Through door-to-door sensitization of communities, 40,000 households have been reached with messages promoting consumption of diverse and nutritious food for improved health and nutrition. In addition 2,500 women have been trained on healthy cooking and an additional 3,000 have been trained on nutrition education.
These activities are part of a larger endeavor to mainstream changes in the knowledge and practices regarding dietary habits among the communities. One aspect of this is providing training with an emphasis on drought tolerant crops.
Using a participatory approach, rural women and men in Tharaka Nithi county were trained on preparing nutritious and palatable meals using drought tolerant crops, for example, pearl millet chapati (bread), sorghum-cowpea pilau, sorghum cake, pigeonpea chapati, sorghum-green gram stew and a traditional pearl millet drink known as Kinaa or Mburugi.
In addition to influencing dietary practices, maintaining hygiene during meals preparation and tips on energy saving cooking techniques were emphasized.
Drought tolerant crops including sorghum, millets, pigeonpea and groundnut are ‘smart’ crops because of their high nutritional value, high resilience under extreme weather and the potential to improve incomes of smallholder farmers living in very dry areas.
The cooking demonstration commenced on 10 April and was attended by the county Agriculture Officer, Mr Walter Mugambi. While addressing the group, he appealed to them, not to rely on relief food but diversify their food intake by farming and consuming smart food. He also urged them to be good smart food ambassadors and promote their improved practices among their communities.
In this program, ICRISAT is working in partnership to mainstream drought tolerant crops across the value chain: distribution of improved varieties of drought tolerant crops, training farmers on proper agronomic practices, conservation agriculture, harvest and post-harvest practices, value addition, cooking training, nutrition education, and working with small and medium enterprises to develop new healthy and tasty smart food products.
For more on ICRISAT’s work on drought tolerant crops click here
An innovative multi-lingual plant disease and pest diagnostic ‘Plantix’ app, available on farmer’s mobile phones helps them identify pests, diseases and suggests remedies.
The app was launched by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N Chandrababu Naidu in Vijayawada, India on 25 May.
Farmers take pictures of the affected crop and upload them on the app. The photographs are analyzed using artificial intelligence algorithms. The results are then returned immediately to the farmer. Critical information on symptoms, triggers, chemicals as well as biological treatments are provided. All pictures sent using the app, are geo-tagged thereby enabling real-time monitoring of pest and diseases. The resulting metadata provides valuable insights into the spatial distribution of cultivated crops and most significant plant diseases e.g., in the form of high resolution maps. Furthermore, the app encompasses a weather information system specific to the farmers’ location and a community feature that facilitates interaction with other actors interested in plant protection services.
Currently the database has half a million pictures covering 30 crops worldwide and offers remedies for over 120 crop diseases. Mr Chandra Mohan Reddy, a farmer from Chagantipadu village in Krishna district said, “Every time there were pests in our field, we would go to the fertilizer dealer for help. The dealer would suggest remedies using a combination of 3-4 types of pesticides based on their experience. However, results were not guaranteed, and while sometimes the recommendation worked, often it didn’t. Now with this app, we can find reliable advice at the click of a button.”
According to Simone Strey, CEO, Progressive Environmental & Agricultural Technologies (PEAT), “The early recognition and tailor-made treatment plans for every plant damage are particularly important for farmers’ success and these are the main advantages of Plantix. We also offer information about preventive measures, which should help to avoid plant damage in the first place.”
Commenting on ICRISAT’s partnership in the development of the app, Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, highlighted the role that new technologies can play in making agriculture more productive and profitable and reiterated the institute’s commitment to developing innovative models to empower smallholder farmers. “The app could prove to be a game changer in the field, providing farmers free, reliable and quick diagnosis of crop damage. The simplified dashboard with easy-to-use features helps the app take on the role of an extension worker as well. The app is a novel experiment in using digital technologies for agriculture,” he said.
The crop-damage diagnosis app ‘Plantix’, was developed by Progressive Environmental & Agricultural Technologies (PEAT), Germany in collaboration with its knowledge and extension partner, ICRISAT and the Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University.
For more on ICRISAT’s role in knowledge management click here
For more on ICRISAT’s digital agriculture initiatives click here
The genome of 292 pigeonpea lines from 23 countries has been re-sequenced by a global team of 19 scientists. The re-sequencing has led to the discovery of new traits such as resistance to fusarium wilt and sterility mosaic disease for developing superior varieties and hybrids. In addition, a specific gene ‘efl3’ has been identified for making pigeonpea photo-period insensitive (the duration of daylight hours required for reaching maturity) so that it can be cultivated more widely. This breakthrough will lead to the development of pigeonpea varieties which can enable higher production, higher profits for smallholder farmers and better market value.
These findings offer a better understanding of patterns of genome-wide variations and the genetic basis of agronomic traits specific to pigeonpea.
“The study used re-sequencing data to identify genomic regions impacted by domestication and breeding that have contributed to narrowing the genetic base. The study also identified the genetic origin of the crop for the first time at a DNA level and identified genes with agronomically useful traits that will help to accelerate pigeonpea breeding and reduce the time to develop superior varieties from 8-10 years to 5 years,” said Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director-Genetic Gains, ICRISAT, and the project director.
Dr Rachit Saxena, Senior Scientist (Pigeonpea Genomics), ICRISAT, added “The research also mapped similarities and dissimilarities between modern cultivars, landraces and wild species to arrive at the source and subsequent movement of pigeonpea from South Asia to sub-Saharan Africa and finally to Central and South America.”
