October
Issue No: 1817
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Special report: Governing Board Meeting Sep 2019


(L–R) Mr Hermann Some, CERAAS; Drs Wendy Umberger and Sissel Rogne, ICRISAT Governing Board members; Dr Jan Debaene, Global Head of Breeding, ICRISAT; Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT and Dr Paco Sereme, ICRISAT Governing Board Chair at Dakar, Senegal. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

(L–R) Mr Hermann Some, CERAAS; Drs Wendy Umberger and Sissel Rogne, ICRISAT Governing Board members; Dr Jan Debaene, Global Head of Breeding, ICRISAT; Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT and Dr Paco Sereme, ICRISAT Governing Board Chair at Dakar, Senegal. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

An in-depth look at ICRISAT’s engagement in West Africa

As members of the ICRISAT Governing Board converged in Dakar, Senegal, the air was abuzz with the promise of upcoming strategies for a focused approach to the next few years. During the next few days, over a series of meetings and discussions, topics ranging from nutrition, systems research (including socio-economics), digital agriculture and outreach to priorities in each of the research programs were covered in depth. Each research area gave a presentation on options for strategic directions and presented detailed analyses on strengths, opportunities and plans to tackle weaknesses and threats, as well as to capitalize on the opportunities and strengths. A Strategic Plan will be formulated following some more inputs.

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Partnerships strengthened

(L–R) Dr Ndjido A Kane, representing Director General, Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research and Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT. Photos: A Diama, ICRISAT

(L–R) Dr Ndjido A Kane, representing Director General, Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research and Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT.

Reinforcing ICRISAT’s engagement with the national systems and other partners, was one of the key points of discussion. Part of this was understanding the partners’ strengths and weaknesses and complementing them. One highlight was the signing of an MOU with the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA) to extend collaborations.

Senegal

It was a packed schedule for the Board members, with field trips, presentations from partner institutions, and social engagements. Partners included ISRA, CERAAS, CORAF/WECARD, MANOBI, ANACIM and more.

Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, West and Central Africa, ICRISAT. Photos: A Diama, ICRISAT

Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, West and Central Africa, ICRISAT. Photos: A Diama, ICRISAT

Board members visited ISRA in Bambey and the Centre d’étude regional pour l’amélioration de l’adaptation à la sécheresse (CERAAS). One key focus was to explore new opportunities for collaboration and sharing of expertise and resources toward a stronger regional breeding program.

The meeting also discussed ongoing collaborations and projects between ICRISAT, ISRA and CERAAS. “As a center of excellence, CERAAS could be a great entry point and a good platform for a regional breeding program that will meet the needs of partners, mainly the smallholder farmers,” said Dr Ndjido A Kane, geneticist and plant molecular biologist, CERAAS. To conclude the field visit, the Board members had some interactions with men and women farmers who are participants in ISRA activities in Senegal.

Group photo concluding the visit to CERAAS.

Group photo concluding the visit to CERAAS.

Mali

Visit to the aflatoxin testing lab.

Visit to the aflatoxin testing lab.

In Mali, the Board members and the Management Group met the scientific staff at ICRISAT’s research station in Samanko and interacted with partners and donors, including the EU delegation, the Ambassador of India, representatives from Institut d’Economie Rurale (national research institute), Catholic Relief Services, CARE Mali, and the CEO of Faso Kaba seed company (an Africa Food Prize winner). During dinner, Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT, emphasized the prominent role of the private seed sector in strengthening seed systems and agricultural value chains.

Market demand being the primary driver for ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) strategy in West and Central Africa (WCA), it is critical to create incentives and opportunities for the poor to move away from poverty through market-oriented production and value addition. The ICRISAT WCA regional hub in Mali is now at the forefront of implementing a regional research-for-development (R4D) strategy to address constraints of low productivity of groundnut, of sorghum- and millet-based cropping systems; to improve soil, water and fertility management; to link farmers to markets; and to improve crop diversification. A major focus of this strategy is to boost agricultural R4D activities in WCA through strong resource mobilization initiatives and capacity building for the NARS in terms of both human resources and infrastructure.

Visit to the ICRISAT-Mali conservation room. Photos: A Diama, ICRISAT

Visit to the ICRISAT-Mali conservation room. Photos: A Diama, ICRISAT

In Mali, considerable progress has been made in developing dual-purpose sorghum varieties (both for human consumption and livestock feeding), opening a new window of opportunities for farmers and their organizations. About 10 dual-/multi-purpose sorghum varieties are now available for use in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Senegal and Togo, including the most popular Soubatimi (with over 100 ha of certified seed produced in 2018 in Mali). The grain and fodder yields of such varieties can reach up to 1.8-2.5 t/ha and 10-15 t/ha, respectively (under 600–1200 mm rain).

A total of 40 commercial hybrids were developed (only five existed in 2013) and are being tested in regional trials. The research is also focusing on the aspect of nutrition to elevate levels of iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) in varieties/hybrids, along with a gender perspective, involving culinary tests of improved varieties, including women for processing ability and both men and women for food quality.

Sorghum demonstration trials.

Sorghum demonstration trials.

ICRISAT’s focus on integrated management of aflatoxin was discussed. During a visit to the pathology laboratory, the Board members observed equipment used to test aflatoxin levels, as well as pre- and post-management strategies developed on farm to reduce contamination. The laboratory provides services to partners (farmer organizations, the private sector, national bodies and international organizations). To enhance the capabilities of the laboratory, new equipment has been bought and its manager given additional training.

Niger

With over two-thirds of its population under the age of 25, Niger has the youngest population in the world. Here, substantial work has been done by ICRISAT and partners to increase millet productivity and to improve the bioavailability of iron and zinc in millet varieties currently preferred by farmers here. ICRISAT’s research in pearl millet is leading the advancement of this crop in Niger. Recent progress includes the development of millet hybrid, biofortification and more. https://www. icrisat.org/africas-first-biofortified-pearl-millet-varietyaims- to-combat-anaemia/

Clockwise from top: Dr Prabhu Pingali, Ms Folasade Ogunde and Dr Paco Sereme in pearl millet fields at Sadoré, Niger. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Clockwise from top: Dr Prabhu Pingali, Ms Folasade Ogunde and Dr Paco Sereme in pearl millet fields at Sadoré, Niger. Photos: A Diama, ICRISAT

At the demonstration trials (pearl millet hybrids, OPVs, sorghum and cowpea intercropping) near Youri village, Sadoré, the visitors paid keen attention to the biological control of the Fall Armyworm (FAW), and the development of pest- and Striga-resistant as well drought-tolerant pearl millet varieties.

