in varied subjects such as science, technology, agriculture and humanities. So far, over 10 million items, by more than 300,000 authors have been collected in the repository.  It provides a single-window search facility to access digital content currently existing in India across different institutions.

The NDL India initiative is a pilot project under the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD)

Governmentof Uttar Pradesh felicitates Dr Rajeev K Varshney

(L-R) Shri Dinesh Sharma, Deputy Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh; Shri Yogi Adityanath, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh; Shri Ram Naik, UP State Governor; Dr Rajeev Varshney; Shri Keshav Prasad Maurya, Deputy Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh; and Smt Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Cabinet Minister, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: R Varshney, ICRISAT

(L-R) Shri Dinesh Sharma, Deputy Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh; Shri Yogi Adityanath, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh; Shri Ram Naik, UP State Governor; Dr Rajeev Varshney; Shri Keshav Prasad Maurya, Deputy Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh; and Smt Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Cabinet Minister, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: R Varshney, ICRISAT

The State Government of Uttar Pradesh (UP) recognized Dr Rajeev Varshney for his outstanding contributions to the field of genomics during a ceremony held on 26 January 2018 as part of the celebrations of UP State’s Foundation Day at the state capital Lucknow. Dr Varshney expressed joy and gratitude at being felicitated by his home state.

Honorary Fellowship for Dr Peter Carberry by ISPRD

Dr Peter Carberry receiving the Honorary Fellowship by Indian Society of Pulses Research & Development (ISPRD)

Dr Peter Carberry receiving the Honorary Fellowship by Indian Society of Pulses Research & Development (ISPRD)

Dr Peter Carberry, ICRISAT, DDG, was conferred Honorary Fellowship by the Indian Society of Pulses Research & Development (ISPRD) and felicitated by Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur.

Dr Carberry was awarded the fellowship during his maiden visit to the IIPR visited different fields and saw research collaboration outputs from different disciplines such as breeding, pre-breeding, genebank, genomics and molecular breeding, genetic engineering, agronomy etc. Some key impressive material includes QTL hotspot introgression lines, Fusarium wilt introgression material in chickpea, B-chickpea and B-Pigeonpea lines testing in fields, heat tolerant, machine harvestable lines in chickpea and hybrid breeding material in Pigeonpea.

 

New Projects

Title: Agricultural Transformation in Uttar Pradesh: Equitable, Scientific, Prosperous and Climate Smart Primary Sector Mission

Funder: Government of Uttar Pradesh

Research Program: Asia

PrincipaI Investigator: Dr Suhas Wani

Duration: 1 Jan 2018 – 31 Dec 2021

Title: KISAN MITrA: Doubling Farmers’ Income in Vidarbha Region, Maharashtra (11 districts in Vidarbha region)

Funder: Project on Climate Resilient Agriculture (POCRA), Government of Maharashtra

Research Program: Asia

PrincipaI Investigator: Dr Suhas Wani

Year of commencement: 2018

Title: Participatory evaluation for Fast Track release of high-yielding diseases resistant cultivars of Pigeonpea

Funder: Project on Climate Resilient Agriculture (POCRA), Government of Maharashtra

RP: Asia

PrincipaI Investigator: Dr Suhas Wani

Year of commencement: 2018

New Publications

Microbial consortium culture and vermi-composting technologies for recycling on-farm wastes and food production

Authors: Chander G, Wani SP, Gopalakrishnan S, Mahapatra A, Chaudhury S, Pawar CS, Kaushal M and Rao AVRK

Published: 2018, International Journal of Recycling of Organic Waste in Agriculture. pp. 1-10. ISSN 2195-3228

Abstract: A study was conducted to characterize the ‘Madhyam culture’ (Excel Crop Care Limited.), an aerobic-composting microbial consortium culture, and understand composting dynamics, product quality and use in crop production vis-à-vis vermi-composting (using earthworms).