ICRISAT’s Director General, Dr David Bergvinson, emphasizing the importance of the study, said, “Pigeonpea is a very important commercial crop for smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia as it has a huge export potential. This breakthrough will help us better understand the grain quality traits and unlock the huge potential of this crop and allow farmers access to high value markets.”
Dr Robert Bertram, Chief Scientist, USAID, said, “This USAID supported research is an important milestone in pigeonpea genetics and genomics. Pigeonpeas are vital to the livelihoods of millions of farmers across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The findings in this study will help pigeonpea farmers boost their productivity and expand food and nutritional security across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.”
Dr SK Pattanayak, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, put this discovery in the context of doubling farmers’ incomes in India. “India needs such critical discoveries that are not just adding scientific knowledge but also contributing to enhance production by delivering photo-insensitive lines and enhance productivity by delivering high yielding varieties.”
“These genomic advances provide an effective means to harness the genetic diversity present in pigeonpea germplasm collections in genebanks for bigger yields and enhancing disease resistance.
This will help to provide more produce to farmers,” said Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
This research will allow for comparative studies against other legumes, contributing valuable resources to accelerate genetic gains to benefit pigeonpea farmers.
Research findings have been published by the prestigious journal, Nature Genetics, ‘Whole-genome resequencing of 292 pigeonpea accessions identifies genomic regions associated with domestication and agronomic traits’
The nine collaborating institutes are the School of Agriculture and Environment and Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia, Australia; Shenzhen Millennium Genomics Inc., China; Macrogen Inc., Republic of Korea; Institute of Biotechnology, Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), India; Agricultural Research Station–Gulbarga, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), India; Department of Plant Sciences at University of California, Davis, USA; Biological Sciences and International Center for Tropical Botany, Florida International University, USA; Visva-Bharati, India and led by ICRISAT, India.
The study was made possible with the financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of India. It has been undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.
For more information about chickpeas see ICRISAT scientific portal
Millet processors from across India gathered to discuss ways to test and enter export markets. Innovative options were presented to achieve this and a basket of quality millet (including sorghum) branded products pulled together to show off Indian products.
This initiative is led by a partnership of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) and ICRISAT. Three opportunities were presented to assist companies export millet processed products:
Industry engaged in discussions to also identify key areas to take forward to better support exports. These included:
This was followed by an open sharing by food processors on what has worked for marketing millet products to urban markets in India and brainstorming new approaches.
A campaign is being planned that will have strong engagement by the millet processors, retailers and consumers.
Partnerships formed to collaborate to popularize millets
Four partnerships were signed at the event – expected to be just the beginning of what will be a multi-stakeholder initiative to popularize millets.
Addressing the processors, Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, said, “We are trying to create a millet movement here. Millets have been under invested in and it’s the private public partnership that can best take this forward. We need to see how we make millets part of the daily meal. We need to engage consumers on a large scale using social media and engaging countries and encouraging them to take a lead. Millets will be important to manage our food system in the ecosystem and environment we have to reach the SDGs. With climate change this is going to be a very important solution for the future. Millets will be important to diversify on farm and for the consumer are important nutritional value. I see this meeting as the coalition of the willing.”
Signing of MOA to collaborate on Smart Food promotions including Smart Food Signature Products
Dr Vilas Tonapi, Director, IIMR said, “This is an opportune time. We have never had such an opportunity. State governments are talking about millets – it has become a buzzword. The Government of India has been discussing it more now. We can’t separate millets and organics – they go together. One of our first research requirements is to extend the shelf life of millets and this will be even more important for exporting. We also need guidelines on exporting millets including a dos and don’ts section to assist food processors in India.”
Mr Sudhakar, Deputy General Manager, APEDA, stated, “The lowest hanging fruit to export millets are to Indian’s living overseas, through Indian and International supermarkets and Indian restaurants. We can still later enter the mass market as Indian food has been mainstreamed. In Japan alone there are 6,000 Indian restaurants and 4,000 of these in Tokyo. Local chefs also need not just recipes but training on how to use millets. If we can provide this we create a demand pull. Promotional activities and material provided ahead of and during trade shows can be very effective.”
The ICRISAT 2016 Annual Report highlights the work done by ICRISAT scientists in the area of pulses over the last 45 years in Asia and Africa. It also describes why pulses are considered Smart Food: how they are good for the consumer, the planet and the farmer.
The year 2016 was celebrated as the International Year of Pulses, as declared by the United Nations. Using this as a pivot, the annual report’s ‘Pulse of ICRISAT’ section turns the spotlight on the major achievements in pulses research by ICRISAT: from germplasms collected to improved varieties (drought-resistant, high-yield, machine-harvestable) released worldwide. It underscores the many ‘firsts’ that ICRISAT has to its credit: world’s first pigeonpea hybrid; world’s shortest-duration chickpea; pigeonpea and chickpea draft genome sequences; first-ever machine-harvestable chickpea; and so on.
Another highlight of the year 2016 was the introduction of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Over the course of the year (2016), ICRISAT’s work in its mission areas of a) Overcoming poverty and hunger; b) Reducing malnutrition; and c) Preventing environmental degradation has contributed significantly to achieving these goals. This was by developing climate-smart and biofortified hybrids/varieties of ICRISAT mandate crops, and devising sustainable methods of water management and land rehabilitation.