(L-R) Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, ADG-External Relations, ICRISAT; Dr Malick Ba, Country Representative-Niger; Dr Peter Carberry, Mr Albadé Abouba, Minister of State for Agriculture and Livestock, Dr Paco Sereme and Dr Ramadjita Tabo. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

(L-R) Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, ADG-External Relations, ICRISAT; Dr Malick Ba, Country Representative-Niger; Dr Peter Carberry, Mr Albadé Abouba, Minister of State for Agriculture and Livestock, Dr Paco Sereme and Dr Ramadjita Tabo. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Meeting with key Ministers in Niger Minister of Agriculture: Thanking Mr Albadé Abouba, Minister of State for Agriculture and Livestock, for support in organizing the Niger Millet festival in February 2019, the Board described the next steps for sustainability of the initiative. Dr Peter Carberry talked about ongoing efforts and sought support from the Government of Niger in getting the UN Assembly to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

Opportunities for South-South collaboration, including an upcoming India-Africa summit for agriculture, were discussed.

r Ibrahima Guimba-Saïdou, Minister – Special Advisor to the President of the Republic of Niger with Drs Sereme and Carberry. Also seen in the picture is Mr Murli Sharma. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

r Ibrahima Guimba-Saïdou, Minister – Special Advisor to the President of the Republic of Niger with Drs Sereme and Carberry. Also seen in the picture is Mr Murli Sharma. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Minister of IT – Special Advisor to the President of the Republic of Niger: Board members had a fruitful meeting with HE Mr Ibrahima Guimba-Saïdou, Minister of IT – Special Advisor to the President, and CEO of Niger’s Agency for Information Society (ANSI) . The establishment of an innovation and technology city at ICRISAT Sadoré research station, as part of the government’s Niger 2.0 program is underway, with the signing of an MOA between ANSI and ICRISAT.

Asking the ICRISAT Board members to “be our ambassadors”, Mr Guimba-Saïdou elaborated that the innovation and technology city will be developed around clusters (agribusiness, health, education and more) and will host an acceleration and incubation center for startups and small-and-medium enterprises, a training and certification center, a coding academy, a business center, a national data center and assembly lines for digital and other equipment including computers, tablets and solar panels. Board members met with initiators of projects such as the coding academy.

Focus on Senegal

Much of Senegal lies within the drought-prone Sahel, plagued with irregular rainfall and degraded soil. Approximately 75% of Senegal’s workforce relies on rainfed agriculture. The two main agricultural activities are crop production (groundnut, cotton, millet, sorghum, etc.) and livestock. Groundnut and cotton are the two most important sources of foreign exchange. Senegal’s economy is basically rural with limited natural resources, which means it is vulnerable to climatic variations and also to the volatilities in the international markets to which it exports groundnut, fish and phosphates.

Some of ICRISAT’s research priorities in Senegal include improving resilience, tackling gender inequity, and scaling up innovations (viz. dual-purpose sorghum) and improved practices (viz. Striga management).

ICRISAT’s research in Senegal

Dr Nathalie Diagne (first right in the picture), microbiologist and Director of the Centre National de Recherches Agronomique de Bambey (CNRA-Bambey)

Dr Nathalie Diagne (first right in the picture), microbiologist and Director of the Centre National de Recherches Agronomique de Bambey (CNRA-Bambey)

ICRISAT works closely with Senegalese agricultural research and development institutions such as ISRA and CERAAS to improve the resilience and food and nutritional security of dryland farming families.

Groundnut has been the main agricultural commodity to be exported from the ‘Peanut Basin’ of Senegal for years. Global competition and the need for compliance with international standards, as well as unsustainable farming practices have weakened the status of groundnut farmers; yet this legume crop remains key
for the food security and livelihoods of many Senegalese families.

For years, ICRISAT has been engaged in developing and disseminating improved varieties to enhance low yields. One promising solution has been the incorporation of resistance traits of foliar disease (rust, rosette, early leaf spot and late leaf spot) from wild groundnut relatives into popular local varieties such as Fleur 11.

Over 1 million ha, more than 10% of agricultural land, were planted with millets – especially pearl millet and sorghum, staple cereals in Senegal – in 2010. Although these cereals are quite resilient to dry conditions and low-phosphorus sandy soils, they have significant genetic variation. Pearl millet breeders are working on cultivars better adapted to drought, such as short-duration millets or with better tilling ability. Better crop cultivation practices such as integrated Striga management and soil fertility management are helping increase sorghum and millet production.

Dr Abdou Ndiaye, Scientific Director ISRA

Dr Abdou Ndiaye, Scientific Director ISRA

Poor access to improved seeds of key dryland cereals and legumes is a major constraint for Senegalese small farmers, explaining the low average yields (less than 800 kg/ha for millets in 2012). Efforts are on to improve the structure of the West Africa seed sector, to build fruitful partnerships and improve seed policies. Research and farmers’ organizations have been trained in certified seed production and variety testing.

Gender inequality is significant in Senegal (ranked 114 out of 146, source OCDE). Early marriage, skewed inheritance, and limited access to assets and incomes make women particularly vulnerable. Agricultural research tries to understand the constraints and possible drivers of change. For instance, women are more vulnerable to climate risks like shorter rainy seasons due to the traditional Senegalese custom that men first plant for themselves right after the first rains in early June, then they plant for their wives about a month later.

Along with annual climate variability, ICRISAT is also investigating the impact of climate change on small farmers. Under the AgMIP program, crop modeling and local climate projections have helped design climate advisory services for farmers in Kaffrine and Nioro regions. In the coming years, strategic partnerships with Senegalese research institutions will continue under CGIAR Research Programs.

New policies approved

The Board approved a new Policy on ‘Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment, including Sexual Harassment’ as well as minor edits to the Conflict of Interest policy.

Dr Sereme presents a memento to Mr Murli Sharma as Dr Carberry applauds.

Dr Sereme presents a memento to Mr Murli Sharma as Dr Carberry applauds.

Board honors Mr Murli Sharma

The Board honored Mr Murli Sharma, Head of Visitor Services and Protocol at ICRISAT headquarters for his 42 years of service to the organization. ICRISAT receives about 14,000 visitors per year at the headquarters in Patancheru, India, and Mr Murli has been the face of ICRISAT for them since a long time, enlightening them with the ethos and history of our organization.

The annual ICRISAT General Board Meetings were held during 11-14 September at Dakar, Senegal.

Key research highlights in West and Central Africa (WCA) 

  • The ICRISAT-National Agricultural Research System (NARS) partnership led to the release of 20 improved and high-yielding groundnut varieties preferred for enhancing productivity and nutrition (Ghana-1,Nigeria-3, Burkina Faso-6 and Mali-10).
  • ICRISAT-Niger developed and released dual-purpose millet varieties such as ICMV 167005 and ICMV 167006 with high grain and fodder yielding capacity of up to 1.7 t/ha and 2.8–3 t/ha respectively.
  • At Niger too, first single-cross pearl millet hybrid ICMH 177111 with downy mildew resistance and yield of 2.5 t/ha is ready for commercialization.
  • Biofortified pearl millet variety ICMV 167001 (Chakti) with high iron (Fe) (50 mg/kg) and zink (Zn) (45 mg/kg) giving high yields of 1.6 t/ha developed in Niger.
  • In Nigeria, 38 sorghum B-lines screened for micronutrient content revealed an average of 5 sorghum lines with >65 mg/kg Fe and 30 mg/kg Zn. Of these, 3 new R-lines recorded 54-74 mg/kg Fe and 22-34 mg/kg Zn, opening a window for nutrient-dense hybrid development.
  • The regional genebank in Niger holds over 13,000 accessions for national genebanks of WCA countries.
  • In Mali, under Africa RISING’s large-scale Diffusion of Technologies for Sorghum and Millet Systems (ARDT-SMS), 476 extension agents (165 women) trained in best agricultural practices in millet and sorghum.
  • Under the ARDT-SMS project, 1,082 seed producers (378 women) trained in seed production techniques and post-harvest handling. Grain yields increased by 51% (sorghum) and 72% (pearl millet).
  • In Mali, intercropping cereal and cowpea together with microdosing gave high yields of 1,635 kg/ha for sorghum and 1,580 kg/ha for pearl millet-cowpea.
  • In Nigeria, agCelerant digital platform provided more than 50,000 farmers with bundled services (finance, insurance, etc.), with potential scaling to 17 million farmers.
  • Mali’s first national 10-meter crop mapping coverage was generated using parcel-level near real-time agricultural monitoring from the sen2-agri multi-sensor Earth Observation system, paving the way for improved agricultural statistics.
  • Country-based seed roadmaps for production and delivery of improved seed informed by seed demand and supply systems have been developed.
  • Up to 94% or more reduction in aflatoxin contamination using pre-and post-harvest management technologies.
Board members with Management Group members. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Board members with Management Group members. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Partnership for development


