The sorghum hybrid CSH 24 MF developed using ICRISAT breeding material was given special recognition as the Outstanding Forage Hybrid in 2019 for revolutionizing forage sorghum production in India. This multicut forage Sorghum hybrid developed by GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology – India uses ‘Pant chari 6’ as the male parent and ICRISAT bred line, ICSA 467 as the female parent.
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This sorghum hybrid has been registered with the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV & FR) Authority, New Delhi, as an Extant Notified Variety.
The sorghum hybrid CSH 24 MF developed using ICRISAT breeding material was given special recognition as the Outstanding Forage Hybrid in 2019 for revolutionizing forage sorghum production in India. This multicut forage Sorghum hybrid developed by GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology – India uses ‘Pant chari 6’ as the male parent and ICRISAT bred line, ICSA 467 as the female parent. This sorghum hybrid has been registered with the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV & FR) Authority, New Delhi, as an Extant Notified Variety.
Released in 2009 for cultivation as multicut forage in summer season, this hybrid gained steady popularity.
To meet the growing demand for the certified seed CSH 24 MF, ICAR – Indian Institute of Millets Research has licensed the parental lines to private seed companies for commercialization. This innovative mechanism of licensing the hybrid parents to private sector partners, on a non-exclusive basis, for commercial hybrid production and marketing is paying dividends to both the farmers and its developers in India.
This licensing ensures the availability of breeder seed for producing the multicut forage sorghum hybrid. In 2021, ICAR – IIMR licensed the seed production to 11 companies for US$ 73,000 and 20% of this license fee is shared with ICRISAT which will promote further research.
Rain-fed agriculture has historically been at the receiving end of imbalances in terms of policy and public investments. If we need to make agriculture a viable proposition in India, there is a need to do more research and development in rain-fed agriculture. Work should also be done to bring in more policy and marketing perspective in Rainfed agriculture (https://journalsofindia.com/rainfed-agriculture-in-india/).
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International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is celebrating its 50th year of establishment with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the year-long celebrations on 5th February 2022 at ICRISAT’s headquarters in Hyderabad.
While ICRISAT takes immense pride in its contribution to improving livelihoods in Asia and Africa, the institute is mindful of the challenges ahead. Therefore, the year 2022, for ICRISAT, is not just a year of celebrations but it will also be a year to look back, look within and look forward.
The significance of ICRISAT’s beginning
Many scholars have noted that there is a clear-cut bias towards irrigated areas when it comes to public investment in agriculture and that the rainfed farmers are the most neglected, worldwide. Also, the paragraph at the head of this article, apart from reiterating the bias against dryland farming, also emphasizes some of the key areas to be addressed – more research and development, supporting policy and marketing.
The emergence of ICRISAT and its evolution over the years is in perfect alignment with these priorities. Although established in 1972, by a consortium formed by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundation with the support of the Indian Government, the thought process on setting up an exclusive institute for dryland crops had started much earlier, in 1966, just around the time Green Revolution got underway in India and many other developing countries in Asia. This implies that the development of dryland agriculture was indeed high on agenda for the international development agencies and the government of India.
While ICRISAT continues its world-class research in major dryland crops as also natural resource management in dryland ecosystems, the institute has broadened its engagement in the delivery of research outputs to the last mile through policy advocacy and by making earnest efforts of providing better access to markets for the farmers. Setting up of Genetic Resources Unit (Gene Bank) in 1979 meant that not only ICRISAT but also all other public as well as private research institutes could have access to the basic breeding material in 11 different dryland crops with a collection as large as 1,30,000 accessions. This, in a way, signifies the intent of founders of ICRISAT and the government of India, that dryland agriculture was indeed a priority, it was not really meant to be neglected. It is the quick and spectacular results of R & D in irrigated agriculture, especially among the ‘big 3’, rice, wheat, and maize, that took away major investments, possibly at the cost of dryland farming.
Now that there is a talk about ‘research fatigue’ in irrigated agriculture, excessive withdrawal of groundwater, increasing soil degradation and indiscriminate use of chemical inputs, dryland agriculture offers new opportunities for meeting the growing demand for food, nutrition, fodder and even fuel.
In this context let’s revisit the key features of dryland/ rainfed agriculture.
Interesting Facts on Rainfed Agriculture:
While the facts above are specific to India, the global situation is not much different. It is interesting to note what the Executive Heads of members of the Environment Management Group of the United Nations have to say (2011). They say the members are,
Conscious of the fact that drylands cover approximately 40% of the world’s land area, and support around two billion people, 90% of whom live in developing countries.
Mindful of the fact that unsustainable land and water use, and the impacts of climate change are driving the degradation of drylands to such an extent that approximately 6 million km2 (about 10%) is now degraded.
Deeply concerned that human well-being – in relation to health, food security, nutrition, material needs, social relations and security – is at risk from dryland degradation which costs developing countries an estimated 4–8% of their gross domestic product each year.
Convinced that the sustainable protection and enhancement of human well-being is a common denominator for the entire UN system, and that efforts to protect drylands significantly contribute to the safeguarding of human well-being by offering opportunities for local populations and providing regional and global benefits.
Aware that the potential local, regional, and global benefits that drylands may offer have not been fully utilized because of myths, market failures, a lack of public goods, weak incentives, high investment costs and gender inequalities.