Other successful endeavors mentioned in the report include the advances made by ICRISAT in the crosscutting areas of women’s empowerment and digital agriculture. Various digital tools – from satellite imaging to SMS-based weather forecasts – have positively affected the agricultural returns and overall prosperity of smallholder farmers in Asia and Africa.
ICRISAT’s support of agricultural entrepreneurs via agribusiness incubators and farmer producer organizations is also reaping rich dividends by making agriculture profitable and thus attractive to the younger generation.
In short, the 2016 Annual Report presents a sharp and clear connection between the core science carried out by scientists and the direct and indirect bearing it has in improving the lives of millions of rural poor in the semi-arid regions of the globe.
A two-part book series titled ‘MS Swaminathan: The Quest for a World without Hunger’ was recently released in New Delhi. The series contains an anthology of 42 research papers describing Prof Swaminathan’s work and a detailed evolution of the green revolution. The second part analyzes Prof Swaminathan’s specific contributions to improve productivity and resistance of agricultural crops.
Praising the work and commitment of Prof Swaminathan, the Prime Minister described him as ‘farmer’s scientist’ rather than an ‘agricultural scientist’. “One of the biggest challenges in realizing an evergreen revolution in a sustainable manner is the gap between scientific breakthroughs and their application on farmer’s fields. Lab to land should be our main focus,” announced Mr Modi.
Prof MS Swaminathan has played a significant role in agricultural research and his relationship with ICRISAT goes back to the Institute’s inception in 1972. Being aco-founder of ICRISAT and Vice-Chair of the Governing Board from 1972 to 1980, he has been deeply associated with the growth of ICRISAT. For example, he set up a committee to explore possibilities of extending the work of ICRISAT to farmers, established a quarantine station and developed the genebank at ICRISAT.
In addition, Prof Swaminathan played an integral role in establishing ICRISAT’s collaboration with the Government of India and his association with ICRISAT continues through the Institute’s collaboration with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.
He is currently, ICRISAT’s Ambassador of Goodwill and promotes the Institute’s mission for science-based agricultural solutions to improve livelihoods and attain food and nutritional security.
The two-part book series launched at the Prime Minister’s residence in New Delhi on 19 May are:
Mutation breeding is an effective technique to increase resilience to drought in crops grown in drought-prone countries. At a recent training course held in Namibia, crop improvement scientists learned about the principles and practical aspects of using mutation breeding to improve drought tolerance traits in crops such as sorghum, cowpea and pearl millet, among others. The training course, ‘Improving resilience to drought through mutation breeding’, attracted participants from 15 African countries that are actively involved in research concerning mutation breeding in various crops.
Drought is one of the major constraints to high crop yields in Africa. Researchers across the globe need to share germplasm, mutants and protocols for mutation breeding to impart drought tolerance in crops.
Dr Ashok Kumar, Principal Scientist, Sorghum Breeding, ICRISAT, was invited by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, Austria, to guide the training course, along with Prof H Shimelis from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Republic of South Africa. Dr Kumar was responsible for explaining the theories via lectures and hands-on sessions in the field on various topics, some of which were as follows:
Introduction to mutation induction for crop improvement
Apart from the training sessions, the researchers visited the Mannheim Research Station of the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) near Tsumeb, Namibia, to see advanced stage (M8) mutant lines evaluation trials of cowpea, sorghum and pearl millet.
The cowpea mutants were found very promising for grain yield, pod length, pod shape, grain color, early maturity and higher biomass production. In sorghum, the mutants showed larger panicles, higher grain number and larger grain size compared to the original parents (Macia and local red sorghum). It is interesting to note that Macia, the popular sorghum variety in Africa, was developed by ICRISAT and is now also used in mutation breeding research to isolate new mutants for traits of interest. In pearl millet, landrace cultivars were used for mutagenesis and the head size of mutant lines was bigger compared to the parents. The participants could identify promising mutants based on the mutants’ superiority compared to their parents. They recommended the release of promising cowpea, sorghum and pearl millet mutants to farmers for cultivation.
To encourage productive discussions, the training participants were divided into three groups, based on their preferences, to debate on self-pollinated, cross-pollinated and clonally propagated crops. Group members described their current research and shared their experiences with others. Each group was also asked to deliberate on and develop a draft proposal on ‘Mutation breeding for improving drought tolerance in a selected crop’ as a team.
In order to harness the genetic and natural resource management options among global researchers, the IAEA, together with the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA), organized the training course which was hosted by MAWF. The idea behind it was to raise awareness about the need for global cooperation in research, and thus to improve the food security situation in Africa. The 15 training attendees included representatives of universities and research organizations of Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and other countries. The course was conducted during 24-28 April in Tsumeb, Namibia.
The use of systems modeling tools is being accelerated to identify farming systems that are best suited to a particular region. To enable scientists from various national agricultural research organizations to gain expertise in this area, a workshop, ‘Integrating Systems Modelling Tools to Support the Scaling of Climate Smart Agriculture in Semi-Arid Regions’, was conducted at ICRISAT-India.
The focus was on the application of advanced modeling tools – spatial analysis for mapping, tools to create climate series and climate change scenarios, climate data downscaling, future climate data generation, cropping systems modeling for alternate scenarios under climate change, and whole farm (bio-economic) modeling to assess impacts of climate change as well as that of climate-smart interventions on resource use and household cash flows.
