Issue No: 1928
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ICRISAT awarded 2021 Africa Food Prize

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has been awarded the 2021 Africa Food Prize, for work that has improved food security across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

ICRISAT, a CGIAR Research Center, is a non-profit, non-political public international research organization that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world.

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Dr Rebbie Harawa receiving the Africa Food Prize at the AGRF 2021 Summit. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Rebbie Harawa receiving the Africa Food Prize at the AGRF 2021 Summit. Photo: ICRISAT

Between 2007 and 2019, ICRISAT led a collaboration of partners to deliver the Tropical Legumes Project. The project, undertaken together with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), developed 266 improved legume varieties and almost half a million tons of seed for a range of legume crops, including cowpeas, pigeon peas, chickpea, common bean, groundnut, and soybean. These new varieties have helped over 25 million smallholder farmers become more resilient to climate change, as well as pest and disease outbreaks.

In addition to these new varieties, the project trained 52 scientists, who are already working in national research institutes across the continent. Training these next generation scientists in the countries where the projects were implemented, has helped strengthen the research capacity of national agricultural research systems in Africa and contributed to sustaining the gains the projects have made.

His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the Africa Food Prize Committee and former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, announcing ICRISAT as the Africa Food Prize 2021 laureate at the media briefing during the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2021 Summit.

His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the Africa Food Prize Committee and former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, announcing ICRISAT as the Africa Food Prize 2021 laureate at the media briefing during the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2021 Summit.

Congratulating the winner, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, the Chair of the Africa Food Prize Committee and former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, said: “ICRISAT’s leadership in developing seeds that not only end malnutrition but also survive in semi-arid areas is inspiring other agricultural organisations to rethink seed development and farming practices that suit and solve Africa’s agricultural challenges.”

“Their work is also important as it provides an inclusive approach that supports the whole agricultural value chain, from farm to fork, providing farmers with farming tools and a market for their produce,’’ he said.

Accepting the award, Dr. Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, ICRISAT Director General, said the Institute’s work spanned the entire value chain, from high-end genomics to markets and agri-business in dryland cropping systems.

“We also empower women and attract youth back to agriculture using the latest tools and technologies available to make farming profitable.

“The Africa Food Prize is a major accolade and recognition of ICRISAT’s work in Africa and reinforces our belief that agriculture can be profitable for smallholder farmers. It is also testament to the work of our close collaborators, the national agriculture research and extension systems, without whose support this would not have been possible.

File photos of Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT. Dr Hughes accepted the award virtually.

File photos of Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT. Dr Hughes accepted the award virtually.

“We dedicate this award to the smallholder farmers in the drylands of Africa, as they are the ones who inspire us with their patience and perseverance in the face of adversity,” said Dr. Hughes.

Dryland ecosystems cover 45 per cent of Africa’s landmass and feed and support almost half a billion people. However, these systems are fragile and prone to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.

Programs like the Tropical Legumes projects help the millions of smallholder farmers relying on drylands ecosystems to grow more food and become more resilient in the face of climate change. The project has been implemented in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

The Africa Food Prize recognizes outstanding African individuals and institutions leading efforts in the following areas: transformation of Africa’s foods systems; promotion of sustainable agricultural practices; support for smallholder farmers to raise incomes; resilience in the wake of climate change impacts; and access to high quality agricultural inputs, knowledge, and equipment. The award, that includes a $100,000 prize, celebrates those changing the reality of farming in Africa from a struggle practice to a business that lifts communities out of poverty.

Key impacts of the Tropical Legume Project

  • Groundnut crop interventions demonstrated 32.35% increase in income, 6.72% households lifted out of poverty and 14% out of food insecurity.
  • Ten groundnut varieties, including six high-yielding, drought-tolerant ones and four ELS (Early Leaf Spot) resistant, released in Mali.
  • Seven groundnut varieties, with traits such as aflatoxin tolerance, early maturing, drought tolerance etc. released.
  • In India, chickpea national program on developing improved varieties resulted in area enhancement up to 68%.
  • Chickpea program in Ethiopia won a national award in 2013 for science and innovation.
  • Seven-fold increase in number of improved common bean variety releases from 2011 to 2018.

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ICRISAT Annual Report 2020: A year of many big impacts and landmark varietal releases

Surmounting all odds in 2020, ICRISAT with its ‘business as usual’ attitude was able to lend its name to many first-of-their-kind varietal releases of its crops across nations in Asia and Africa, and register big impacts in improving dryland agri-food systems. Advanced technologies and resources related to crop breeding, digital agriculture and genomics were shared as international public goods and the research studies emerging from the institute contributed to knowledge sharing worldwide.

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While working towards fulfilling its vision and mission in improving livelihoods, nutrition and climate resilience in the drylands of Asia and Africa, ICRISAT has directly and indirectly contributed to many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but the big contribution through its projects was primarily towards SDG 2 (No hunger), SDG 13 (Climate action) and SDG 1 (No poverty).

For pdf click here.

For pdf click here.

For ease of comprehending the vast and multi-faceted research of ICRISAT, the research highlights are divided in three sections – Asia, Africa and Global. Each section comes with a ready reckoner for those who prefer to skim through information and for the deep divers there is detailed information on each of the pointers in the ensuing pages. The yearlong work of the ICRSAT-led CRP-Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals has been crisply summarized in the report with links leading to the details. The corporate section gives you a peek into the work of the support functions reflecting the diversity and multi-cultural aspect of ICRISAT’s work.