Recognizing that many drylands in developing countries have become investment deserts, but that sustaining higher levels of investment can enhance productivity and increase incomes.
Further recognizing that the 10-year strategic plan of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification – which aims to forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification and degradation to reduce poverty and support environmental sustainability – presents a major opportunity to address the underlying causes of land degradation.
Acknowledging that investments in drylands pay off if configured to the short- and long-term variability of these human-ecological systems, and that opportunities for investment in drylands exist for the public sector, the private large-scale commercial sector, the community sector, and the household or small-scale private sector.
In this backdrop ICRISAT, as global research for development (R4D) organization with its strong presence in Asia and Africa, recognizes that it has a lead role to play in improving lives and livelihoods dryland agriculture. In line with just about every concern of the UN, the ICRISAT’s holistic mission goals are,
The Gene Bank, the center of excellence in genomics and systems biology, Crop Breeding, seed systems, high throughput phenotyping facility, the center of excellence for climate change research in plant protection, starting the first agri-business incubator in India, the nutriplus knowledge programme, Digital Agriculture initiative, working with multiple partners through its outreach programme ICRISAT Development Center (IDC) etc., are but a few examples of ICRISAT’s broad and integrated approach to addressing both the challenges and the opportunities in dryland farming. More importantly, the seasoned scientists, the state-of-the-art research facilities and the experience accumulated over the past 5 decades are the precious resources available not merely for ICRISAT but every other stakeholder who is willing to work together towards a common cause.
ICRISAT looks to the future with renewed focus and seeks to engage more proactively with the willing partners to make a difference.
Anyone familiar with the combination of ‘biological material’ (high yielding varieties and hybrids), ‘water’ (assured irrigation), and ‘chemical inputs’ (fertilizers and plant protection chemicals) as the key to success in irrigated agriculture will be gullible to use the same principles for improving farming in the dryland ecosystems.
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The solutions to improving livelihoods in drylands, however, are far more complex and multifaceted. It is not enough to look for crops and varieties that survive, and then thrive in the little moisture possible with the intermittent rains and go on to produce a decent yield in the poor soils that are constantly degrading. Post-production value addition and accessing markets are equally important for better price realization by the farmers. While ‘wealth creation’ is the goal in irrigated farming, recovering ‘the cost and a little more’ is often an achievement in dryland farming.
Here are some of the serious concerns of the dryland systems
Drylands cover about 41% of Earth’s land surface and are inhabited by more than 2 billion people (about one-third of world population). Dryland populations on average lag far behind the rest of the world on human well-being and development indicators. The current socioeconomic condition of dryland peoples, about 90% of whom are in developing countries, lags significantly behind that of people in other areas. Existing water shortages in drylands are projected to increase over time due to population increase, land cover change, and global climate change. Transformation of rangelands and other silvi-pastoral systems to cultivated croplands is leading to significant, persistent decrease in overall dryland plant productivity. Among dryland subtypes, ecosystems and populations of semiarid areas are the most vulnerable to loss of ecosystem services. It is thought that some 10–20% of the world’s drylands suffer from one or more forms of land degradation. Desertification, which by definition occurs only in drylands, causes adverse impacts on non-dryland ecosystems. (https://www.millenniumassessment.org/documents/document.291.aspx.pdf).
Considering the enormity of geography, population and the challenges in dryland agriculture it was found that there is a strong need for a competent, specialist and dedicated institution to bring about positive changes. International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) was hence established by a consortium formed by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundation with the support of the Indian Government, as a global research institute in 1972). ICRISAT is the only International Agricultural Research Center with headquarters in India. ICRISAT, a premier non-profit and non-political research institute for dryland farming, works across the whole value chain and has specialized knowledge on the drylands, skills on crops of immense value to the nutrition and economics of the semi-arid tropics – dryland cereals (sorghum and millets) and grain legumes (chickpea, pigeonpea and peanut).
ICRISAT works with the following holistic mission goals:
ICRISAT takes a systems perspective to ensure holistic views to make sure key issues along the impact pathway are addressed, has a market-oriented focus, is committed to evidence-based solutions, adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to opportunities, and to finding and implementing solutions to challenges focussing on sustainability, from environmental to sustainable business models.
A glimpse of the ICRISAT’s contribution over five decades demonstrates the institute’s system-wide capabilities and impacts.
ICRISAT’s genebank in Niger conserves more than 47,000 seed samples, primarily consisting of millets, groundnut, sorghum and pigeonpea. In addition, other crops conserved are cowpea, rice, wheat, maize, sesame, okra, onion and Bambara groundnut that are grown in West and Central Africa.
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The genebank conducts seed collecting missions in the region, together with local partners, and provides training in collection, seed multiplication and conservation activities.
As a young boy growing up in Niger, Hamidou Falalou fell in love with the search for answers and knew he wanted to become a scientist. When, later, he saw climate change threatening local food security, he decided to dedicate his career to helping develop crops that were more resilient to its effects.
Today, Falalou is the manager of the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) regional genebanks in Niamey, Niger and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
We sat down with Falalou to hear more about his recent collecting work in Chad.
The ICRISAT regional genebank is in Niger. Why was it important to collect crops in neighboring Chad?