After a short study on the use of geospatial tools in monitoring croplands, participants gained hands-on experience in generating future climatic scenarios based on global projections. As part of the session on climate analysis and cropping systems modeling, they generated location-specific daily climatic conditions. They assessed the impacts of climate change by linking these climatic conditions with the systems simulation model Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM). Besides setting and running APSIM for different crops and management scenarios, the participants learned to analyze the data and correctly interpret the results. They evaluated the projected impacts not only on grain and biomass yields but also on changes in the soil, water and other environmental conditions.
Another session on whole farm system modeling saw participants learn the ropes of linking the results from the cropping systems model (APSIM) with a ‘household’ model via an Integrated Assessment Tool for a greater understanding of how these changes impacted gross margins, income and cash flows of a farm household during different months of the year.
The participants were divided into three region-based groups of Telangana, Rajasthan and Haryana. Scientists simulated scenarios for their respective regions based on the geography and climate. They parameterized data such as farmland type and area, family and hired labor supply and demand, labor activities, farm overheads and living expenses, crop details on other inputs and outputs, fodder purchased and livestock details. The model enabled them to predict cash flow from crops, livestock and non-farm activities over the years.
This was followed by the three groups presenting results of their respective regional scenarios. The groups will be working together with cropping systems modelers using real farm household data collected from each of the three regions to produce a joint publication by the end of this year on assessing the impact of climate change, climate-smart interventions and markets on farm household cash flows. Such a report would help in informed decision making by stakeholders, including extension systems and policy makers.
Key takeaway: The training program was aimed to promote systems thinking in assessing the impacts of climate-smart interventions. In other words, clarity on the individual components of the modeling systems and learning how to link them together for best results was at the center of the exercise. By the end of the workshop, participants knew how to use the integrated assessment tool, parameterize the model, and understand and interpret the results. This knowledge will empower them to design more efficient and effective climate-smart and markets-based interventions for farmers.
The three-day workshop held on 3-5 May saw the participation of over 30 scientists from six Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes – Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR), Indian Institute of Soil Science (IISS), National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology (NIANP), National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NIAP); two State Agricultural Universities – Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) and Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU); and ICRISAT’s Innovation Systems for the Drylands and Asia Programs.
Dr MK Gumma, Dr Dakshinamurthy, Dr KPC Rao and Dr Shalander Kumar conducted the various workshop sessions.
More on crop simulation modeling
In Tanzania, science-backed agricultural technologies are being scaled out to more farmers and communities so that the benefits of these innovations – increased farm productivity and improved nutrition – reach greater numbers of disadvantaged poor. The ICRISAT-led Africa RISING project: Transforming Key Production Systems: Maize Mixed East and Southern Africa is currently implementing agricultural technologies such as the use of improved crop varieties (up to 120% higher yields), water and soil management techniques, cropping systems and development of nutritious supplementary foods for children. These technologies were developed through participatory research as well as innovation platforms and have already demonstrated significant impacts.
Increasing agricultural productivity: Iringa region has poorly distributed rainfall (< 500 mm per annum). The introduction of dryland crops such as pearl millet, sorghum, pigeonpea and groundnut could alleviate the food and nutrition insecurity in the area.
An ICRISAT-led project team recently visited Ms Lucy Nyalu, Head of the Department, District Agriculture and Fisheries Office, Iringa, to discuss strategies for scaling out the technologies developed by the scientists. The project scaling out was carried out in Isimani ward in Iringa, with a ‘mother plot’ showcasing the new crop varieties and production technologies. Improved varieties of pigeonpea (ICEAP 00040; MALI) and sorghum (Kari Mtama) were provided to 33 farmers. The farmers as well as scientists are hopeful of a better yield this year than in the previous year.
Enhancing nutrition in children: In an earlier study in rural Tanzania, a group of nutritionists led by ICRISAT scientists had studied the effects of supplementing the diets of children, aged five years or younger, with a nourishing porridge. This special food included various food groups – pigeonpea (legume), finger millet (cereal), carrot (vitamin A-rich vegetable) and amaranth (green leafy vegetable). Compared to an earlier diet consisting almost solely of poor quality maize, which would often be contaminated with aflatoxin, this diet had improved the weight and mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) of the children within 21 days.
In the current Phase II of this highly successful project, more women in Kongwa and Kiteto regions of Tanzania were trained in preparing the porridge and were also introduced to innovative techniques such as growing the porridge vegetables in sacks for better utilization of space, and using recycled water to irrigate the plants. During a recent field day in Mlali, the nutrition stand attracted a lot of interest and queries, with parents of young children wanting to know about the health benefits of the nutritious food. They were keen on adopting the multi-food group porridge upon discovering that all its ingredients were locally available. Notably, 1062 women and men farmers attended the field day.
With the increase in the number of farmers voluntarily adopting these interventions, scientists expect to see a rise in farm outputs and financial and nutritional benefits for farmers and their families.
More on on our work in Tanzania
More on our work in nutrition
A data-based innovation that can help farmers decide the best time to sell their produce won first prize at the ICT4D Data Jam event recently. Creators of the ‘price prediction’ application programming interface (API), Team Time2Sell, say that their application will help farmers sell their harvest for the best price and create customized installment sales plans for farmers based on their existing loans, interests, quantity of crop, and more.
They also propose to offer a storage service for farmers who do not have the luxury of staggering movement of their goods to market, but wish to choose an installment sales strategy. The Time2Sell proposal and API could be leveraged by existing rural advisory services such as RML AgTech to help their customer farmers avoid price arbitrage by middlemen, and make the best possible sales decisions.
The ICT4D Data Jam was hosted by the ICRISAT ihub that was opened earlier this year as an innovation hub to bring entrepreneurs, scientists and industry together to co-create new solutions.