For online readers, our interactive version with its multi-media features provides an engaging reading experience. Watch ICRISAT’s Board Chair Dr Prabhu Pingali, Director General Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes and Deputy Director General-Research Dr Arvind Kumar share their thoughts on the Annual Report 2020.

ICRISAT is grateful to its donors and partners comprising of prestigious foundations, governments, international and local NGOs, public and private companies, CGIAR research organizations, premier research institutes and universities, and eminent thought leaders for their support in helping achieve the impacts in this report and look forward to a more dynamic and fruitful engagement in the future.

Click here for ICRISAT’s Strategic Plan 2021-25

Click here for ICRISAT’s ‘invigorated’ organization structure

A screenshot of the FPO database.

A screenshot of the FPO database.

New hub for Farmer Producer Organizations launched to empower smallholder farmers

In an effort to empower India’s 125 million smallholder farms to take advantage of growing opportunities in the agricultural sector, the Tata-Cornell Institute (TCI) for Agriculture and Nutrition launched a hub for Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs). The hub features a first-of-its-kind database of Indian FPOs. Created with grant funding from the Walmart Foundation, the hub is expected to serve as a repository of learnings, information, and knowledge for the advancement of FPOs in India.

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Based on an article that was first published here

Small farms are disadvantaged when it comes to accessing markets, credit, and agricultural inputs such as seeds. By joining together in FPOs, farmers work to jointly reduce costs and improve market access, helping to drive higher agricultural productivity, enhanced food security, and livelihood development.

Farmers have formed FPOs since the early 2000s. Though interest promoting FPOs is high among philanthropists, corporations and the government, there are still significant barriers to entry for many, including limited financing opportunities and the time required to become self-sufficient. In 2014, the Indian government began a renewed push to promote FPOs.

“Farmer producer organizations are crucial for both improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and increasing the supply of diverse, nutritious foods that are increasingly in demand across India. Through the FPO Hub, TCI aims to provide a foundation of data-based knowledge on top of which strong, effective FPOs can be built and sustained,” said Professor Prabhu Pingali, Director, TCI. Prof. Pingali is also the Chair of ICRISAT Governing Board.

The TCI’s database for Indian FPOs is a new platform that brings together information on thousands of FPOs to facilitate research on small-farm aggregation models. TCI’s database is the only centralized source of data on Indian FPOs currently available. Through the interactive web-based dashboard, researchers can access a wealth of data on FPOs, such as crops produced, founding years, and sponsoring agencies. Ultimately, the data will allow researchers at the hub to formulate models to boost smallholder farmer income and welfare.

During the virtual panel discussion held to mark the launch of the hub, Dr Padmaja Ravula, Senior Scientist, Gender Research, ICRISAT, outlined multiple challenges to explain the limited participation of women in FPOs.

“Though small in number, there are some very successful examples of women-led FPOs in India. Among the challenges that women face in being part of FPOs or leading them, first is the limiting social cultural and gender norms that manifest varyingly in India. There is a need to create awareness of how aggregation and FPOs would benefit women individually as well as at a larger scale. Awareness building needs to be linked to capacity building. As men and women experience challenges differently, the training approaches may have to be different and tailored to women,” Dr Ravula said.

“Access to resources like inputs, credit, knowledge or even technology is another limiting factor. If we look at access to technology, even at something as simple as a mobile phone, not all women in remote villages own a mobile phone. This limits access to new information and knowledge, and may create hesitancy or deter women from coming together to form FPOs,” she added.

Dr Ravula underscored the importance of value chain stakeholders’ perspectives on gender, and argued that it has a bearing on the participation of women in FPOs. Mobility restrictions, time constraints and the burdens on energies are other factors limiting factors mentioned.

Looking at lessons that could be borrowed from the success of India’s Self-Help Groups (SHG) movement to improve women participation in FPOs, Dr Ravula reiterated the need for creating more awareness of to build social capital, as was done for SHGs. “The SHGs were able to federate, leading women to participate in planning, gender budgeting and all other activities.”

Dr Ravula also said that as discussions are underway, it remains to be seen if converging SHGs and FPOs is a fruitful approach. Drawing a parallel to the SHGs movement in the area of microcredit, she stressed the need to have a common business activity and helping women groups interested in forming or leading FPOs to find such activities.

To view the entire panel discussion, click here.

4CAST: New digital tool to enhance farmers’ access to modern varieties

To improve smallholder farmers’ access to new improved varieties, a digital variety catalog tool created by ICRISAT in partnership with public and private institutions was recently launched. Called 4CAST, the tool is a user-friendly data driven platform that gives information about new improved varieties, quality and availability of seeds nationally and regionally. 4CAST, which stands for Digital Tools 4 Cataloguing and Adopting Improved Seed Technologies, also provides stakeholders in seed value chains a digital workflow, decentralized access, real-time tracking of progress, private catalogues as well as seed roadmaps.

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Why 4CAST?

Only about 20% of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa use seeds of improved varieties, mainly because the smallholder farmers still have limited access to these technologies despite the release of many high yielding and resilient crop varieties. Seed is very crucial in crop production as it is estimated to contribute up to 20% of total crop productivity.