Chad is an area of high diversity for several crops that are important in the region, such as groundnut, pearl millet and sorghum, but there are areas of Chad where seeds of these and other crops have never been collected. We need to collect the diversity of these crops now, before it is lost forever as a result of climate change or changes in farmers practices.
By working with national institutes—in this case the Chadian Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (ITRAD, from its French name)—we strengthen their ability to conserve the diversity that is part of their national heritage. And the whole world also benefits from their local knowledge, contacts and resources—for example, ITRAD arranged all the necessary permits and authorization for the collecting missions in Chad, provided vehicles for the mission and shared collected materials with the ICRISAT genebank, from where anyone can request them.
What crops did you collect during this project, and from where?
In 2020 and 2021, ICRISAT and ITRAD visited 116 villages in the Sahelian and Sudanian zones in Chad and 392 villages in Niger with the Institut National de Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN) and collected samples of groundnut, pearl millet, sorghum, maize, fonio, chili, cowpea, eggplant, soybean, rice, melon, Bambara groundnut, papaya, onion, okra, cucumber, squash, sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and dazo (Coleus dazo), an edible tuber. In total, 1517 seed samples were collected in Chad and 1436 in Niger.
What happened to the seeds that were collected?
First, we test the seeds for viability. Then, we dry the seed lots with sufficiently high viability for storage in cold rooms. We also multiply the seed to make sure that we have enough for conservation and to share with other researchers. We then characterize the different seeds for traits like disease and pest resistance, drought and heat tolerance. And we sent duplicates of the most interesting seeds to farmers so they can continue to be used and contribute to food security.
Once we have enough seeds of the different varieties, we share them with the national genebank—in this case Chad’s—and with appropriate international genebanks. Our key crops go to ICRISAT in India, but Bambara groundnut and cowpea, for example, go to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria and rice goes to AfricaRice in Ivory Coast.
Breeders at ICRISAT and other institutes are using some of the seeds we collected to develop more climate-change-resilient crops for farmers in the region.
How can plant breeders and others find out more about the crop diversity that was collected?
We are in the process of adding passport data about the collected seed samples on the Genesys website, which is free for anyone to access. That’s information like the species, where, when and how the seeds were collected, where and how they are being stored and their availability, that sort of thing. Very important information for anyone interested in using crop diversity in research or breeding.
Data on traits such as disease and pest resistance will also be made publicly available, after we do the necessary experiments. This information, together with the unique identification number allocated to each sample, will allow breeders and others to identify materials that meet their needs and to request samples from the genebank that holds them.
The materials held at international genebanks will be available through the Standard Material Transfer Agreements (SMTAs) of the Plant Treaty upon request.
What do you hope for the future of your work?
We want to continue our discussions with farmers and other partners about the importance of maintaining crop diversity and how to use it better to support future generations.
I want breeders to be able to find seeds in genebanks that have interesting traits and use them in their breeding programs and other research. I will be happy when all African countries have a functional national genebank, and when farmers, breeders and others can have their requests for seeds fulfilled quickly.
To achieve this, we really need to create a network of people and organizations engaged in conservation and use of crop genetic resources because only together can we really solve problems like hunger and poverty and improve global resilience to climate change.
Key to this is getting governments to support genebanks, including appointing well-qualified staff and giving them the resources they need. We also need financial support from donors, including the Crop Trust, to continue working with farmers.
Working together, we can develop climate-smart crops and put them in the hands of the farmers who need them to feed their families.
You mention the need for a network of people and organizations working in the field of genetic conservation and use–has anything been done toward establishing this?
The Crop Trust has done a lot toward achieving this in the region. It is working with almost all countries in the region, and our partners here know the Crop Trust well. So, when we communicate with these partner genebanks and say that we are working with the Crop Trust, they immediately say, “ah, we know what that is.”
Specifically, the Crop Trust financially supported meetings in 2020 (Senegal) and 2021 (Togo) to establish a regional network of genebanks working in West and Central Africa. At our latest meeting in 2021, we adopted a name, the “PGR management network in West and Central Africa for climate-smart agriculture, food and nutrition security (WECAN-PGR)” and set out an action plan for 2022. The Trust helps facilitate our work, our contacts and our job.
Climate-smart pigeonpea hybrids, with a yield superiority of 40% and early maturity to counter declining rains, have emerged as the best bet to meet the future pulse needs of India. According to Government of India (GOI) estimates, 39 million tons of pulses are required by 2050 to meet population growth.
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India had made tremendous progress in achieving self-sufficiency in pulses. During 2020-21, the production of pulses was 25 million metric tons from a total pulse area of 33 million ha, but to meet future demand, more is required. Pigeonpea (Tur/Arhar) is one of the major pulse crops contributing to nearly 40% of the country’s total pulses production and addressing its production promises to deliver greater food security.
The national average yield of pigeonpea oscillates between 750-850 kg/ha, but new hybrids have increased the potential to 1400 to 1600 kg/ha. In this regard, short-duration pigeonpea hybrids are the best resource. Over the last five years, hybrids ICPH 2433, ICPH 2431, ICPH 2429 and ICPH 2438 have been consistent and high yielding in multilocation trials.