The Data Jam was an event for data entrepreneurs, data analysts, IT professionals and academics, to find data-based solutions on how technology can better address the development challenges facing India and the world today. Participants discussed and debated how technology and data can meet the needs of farmers and the environment, and how we could overcome common pitfalls of “tech for ag” projects. At the ICT4D Data Jam, hackers were set an agriculture and environment challenge and provided with related datasets and APIs to hack solutions.
The three teams each won up to USD 1000 and also have a chance to get access to up to USD 8000 in donated business and consultancy services as well as membership at the newly-opened ICRISAT ihub.
The team members of Time2Sell were Raghu Prasad Mulukoju, Chief Technology Officer, Our Food Pvt Ltd; Harsh Nisar, Data Scientist, IFMR LEAD; Hari Prasath Sundaram, Consultant, Consulting AgriTech; and Bala Reddy V, Co-Founder and CEO, Our Food Pvt Ltd. On winning the award, Raghu Mulukoju said, “I have to keep myself updated with the latest innovations happening in the Agri space. Events such as the ICT4D Data Jam help me to understand the innovation leads and most importantly, evaluate our own innovations and feasible implementations at Our Food Pvt Ltd. These ICT4D events bring people together, to connect and network with people at higher levels around the world in different organizations, which is difficult to do otherwise.”
The second place was secured by team AgriBarT, who developed a dynamic group formation app that enables collective bargaining for small-scale farmers. The team built a prototype to identify farmers with similar purchase requirements, demographics, geographies and historical cropping patterns. The app will empower farmers to gain benefits through bulk ordering in the shared economy.
The third place was taken by team Kalgudi, who developed a Role-Based Facet Engine. The team’s proposal combined discrete data sources to provide actionable interactions between agriculture stakeholders for socio-economic change. Their solution leverages a social platform for stakeholders across the value chain, and allows users to filter information and receive critical alerts based on their role in that value chain.
The ICT4D Data Jam was held on 12-13 May at ICRISAT ihub, in partnership with the ICT4D Conference, ICRISAT, aWhere, Global Development Analytics Group, A-M-Z Group, Digital Globe and ESRI India. The judges for the event were Rama Iyer, Senior Vice President, Strategic Alliances, T-Hub; Christian Merz, Senior Program Officer, BMGF; and Dr Andy Jarvis, Director of Decision and Policy Analysis Area, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
More and more farmers in Nigeria are adopting improved varieties of groundnut, thanks to extensive efforts by local state governments to increase awareness about the new varieties. This is done by way of demonstration plots in farms; a cluster farming approach wherein seeds and agronomic training are provided to farmers; farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer meetings and radio campaigns.
Since 2015, the project Increasing groundnut productivity of smallholder farmers in Ghana, Mali and Nigeria, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has strived to enhance farmers’ knowledge and skills to ensure sustained use of improved groundnut technologies (quality seeds and accompanying management practices) in Feed the Future (FtF) communities spread out in five states of Northern Nigeria (Jigawa, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina).
Over two years (2015- 2017) 89 farm families have hosted demonstration plots for varietal and aflatoxin management in six local government areas (LGAs) of Jigawa State (out of 27 LGAs). Similarly, 18 hectares of community-based seed production plots (six hectares in Year 1, and 12 hectares in Year 2) have been established using SAMNUT 24 – one of the three improved groundnut varieties being promoted by the project; this variety has been most appreciated by farmers of Jigawa. According to Mr Alhaji Gambo Aliyu (former Managing Director, Jigawa State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP)), “The vegetative performance, quality fodder and early maturity features have guided farmers’ choice for this variety. Also, because this variety is early maturing, it can escape contamination by aflatoxin.”
The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Nigeria, with support from ICRISAT, has released eight improved groundnut varieties over the last decade. Despite this, average land coverage under improved groundnut varieties remains low – an average of 13% in Nigeria, not too far from the situation in Western and Central African (WCA) countries estimated at 12.5%. This is partly because of inadequate awareness about the potential of improved crop varieties. This situation prompted the upscaling of the above groundnut crop project.
During the 2016 cropping season, Jigawa State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (JARDA) embarked on the promotion of the agricultural sector through a cluster farming approach targeting four crops: rice, sesame, groundnut and soybeans. Under this cluster approach, farmers are organized into groups, with neighboring groups constituting a cluster. Through the input distribution arm of JARDA, a total of 129,660.5 kg of SAMNUT 24 was purchased and distributed to 15,000 farm-families (including 5,600 youths) to be planted in a total of 1,728 hectares (seed rate being 75 kg of unshelled seeds per ha).
Mr Alhaji Yahaya Buba, State Desk Officer for the project, stated that Jigawa State Governor, His Excellency Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, launched this cluster approach in a bid to lift smallholder farm families out of abject poverty.
The key sustainability of the cluster approach is the refund of inputs received by participating farmers at the end of the cropping season to the input distribution arm of JARDA. Recovered seeds are passed on to new farmers during subsequent cropping seasons. Beneficiary farm families are taught the accompanying agronomic practices, and eventually linked to financial institutions. A group of 476 youth was given 40 kg of unshelled groundnut seeds per person, to be planted on 0.5 hectare of land. They were also provided on-the-spot training about integrated crop management practices.
With persistent campaigns using different strategies such as radio programs, on-field demonstration of performance of improved groundnut varieties, and organization of farmer-to-farmer learning opportunities, it is expected that more land will be brought under cultivation of improved groundnut varieties in Jigawa State.