Dr Chris Ojiewo, Seed Systems Cluster Lead at ICRISAT, noted that crop improvement systems have been addressing constraints, especially those to do with production, biotic and biotic stress factors and yield related factors, with new improved varieties. However, without proper seed systems, those improved varieties will remain in the shelf, he cautioned.

“Seed systems involve extensive planning for seed production. 4CAST helps in planning of production and generating information about available varieties so that when seed stakeholders plan on adopting and producing varieties, they are able to make informed decisions because they have information about the seed catalog” Dr Ojiewo added.

As illustrated by Mr Ram Dhulipala, ICRISAT’s Digital Agriculture Cluster Lead, the TL and HOPE projects released over 250 varieties across seven different countries and across nine different crops. A digital tool that could simplify access to information on the varieties and help stakeholders plan their seed production activities with a certain target adoption in mind was created. What started as a basic tool in 2017 has today evolved to become a very robust and comprehensive tool for varietal information access and seed road map generation.

How 4CAST works?

Speaking during the launch of 4CAST on 24 August 2021, Mr Satish Nagaraji, Senior Manager – Digital Agriculture, ICRISAT, noted that development of 4CAST involved consultative workshops with stakeholders to gather data into the platform where the need to have a decentralized and more user friendly platform was evident.

Through 4CAST, stakeholders are able to record information on varieties and seed at the national and regional levels and establish a ‘roadmap’ for seed production. The collated data goes a long way in enlightening farmers about quality seeds, how and where to access the seeds in adequate quantity and in timely manner, which is important for the transformation of agriculture in Africa and South Asia. The data accessed by the stakeholders serves as a guide to preferred crop variety characteristics and provides insights into variety replacement needs.

The 4CAST platform has two components: an open access which allows the public to access the variety catalog and generate a road map at http://4cast.icrisat.org/, and a login-based system which helps users to add their private catalogue, generate a detailed seed road map and allocate the planned targets to different users and producers.

The way ahead

Ms Julian Barungi, a program officer at ASARECA, said that quality seeds are inaccessible and require prior planning. “Through 4CAST, timely planning is achievable and ASARECA is ready to popularize the tool within Eastern and Central Africa and have member states come on board to begin using the tool,” she said. Dr Hippolyte Affognon, a representative of CORAF/WECARD, emphasized the need to synergize 4CAST with ongoing regional initiatives.

Officially launching 4CAST, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director for Accelerated Crop Improvement at ICRISAT, noted that there has been substantial efforts and significant progress in development of high yielding varieties that have led to enhanced crop productivity, but somehow seed system has been one of the weakest links in attaining the genetic gains in farmers’ fields. He underscored tools like 4CAST as vehicles for delivering seed technologies to farmers so that they can realize higher genetic gains in their fields.

ICRISAT envisions 4CAST being used extensively hence the organization of the webinar to popularize the enhanced version of the platform, its functions and capabilities to national partners, regional seed systems players, private seed companies and other stakeholders in the seed value chain. We also would like to engage major regional seed systems players in Africa and position 4CAST for widespread use in the near future by private seed companies and NARS programs.

To view a video about how 4CAST works, click here

CIOT-WCA and other participants at the launch of the team. Photo: N Diakite

CIOT-WCA and other participants at the launch of the team. Photo: N Diakite

New ‘one-stop shop’ team formed to take ICRISAT’S plant breeding program in West and Central Africa to next level

ICRISAT West and Central Africa has reorganized all disciplines of agronomic research (agronomy, breeding, biotechnology/ genomics, integrated crop management, physiology, sociology, agroeconomics, etc.) under one umbrella called the Crop Improvement Operations Team (CIOT). A “one-stop shop” for all crop improvement operations, the CIOT was launched on Tuesday 24 August 2021 at ICRISAT’s Samanko research station in Mali.

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In his opening remarks at the launch, Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director for ICRISAT in WCA, said, “The CIOT is at the heart of the transformation and implementation of ICRISAT’s plant breeding programs that began a few years ago. We believe that CIOT’s implementation is an opportunity to better equip the national research staff and to have multidisciplinary and versatile teams in crop breeding operations. From now on, our colleagues will be equipped with new, transversal and solid knowledge in agricultural research as it is expected that the members of the CIOT teams will be mobile, work in synergy with various teams and remain diligent and communicative to handle multiple operations.”

“At ICRISAT’s regional research hub at Samanko, significant efforts are being made to renovate and build new infrastructure that will support the work of CIOT, which is aimed at raising the standard of our research, efficiency and precision. The presentation of the members of the CIOT teams is an important step to the launch of ICRISAT’s CIOT in West and Central Africa,” Dr Tabo added.

“This is an opportunity to broaden skills by learning new things about ICRISAT’s mandate crops, sharing of knowledge in a multidisciplinary team,” emphasized Dr Ousmane Sanogo, Leader of the CIOT. “An interdisciplinary team of individual crop improvement operations will merge into a single and unique entity where all researchers unite and support the breeder of a given crop for designing and bearing efficient product concept. The major crop improvement activities will focus on nursery, trials and production of different categories of seeds. The CIOT also intends to contribute to other activities including seed supply for partners and DNA sampling for genotyping,” he said.