Aerobic-composting (using microbial consortium culture), like vermi-composting, proved to be an effective technology with advantage of no requirement to maintain ambient living conditions in lean periods as is required for earthworms in vermi-composting, but needs more energy/labor for biomass turnings.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10409/

Towards climate-smart agricultural policies and investments in Telangana

Authors: Kumar S, Kadiyala MDM, Gumma MK, Elias Khan P, Khatri-Chhetri A, Aggarwal P, Murthy CSR, Chakravarthy K and Whitbread AM

Published: 2018, CCAFS

Abstract: This briefing note summarizes the key findings of the “Scaling up climate-smart agriculture in the Telangana State” project, carried out by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and partners, between 1st January 2016 and 31st December 2017.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10413/

On-Farm Demonstrations with a Set of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Proved Cost-Effective in Reducing Pre-Harvest Aflatoxin Contamination in Groundnut

Authors: Parimi V, Kotamraju V and Sudini H

Published: 2018, Agronomy, 8(2) (10). pp. 1-13. ISSN 2073-4395

Abstract: Aflatoxin contamination in groundnut is an important qualitative issue posing a threat to food safety. In our present study, we have demonstrated the efficacy of certain good agricultural practices (GAPs) in groundnut, such as farmyard manure (5 t/ha), gypsum (500 kg/ha), a protective irrigation at 90 days after sowing (DAS), drying of pods on tarpaulins after harvest in farmers’ fields. During 2013–2015, 89 on-farm demonstrations were conducted advocating GAPs, and compared with farmers’ practices (FP) plots. Based on our results, it can be concluded that on-farm demonstrations were the best educative tool to convince the farmers about the cost-effectiveness, and adoptability of aflatoxin management technologies.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10415/

Improving nutrient use efficiency from decomposing manure and millet yield under Plinthosols in Niger

Authors: Fatondji D and Ibrahim A

Published: 2018, Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems. pp. 1-15. ISSN 1385-1314

Abstract: To improve synchronicity between nutrients released from the decomposing manure with millet nutrient requirement under zaï technique, a 2-year field experiment was conducted at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics Research Station, Sadoré, Niger. We conclude that application of manure prior to planting satisfies better millet nutrients demand, thereby increasing nutrient use efficiency and grain yield under zai pits.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10416/

Surface Freshwater Limitation Explains Worst Rice Production Anomaly in India in 2002

Authors: Zampieri M, Garcia GC, Dentener FM, Gumma MK, Salamon P, Seguini L and Toreti A

Published: 2018, Remote Sensing, 10 (2). pp. 1-19. ISSN 2072-4292

Abstract: India is the second-most populous country and the second-most important producer of rice of the world. Most Indian rice production depends on monsoon timing and dynamics. In 2002, the lowest monsoon precipitation of the last 130+ years was observed. It coincided with the worst rice production anomaly recorded by FAOSTAT from 1961 to 2014. In that year, freshwater limitation was blamed as responsible for the yield losses in the southeastern coastal regions. Given the important implication for local food security and international market stability, we here investigate the specific mechanisms behind the effects of this extreme meteorological drought on rice yield at the national and regional levels. Our findings highlight the need for integrating non-local surface freshwater dynamics with local rainfall variability to determine the soil moisture conditions in rice fields for yields assessment, modeling, and forecasting.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10417/

Double-Stranded RNA-Mediated Suppression of Trypsin-Like Serine Protease (t-SP) Triggers Over-Expression of Another t-SP Isoform in Helicoverpa armigera

Authors: Sharath Chandra G, Asokan R, Manamohan M, Ellango R, Sharma HC, Akbar SMD and Krishna Kumar NK

Published: 2018, Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 184 (2). pp. 746-761. ISSN 0273-2289

Abstract: High diversity of digestive proteases is considered to be the key factor in the evolution of polyphagy in Helicoverpa armigera. Serine proteases (SPs) contribute ~85% of the dietary protein digestion in H. armigera. We investigated the dynamics of SP regulation in the polyphagous pest, H. armigera using RNA interference (RNAi). These findings provide a new evidence of the existence of compensatory effect to overcome the effect of silencing individual gene with RNAi. Hence, the study emphasizes the need for simultaneous silencing of multiple isoforms.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10418/