The project works with local ADPs as implementation partners. In each state, the project uses a pilot LGA to showcase the performance of improved groundnut varieties, together with accompanying crop management techniques, and promotes appropriate opportunities for farmer-to-farmer learning.
An innovative project to mainstream sweet sorghum as a source of ethanol production is under way in sugar mills of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, paving the way to create an alternative, eco-friendly fuel source.
Considering the environmental pollution associated with the use of fossil fuels, alternative energy sources are of widespread global interest for a sustainable ecology. Although India has stipulated ethanol blending targets up to 20% by 2017, the current level of blending in India is under 5%. There is not enough ethanol available in the country to meet the blending targets and this necessitates large-scale production of fuel-grade ethanol. Sweet sorghum is one of the most suitable crops for ethanol production; the National Policy of Biofuels, Government of India, has identified sweet sorghum as an alternative feedstock for ethanol production in India.
ICRISAT, along with partners, has been working on the development of a sweet sorghum ethanol value chain over the past several years. As a result, sweet sorghum is now an established biofuel feedstock in India, China, the Philippines and Brazil. However, while sweet sorghum production is commercialized in Brazil and China for ethanol production, in India, ethanol distilleries based exclusively on sweet sorghum were not successful. With an aim to bring sweet sorghum back into mainstream biofuel production, ICRISAT and partners have developed a project, Commercialization of sweet sorghum as a complimentary feedstock for ethanol production in the sugar mills of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Seven sugar mills in the three states have been associated with this three-year project funded by the Government of India.
At the second Annual Review-cum-Work planning meeting of the project, Dr Ashok Kumar, Principal Scientist, Sorghum Breeding, ICRISAT and Principal Investigator of the Project, reported that sweet sorghum hybrids ICSSH 28, CSH 22 SSS, Phule Vasundhara have been identified as suitable for ethanol production in various seasons. The best-bet practices for achieving higher yields are being perfected at the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad and the All-India Coordinated Sorghum Improvement Project (AICSIP) center, Gujarat.
Dr Kumar stated that a Big Mill Test has been successfully conducted at Shri Ganesh Sugar Factory, Vataria, Gujarat, without changing any of the mill settings. The sweet juice was fermented, and the ethanol produced was supplied to oil market companies for blending with petrol. Innovative ways of composting using sweet sorghum bagasse was developed as part of the project. Staff of the sugar mills as well as sweet sorghum farmers were trained in achieving higher yields and in conducting multilocation trials.
Various stakeholders such as sugar mill owners and seed producers expressed an interest in strengthening their collaboration in the project.
Future goals of the project for 2017 are as follows:
The Annual Review-cum-Work Planning Meeting was conducted on 15 May. Participants included 30 scientists and managers from IIMR, National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF), Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad (JNTU-H), sugar industries, private sector seed companies and ICRISAT.
The first ever specialty trial in India to evaluate high-oleic groundnut lines resulted in 16 high-oleic lines being recommended for advanced trials. Enhanced rates of genetic gain for high-oleic trait were achieved with the help of advanced genotyping and phenotyping tools such as near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) and rapid regeneration advancement. This specialty trial was conducted at a workshop of the All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Groundnut (AICRP-G). Groundnut breeders for various institutes across the country collaborated at the workshop.
Groundnuts with higher percentage of oleic acid are better for the consumer’s health and for the processor (longer shelf life and better flavor). Hence, high-oleic trait is desirable and groundnut breeders at ICRISAT have been working towards since 2011. During 2016 and 2017, the new high-oleic lines have been shared with collaborators in India, Uganda and Nigeria. The process for sharing them with collaborators in Mali, Ghana and Myanmar is ongoing.
Apart from the high-oleic trait, the breeding program has also obtained lines that present other traits, such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and high oil yields.
In 2016, the first near-isogenic lines (NIL) trial was conducted for 12 marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC)-derived lines combining foliar fungal disease resistance with early maturity. At the above workshop, three NILs were promoted to the next stage of testing, Advanced Varietal Trial Stage II (See Table 1).
Moreover, three drought-tolerant lines were identified for national release; they gave higher yields than the best check and zonal check varieties (See Table 2). Of the three drought-tolerant lines, two are also high-oil lines and have consistently recorded over 50% oil across locations during the last three years of evaluation under AICRP-G.
One of the highlights of the Groundnut Breeding Program has been the rapid identification and release of high-oil lines from existing ICRISAT ‘elite genetic resources’. As shown below, out of the 160 lines from ‘elite genetic resources’ available at ICRISAT’s groundnut breeding program, 47 superior lines with high kernel oil content were identified and shared with partners in India when high-oil trait was prioritized as a key target trait for markets in India. From this material, 13 lines were recommended for national testing by partners and three were identified for national release (See flowchart below). The use of preexisting lines for identification of lines with a new trait served to accelerate the process.
A new multimillion-dollar initiative is poised to disrupt food production across the developing world – to make it more productive, efficient and resilient – through the power of information.
The Platform aims to exploit the capabilities of big data to accelerate and enhance the impact of international agricultural research especially on the most vulnerable of regions and populations. The big data initiative will bring together thousands of experts – from crop scientists at universities and research organizations to computer programmers at some of the world’s leading technology firms. They will collect, collate and analyze vast amounts of data on crops, weather, soils and more, with the aim of producing some of the most precise and reliable recommendations for farmers, governments and policymakers in developing countries.