How the feed demand-supply gap was filled in Niger.

How the feed demand-supply gap was filled in Niger.

Solving the livestock feed supply-demand puzzle in Niger

An innovative project in Niger has linked livestock feed producers in one village to buyers in another, creating a market where none existed before, enabling both groups to benefit.

The project ‘Enabling Value Chains to Create Sustainable Income for Vulnerable People in Crop-Livestock Systems of Burkina Faso and Niger’ identified two zones in Niger with opposing feed contexts. Livestock actors in Torodi zone frequently faced feed shortages for their animals, whereas the Maradi zone had a high production of feed.

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Using participative interaction with livestock actors, feed producers and feed traders from Maradi and livestock farmers from Torodi were linked to develop a feed market. Feed traders collect feed from Maradi and transport them to Torodi, where farmers organized themselves into an association to buy the feed. With the assistance of the project, they created a feed bank and set up a committee to manage the system (stocking, selling and payments in different villages). The collected money was utilized to renew the stock by buying more feed from Maradi.

“I am quite happy that now we can buy feed. Earlier, it was really difficult for us,” says Mr Moussa Oumarou, a livestock farmer. Like Moussa, everyone at Sirimbana, a village where the feed bank is located, comes to help with unloading lorries. Thereafter, feed traders from Maradi sit together with the feed management committee to interact and discuss opportunities for the future. They exchange their contact details so that they could start communicating between themselves independently.

“I never knew that feed was such a problem in this area. I am glad we managed to solve one of their problems. But this is just a start. We will ensure that this market development becomes sustainable,” says Dr Clarisse Umutoni, a livestock scientist working under the project.

Livestock plays a crucial role in generating income, nutrition and health, creating the means to afford nutritious diets, education, health and other household needs.

The project, initiated in April 2019, supports the small livestock market through specific interventions. It has so far (a) improved access to feeds for livestock farmers at 30% lower price than the market price, (b) developed proximity feed market managed by livestock actors and, (c) improved revenues in Maradi for women and youth dealers involved in feed activities.

For more on ICRISAT’s work in feed and fodder, click here: http://exploreit.icrisat.org/profile/feed%20and%20fodder/53


A demonstration of the agCelerant platform in progress.

A demonstration of the agCelerant platform in progress.

Landmark private-public partnership forged to transform Nigeria’s agricultural sector

Bringing together public and private organizations working in agriculture, Nigeria recently formed a country-level committee with ICRISAT as its co-chair. The committee will use a business development platform called agCelerant to orchestrate financial and technical support for 15 million farmers.

“We need to start reversing this trend (low agriculture productivity) by harnessing the huge potential in the agricultural sector for sustainable development through partnership and engagement with willing stakeholders, who genuinely believe in our beloved nation, and are ready to lend us helping hands,’’ said Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, Nigeria’s Federal Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), at the committee’s inauguration.

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“We need to start reversing this trend (low agriculture productivity) by harnessing the huge potential in the agricultural sector for sustainable development through partnership and engagement with willing stakeholders, who genuinely believe in our beloved nation, and are ready to lend us helping hands,’’ said Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, Nigeria’s Federal Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), at the committee’s inauguration.

The National agCelerant Technical Committee espouses a ‘phygital’ approach to farming. The physical and digital together constitute the phygital approach, forming the conceptual bedrock of agCelerant, which was developed by Manobi Africa PLC. The platform connects smallholders with sources of credit and insurance, inputs, and output markets. It uses Internet of Things (IoT), Earth Observation and Artificial Intelligence, and is powered by youth franchisees that can proximally and economically monitor and advise farmers under contract.

agCelerant was developed with technical support from ICRISAT’s Innovation Systems for the Drylands and WCA Research Programs, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. It provides agricultural investment risk mapping to reduce lenders’ cash-out and increase availability of credit to smallholders. It also offers robust and affordable insurance contracts to reduce persistent climate risk in intensifying crop-livestock systems, as well as improved management of crop-nutrient deficiencies to increase fertilizer use efficiency and agricultural productivity.

In 2018, ICRISAT and Manobi Africa led the early implementation of agCelerant in Nigeria by applying it to the digitalization of nearly 5,000 ha of smallholder sorghum fields in Bauchi, Kano and Niger states. Unprecedented amounts of socio-economic, agronomic and yield data thus collected helped showcase the potential of agCelerant in Nigeria, which led federal authorities to extend its implementation to 15 million smallholder farmers. With US$ 500/ha needed to cover smallholder production costs, agCelerant thus targets a consolidated investment of US$ 7.5 billion by financial institutions. Accordingly, FMARD and Manobi Africa aim to secure the recovery of 1 million smallholder loans within the first year of extended implementation.

As the lead agricultural research institution in the committee, ICRISAT’s role will be to advise in the development of new technical solutions such as advanced yield forecasting, post-harvest loss predictions or hybrid insurance products, and to support deployment targeting and leveraging of other scientific knowledge for purposes like structuring of agCelerant digital seed value chains.

Other members of the committee include Permanent Secretary Office of FMARD (Chair), the Federal Departments of Agricultural Extension and Agriculture, FMARD’s Planning of Policy Coordination and Program Coordinating Unit, the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services, the Bank of Agriculture, the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation, the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan Implementation Unit and Manobi Africa.


Celebrations after winning a trophy in a category of research institute and services.

Celebrations after winning a trophy in a category of research institute and services.

Nane Nane Expo: Tanzanian agricultural show inspires research teams to excel

Research programs from the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) showcased their best technologies in farmers’ fairs as part of the popular Nane Nane Agricultural Expo at various locations in Tanzania. This year’s exhibition theme translated to “Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries for National Economic Development”.

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Channel TenTV reporter Kisa Mwaipyana (right) interviewing the National Coordinator of Oil Seed Research Program Mr Joseph Nzunda (left). Photo: TARI

Channel TenTV reporter Kisa Mwaipyana (right) interviewing the National Coordinator of Oil Seed Research Program Mr Joseph Nzunda (left). Photo: TARI

TARI is one of the partners of the AVISA project. The Sorghum and Millets research program, with support from AVISA, participated in the exhibitions at many show grounds across Tanzania in the Lake, Eastern and Central Zones. The team showcased demonstration plots for improved varieties and best agronomic practices such as spacing, fertilizer application, and pest and disease control. They also demonstrated intercropping of sorghum and legumes (e.g. sorghum and pigeonpea) for soil fertility improvement as well as dry samples and new value-added products from sorghum and millets.