“The CIOT in WCA is made up of eight teams. Trainings will be organized progressively so that everyone can have the capacity to carry out the work that will be entrusted to them. Procedures for the use of equipment, general or specific understanding of tasks will be within everyone’s reach,” Dr Sanogo explained.

“Breeders will now be able to focus more on trials. Also, the team’s members are expected to improve efficiency, data quality and operations,” said Dr Haile Desmae, Lead Regional Breeding -ICRISAT in WCA.

“The CIOT approach will be of great support to ICRISAT’s research operations in WCA,” noted Mr Amadou Traore, Research Technician. “With the CIOT, I will have the opportunity to impact breeding operations of more than one ICRISAT mandate crop. I will gain new skills and competences on sorghum and millet breeding, and at the same time I will enthusiastically share my experience on groundnut breeding operations. Appointed as the Team Coordinator for Dryland Cereals and Tropical Legumes Crossings, I will have the time to complete groundnut crossing then move to another to support while waiting for the right time to lead my crossing team again for the dry cereals’ crops. This is fantastic!”

Mr Mamourou Sidibe, Senior Scientific Officer, described CIOT as a well-thought-out approach with clearly stated benefits. “Teamwork within the CIOT is an opportunity for junior scientific staff to train in genotyping, sampling, as well as all laboratory related work. It is a great opportunity to leverage a new generation of researchers and research technicians,” said Dr Keita Djeneba Konate, Senior Scientific Officer, Laboratory Team Coordinator.

“In the village, the rooster belongs to one person but crows for all,” quipped ICRISAT’s Senior Sorghum Breeder and the session’s moderator Dr Aboubacar Toure as he highlighted the CIOT as a one-stop shop.
Mr Issaka Yougbare, Regional Administration Manager, and Ms Agathe Diama, Senior Manager-Communication, assured the CIOT Lead and the team their continued support for successful implementation of the operations. “Communication wise, working as a one stop-shop is not new. We will continue our support to integrated research activities within the CIOT” concluded Ms Diama.


Image on the left shows DRR damage in a field (yellowed plants are affected) while image on the right shows how the fungus affects the plants. Pictures: Devashish Chobe, ICRISAT

Image on the left shows DRR damage in a field (yellowed plants are affected) while image on the right shows how the fungus affects the plants. Pictures: Devashish Chobe, ICRISAT

ICRISAT’s plant health researchers mine genes to defend chickpea against a deadly pathogen

In their battle against dry root rot (DRR) of chickpea, a devastating fungal disease emerging as a major threat in India, researchers at ICRISAT have recently zeroed in on a few promising set of genes that play a key role in the plant’s defense. The team led by Dr Mamta Sharma, who in their previous findings had affirmed the role of abiotic stresses in DRR incidence, have now explained the phenomenon at the molecular level. The team has found the involvement of endochitinase and PR-3-type chitinase (CHI III) genes in delaying the progression of DRR.

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DRR is caused by Rhizoctonia bataticola, a soil-borne fungus that kills plant tissues and uses the dead matter to sustain itself. Such pathogens are termed necrotrophic. R bataticola is known to infect a wide range of plant species. While Fusarium wilt in chickpea has traditionally been the concern of plant health experts, DRR has emerged over the past decade as a major threat in the heart of India’s chickpea producing regions – the central and southern states.

If the climate supports it, DRR can cause up to 75% yield loss in chickpea. Its incidence in Madhya Pradesh, India’s biggest chickpea producing state, ranges from 5% to 35%. “Changing climatic conditions bring changes to plant-pathogen interactions, which may either work in the plant’s favor or work against it. We are seeing that with rising average temperature and changes to the rainfall patterns, DRR has emerged as a major concern for chickpea farming in India,” Dr Sharma, a Principal Scientist who leads the Precision Phenotyping Cluster at ICRISAT, said while explaining the rationale behind the long-term study being conducted in collaboration with the research institutions of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Dr Sharma is the coordinator of the Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection at ICRISAT where the study is being done.

In the most recent experiment, the findings of which were published in Frontiers in Plant Science, researchers underscored the importance of testing responses to multiple stresses in tandem. They studied DRR susceptibility in two cultivars (BG 212 and JG 11) in high soil moisture and low temperature conditions as well as in low soil moisture and high temperature conditions. The disease susceptibility was higher in the second set of conditions. They then proceeded to studied the differential gene expression of several stress-responsive genes in chickpea.

“The significant overexpression of genes encoding for the enzymes endochitinase and PR-3-type chitinase implicated their role in the plant’s defense mechanism. We found these genes very active in the early stages of the disease, particularly under low soil moisture conditions, and have concluded that they contribute to delaying the progression,” said the study’s first author Mr Sharath Chandran, a Senior Research Fellow at ICRISAT.

The authors hope their emerging insights into chickpea’s DRR defense mechanisms will pave way for future research towards development of management strategies that prevents this disease from assuming epidemic proportions.

For now, the findings of the study make a strong case for irrigating chickpea fields during the crucial flowering and pod development stages to arrest the progress of DRR post infection in order to mitigate severity and crop loss.