The Platform’s focus will be to:
Organize – data on soils, climate, crops and more will be organized, standardized and made publicly available by the organizations that generate it. The Platform will begin by prioritizing the free and open sharing of data held by researchers at the 15 CGIAR centers – the world’s largest network of agricultural research organizations.
Convene – foster new partnerships between the agricultural science and technology sectors in order to bring together the best minds, and accelerate progress towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Inspire – put the data and partnerships into practice via a USD 4 million fund to support innovative projects with big data approaches at their core, such as real-time monitoring of pest outbreaks, or site-specific recommendations for farmers on water and fertilizer use.
“If we’re going to achieve the United Nations’ SDGs of increasing food production, reducing poverty and tackling climate change, one of the quickest ways will be to close the digital divide between rich and poor farmers,” said Jawoo Koo of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), at the inauguration of the Platform. “This will help ensure the world’s farmers and policymakers are making informed choices that produce the biggest impacts. The CGIAR Platform aims to do exactly that.”
Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, called big data “a potential game changer for agriculture as it can offer excellent value along the entire agricultural value chain…”
Hosting a panel discussion on the capacity of big data to influence social change, Dr Bergvinson said, “Big data is blurring the boundaries between industries. This innovation in the way we collect, analyze and act on data is what can help drive impact for sustainable and equitable development.” Panelists gave real-life examples of how big data could help derive insights into infrastructure, gender, health, food security, as well as business and social development.
The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture is jointly led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in partnership with tech giants including IBM and Amazon. The six-year initiative will provide global leadership in organizing open data, convening partners to develop innovative solutions, and demonstrating the power of big data analytics through inspiring projects that focus on improving agriculture in developing countries, and informing policymakers.
The big data project was launched on 15 May and the plenary panel discussion took place on 16 May at the ICT4D Conference.
The 9th Annual ICT4D conference was held in Hyderabad, India during 15-18 May 2017. It focused on the ways in which technology solutions could allow data to accelerate the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Approximately 1,000 individuals attended the conference—technical experts from a myriad of disciplines, representatives of governmental, non-governmental and private sector organizations, and individuals from countries across the globe.
A new study presents initial findings from a collaborative research on increasing irrigation water productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through on-farm monitoring, adaptive management and agricultural innovation platforms. These findings essentially highlight the challenges associated with increasing the productivity and profitability of small-scale communal irrigation systems in the context of growing food demand and water scarcity.
In many African countries, great reliance has been placed on irrigation to meet food security and significant investments were made in irrigation infrastructure in the 1970s and 1980s.
However, the authors argue that these schemes have had limited success as they fail to factor in small-scale irrigation. The point of departure of this research is monitoring irrigation water, soil water, nitrate, salt and groundwater levels, which will help farmers to understand the root causes for degradation of irrigated lands and low yields.
The overall objectives of the research are to: Evaluate whether ‘Agricultural Innovation Platforms’ based on existing community organizations can identify and overcome institutional and market barriers to greater water productivity; Develop, test and deploy water monitoring systems for enhancing agricultural productivity and; Identify and communicate economic and policy incentive mechanisms to enhance water productivity.
Initial research findings contributing to the above objectives have been published as a special issue, by the International Journal of Water Resources Development.It is titled ‘The productivity and profitability of small scale communal irrigation systems in South-eastern Africa’ http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cijw20/33/5
Research contributions from ICRISAT scientists to this study are:
Profitability and productivity barriers and opportunities in small-scale irrigation schemes
Henning Bjornlund, Andre van Rooyen & Richard Stirzaker
Irrigation development in Zimbabwe: understanding productivity barriers and opportunities at Mkoba and Silalatshani irrigation schemes
Moyo, A. van Rooyen, M. Moyo, P. Chivenge & H. Bjornlund
An overview of extension use in irrigated agriculture and case studies in south-eastern Africa
Sarah Ann Wheeler, Alec Zuo, Henning Bjornlund, Makarius Victor Mdemu, Andre van Rooyen & Paiva Munguambe
Theory and application of Agricultural Innovation Platforms for improved irrigation scheme management in Southern Africa
André F. van Rooyen, Peter Ramshaw, Martin Moyo, Richard Stirzaker & Henning Bjornlund
Irrigating Africa: policy barriers and opportunities for enhanced productivity of smallholder farmers
Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Jamie Pittock, Richard Stirzaker, Henning Bjornlund, Andre van Rooyen, Paiva Munguambe, Makarius Victor Mdemu & Japhet J. Kashaigili
Communal irrigation systems in South-Eastern Africa: findings on productivity and profitability
Jamie Pittock, Henning Bjornlund, Richard Stirzaker & Andre van Rooyen
These efforts are undertaken by a larger project on ‘Increasing Irrigation Water Productivity in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe through On-Farm Monitoring, Adaptive Management and Agricultural Innovation Platforms’ and is part of CGIAR’s Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.
Dr Dyno Keatinge, former Deputy Director General-Research (DDG-R), ICRISAT, has received the prestigious award MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his “services to tropical agriculture and the reduction of both poverty and malnutrition in the developing world”.
Dr Dyno Keatinge, former Deputy Director General-Research (DDG-R), ICRISAT, has received the prestigious award MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his “services to tropical agriculture and the reduction of both poverty and malnutrition in the developing world”.
Dr Keatinge served as DDG-R, ICRISAT, from 21 Oct 2002 to 31 May 2008. He was recommended for the award by the British Foreign Office for his work for the improvement of vegetables (as Director General of World Vegetable Center) and for his services at ICRISAT, IITA and ICARDA.