The Groundnut team showcased several varieties of groundnuts viz. Naliendele, Mangaka, Nachingwea, Mnanje, and Masasi. Dr Jozeph Nzunda, National Coordinator of Oil Seed Research Program, noted that there was a need to increase production of oilseeds, seeing that the country imports 65% of edible oil. “Oil extraction from groundnuts is still a challenge in terms of inadequate facilities and machinery in Tanzania,” he said.

The team members got technical experts to explain groundnut technologies, while reaching participants through poster and product displays, training sessions, leaflet distribution and so on.

TARI Ilonga Centre earned kudos for well-presented value-added products and outstanding demonstrations, particularly those involving sorghum.

The expo was held during 31 July – 10 Aug 2019.


Dr Janila Pasupuleti, Principal Scientist, Groundnut Breeding, ICRISAT (far right), as part of the panel deliberating on ‘What’s Hot in the High Oleic Oils Market’. Photo: Helene, HOC

Dr Janila Pasupuleti, Principal Scientist, Groundnut Breeding, ICRISAT (far right), as part of the panel deliberating on ‘What’s Hot in the High Oleic Oils Market’. Photo: Helene, HOC

Making a mark in the global high-oleic oils market

The importance of high oleic (HO) oil groundnuts was highlighted at the High Oleic Congress 2019, an event dedicated to the fast-growing high oleic oil market, providing participants an opportunity to network with other key players in the high oleic oils industry.

Dr Janila Pasupuleti, Principal Scientist – Groundnut Breeding, ICRISAT, shared the story of the development and release of high oleic groundnut varieties at ICRISAT to meet the emerging market demand from food processing industries for enhanced shelf-life besides consumer health benefits of diets rich in oleic acid content.

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Dr Janila Pasupuleti, Principal Scientist – Groundnut Breeding, ICRISAT, shared the story of the development and release of high oleic groundnut varieties at ICRISAT to meet the emerging market demand from food processing industries for enhanced shelf-life besides consumer health benefits of diets rich in oleic acid content.

With a rising awareness about the high oleic groundnut varieties bred by ICRISAT, the HO group discussed the possibility of high oleic groundnut oil joining the HO oil market in Asia. The participants agreed that high oleic groundnuts had good potential for local food industries, since future supply-demand dynamics would be focused on sustainability and nutrition.

The HOC 2019 was a clear signal towards the need to develop products (groundnut varieties) that cater to an emerging (HO) market, which in turn can drive value chains and improve livelihoods of groundnut producers.

The High Oleic Congress 2019 was held in Lisbon, Portugal, on 4–5 September 2019.

Focus on breeding


Pusa 10216 in a field at IARI, New Delhi.

Pusa 10216 in a field at IARI, New Delhi.

Genomics delivers super chickpea in record time

Two improved varieties developed through genomics-assisted breeding are headed for Indian farms

India is set to launch improved chickpea, developed in record time through genomics-assisted breeding in a first-of-its-kind effort. Two new varieties with drought tolerance and disease resistance were recently identified for farming by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) for Chickpea identified two desi chickpea (Bengal chana) varieties—‘Pusa 10216’ and ‘MABC-WR-SA-1’, which were developed by ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Raichur, Karnataka, respectively, in collaboration with ICRISAT. AICRP announced the decision at its recently concluded 24th Annual Group Meet.

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“It is a successful story of collaboration of ICAR institutes, state agricultural university and an international organization like ICRISAT,” said Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General, ICAR and Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Government of India. “Genomics interventions in breeding, like molecular breeding, will significantly enhance crop productivity of legumes like chickpea.”

“We are very excited to see the outputs of collaboration of ICAR, UAS-R and ICRISAT in the form of improved varieties,” said Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT. “I am sure such collaborative efforts of ICRISAT with partners will benefit smallholder farmers not only in India but also in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Pusa chickpea

Pusa (BGM) 10216 alongside the older variety and a landrace.

Pusa (BGM) 10216 alongside the older variety and a landrace.

Pusa (BMG) 10216 was developed by Dr Bharadwaj Chellapilla and team at IARI in collaboration with Dr Rajeev Varshney and his team including Dr Mahendar Thudi and Dr Manish Roorkiwal at ICRISAT. Armed with extensive knowledge of the chickpea genome, thanks to groundbreaking research in 2014, Dr Varshney’s team was able to introgress drought tolerance in one of India’s ageing chickpea varieties, ‘Pusa 372’, by borrowing genes from ICC 4958, a drought tolerant chickpea landrace. The result – Pusa 10216 showed higher yields during testing in Indian drought conditions.

“Pusa 10216, which is the first variety to have drought tolerance through molecular breeding, was developed in just four years. It showed 11.9 % increase in yield over Pusa 372 during two-year multi-location testing in drought conditions,” said Dr Chellapilla.

MABC-WR-SA-1 alias Super Annigeri-1

Similarly, MABC-WR-SA-1 was developed by inducing fusarium wilt resistance in Annigeri-1, a variety highly preferred by farmers and the industry in Karnataka. The source of resistance to the wilt, which is a major dampener of yield, was borrowed from WR315, a chickpea landrace. With 7 % increased yield potential over Annigeri-1, this new variety is also being called Super Annigeri-1. It was developed by UAS-Raichur in collaboration with ICRISAT.

Talking about the role of genomics in crop breeding, Dr Varshney, Director for ICRISAT’s Genetic Gains Research Program, said both the varieties were developed in almost half the time that conventional breeding would take.

“Breeding new varieties conventionally can take 10 to 11 years. The world’s growing population and the rising demand for nutritious food makes genomics key to accelerated breeding,” he said. “The result of years of scientific collaboration between several national and international institutions in genomics research has started to bear fruit in farms.”

Dr NP Singh, Director of the Kanpur-based ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR) which is responsible for pulses research in India, said, “Our collaboration with ICRISAT to integrate genomics in breeding programs began several years ago. We are happy to see the first molecular breeding products in chickpea in India.”

For AICRP-Chickpea, which tests new chickpea lines across the country, the two varieties are set to reaffirm the crop’s role in India’s growing pulses production. “Chickpea project is the first AICRP among pulses crops to identify molecular breeding products for commercial release in India,” said Dr G P Dixit, AICRP-Chickpea Coordinator.

For more information, please contact:

Rajeev Varshney at or r (dot) k (dot) varshney (at) cgiar (dot) org
Rohit Pillandi at +919949513812 or p (dot) rohit (at) cgiar (dot) org


(L) Forage sorghum hybrid CSH 24 MF. (R) Memento presented in recognition of development of the hybrid.

(L) Forage sorghum hybrid CSH 24 MF. (R) Memento presented in recognition of development of the hybrid.

Forage sorghum hybrid hailed as a landmark cultivar in India

A new sorghum hybrid developed using ICRISAT breeding material was recently given special recognition as the Outstanding Forage Hybrid 2019 for revolutionizing forage sorghum production in India.