Genome-wide in silico analysis of dehydrins in Sorghum bicolor, Setaria italica and Zea mays and quantitative analysis of dehydrin gene expressions under abiotic stresses in Sorghum bicolor

Authors: Nagaraju M, Reddy PS, Anil Kumar S, Kumar A, Suravajhala P, Ali A, Srivastava RK, Kavi Kishor PB and Manohar Rao D

Published: 2018, Plant Gene, 13. pp. 64-75. ISSN 23524073

Abstract: Dehydrins (DHNs) are highly hydrophilic, thermostable, calcium dependent chaperons involved in plant developmental processes as well as in diverse abiotic stresses. A systematic survey resulted in the identification of 7 dehydrins (DHNs) in Setaria italica and Zea mays, but 6 in Sorghum bicolor. They are classified into 5 sub-groups, namely YnSKn, SKn, KnS, S, and YnS. In contrast to other DHNs, the SbDHN2 of YnS subgroup, exhibited the highest expression, under multiple stresses in all the tissues indicating its involvement against a wide array of abiotic stresses.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10419/

Biological Control as a Tool for Eco-friendly Management of Plant Pathogens

Authors: Sharma M, Tarafdar A, Ghosh R and Gopalakrishnan S

Published: 2018, Advances in Soil Microbiology: Recent Trends and Future Prospects, Volume 2: Soil-Microbe-Plant Interaction. Springer, Singapore, pp. 153-188. ISBN 978-981-10-7379-3

Abstract: Crop protection is pivotal to maintain abundant production of high quality. Over the past 100 years, use of chemical fertilizers and pathocides and good agronomical practices enabled growers to maintain improved crop productivity. However, extensive use of chemicals during the last few decades in controlling pests and diseases resulted in negative impacts on the environment, producing inferior quality and harming consumer health. In recent times, diverse approaches are being used to manage and/or mitigate a variety of pathogens for control of plant diseases. Biological control is the alternative approach for disease management that is eco-friendly and reduces the amount of human contact with harmful chemicals and their residues.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10420/

Empowering Women in Integrated Crop-Livestock Farming through Innovation Platforms: Experience in Semi-arid Zimbabwe

Authors: Homann-Kee Tui S, Senda T, Dube T and Van Rooyen A

Published: 2018, ICRISAT brief

Abstract: Empowering Women in Integrated Crop-Livestock Farming through Innovation Platforms has drawn upon the experience gained during the ZimCLIFS project in semi-arid Zimbabwe, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, to introduce legume fodder crops like Mucuna as a better livestock feed, to improve market linkages for farmers to benefit from higher livestock productivity and to enhance knowledge and skills among support services enabling upscaling of the impacts of the integrated crop-livestock systems.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10421/

Gene/QTL discovery for Anthracnose in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) from North-western Himalayas

Authors: Choudhary N, Bawa V, Paliwal R, Singh B, Bhat MA, Mir JI, Gupta M, Sofi PA, Thudi M, Varshney RK and Mir RR

Published: 2018, PLoS ONE, 13 (2). pp. 1-12. ISSN 1932-6203

Abstract: Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is one of the most important grain legume crops in the world. The beans grown in north-western Himalayas possess huge diversity for seed color, shape and size but are mostly susceptible to Anthracnose disease caused by seed born fungus Colletotrichum lindemuthianum. Dozens of QTLs/genes have been already identified for this disease in common bean world-wide. The major, stable and validated markers reported during the present study associated with Anthracnose resistance will prove useful in common bean molecular breeding programs aimed at enhancing Anthracnose resistance of local bean landraces grown in north-western Himalayas of state Jammu and Kashmir.

OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10425/

Readers' Comments 

“Many encouraging initiatives in Africa are being led by the African scientists. Investment in education may take time before it pays off but compared to 40 years ago, there is an increased expression of self-determination by the African countries.

Seed production is essential for enabling adoption of new varieties, and various models, such as involving local producer-distributors, can be implemented. Especially for grain legumes with a very low seed multiplication factor compared with cereals, seed production will be a key factor in creating climate-smart sustainable agriculture.

I enjoyed reading this newsletter.”

Regards
Bob Redden

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