The short-duration hybrids with 130-140 days to maturity (compared to the usual 180 days) are in greater demand amongst the seed industry, farmers, and the National Agricultural Research System (NARS). The hybrids have standardized seed production protocols, shorter breeding cycle and higher heterosis (40%) for yield gain.
The shorter duration allows it to be cultivated in non-traditional belts and to fit well in diverse cropping systems. The multi-location testing of short-duration hybrids recorded a yield advantage of 40% over national Check ICPL 88039. This could leverage short-duration pigeonpea for rigorous testing for release.
Private sector participation, policy interventions and robust seed systems are key to strengthening the short-duration hybrid technology. Joint efforts are being undertaken in anticipation of realizing the gains of such hybrid technology, as they serve as a lifeline for smallholder farmers in the semi-arid regions.
Partners: ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulse Research, Kanpur, Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, Maharashtra, and College of Agriculture Badnapur – VNMKV Parbhani, Maharashtra
With less than a decade to 2030, the world is not on track to ending world hunger and malnutrition (SDG 2), even without the COVID pandemic. The setback dealt by the pandemic has resulted in a lost decade in the world’s efforts to eradicate hunger and reduce malnourishment. In 2020, almost one in three people in the world did not have access to adequate food – an increase of 320 million people in just one year.
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The gender gap in moderate or severe food insecurity grew even larger, with the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity being 10% higher among women than men in 2020, compared with 6% in 2019.
With less than a decade to 2030, the world is not on track to ending world hunger and malnutrition (SDG 2), even without the COVID pandemic. The setback dealt by the pandemic has resulted in a lost decade in the world’s efforts to eradicate hunger and reduce malnourishment. In 2020, almost one in three people in the world did not have access to adequate food – an increase of 320 million people in just one year. The gender gap in moderate or severe food insecurity grew even larger, with the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity being 10% higher among women than men in 2020, compared with 6% in 2019.
The targets for SDG 2 are directly relevant to all stakeholders in the field of agriculture:
SDG 2.3 – By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.
SDG 2.4 – By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.
SDG 2.5 – By 2030, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.
Pulses have been an essential part of the human diet for centuries. The production of beans, chickpea and lentils has been recorded as far back as 7000 – 8000 B.C. In many countries, pulses are part of the cultural heritage and are consumed on a regular, or even daily, basis. Pulses are critical to reduce the levels of malnutrition, increase diversity in the fields and on our plates, and to improve soil fertility when grown in rotation. The nitrogen-fixing properties of pulses improve soil fertility, which enhances the overall agricultural productivity. Studies have shown that the yield of rice improves by up to 20% when grown in rotation with pulses. Pulses are more water efficient than other protein sources. It takes 1,250 litres of water to produce 1 kg of pulses, compared to 4,325 litres of water to produce 1 kg of chicken and even more for mutton and beef. Pulses can be grown in the fallow seasons between the main cereal crops. Thus, they provide additional income for smallholder farmers while improving the resilience of food systems.
On the nutrition front, pulses are a key source of protein and are rich in complex carbohydrates, proteins, the B-group of vitamins, micronutrients and fibre, while having a low glycaemic index. These characteristics of pulses help manage cholesterol levels and improve digestive health. Urban populations are starting to realise the nutrition benefits, and this is fuelling an increase in the demand for pulses.
To improve the supply of pulses, inter-regional cooperation efforts in Asia, as well as Africa, can leverage the strengths of the agriculture research networks of different countries. For e.g., in Asia the ‘Seeds Without Borders’ initiative, which many SAARC member nations have joined, strengthens pulses value chains in the region for food and nutrition security. ICRISAT is proud to partner with SAARC member countries to ensure improved varieties of pulses are more readily available across the region.
To encourage the production and consumption of pulses governments, private sector and agriculture research institutes must work in a trans-disciplinary manner to achieve:
The genetic diversity of pulses held in the genebanks of ICRISAT and other institutions are an invaluable resource to develop new varieties and hybrids to help smallholder farmers fight climate change, emerging pests and diseases and other biotic and abiotic challenges. ICRISAT will continue working with all stakeholders to create nutrition-sensitive food systems by incorporating pulses in a major way in crop production systems.
About the Author:
Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes
Director General, ICRISAT
With the central government pushing for an array of digital technologies to propel agricultural growth, researchers at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) used high-spatial resolution satellite derived data to assess optimal numbers of crop cutting experiments (CCEs) that can be undertaken to improve crop yield estimations.
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The CCE is an assessment method deployed by governments to assess crop yield in a region. Produce from the CCE are then tested on various parameters such as biomass weight, grain weight, moisture, crop management practices and other indicative factors for crop yield estimations.
Data from CCE is used by the governments for planning agricultural schemes, policies and programmes. It also helps insurance companies and financial institutions with all the inputs they need before offering loans or insurance coverage in case of poor harvest or crop failure.
Moving forward, the government of India plans to optimize CCEs using different technologies including satellite derived metrics on crop performance and spatial variability to guide the selection and number of ground data sites. The idea is to develop technology-driven approaches for direct yield estimation at gram panchayat level.