This is significant considering that currently, India – the world’s leading milk-producing country – has a major deficit of 35% for green fodder. Known for its excellent yield and quality traits, the sorghum hybrid CSH 24 MF is not only widely adopted by farmers across the country, but also used as the national check – the gold standard against which other cultivars are tested – in national level tests for other forage sorghum hybrids. As of today, it occupies almost a third of the total area under forage sorghum in the country.

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Up to 70% of milk production costs are livestock feed. Therefore, it is critical to develop economical yet nutritious sources of feed. Dual-purpose or fodder crops are among the least expensive sources of nutrients for livestock. However, against the annual forage requirement of 1325.7 million tons (816.8 and 508.9 million tons of green and dry fodder respectively) to support existing livestock population, the total annual forage production is 978.7 million tons (525.5 and 453.2 million tons green and dry fodder respectively). Currently, there is a net deficit of 35.6% for green fodder, 10.95% for dry crop residues and 44% for concentrate feed ingredients.

The ‘multi-cut’ (affording several cuttings over its lifetime) forage hybrid CSH 24 MF was developed by GB Pant University of Agriculture & Technology (GBPUA&T), Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, India, using its Pant Chari-6 as the male parent, and ICRISAT-bred ICSA 467 as the female parent. It was identified and released in 2009, and after extensive testing across the country, the hybrid has steadily gained popularity among farmers across the nation.

Moreover, it is used as the national check in All India Coordinated Sorghum Improvement Project (AICSIP) tests for pre-release evaluation of all new forage sorghum hybrids. Recently, the hybrid was given ‘Special Recognition’ as landmark cultivar for its excellent yield, quality and adaptability, which has led to its wide acceptance by sorghum farmers in India.

As the contributor of the vital female parent, ICRISAT has played a key role in this partnership – one of the most successful examples of collaborative research for development in CGIAR.

The demand for this hybrid is so high that the ICAR – Indian Institute of Millets Research grants licences to 10-12 seed companies each year to produce the seeds; part of the licence fee is shared with ICRISAT due to its contribution of the female parent.

This work is done as part of CRP on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC).

For more on ICRISAT’s work on sorghum, go to http://exploreit.icrisat.org/profile/Sorghum/193

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


Seed production plot of machine harvestable chickpea variety Phule Vikram at MPKV, Rahuri.

Seed production plot of machine harvestable chickpea variety Phule Vikram at MPKV, Rahuri.

Farmers’ demand for labor-friendly chickpea bears fruit: Two more machine-harvestable varieties released in India

For the first time, the Central Varietal Release Committee (CVRC) of India has released two new machine-harvestable chickpea varieties. With this, the number of machine-harvestable chickpea varieties in India goes up to four. Phule Vikram (ICCV 08108) and BG 3062 (ICCV 08112) were recently identified for release in the Central Zone (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states) of India, during the Annual Group Meet of the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Chickpea.

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Phule Vikram was earlier released by the State Variety Release Committee (SVRC) of Maharashtra, along with RVG 204 (ICCV 08102), which was released in Madhya Pradesh (https://www.icrisat.org/two-new-machine-harvestable-chickpeavarieties-released-in-india/) in 2017. Prior to that, NBeG 47 (ICCV 05106) had been released in Andhra Pradesh 2016 (http://www.icrisat.org/newsroom/latest-news/happenings/happenings1713.htm#1).

Traditionally, chickpea cultivars have a short and bushy architecture which makes machine harvesting difficult and causes significant yield losses. In addition, with increasing labor wages and a shrinking labor pool, many farmers have been demanding varieties that can be harvested by machine. The recently concluded project ‘Developing Chickpea Cultivars Suited to Mechanical Harvesting and Tolerant to Herbicides’ by ICAR and ICRISAT, and funded by the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) of the Government of India, supported the generation of diverse breeding material for developing machine-harvestable varieties. Apart from the released machine harvestable chickpea varieties, several more are in advanced stages of testing.

Phule Vikram has an erect growth habit with pod initiation from 25 cm above ground level. It is resistant to the commonly occurring disease Fusarium wilt, and recorded 2.27 t/ha average yield on farmers’ fields. The variety was released from Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri.

BG 3062, also having erect growth habit, showed resistance to Fusarium wilt (at more than 24 locations) and stunting, and moderate resistance to dry root rot diseases. The mean weighted seed yield of 2.27 t/ha was observed over a period of three years (2016-17 to 2018-19). This was released by a team of scientists from ICARIndian Institute of Agriculture Research (IARI), New Delhi.

The Central Zone has the largest chickpea area in India occupying more than 55% of the total chickpea producing area. The recent varieties will help millions of farmers move towards mechanization, thus saving cost and time, and reducing drudgery for women who are most often engaged in the harvesting of the crop. Using a combine harvester, one hectare of chickpea crop can be harvested in about 70 minutes. The produce reaches farmers’ homes the same day or can be directly transported to the market.

During the three-day meeting-cum-workshop of the AICRP on Chickpea, during 27-29 August at Ranchi in India, progress on the performance of chickpea genotypes were assessed under various all-India coordinated trials. Over 70 breeding lines/selections from breeding populations supplied by ICRISAT were under different stages of testing, of which 49 promising genotypes were nominated for initial varietal trials (IVTs) by various breeding programs, while the rest were promoted to advanced yield trails (AVTs) for testing during 2019-20.

For more on chickpea, go to: http://exploreit.icrisat.org/profile/Chickpea/232

Project: Developing Chickpea Cultivars Suited to Mechanical Harvesting and Tolerant to Herbicides

Funder: National Food Security Mission (NFSM) of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers ‘Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India.

Partners: ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur; ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi; Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana; Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (RVSKVV), Gwalior; Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri (not a partner in the project, but involved in evaluation); Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Hyderabad; University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad; and ICRISAT

 

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
7-decent-work 8-industry-innovation 17-partnerships-goals 


Participants of the product profile meeting. Photo: AVISA Project

Participants of the product profile meeting. Photo: AVISA Project

Breeding future-ready crops: selecting priority traits in breeding programs via product profiles

Developing crop varieties that meet the needs of all stakeholders, with farmers, value chain actors and end-use consumers having specific needs for attributes of breeds or varieties, is a challenging task. Defining, communicating and incorporating desirable traits into breeding programs requires focused interaction between different disciplines and stakeholder groups in a process known as product profile development.

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With this in mind, partners of the AVISA project (https://www.avisaproject.org/) got together to brainstorm about market demands, climate change adaptation and nutrition needs, so that these could be brought together most efficiently in product profiles for the project target crops – sorghum, millet, pigeonpea, chickpea and groundnut. They also learnt to use tools and techniques to enable effective product profiles to be developed.

Dr Eric Manyasa, Acting Region Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, said that the workshop aimed at training the stakeholders on development and harmonization of product profiles among the CGIAR and NARS partners.

Dr Chris Ojiewo, AVISA Project Coordinator, suggested spending adequate time to ensure that the products were demand driven and fit into the market. “The end user should be linked to product design and product profiles,” he said. “The time has come to fine tune existing product concepts into product profiles for faster adjustment.”