Project: Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection-Pest and Disease Management for Climate Change Adaptation

Partner: ICAR institutions

Donor: Climate Change Program, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt of India

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals


Mr Bishow Parajuli, WFP India Representative and Country Director, and Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, sign a Memorandum of Understanding in a meeting at Delhi. Photo: WFP/ ICRISAT

Mr Bishow Parajuli, WFP India Representative and Country Director, and Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, sign a Memorandum of Understanding in a meeting at Delhi. Photo: WFP/ ICRISAT

WFP, ICRISAT to partner on climate-resilience, food security, nutrition and livelihoods

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) will partner on programs and research to improve food, nutrition security and livelihoods in India against the impacts of climate change.

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A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed today between Mr. Bishow Parajuli, WFP India Representative and Country Director, and Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.

“This is a strategic partnership between the WFP and ICRISAT as both are aligned by their vision of food security, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable communities. It comes on the day that the pioneering UN Food Systems Summit kicks off in New York. The increasing/frequent climate crises and shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened global hunger, threatening food security, nutrition and the livelihoods of millions,” Mr. Parajuli said.

“This partnership strengthens efforts to bring together science, knowledge and implementation frameworks to bolster food security, nutrition and livelihoods that are resilient to climate change,” he added.

“Climate-resilient food security, nutrition and livelihoods, especially for smallholder farmers and ecologically vulnerable communities, are focus areas for ICRISAT, and with this partnership, we aim to generate ideas and frameworks for policy positions relevant not just for India but regionally and globally,” Dr. Hughes said.

“The latest IPCC report has sounded an alarm over the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security. A significant part of this partnership will be focused on vulnerability analysis at the state level in India and will be directed towards evolving a sustainable food systems approach,” she added.

WFP in India and ICRISAT will work jointly to promote research, advocacy and awareness-raising on traditional nutritious crops, undertaking food and nutritional security analysis, and adaptation strategies, among other engagements.

For more information, please contact:

Parvinder Singh +91 9999241701 or Parvinder (dot) singh (at) wfp (dot) org
Ramon Peachey  r (dot) peachey (at) cgiar (dot) org

Dr Malick Ba Niango, Country Representative – Niger, ICRISAT, pays a visit to the Minister of Agriculture Dr Alambedji Abba Issa. Photo: A Samira, ICRISAT

Dr Malick Ba Niango, Country Representative – Niger, ICRISAT, pays a visit to the Minister of Agriculture Dr Alambedji Abba Issa. Photo: A Samira, ICRISAT

Niger’s new Minister of Agriculture recognizes ICRISAT’s work, reiterates support

ICRISAT is the flagship of international agriculture research in Niger and its research work plays an important role in the country’s development,” said  Dr Alambedji Abba Issa, Minister of Agriculture, Niger, during a meeting with Dr Malick Niango Ba, Country Representative – Niger, ICRISAT.

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Dr Ba paid a courtesy visit to congratulate the Minister on his appointment, wish him success in his mission and present ICRISAT’s work in Niger. This was the first meeting between Dr Ba and Minister Abba lssa, since the new Administration commenced in April 2021.

During their meeting last month, Dr Ba assured the minister of ICRISAT’s continued support toward the development of the country’s agricultural sector and presented some of ICRISAT’s initiatives that have contributed to the country’s development. He discussed with the Minister the issue of low productivity of groundnut in the region and the need to revive the groundnut value chain in order to reduce cooking oil imports. He said that ICRISAT can leverage on its previous experience in the Dosso region with the Tropical Legumes I and II projects to support the government. Dr Ba briefed on the Sorghum and Millet compact of the Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) – a successful initiative that is transforming agriculture in many countries. He provided an oversight of the loans allocated to countries as part of TAAT that Niger could also utilize, and discussed the strategic role of the genebank in Sadore which required the support of the Government of Niger to function effectively in the region. He concluded by discussing the International Year of Millets in 2023 and suggested thata new edition of the International Millet Festival could be organizedin 2022 as a forerunner.

The meeting concluded with an invitation to the Minister to visit the ICRISAT research station in Niger, which he accepted.

The Ambassador of India to Niger, His Excellency Mr Prem K Nair (far left), visiting the genebank’s germplasm characterization field. Photo: IA Kalilou, ICRISAT

The Ambassador of India to Niger, His Excellency Mr Prem K Nair (far left), visiting the genebank’s germplasm characterization field. Photo: IA Kalilou, ICRISAT

Indian Ambassador to Niger explores opportunities for South-South cooperation

The Ambassador of India to Niger, His Excellency  Mr Prem K Nair, visited ICRISAT’s research station at Sadore, to explore opportunities for South-South collaboration. He said that the objective of his visit was to learn about ICRISAT’s activities in Niger and to identify possible areas of cooperation for implementing agri-development initiatives introduced by India.

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H.E. Nair, highlighted the interest of the Government of India in supporting agricultural development in Africa as part of its South-South cooperation initiatives, especially in the field of mechanization drawing upon the vast  experience of India.

The Ambassador visited ICRISAT-Niger last month and was shown the regional genebank, the soil laboratory, the entomology laboratory and the demonstration plots to gain insights into ongoing field experiments.