After retirement, Dr Keatinge became an honorary life fellow of the International Society of Horticultural Science and Chief Executive of Tropical Agricultural Development Advisory Services. Commenting on his award, he said, “This came as a complete but pleasant surprise; I have accepted
it on behalf of all the AIRCA* and CGIAR Center staff who continue to work tirelessly for the alleviation of poverty and malnutrition in the developing world.”
Dr Keatinge is among 503 people who received MBEs for their work in education, health, economics, science, sports, law, and the arts in the 2017 New Year’s honors list. The award was presented personally by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on 5th May 2017.
* Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture
Dr Yilma Kebede, noted agricultural scientist, was recently appointed as an ICRISAT Fellow.
Dr Kebede brings with him a sterling academic background and decades of practical experience in crop improvement research as well as project management. As a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Kebede was involved in finding sustainable solutions for climate-related issues in Africa and other regions. We welcome Dr Kebede and look forward to a highly enriching experience with him as a mentor, especially in matters related to Ethiopia.
The ICRISAT Honorary Fellowships enable senior research scientists to transfer knowledge and skills in a mentoring role at ICRISAT. The Fellowships are generally of 12 months’ duration and are awarded by the Director General.
Notable ICRISAT Honorary Fellows:
Dr Stefania Grando: The former Director, Science Quality and Strategy, was made an Honorary Fellow in February 2017. While at ICRISAT Dr Grando was actively involved with the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium. With her vast experience in dryland cereals research, Dr Grando will now be contributing her insights to the modernization of ICRISAT’s breeding programs, among other duties.
Dr Prabhakar Pathak: A specialist in soil and water management, Dr Pathak will, as an ICRISAT Honorary Fellow, develop and submit research papers related to watershed management, water productivity and water use efficiency.
Dr KPC Rao: As an Honorary Fellow,
Dr Rao will provide vital inputs into ongoing research on crop modeling systems, impacts of climate change and related interventions and more. He has written and published critical works related to climate change, especially in Eastern and Central Africa.
Dr GV Ranga Rao: A former special project scientist in Integrated Pest Management, Dr Ranga Rao in his capacity as ICRISAT Fellow will support and train incoming entomology recruits, guide project coordinators in ongoing projects and developed training manuals on pest management.
Dr HC Sharma: An entomologist,
Dr Sharma will guide and mentor students and staff as an ICRISAT Fellow. He will be representing ICRISAT at the International Plant Protection Congress (IPPC) 2019.
Dr Alastair William Orr: As an ICRISAT Fellow, Dr Orr, an agricultural economist, will provide guidance on smallholder value chains in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Dr AVR Kesava Rao: Dr Rao, an agroclimatologist and an ICRISAT Fellow, will contribute significantly to programs related to climate change adaptation, especially in the semi-arid tropical regions.
Mr Amit Chakravarty, formerly Senior Manager, Scientific Editing and Publishing, Strategic Marketing and Communications, has taken over as Chief of Staff, Director General’s Office, with effect from 1 May. In his new role, he will be overseeing the DG’s communications, project management and more. We wish him all the best.
The ICRISAT Governing Board honored Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director, Genetic Gains, with the 2016 Doreen Margaret Mashler Award. This award was conferred upon him for his outstanding scientific achievements in the areas of genome sequencing, genetic mapping and functional genomics, and for his leadership in increasing ICRISAT’s international visibility in the area of genome science and molecular biology.
Dr Varshney’s contribution to ICRISAT crops has made a significant impact on basic research dealing with the understanding of genome architecture and applied crop improvement for development of superior lines with enhanced crop productivity. His strategic leadership and tireless pursuit of scientific excellence, especially for legume crops has enabled the ‘orphan’ legume crops to enter the molecular breeding era.
Over the last decade, Dr Varshney has led several international genome sequencing consortia to decode the DNA of dryland crops. ICRISAT is the only CGIAR center (and one of few centers worldwide) to lead genome sequencing of several dryland crops – pigeonpea, chickpea, groundnut and pearl millet. Several research papers from ICRISAT have been published in top research journals of the world such as Nature Biotechnology, Nature Genetics and others. Dr Varshney has developed and led a strong Genomics team, nurtured the Research Program-Grain Legumes team and established a robust Research Program-Genetic Gains team. He has trained several next-generation scientists and conducted trainings/conferences in developing countries to popularize genome science and molecular breeding. He is the Founding Director of the Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) at ICRISAT-India. The CEG is a state-of-the-art and high-performance computational facility with 408 cores, 6 TB RAM and 572 TB of storage. He has successfully mobilized several large grants worth over USD 70 million to ICRISAT, including the Tropical Legumes III grant.
Dr Varshney’s work has benefitted millions of smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics. The Tropical Legumes project is expected to touch 11.22 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The award was presented to him during the 81st Governing Board meeting of ICRISAT held during 19-21 April at ICRISAT-India.
Scientists and experts talk about climate change and how it affects millions of small and big farmers globally and mitigation efforts that are being made to help overcome the issues. Visit this link to see the videos on our website.
On the occasion of our 45th anniversary, our staff share their wish for the drylands. Visit this link to see the latest videos of our staff’s vision for smallholder farmers and people living in the drylands.
Watch Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, talk about the importance of millets not just for nutrition but as an economic driver for youth and rural communities. Visit the Director General’s Journal and view the video.
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