Dr Jan Debaene, AVISA Principal Investigator, held that product profiles were designed not by breeders alone but by multi-disciplinary teams. He advised the attendees to be mindful of future dynamics such as climate variability, emerging markets, gender mainstreaming and socio-economic aspects including nutrition as they develop the product profiles.

Dr Tawanda Mashonganyika, Excellence in Breeding (EiB) Product Manager, who was also the lead trainer and facilitator at the meeting, led the partners through development of market-oriented product profiles and harmonizing them with underlying concepts and the available online tools. Mentioning a product profile database that had been developed and made accessible, he said that it would be used in product advancement meetings to make progressive decisions in line with different market segments. While new varieties meeting market needs were needed to replace existing ones, he explained that those with market shares of 70% or more should not be ignored, as their widespread adoption pointed to market preferences.

Dr Tawanda defined a product profile as the ‘What’ of the breeding pipeline; a living document that gave key indicators of well-defined traits for specific markets. He described it as a vehicle that would help the programs succeed in dissemination and adoption of the developed products. He reminded the participants that a product profile should be formalized, written down and aligned to a ruling variety in the market. “Product trait must be measurable and specific, and there must be justification why that particular trait is of importance,” he added.

Dr Esther Njuguna, Gender Specialist, ICRISAT, shared the state of Gender and Breeding Initiative (GBI) and the proposed AVISA methodology for Gender Responsive Product Profiles for Tanzania/Uganda. She noted that a network of gender scientists, breeders and genomics specialists from different CRPs was designing tools to assess gender responsiveness of a trait based on two ideologies: 1) no harm to the population, especially women, and 2) benefits to the population, especially women. This initiative, according to Dr Esther, is working to raise funds to move this process forward; looking for programs that could test the tools and provide feedback; and working with funders’ recommendation for cross-program collaboration between EIB and GBI.

In her opinion, even though breeding programs may have had gender-responsive product profiles they have not been presented as such. “This is the right time to connect the missing links, particularly between breeding and gender-related aspects,” emphasized Esther. “AVISA provides a rare opportunity to test an ‘integrated methodology’.

Dr Everina Lukonge, Director – Research and Innovation, Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute, said that the training was essential as they had been releasing a lot of varieties which were hardly accepted in the market. She urged the partners to share the lessons with colleagues and mentoring them to achieve sustainability even after AVISA.

The product profile meeting was held on 19 July 2019 in Arusha, Tanzania.


Eat local, eat seasonal, eat variety, eat healthy

Why achieving India’s nutrition security through sustainable food systems is the road ahead

A friend in the international nutrition community once narrated me an interesting interaction with few tribals in their project area. While making the villagers aware about the benefits of traditional foods like millets for a healthy living, a smart individual from the group piped up: “Aap log Maggi khate ho, aur humko ragi khane ke liye kehte ho,” meaning, “You eat Maggi (synonymous with instant/fast food in India), but advise us to eat ragi (finger millet)”.

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Adapted from original post on

A friend in the international nutrition community once narrated me an interesting interaction with few tribals in their project area. While making the villagers aware about the benefits of traditional foods like millets for a healthy living, a smart individual from the group piped up: “Aap log Maggi khate ho, aur humko ragi khane ke liye kehte ho,” meaning, “You eat Maggi (synonymous with instant/fast food in India), but advise us to eat ragi (finger millet)”.

Deep in the query of the innocent tribal man, I realise an intricate policy paradox. Having worked in tribal pockets of Odisha for a significant part of my career, I have also noticed how India’s traditional (often healthier) food systems have been displaced over the years. However, now confronted with various lifestyle problems, the educated and wealthier part of society is once again turning to these traditional food items. And indeed this is good news. Sale of multi-grain atta (flour containing mixtures of wheat and other millets) is going up; so also is the usage amongst consumers (mostly urban) of dishes made from millets (now referred to as nutri-cereals, as per a recent Government of India Gazette notification) and traditional crops. Then, how could we resume/enhance locally grown, healthier items into the food menu of majority of the population?

Scientifically, millet crops have high micro-nutrients (like iron and zinc) and a low Glycemic index (good for people with diabetes). They can be grown with less amounts of water (in comparison to traditional staple crops like rice, wheat and maize) and therefore, should be much preferred in a changing climate scenario. However, popularisation of such climate-smart foods remains at a nascent stage in spite of a plethora of government support measures and schemes. We try to find out reasons for this ‘Ragi versus Maggi’ conundrum and offer plausible solutions.

Orphan crops versus ‘politically’ sensitive crops?

The policy framework of Indian agriculture over the past five decades, which has leaned excessively towards cereals like rice and wheat, has often been cited as the biggest reason for reduction of cultivated area under millet crops and few other grain legumes.

Input-intensive Green Revolution technologies coupled with policy and institutional support for rice and wheat, initiated by successive governments in order to improve food security in a growing nation have helped in successfully raising food production and ensuring good income to the growers (in certain pockets of the country). All this has come at the cost of land degradation, unsustainable use of water, loss of biodiversity and environmental sustainability.

Declaration of minimum support price (MSP) for crops like millets and pulses at a belated stage is yet to give these ‘orphan crops’ a level-playing field. Added to that is an insufficient procurement infrastructure, and less informed growers who are unprepared to sell their ‘marketable surpluses’ in specific mandis (market yards).

Productivity levels per unit area still weigh in favour of rice and wheat when compared to sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra), finger millet (ragi) and other minor millets like barnyard, Kodo and foxtail millets. Moreover, millet crops are mostly grown in marginal and drylands. In many states, rice, wheat and maize growers enjoy the benefit of various input subsidies on fertilisers, irrigation water, power and thus, making the substitute crops totally non-competitive.

These nutri-cereal crops have the advantages of being micro-nutrient dense and able to survive with less water, and should arguably get more support. The inherent health and environmental benefits on consumption of nutri-cereal crops (millets) and legumes should be factored in while deciding the support prices by governments.

Some responses to Dr Padhee’s article:

  • It’s high time now to promote millets through an effective policy design at a central level and execution at a local state level. Bringing Millets to PDS system can be highly effective to attract all stakeholders in the Millets value chain. – Debaranjan Pujahari
  • Very Nice Article. It would be appropriate , if these high value millets can get GI tags ASAP .Streamlining of Supply chain ( Producers- Food Processors) should be done with a commercial approach. Big Corporates should be encouraged to procure. They will help in Branding too. – Parthasarathi Sarangi
  • Back to the roots for living a healthy life. A well written article on sustainable food system to ensure nutrition security while addressing challenges of climate change. An interesting read, sir. – Sushri Sangeeta Puhan

Integrating millets into Government schemes

There is an increasing demand for millets, now referred to as super-food and (future) smart-food, by health-conscious and ‘aspirational’ urban consumers. However, wide rural penetration of these nutritious and sustainable diets needs to be high on the government’s policy agenda.

A few state governments like Karnataka and Odisha have made targeted initiatives to promote millets in the food menu of their citizens. While the former offers ‘bonus’ amounts on the support prices offered to farmers during procurement operations, the latter through a mission mode, is trying to expand areas under millet crops by encouraging farmers to adopt agronomic practices. The Odisha state government has recently decided to offer finger millets (ragi) at One Rupee a kilo in the public distribution system (PDS). These steps will definitely have a positive impact in raising income levels of the millet growers and promote greater intake of the nutritious grains.