The delegation from Uzbekistan inspect pearl millet and pigeonpea crops in demonstration plots. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The delegation from Uzbekistan inspect pearl millet and pigeonpea crops in demonstration plots. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Uzbek delegation explores climate-resilient crop options for arid, degraded ecologies and avenues for academic exchange

A delegation from Uzbekistan visited ICRISAT headquarters in India in search of a short-duration second crop suited to arid ecologies that mature before winter. The visit aligns with the Government of Uzbekistan’s efforts to increase agricultural production through double cropping. The visitors were briefed on dryland crop options and expressed interest in academic exchanges and internships based on the Institute’s expertise in genomic technologies and dryland agri-food systems.

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The arid climate of Uzbekistan, with variances in temperatures that exceed 40-45 °C and low humidity, to sub-zero conditions, call for crops that are tolerant to heat, cold and drought, said Dr Zabardast Buriev, Director General, Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics, Tashkent. He spoke of climate change and its impact in terms of changing weather patterns, rising temperatures, lower precipitation levels and increased soil salinity in the regions around the Aral Sea.

Addressing the visitors, Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director – Accelerated Crop Improvement, ICRISAT, mentioned the cultural links between the countries and said that the crop requirements of the country made it a ‘natural’ partner. He spoke of the multi-faceted expertise available that the group could tap into from state-of-the-art genomic facilities to developing seed systems amongst others. He said that genomic services can be availed for other crops as well that suit the agro-ecology of Uzbekistan and that advanced training courses are available for scientists and research students. Mr Akmal Nuriddinov, Representative of the Ministry of Innovation and Development, Uzbekistan, spoke of ties with ICRISAT in terms of internship opportunities and academic exchanges.

Previous association with Uzbekistan 

Dr SK Gupta, Principal Scientist, and Head of the Pearl Millet Breeding Research Program, spoke of previous partnerships in developing salinity-tolerant pearl millet mainly for forage. He said that in the past, germplasm was shared extensively and a new variety Hashaki 1 was released in the country in partnership with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).

Dr Venkatesh Kulkarni, General Director, Nath Bio-Genes, Central Asia, said the group was interested in producing grain and that non-saline areas were available for cultivation. He said that the group was looking for a variety that matures in 75-80 days. Dr Gupta said that dual purpose pearl millet hybrids are available which can suit the required maturity group, and moreover some of them are biofortified and have high levels of grain Fe and Zn content for enhanced nutrition.

Dr Harish Gandhi, Principal Scientist and Cluster Leader-Crop Breeding, spoke about high-biomass and quality forage sorghum suited to both tropical and temperate climates. Under this context, Scientist, Dr. Prakash Gangashetty, provided insights on the sorghum breeding lines shared with Tashkent and which is released as the variety “ Keshen” in Uzebekistan. He also drew attention to a paper that was published on the response of sorghum bicolor varieties to soil salinity for feed and food production in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan.

Cereal-legume cropping system for improving soil health 

Noting that Uzbekistan’s hard soils may not be viable for groundnut cultivation, Dr P Janila, Principal Scientist, Groundnut Breeding, suggested that a scoping study for a viable cereal-legume cropping system be conducted. The delegation mentioned that groundnut was cultivated, but insect infestation and the inability to address it, led to farmers abandoning the crop, with a preference now for mung bean

Pigeonpea to soften hard soils and chickpea for domestic consumption 

Pigeonpea breeding lead Dr Prakash Gangashetty said that cultivating pigeonpea can soften hard soils and the super-early variety (110-120 days) is ideal for a second crop. Referring to chickpea demand in the region,  Dr Varshney said that it could be cultivated as a second crop to meet the demands of domestic consumption.

Given the many avenues for partnership, Dr Varshney said that an MoU could be considered to deliver services for crop development and the modernizing (through digitalization) and development of seed systems.

The team from Uzbekistan visited ICRISAT on 20 September.

Reported by
Jemima Mandapati,
Senior Communications Officer, ICRISAT

Inside the Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory at ICRISAT. Photo: ICRISAT

Inside the Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory at ICRISAT. Photo: ICRISAT

ICRISAT’s soil laboratory registers with FAO’s International Network on Fertilizer Analysis

The Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory at ICRISAT has been officially registered with the International Network on Fertilizer Analysis - a network created in December 2020, to build and strengthen the capacity of laboratories in fertilizer analysis and harmonize fertilizer quality standards.

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Dr Pushpajeet L Choudhari, Manager of the soil laboratory, said that testing serves as a preventive measure to avoid the misuse of fertilizers leading to better soil management.

“The soil laboratory was also recently accredited by the FAO Global Soil Laboratory Network and  CRISAT is successfully contributing to harmonizing the SOPs of soil analysis drawing upon the leading capacity of the Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory”

This work supports the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Agenda 2030for Sustainable Development, and the FAO mandate on food security and nutrition.

Participants of the workshop organized by IITA and ICRISAT. Photo: Sarah Sallau, IITA Kano

Participants of the workshop organized by IITA and ICRISAT. Photo: Sarah Sallau, IITA Kano

Rooting for strong partnerships and participatory extension in Nigeria for robust cereal-legume production

To enhance partnerships and make the extension systems for cereals and legumes production technologies in Nigeria more participatory, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and ICRISAT recently organized a workshop for agencies implementing the Kano State Agro Pastoral Development Project.