As part of a pilot project undertaken by ICRISAT in partnership with Mahalonobis National Crop Forecasting Center (ministry of agriculture, India) between June, 2019 and February 2020, researchers assessed four crops – groundnut, chickpea, rice and maize in five districts spread across three states (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha). Objective of the study was to assess CCEs using spatial statistical optimising technique for major crops of kharif season in the districts.
Based on the spatial data using Sentinel-2 satellite, the researchers conducted CCEs. As a part of the analysis, researchers identified few mandals in Krishna, Anantapur and Kurnool districts in Andhra Pradesh, Puri district in Odisha and Mahbubnagar in Telangana to test the methodology.
“In this study, we used the technique of re-parameterization of crop simulation models based on the several iterations using remote sensing input such as leaf area index (LAI) as it is supposed to be the highest degree of integration,” read the research paper.
The essence of the data collection was to improve the parametrization of the crop growth model and augment simulation with the use of remotely sensed observations.
While the study suggested that incorporation of LAI can improve crop yield prediction, researchers pointed out that it poses a few challenges which if resolved can further improve the yield prediction.
This includes collection of cloud-free time-series remote sensing data during the cropping season for assimilation of data in crop models for improving modeling efficiency, studying the relationship between remote sensing derived LAI product and final yields of various crops especially in rain-fed regions among others.
“Further improvements of the Sentinel 2 derived LAI and vegetation index products are necessary, especially during the beginning of the growing season and continuous data during the crop growth period. Availability of location-specific weather data is the key for proper simulations with crop simulation models,” read the research paper.
Read the research Paper: Pilot studies on GP Crop yield estimation using Technology (Kharif 2019) using SENTINEL- 2 satellite data (in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha States (Five Districts)) for Groundnut, Chickpea, Maize and Rice http://oar.icrisat.org/11945/
An ICRISAT study published in the Agronomy Journal, the flagship journal of the American Society of Agronomy, demonstrates the efficacy of broad bed furrows over conventional flatbed farming and advocates its use as part of an adaptation strategy to mitigate erratic rainfall due to climate change in the semi-arid tropics.
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The results show that the soil water content is higher in broad bed furrows by 4-10% depending on soil depths, and the depletion of soil water through plant uptake was higher, indicating its efficiency.
The article is part of the PhD study of the lead author Dr Prasad Jairam Kamdi, Manager, ICRISAT Development Center. The thesis is titled ‘Integrated land-water and nutrient management strategies for cereal-based cropping systems in semi-arid tropics’. In addition to field experiments, assessment of agro-adaptations using ‘crop simulation analysis’ is a highlight of the study. The thesis is a significant contribution to rainfed agriculture that focuses on the integration of land-water and nutrients management with sowing decision, which can minimize the adverse effect of climate change on the productivity of cropping systems in the Semi-Arid Tropics.
This study conducted at ICRISAT from 2014-16 included field experiments on six dryland crops in three cereal-based cropping systems – sorghum-chickpea and maize-groundnut in sequential cropping and pearl millet-pigeonpea in intercropping. The two land-water management techniques used were flatbed and broad bed furrows and the four nutrient management approaches were – N1= control, no fertilizer; N2= 100% recommended application of macronutrients through chemical fertilizer (CF); N3= N2 + 100% recommended application of Sulfur, Zinc, and Boron through CF, and N4= 50% of N2 + 50% of nitrogen through organic fertilizer as vermicompost. Of the four, crops that received both macro- and micronutrient application (N3) performed well followed by (N4).
Among the cropping systems, sorghum-chickpea showed the highest system equivalent yield and water productivity with the combined application of macro- and micronutrients. The broad bed furrows minimized water stress at critical crop growth stages leading to increase in crop yield and water productivity (see figure 1). The use of this technology along with the application of macro- and micronutrients could be a climate adaptation strategy for smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics.
Dr Kamdi was awarded a PhD in Agronomy from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur during the 67th convocation held in December 2021.
Click here to access the paper: http://oar.icrisat.org/11527/
Traditional rainfed agriculture is the main source of livelihood for farmers in the Semiliguda block of Koraput. Considering this, the ongoing Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM) has funded project activities in the district emphasizing sustainable intensification of traditional rainfed agriculture to boost productivity and improve livelihood through science-based interventions. The project activities are spread across 15 villages in four Gram Panchayats (GP) viz. Kunduli, Rajput, Pakajhola and Pitaguda.
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Odisha ranks sixth in India in terms of groundnut production. However, unavailability of quality seed locally during the planting season at an affordable price has been a major problem for the smallholder farmers. Almost all the farmers in the project villages procure groundnut seed informally from fellow farmers. Application of chemical fertilizers is also found to be limited in these resource-poor remote villages mainly due to lack of awareness and affordability.
In the absence of proper market linkages, adoption of a complete package of practice may increase the productivity in the short-term, however increase in input cost may not be sustainable particularly beyond the project period. Hence, for better adoption, the project activities were based on data from the onset. Stratified soil sampling and detailed physico-chemical analysis were carried out as an entry point activity. Soil analysis revealed widespread Sulfur and Boron deficiency across the project villages (Fig 1). Such micronutrient deficiencies adversely affected groundnut cultivation, causing stunted growth, general yellowing of plants and delayed maturity in these regions. Since farmers, were unaware of the problem, they were using more and more NPK fertilizers, with little improvement in yield, and this further reduced their net income. As a result, the net-cultivated area in these traditional groundnut (rabi) belts of Koraput have been on decline over the last few decades.