Another pathway to increase consumption of millets is by introducing ‘preferred’ food recipes based on nutri-cereals offered to school children under the mid-day meal scheme and to pre-school children, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating mothers under the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) and other targeted programs.

Experiments done by International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in few districts of Telangana have shown that specific millet-based food products like cookies, porridge and mixture of starchy staples and pulses with millets could add to the nutritional security of growing children.

As many of these millets are rich in micro-nutrients—finger millet/ragi has three times more calcium than milk; bajra has highest amount of folic acid amongst cereals—and are also high in anti-oxidants, they will have long-term impact on the cognitive abilities of growing children, besides correcting the micro-nutrient deficiencies in them. Having lower glycemic index, millet grains are slowly absorbed by the body, thus reducing levels of insulin/blood glucose. This will help tackle diabetes among an increasingly susceptible population.

The looming challenge of climate change could also be mitigated by large-scale promotion of these sustainable diets.

The recently published EAT-Lancet Report 2019 recommends precisely this. The Poshan Abhiyaan (Nutrition Mission) of Government of India has rightly addressed this issue by linking education, health and agriculture sectors to the nutrition space.

R&D on nutri-cereals

A number of institutes under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the State Agricultural Universities and international institutes like ICRISAT are already involved in development of suitable crop varieties with higher productivity and tolerance/resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses.

A good number of bio-fortified varieties of different crops (e.g., iron and zinc rich pearl-millet) using traditional breeding and modern biotechnology have been developed which can deliver the essential micro-nutrients to vulnerable population.

It’s heartening to note that 60 percent of pearl millet (bajra) varieties in India are hybrid giving economic benefits to the smallholder farmers.

The agriculture research ecosystem has also generated a pool of technologies that addresses the concerns of the growers. The role of agriculture extension machinery to transfer these technologies and products to the farmers’ fields thus assumes importance.

Research done on the nutrition-health nexus and relevant policy issues by reputed institutions can also create evidences for better planning, targeting and implementation of government schemes and programs.

Linking to the market

The market, especially the private sector should seize the momentum by establishing a sound value-chain network in catchment areas of nutri-cereal and grain legume crops. Proper grading and sorting, packaging and other pre- and post-production logistics coupled with confirmation to food safety/quality standards have the potential to sustain and raise the increasing food choices based on healthier millet and pulses crops.

To capture value closer to the farm gates, establishment of primary (and secondary, where feasible) processing facilities is very essential. Role of private retail chain networks will prove rewarding to raise the incomes of farmers/producers and all other actors associated in the value addition.

Role of Media

Looking at the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015, the challenges of malnutrition (under-nutrition, over-nutrition/obesity and micro-nutrient deficiency) are still daunting. Achievement of nutrition security and addressing the micro-nutrient deficiency through popularisation of nutri-dense crops can be best done by a supportive role of the media. Consumers (in fact, the entire population) have to be made aware on dietary diversity and requirements of nutritious food for sensitive segments of society (malnourished children; adolescent girls; pregnant/lactating mothers, etc.) for fruitful outcomes.

Cooking shows on nutritious recipes by master-chefs/celebrities could be thought of by public broadcasters like Doordarshan and other media channels. Government may also think of brand ambassadors to raise consciousness amongst citizens on the benefits of sustainable diets. A message from the Indian Prime Minister through his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ broadcast in All India Radio will have a far reaching positive consequence of creating a healthier India (Swasth Bharat).

The proposal of Government of India to declare a future year (possibly 2023) as International Year of Millets is now under active consideration by the United Nations. While governments across the world aim for nutrition security and better income and livelihood for the smallholders, popularising locally available sustainable diets would benefit both farmers and consumers, besides protecting our fragile agri-food systems in this era of climate change. Achieving the sustainable development goals relating to food and nutrition security would be easier by following a path of nutrition-sensitive agriculture.

About the author:

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

Disclaimer: The use of the term, Maggi (a popular instant food) is a mere symbolic ref to the fast food culture in India & is not intended to establish any opinion in favour or against any Company/brand/product.The article doesn’t in any way endorse or critique any product/brand.

Training and capacity building


Participants at the 2-day data hackathon at ICRISAT, Hyderabad. Photo: PS Rao, SICRISAT

Participants at the 2-day data hackathon at ICRISAT, Hyderabad. Photo: PS Rao, SICRISAT

Building institutional capacity for data informed decisions

Data collection, curation and quality maintenance are the stepping stones towards data-driven solutions. The availability of datasets improves decision making and guides future research in science and agriculture. With this in view, a data ‘hackathon’ was organized at ICRISAT – where enormous datasets are generated owing to the substantial research activities – to strengthen the ‘data awareness’ of researchers here.

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A data lifecycle has several stages – generation of raw data, transformation, curation, annotation with proper metadata, and storage in an efficient storage-and-retrieval system. The data hackathon served to speed up the steps after raw data generation. Participants of this hackathon submitted 42 high-quality datasets for ICRISAT open data repository.

The workshop elaborated on the difference between open-data and data repositories, and steps to achieve FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) standards for datasets. It had interactive hands-on sessions where participants standardized their datasets, created supporting metadata and annotated with respective ontologies from Crop Ontology and AGROVOC. They learnt about CGIAR core metadata standards and the preparation of quality datasets by adhering to FAIR standards. They saw how curated data were uploaded, DOIs generated and so on. Special emphasis was given on the importance of ORCID – which creates unique links to researchers and their work, including datasets.

The hackathon, attended by 20 participants, was organized by Dr Abhishek Rathore, Theme Leader, Statistics, Bioinformatics and Data Management, during 4–5 September 2019 at ICRISAT, Hyderabad, under the umbrella of CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.


Participants of the international course on remote sensing, at the Centre for Dryland Agriculture, Bayero University (CDA-BUK), Kano. Photo: CDA-BUK

Participants of the international course on remote sensing, at the Centre for Dryland Agriculture, Bayero University (CDA-BUK), Kano. Photo: CDA-BUK

Equipping researchers with tools for geospatial and remote-sensing data analysis

A recent capacity-building exercise conducted in Nigeria trained a multidisciplinary team of researchers in the use of remote sensing in their respective areas of work. Remote sensing technology – a rapid and efficient approach to estimate croplands, cropping intensity, land use and land cover changes – has several applications in agricultural research.

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The sessions involved introduction of the concepts of remote sensing, Geographical Information System (GIS) and Google Earth Engine (GEE), along with several applications for which these modern tools are used for agriculture at ICRISAT. The participants received hands-on training on using these technologies, and performed a ground data collection exercise. The use of remote sensing imagery for land use/land cover mapping and monitoring using time series data was highlighted.

Additionally, participants learned about spatial modeling using multiple sources of spatial information, especially the inclusion of socio-economic factors, for identification of suitable watershed intervention sites. Participants were provided with copies of recommended reading material and relevant published papers.

The training “Applications of Remote Sensing in Semi-Arid Tropics (SAT) using machine learning algorithms and Spectral Matching Techniques (SMTs)” was held at the Centre for Dryland Agriculture (CDA), Bayero University Kano, Nigeria during 26–30 August 2019, in collaboration with the CDA. Twenty-five participants attended the course.