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“What we need to succeed is a good partnership comprising several stakeholders and good linkage to the market for the farmers,” said Dr Alpha Kamara, Principal scientist, IITA, in his opening remarks. “In the past, technology development and delivery followed a linear approach, with researchers developing technologies and handing them to extension organizations that tested and passed onto farmers but with little feedback. This approach did not deliver technologies to create the required impact. We should be reorganized with strong partnership, market delivery and gender mainstreaming.”

The workshop was organized on 10 August following successful completion of trainings as part of the project to support Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) in the promotion of technologies for the production of cereals, including maize, sorghum, millet and rice. The Kano State Agricultural Development (KNARDA) is being backstopped with trainings and technologies for the production of legume crops, such as soybean, cowpea and groundnut. The project is helping a large number of farmers in the state in multiple ways to raise the productivity of cereals and legumes.

Dr Kamara pointed out the constraints facing crop production such as parasitic weed infestation of cereal and legumes crops, poor soil fertility, drought, poor access to inputs crop pests and disease, poor crop management and ineffective extension systems.

He also advocated the use of innovation systems approach, wherein various stakeholders are organized in innovation platforms. “These platforms enable stakeholders to interact, discuss problems, solutions and entry points to target communities. Innovation platforms should strengthen community base organizations (CBO) and make sure that gender is mainstreamed in all the activities,” Dr Kamra added. Several successful examples of past projects implemented in Northern Nigeria, where strong platforms led to delivery of technologies and high adoptions, were cited.

The four stages of participatory research and extension in technology delivery for sustainable agriculture as explained by Dr Ajeigbe

Stage 1– Situation analysis and social mobilization, carrying people along. This includes using the opportunity to know the challenges and coping mechanism that will assist in formulating the things to be done .

Stage 2– Action planning, where partners decide what to do and how and assign roles to different partners

Stage 3– Experimentation is to try out new ideas and also know that different actors will adopt from the experience of stage one and two.

Stage 4– Experience sharing is where the field day and mid-season and end season evaluation, and review activities happen.

“The project is a great opportunity that will transform agriculture in Kano State. I am delighted to be part of this training and urge all participants to utilize it. This will be a big milestone for Kano and Nigeria at large,” said Mr Hafiz Mohammed, a representative of the Kano State Deputy Governor.

Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, ICRISAT’s Country Representative in Nigeria, dwelled on the importance of participatory research and extension in technology delivery for sustainable agriculture. “To really influence adoption, there is a need to enter into partnerships and work with extension groups to ensure that they are adequately extending and disseminating research results. Most importantly, there is also a need to let farmers who are end users contribute more into the conception of research,” he said.

“Participatory means working together as a group and considering gender in the whole process as we collaborate with farmers, researchers and extension networks as equal partners. Farmers have a unique ability in terms of local knowledge of their environment as well as in coping mechanisms, which many researchers and extension personnel may not have. Other partners have unique contributions to make the platform effective and participatory,” Dr Ajeigbe added.

“The Kano State Agro Pastoral Development Project, which started in 2019, benefited from the leadership of the Executive Governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, toward improving agricultural production and the productivity in the state,” said
Dr Junaid Yakubu Mohammed, Managing Director of Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA).

“This training of the trainers for partnership will help the implementation of the project to which many partners are contributing to achieve the desired objective. For example, IITA and ICRISAT are among the co-partners doing research that will help the farmers increase their production and productivities of targeted crops,” Dr Mohammed added.

The workshop was conducted with support from the Islamic Development Bank. The opening of the program was chaired by Mr Nasir Yusuf Gawuna, Special Assistant to the Kano State Governor, who represented the Deputy Governor. Alh Ibrahim Garba, State Project Coordinator of the KSADP cereal-component, and other senior staff of KNARDA participated.

Project: Kano State Agro Pastoral Development Project

Funder: Kano State Government through Islamic Development Bank

Partners: Kano (KNARDA), Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)


Dr Tripathi speaking during the webinar. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Tripathi speaking during the webinar. Photo: ICRISAT

Indian Biodiversity Act and its implications for protection of intellectual property discussed

What are the biodiversity laws of India? What are the prerequisites for claiming rights over intellectual property that use biological resources? What does the law exempt? These and other questions were answered by a diverse panel of experts in a webinar organized by ICRISAT to provide a close look at the biological diversity laws in India and their implementation.

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Speaking about the origin of the Indian Biodiversity Act, Dr Neeti Wilson, Partner, Anand & Anand, described the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as the international legal instrument for “the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources”. CBD has been ratified by 196 nations and has significantly influenced the origin of the Indian Biological Diversity Act, Dr Wilson informed during the webinar that was organized on 25 August by the Intellectual Property Facilitation Cell at ICRISAT’s Agribusiness Innovation Platform.

Conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of biological components, fair and equitable sharing of benefits accrued from the usage of these components are the main objectives of the Indian Biological Diversity Act enacted in 2002. Plants, animals, microorganisms, their parts, genetic materials and their by-products with actual or potential value are categorized as biological components or resources in the Act.

The webinar captured varying perspectives on biodiversity laws and their implementation in India from academia, industry and research organization. Dr Ebenezer Jeyakumar, Assistant Professor, Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences, shared his experience in accessing biological resources in compliance with biodiversity laws for research work on antimicrobial resistance and drug delivery. Accordingly, obtaining the approval of National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) involves obtaining approvals from both state and national biodiversity boards by furnishing details such as origin of the biological resource used, its geographical coordinates, method of collecting the particular biological resource, quantities in which the resource was being utilized, whether the resource is being commercially exploited or is only restricted to usage in research projects, etc.