Uptake of science-based interventions have been much better among marginalized farmers with the adoption of a participatory approach. During post-rainy (rabi) 2020, farmer participatory demonstrations were undertaken for high yielding Devi (ICGV 91114) variety of groundnut. Seeds and micronutrients were provided to 16 traditional groundnut farmers of Kumbhariput (GP: Pitaguda), Rusheiput (GP: Rajput), Pungar (GP: Pakajhola) and Pitaguda (GP: Pitaguda) villages. The main purpose was to capacitate progressive minded traditional groundnut farmers and facilitate transfer of learnings by sharing their success with others. OLM officials and field functionaries actively supported this farmer selection process.
Cultivation of ICGV 91114 variety was found to be a great option to generate additional income for the farming families as it can be cultivated without elaborate field preparation using residual moisture (without supplementary irrigation), making the traditional rice fallows productive. Being a leguminous crop, its atmospheric nitrogen-fixing capacity improves the soil fertility. The farmers were made aware of soil nutrient deficiencies and the importance of secondary and micronutrients through informal as well as formal village-level trainings. They were given both Boron and Zinc Sulfate to demonstrate their significance along with seed of improved groundnut variety.
Usually sowing of groundnut is labor intensive. Hiring labor for sowing is not a common practice in these villages, as the women Self-Help Group (SHG) members take it up. In order to reduce drudgery, easily replicable models of seed dibblers (cost about ₹1,800) were distributed among the farmers. Improved agronomic practices such as line-sowing and seed treatment were also promoted among the farmers.
In Semiliguda block, the cultivation period for post-rainy (rabi) groundnut is between December to May i.e. sowing during December and harvesting during May. However, the cultivation period also depends on the local market dynamics, weather as well as field conditions. The seeds were distributed in January 2020 and farmers in Rusheiput village sowed immediately and harvested the crop in May 2020. However, in Pitaguda sowing was done late (in February) and the harvest was in July 2020. Significantly, higher yields (2130 kg/ha) were observed in participatory demo plots, considering average groundnut yield for local varieties adopting traditional practice is less than 800 kg/ha. Application of 2 kg/acre of Boron and 5 kg/acre of Zinc Sulfate increased the input cost by about ₹1,500 per ha. Overall, the approach increased the productivity of groundnut significantly.
This increase in yield alone will not augment the livelihood of the traditional groundnut farmers in Koraput district. As a first step to improve their livelihood, groundnut varieties with high oil content were introduced in the project village Sirimoda (Kunduli GP). The selection was in consultation with Ms Sushmita Samantaray (District Project Manager, Koraput, OLM) and Mr Karunakar (Block Project Manager, Semiliguda, Koraput, OLM). Groundnut production in Kunduli is much higher than other three project GPs and farmers of Kunduli are known for their traditional knowledge and prowess in groundnut cultivation. A local SHG group, Maa Majigouri, in Sirimoda village was interested in informal seed production of high-oil groundnut varieties. Likewise, groundnut seed of the high-oil variety, GJG 32 (ICGV 03043) were given to six farmers of this SHG group for cultivation on 2.5 acre. Among the released groundnut varieties in India, this variety has the highest kernel oil content (53%). Cultivation of GJG 32 (ICGV 03043) variety of groundnut requires less fertilizer and pesticides and takes less time to weed compared to K6 variety often grown locally. These seeds were directly sent to the villages from ICRISAT-Hyderabad, as they are not commercially available in the market. Giving direct access to such new, improved varieties to traditional farmers with technical handholding can greatly augment seed replacement in such hinterlands. The resource-poor farmers in Sirimoda rarely apply fertilizer for groundnut cultivation. Crop cutting experiments demonstrated, with improved variety, agronomic practices and application of micronutrients, a 40% increase in the pod yield (average observed yield of 2116 kg/ha) compared to their traditional practice (average observed yield of 1267 kg/ha). The local farmers were pleased to see the increase in yield and appreciated the taste of the kernel as well.
Groundnut seed harvested by the farmers is used to foster informal seed replacement among the nearby farmers. Dr Aviraj Datta, Scientist, ICRISAT, who is the district coordinator for the OLM-ICRISAT project in Koraput, fondly shared that the popularity of the variety and the success of the intervention has reached other blocks of Koraput. To further augment the informal seed systems, Dr P Janila, Principal Scientist, Groundnut Breeding (and Cluster Leader – Crop Breeding, ICRISAT) facilitated procurement of 1000 kg of Breeder Seed of GJG 32 (ICGV 03043) from Junagadh Agriculture University (JAU) for seed production, during the ongoing rabi season in Boriguma block of Koraput, undertaken by a Gram Panchayat Level Federation (GPLF) named Benasur.
A recently published study highlighted Integrated Farming System (IFS) as most profitable and resilient amongst the four major farming systems viz. Black gram-based (BFS), Paddy-based (PFS), Dryland Farming System (DFS) and Integrated Farming Systems (IFS). Whole-farm Integrated Assessment Tool, a rule-based dynamic simulation model, was used to study the performance of these major farming systems in the state of Tamil Nadu, India.