Dr Murali Krishna Gumma, Head – GIS and Remote Sensing Lab, ICRISAT;  Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director – Innovation Systems for the Drylands, ICRISAT; Dr Bhavani Pinjarla and Mr Pranay Panjala from RS/GIS Lab; Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe,  Country Representative -Nigeria, ICRISAT; Prof Jibrin M Jibrin and Dr Murtala  M Badamasi, CDA, Nigeria were involved in making this course possible as part of capacity building in geospatial tools.

The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), and Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC).


An exercise with participants to add information in the online seed catalog and seed roadmap. Photo: ICRISAT

An exercise with participants to add information in the online seed catalog and seed roadmap. Photo: ICRISAT

Using the digital seed catalog and seed roadmap for better access to seed information

About 30 stakeholders from seed companies and research institutes learned how to plan their seed production using an online seed catalog.

Developed by ICRISAT’s Digital Agriculture team, the seed catalog and seed roadmap platform aim to collect and catalog information on all seeds at the national and regional levels and to establish a ‘roadmap’ that would allow planning of the production of seeds in several countries in Africa and Asia. The online catalog will provide information on quality and availability of seeds at national and regional levels in several countries in West and Eastern Africa.

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The two-day workshop involved online management of the system with different groups updating seed information of different crops, resulting in a substantial increase in updates: while pre-workshop information was very low (0% for sorghum and pearl millet, 4% for groundnut and 58% for cowpea), the updates bumped it up considerably (100% for sorghum, 95% for pearl millet, 91% for groundnut and 97% for cowpea).

According to Dr Chris Ojiewo, Global Coordinator, AVISA and HOPE Projects, the seed roadmaps will enable governments, small-scale seed producers and the private sector to plan, produce, monitor and provide quality seed to smallholders, regardless of the locality.

With the catalog, the characteristics of all the varieties of these crops can be accessed online. This will be very useful for seed companies, farmers and producer organizations from different parts in Ghana and globally,” says Mr Satish Nagaraji, Senior Manager – Digital Agriculture, ICRISAT.

“We hope this kind of initiative will be more successful in Ghana,” said Mr Seth Osei Akoto, Director, Crop Services, representing the Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Ghana (MoFA) who went further to acknowledge ICRISAT and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their contribution.

“Practical sessions are effective in ensuring that everyone is on the same page while filling in the information on the online seed catalog,” said Ms Kanika Singh, Senior Scientific Officer, ICRISAT.

The workshop, conducted in Accra, Ghana, during 6–7 September, is part of similar workshops held previously in four other countries: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Kampala, Uganda; Arusha, Tanzania and Bamako, Mali in 2018.

Project: Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA)

Funder: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Partners: Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso; Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Mali; Council for Scientific Industrial Research- Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI), Ghana; Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and Usmanu Danfodiyo University of Sokoto (UDUS), Nigeria; Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Ethiopia; Department of Research and Development (DRD), Tanzania; National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Uganda; and ICRISAT.

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger 8-industry-innovation 17-partnerships-goals 

Awards


Mr Martin Paul Tabe-Ojong receiving felicitations. Photo: Tropentag

Mr Martin Paul Tabe-Ojong receiving felicitations. Photo: Tropentag

Former ICRISAT student commended

Mr Martin Paul Tabe-Ojong, former MSc student at ICRISATNairobi, has been awarded the Hans H Ruthenberg - Graduate Award by the Foundation fiat panis, Germany, in recognition of his research work on development and agricultural economics.

Martin’s thesis analyzed the linkage between adoption of improved chickpea varieties and their production and commercialization by smallholder farmers. It adds to the growing body of evidence generated by ICRISAT scientists on the positive impact of adoption of improved chickpea varieties. Three studies on the processes and effects of the introduction and adoption of improved chickpea varieties in Ethiopia have been published in the recent past. Martin’s work complements them by establishing the contribution of chickpeas towards a more market-oriented operation.

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The lessons learned from this research are directly useful for future research to investigate the apparent relation of commercial chickpea production as a stepping stone to even higher value crops.

A native of Cameroon, Martin had to cross several hurdles and is thankful to GIZ and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for funds enabling him to complete his study. Starting his course work at the University of Bonn, he took the opportunity to do his MSc research at ICRISAT in Nairobi under the Tropical Legumes III project.

His supervisor Dr Kai Mausch at ICRISAT was immediately impressed with his drive an determination. Prof Dr Thomas Heckelei, University of Bonn, says, “The hospitality, practical support and academic input provided by ICRISAT allowed Martin to do high-quality research leading to this award.”

The award ceremony was held on 18 September 2019 at Kassel, Germany.

Links to the three studies mentioned above: https://doi.org/10.1080/14735903.2018.1559007, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aay050, and https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.11.007


Dr NP Singh, President ISPRD and Director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research, (4th from L) felicitating Dr Rajeev Varshney with Honorary Fellowship of ISPRD. Photo: Birsa University

Dr NP Singh, President ISPRD and Director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research, (4th from L) felicitating Dr Rajeev Varshney with Honorary Fellowship of ISPRD. Photo: Birsa University

Dr Rajeev K Varshney honored with two prestigious awards

Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director- Genetic Gains, ICRISAT, received two prestigious honors recently.

He was inducted as a Fellow of the Indian Society of Pulses Research and Development (ISPRD) for his contributions towards advancing pulses research. The felicitation was held during the Annual Meeting of All India Coordinated Research Project on Chickpea at Birsa Agricultural University (BAU), Ranchi on 27 August 2019.

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Dr Praveen Rao, Vice-Chancellor, PJTSAU (L), Mr S Niranjan Reddy, Hon’ble Minister of Agriculture, Telangana (C) and Mr T Prakash Goud, MLA Rajendranagar (R) felicitating Dr Varshney. Photo: PJTSAU

Dr Praveen Rao, Vice-Chancellor, PJTSAU (L), Mr S Niranjan Reddy, Hon’ble Minister of Agriculture, Telangana (C) and Mr T Prakash Goud, MLA Rajendranagar (R) felicitating Dr Varshney. Photo: PJTSAU

Dr Varshney also received the Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) Life Time Achievement Award – 2019 on 3 September 2019 for his exemplary contributions towards scientific research, teaching and capacity building, specifically for Telangana. While delivering the invited guest lecture on “Global Agricultural Innovations to Feed 1.7 billion in India”, on the 5th Foundation Day celebration of PJTSAU, Dr Varshney emphasized on the urgent need to utilize faster breeding technologies and adoption of global innovations in agriculture.


Dr Robert Zougmoré receives the Derek Tribe Award.

Dr Robert Zougmoré receives the Derek Tribe Award.

Dr Robert Zougmoré presented with Derek Tribe Award

Dr Robert Zougmoré, Principal Scientist, West and Central Africa, ICRISAT, and Africa Program Leader, CCAFS, received the esteemed Derek Tribe Award by The Crawford Fund at Brisbane, Australia, on 5 September 2019. This was in recognition of his work towards strengthening resilience to climate change in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Zougmoré has distinguished himself in the field of climate information services, agricultural practices and technologies, and policies and institutions for smart agriculture.

The Derek Tribe Award was launched in 2001 to reward exceptional contributions in the field of international agricultural research.

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