Mr Ramesh Kumar Verma, Senior Manager – IP, Tata Chemicals, shared his experience with NBA in filing of more than 35 NBA applications for the company as part of intellectual property rights protection. Any innovation or product that has been developed from biological resources requires approval from NBA prior to the filing of IP with respective IP offices as per biodiversity laws.

Dr Surya Mani Tripathi, Legal counsel, ICRISAT, outlined various exemptions in the Biodiversity Act while also broadly defining section 3, 4 and 5 of the Act to highlight the definition of access and benefit sharing of biological resources under the laws. The NBA approval process has several expert committees (like committee on agro biodiversity, normally traded commodities, access benefit sharing, medicinal plants) contributing to the decision of approvals and benefit sharing terms and conditions, it was mentioned.

The experts also shed light on the research exemptions under section 5 of the Act. Plant varieties and certain crops listed in Annex 1 of International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture enjoy conditional exemptions under biodiversity laws for the purpose of utilization and conservation for research, breeding and training for food and agriculture.

Furthermore, the expert panel also helped the participants understand how to respond to NBA’s queries and objections during the application processing.

The webinar was organized in collaboration with European Business Technology Center (EBTC) and Anand & Anand, and saw a participation of more than 170 individuals across India from various sectors.


Short term fallow and partitioning effects of green manures on wheat systems in East African highlands 

Authors: Amede T, Legesse G, Agegnehu G, Gashaw T, Degefu T, Desta G, Mekonnen K, Schulz, S and Thorne P 

Published: Field Crops Research (TSI), 269. ISSN 0378-4290 


Analysis of rainfall variability and trends for better climate risk management in the major agro-ecological zones in Tanzania 

Authors: Joseph JE, Rao KPC, Swai E, Ngwira AR, Rötter RP and Whitbread AM 

Published: Working Paper. CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). 


Drought and high temperature stress in sorghum: physiological, genetic, and molecular Insights and breeding approaches 

Authors: Prasad VBR, Govindaraj M, Djanaguiraman M, Djalovic I, ShailaniA, Rawat N, Singla-Pareek SL, Pareek A and Prasad PVV 

Published: International Journal of Molecular Sciences (TSI), 22 (18). pp. 1-25. ISSN 1422-0067 


Development of high yielding disease resistant hybrid in pearl millet [Pennisetumglaucum (L.) R.Br.] for Northern Karnataka 

Authors: Athoni BK, Sadhana RB, Kumari B, Motagi BN, Vastrad SM, Gupta SK and Govindaraj M 

Published: Frontiers in Crop Improvement, 9 (2). pp. 128-132. ISSN 2454-6011 


Transition from targeted breeding to mainstreaming of biofortification traits in crop improvement programs 

Authors: Virk PS, Andersson MS, Arcos J, Govindaraj M and Pfeiffer WH 

Published: Frontiers in Plant Science (TSI), 12 (703990). ISSN 1664-462X 


Micronutrient rich pearl millet for nutritionally secure India 

Authors: Satyavathi CT, Ambawat S, Khandelwal V, Govindaraj M and Neeraja CN 

Published: ICAR-All India Coordinated Research Project on Pearl Millet, Jodhpur, India 


Molecular mechanisms and biochemical pathways for micronutrient acquisition and storage in legumes to support biofortification for nutritional security

Authors: Roorkiwal M, Pandey S, Thavarajah D, Hemalatha R and Varshney RK

Published: Frontiers in Plant Science (TSI), 12 (682842). pp. 1-20. ISSN 1664-462X


Environmental characterization and yield gap analysis to tackle genotype-by-environment-by-management interactions and map region-specific agronomic and breeding targets in groundnut

Authors: Hajjarpoor A, Kholová J, Pasupuleti J, Soltani A, Burridge J, Degala SB, Gattu S, Murali TV, Garin V, Radhakrishnan T and Vadez V

Published: Field Crops Research (TSI), 267. pp. 1-15. ISSN 0378-4290


Sequencing the USDA core soybean collection reveals gene loss during domestication and breeding

Authors: Bayer PE, Valliyodan B, Hu H, Marsh JI, Yuan Y, Vuong TD, Patil G, Song Q, Batley J, Varshney RK, Lam HM, Edwards D and Nguyen HT

Published: The Plant Genome (TSI). pp. 1-12. ISSN 1940-3372


A comprehensive assessment framework for attributing trends in streamflow and groundwater storage to climatic and anthropogenic changes: A case study in the typical semi-arid catchments of southern India

Authors: Nune R, George BA, Western AW, Garg KK, Dixit S and Ragab R

Published: Hydrological Processes (TSI), 35 (8). pp. 1-17. ISSN 0885-6087


Evaluation of multiple salinity tolerance indices for screening and comparative biochemical and molecular analysis of pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.] genotypes

Authors: Jha S, Singh J, Chouhan C, Singh O and Srivastava RK

Published: Journal of Plant Growth Regulation (TSI). ISSN 0721-7595


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