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The integrated assessment tool helps analyse synergies and trade-offs for each farm type and identify basket of appropriate potential interventions designed to improve farming system’s performance per se and to catch up with that of the best performing IFS.
Shalander Kumar, Principal Scientist, Innovation Systems for the Drylands, ICRISAT said “Agricultural policy must not only focus on potential interventions that are profitable but also consider what is acceptable to the farmers, considering synergies and trade-offs between competing resources at the farm level,”
This Integrated Assessment Tool helps to unfold the complexities in smallholder farming systems and understand interactions and potential impact of interventions in a holistic way, considering the cash flows, cost intensity, and input-output trade-offs.
R Jayakumara Varadan, Lead author and Scientist (Agriculture Economics), ICAR-CIARI, Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands said “Setting Integrated farming system as a benchmark, we evaluated certain interventions in various farming systems to improve their performance. Interventions such as multi bloom technology in BFS, improved livestock management in DFS, better irrigation infrastructure in PFS were found to increase the net profit for smallholder farmers. “
ICRISAT continues to collaborate with multiple agricultural research and extension institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. In India we are working with ICAR-CRIDA, ICAR-IARI, ICAR-IIFSR and selected Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) to integrate the whole-farm integrated assessment modelling as a decision support tool to co-design interventions for resilient and profitable farming systems.
For further reference: “Technology, infrastructure and enterprise trade-off: Strengthening smallholder farming systems in Tamil Nadu State of India for sustainable income and food security,” was published in Outlook on Agriculture [Feb 2022] https://doi.org/10.1177/ 00307270221077380
Rice-fallows are potential areas that can increase legume production with little inputs. Rice-fallows contain residual moisture and are suitable for a short-season, low water-consuming grain legumes such as chickpea, black gram, green gram, and lentils.
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ICRISAT has been monitoring rice-fallows for 20 years, starting from 2000 to 2020, using Earth Observation Data. Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and season-wise intensive ground survey data were used to map rice systems and the fallows thereafter.
|Rice fallows and their %ages in major states|
|State||Rainfed: rice-fallows (ha)||% of total rice-fallow|
Indian states have a major share of rice fallows especially, Chhattisgarh has nearly 4.1 Mha of rice fallows and almost 35 % of total rice fallows, whereas Madhya Pradesh and Orissa have nearly 1.8 Mha of rice fallows i.e. almost 15 %age of total rice fallows. This shows a high possibility of interventions in the above three states. States like Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and West Bengal have 5 to 8 %age of share whereas other states like Telangana, Assam and few others have less than 3 % of total rice fallows. Even 1 % of rice fallows mean 95000 hectares, which is a significant area for any short crop intensification.
This data shows that there is an opportunity for crop intensification in rice-fallows. ICRISAT has been promoting short-duration legumes like chickpea (Chana) in states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha in smallholder farmer fields to improve their incomes. Crop intensification using legumes has an added advantage of improving soil health via nitrogen-fixation. Expansion of grain legumes production caters to the growing population’s nutritional security and to India’s pulse self-sufficiency.
Read the research paper Mapping rice-fallow cropland areas for short-season grain legumes intensification in South Asia using MODIS 250 m time-series data published in International Journal of Digital Earth
Murali Krishna Gumma, Irshad Mohammed and Pranay Panjala.
On 15 Feb 2022, after serving ICRISAT for more than 16 years and leading the baton of scientific excellence, translational agriculture, capacity building & impactful partnerships, Dr Rajeev has now moved on to lead new positions and provide strategic leadership at Murdoch University, Australia.
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Dr Varshney joined ICRISAT as Senior Scientist- Applied Genomics in the year 2005 and since then with his hard work, dedication, perseverance and leadership qualities made significant contributions towards the institutional goals and missions in creating impact in the dryland regions of the world. During the process of creating this impact, he climbed his way up to the third highest position in the institute and was serving as Global Research Program Director for Accelerated Crop Improvement Program.
Among many of his significant contributions, he had the onus of establishing and nurturing a globally recognized centre for genomics research at ICRISAT. The centre together with several other programs that he led at ICRISAT during his tenure and in collaboration with national partners both from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (and ARIs from North Americas, Europe and Australia) have delivered high quality upstream and translational research. To highlight some, he led the effort on genome sequencing of ICRISAT mandate and less researched crops: advanced genetics and enhanced trait understanding, developed gene expression atlases, mapped more than 50 traits in legume crops and spearheaded the translational research along with partners to deliver more than 10 improved, climate change ready legume crop varieties developed through molecular breeding approach. His collaborative efforts have generated large genomic resources for these crops leading to the shedding of the tag of orphan crops, as they were known earlier due to lack of genomic resources.
His high quality science and strong network of international partnership increased the visibility of ICRISAT globally. As a prolific author, he and his team, has delivered on all fronts including advancing the cause of scientific research by publishing more than 500 high quality research articles including 20 papers in Nature journals, which is a rare feat for any research centre across the globe.
Expressing his gratitude to ICRISAT his home for 16 years, Dr Varshney said, “It has been a memorable, productive and a rewarding stint for me at ICRISAT. As I move on to my new journey, I carry a sense of pride and satisfaction that I have contributed to make a positive impact in the lives of smallholder farmers, nurtured next generation of scientists and advanced the crop modernisation efforts for delivering on the mission of ICRISAT and Science.” He added, “I am thankful to ICRISAT for providing me the platform for conducting high quality science and to all the Governing Board members, Director Generals, Deputy Director Generals for Research, and senior leadership over the last 16 years for their continued support and all colleagues from all the ranks at ICRISAT as well as collaborators around the world for their full support and collaboration.” He further said, “I am going to miss this place but at the same time look forward to carry our collaborative research forward from different avenues and will continue to contribute to enhance the visibility and promote the mission and vision of ICRISAT.”
While appreciating his contribution to ICRISAT’s mission and vision, Director General, Dr Jacqueline Hughes said, “You have done huge amount of work at ICRISAT, and with your leadership role at Murdoch University, we look forward to continue to work together on common goals. Your move to Australia is win-win for everyone, including ICRISAT and Murdoch University and I wish you all the best”.
Dr Arvind Kumar, DDG-R ICRISAT remembering his long-standing collaboration with Dr Varshney, said “the association that I had with Rajeev helped us put things on track quickly and advance our efforts in the area of research and development at ICRISAT, when I joined ICRISAT. I thank Rajeev for conducting high quality science and taking the genomics research for smaller crops at international level, your efforts have not only benefitted ICRISAT but also the international community. We look forward to continue to work together and I wish you best of luck for your new role.”
Dr Varshney is starting his next chapter as Director, State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre; Director, Centre for Crop & Food Innovation; and International Chair in Agriculture & Food Security with the Murdoch University. ICRISAT wishes him and his family all the best for a successful career and peaceful life and sound health in Australia!
The management and staff of ICRISAT are deeply saddened to hear of the news of the passing of Dr. Barbara Wells, Director General of the International Potato Center (CIP).
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In a career spanning more than 30 years, Dr. Wells was a tireless advocate for improving the livelihoods and nutrition of the world’s poorest communities and advancing CIP’s mission of improving food security. She leaves an indelible legacy and will remain an inspiration to the many that had the pleasure of knowing her both in a professional and personal capacity.
On behalf of Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General ICRISAT, its leadership team and its staff from across Asia and Africa, we offer her family and the staff and management of the CIP our deepest condolences and sympathy at this time.
Detection of salmonella by surface plasmon resonance
Authors: Barlen B, Mazumdar SD, Lezrich O, Kämpfer P and Keusgen M
Published: Sensors, 7 (8). pp. 1427-1446. ISSN 1424-8220
Unlocking the potential of flood farming to reduce flood risks and boost dryland production in Ethiopia
Authors: Desta G, Legesse G, Amede T, Van F Rooyen A and Whitbread AM
Published: CGSpace. pp. 1-10
Enhancing the capacity of smallholder farms to tap into digital climate service technologies opportunities for improved crop production in the cercles of Sikasso
Authors: Worou ON, Bouaré A, Nebie B, Tahirou A and Tabo R
Published: [Policy Briefs]
Amazing plant growth-promoting actinobacteria from herbal vermicompost
Authors: Srinivas V, Sravani A, Pratyusha A and Gopalakrishnan S
Published: Andhra Pradesh J Agril. Sci, 7 (2). pp. 89-98.
Impact of agricultural water management interventions on upstream–downstream trade‐offs in the upper Cauvery catchment, southern India: a modelling study
Authors: Wable PS, Garg KK, Nune R, Venkataradha A, Anantha KH, Srinivasan V, Ragab R, Rowan J, Keller V, Majumdar P, Rees G, Singh R and Dixit S
Published: Irrigation and Drainage (TSI). pp. 1-23. ISSN 1531-0353
Transforming livestock productivity through watershed interventions: A case study of Parasai-Sindh watershed in Bundelkhand region of Central India
Authors: Dev I, Singh R, Garg KK, Ram A, Singh D, Kumar N, Dhyani SK, Singh A, Anantha KH, Akuraju VR, Dixit S, Tewari RK, Dwivedi RP and Arunachalam A
Published: Agricultural Systems (TSI), 196. pp. 1-14. ISSN 0308-521X
Indian agriculture: The route post-CoP 26
Authors: Padhee AK and Whitbread AM
Association of Grain Iron and Zinc Content With Other Nutrients in Pearl Millet Germplasm, Breeding Lines, and Hybrids
Authors: Govindaraj M, Kanatti A, Rai KN, Pfeiffer WH and Shivade H
Published: Frontiers in Nutrition (TSI), 8 (746625). pp. 1-12. ISSN 2296-861X
Technology, infrastructure and enterprise trade-off: Strengthening smallholder farming systems in Tamil Nadu State of India for sustainable income and food security
Authors: Varadan RJ, Mamidanna S, Shalander K, Ahmed SKZ and Jaisankar I
Published: Outlook on Agriculture (TSI). pp. 1-16. ISSN 0030-7270
Determinants of Consumer’s Willingness to Pay towards Organic Products: A Structural Equation Modelling Approach
Authors: Harishankar K, Ashok KR, Saravanakumar V, Shalander K, Duraisamy MR and Maragatham N
Published: INDIAN JOURNAL OF ECONOMICS AND DEVELOPMENT. pp. 1-7. ISSN 2320-9836