A high-level delegation from Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) recently visited our Hyderabad campus and discussed options to collaborate on various aspects to benefit smallholder farmers of Telangana state, India. Crop diversification, groundnut crop improvement, plant protection technology, capacity building etc. were discussed as possible avenues of cooperation.
“ICRISAT’s expertise in technology – be it genomics, pest/disease modeling, crop improvement or natural resource management – is well known,” said Dr V Praveen Rao, Vice Chancellor, PJTSAU. “PJTSAU has great research infrastructure and a talented pool of researchers. We can work together to build capacity of our young scientists and help get the latest agri technology and its benefits rapidly to the state’s farmers who need them most urgently.”
“ICRISAT is glad to be associated with PJTSAU and earnestly wishes for PJTSAU to be our strong and strategic partner while working closely with the Government of Telangana to support the needs of poor farmers,” said Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, while interacting with Dr Praveen Rao. Earlier, Dr Praveen Rao explained how the university is playing a stellar role in providing technical assistance in formulating agriculture-related policies and schemes that benefit the farming community.
Stating that, in general, Telangana farmers adopt improved crop varieties readily, Dr Rao saw that as a great avenue to disseminate and replace existing age-old varieties in groundnut with newly developed high-yielding, high-oil/high-oleic and confectionary type varieties, for example, among the groundnut farmers here.
Crop diversification – breaking the rice-rice cycle – was another area where ICRISAT and PJTSAU can work together to provide viable options of other crops such as chickpea, pigeonpea etc. to the farmers so that soil quality is preserved and also farmers are economically benefited.
Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General – Research, remarked on the reputation of the University, which has gone from strength to strength over the decades. Dr Kumar agreed to the suggestion of the Vice Chancellor to collaborate with PJTSAU scientists in joint proposals and to initiate purposeful partnerships. Further, he expressed urgency in supporting graduate students (MSc and PhD) to undertake project work utilizing cutting-edge technologies through ICRISAT scientists. Dr Harish Gandhi, Regional Breeding Lead, suggested collaboration in developing demand-led millet varieties for Telangana farmers through farmer-led product profile development, resulting in creation of a pipeline of improved millet and sorghum varieties. Dr Anthony Whitbread, joining virtually from Tanzania, recounted several areas which had scope for collaboration viz. value chain development, geographic information systems (GIS), agronomic methods etc.
The team was taken on a tour of the facilities in the ICRISAT campus. They started with the Genebank, which stores over 128,000 accessions (samples) of seeds from various crops from different locations – an attempt to conserve the genetic biodiversity of legacy crop. At the Seed Processing Facility they witnessed demonstrations of automatic seed sorting, grading and counting, highlighting the drastic reduction of time taken for seed processing now from about four weeks previously to 1-2 days now. They were also given an overview of ICRISAT’s work on plant pests and diseases to counter present and future threats.
At the Center for Excellence in Genomics and Systems Biology, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director, Genetic Gains, elucidated the genomic tools and their role in enhancing precision and efficiency in crop breeding programs. He mentioned that as part of their knowledge-sharing training sessions, over 50 early- and mid-career plant breeders from PJTSAU had already been trained in use of the genomics tools and technologies.
Soil health interventions by ICRISAT Development Center (IDC), such as those carried out in Odisha, would be greatly useful in determining the soil quality of Telangana fields and carrying out appropriate remediations. They were given a presentation on the watershed interventions by IDC in Bundelkhand region, where construction of water-harvesting structures has resulted in increased groundwater recharge, higher crop yields and better livelihoods for the smallholder farmers. The visitors showed keen interest in the natural resource management work done by IDC in Karnataka and discussed scaling up of projects such as Bhoosamrudhi in other locations. Dr Kiran Sharma, Director, CRP GLDC, and Theme Leader – Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP), provided an overview of AIP and its four programs. He underlined the role of AIP in supporting technology transfer, start-up promotion. He especially discussed value-addition opportunities in millets that linked with community development initiatives. Dr Manzoor Dar, Senior Development Specialist- Seed Systems, Scaling and Impact proposed a novel seed systems approach for Telangana state.
PJTSAU was originally set up in 1965 as Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University. Subsequently, it was renamed as Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU) on 7 November 1996 in honor of Acharya NG Ranga, who is regarded as an outstanding educationist, farmer leader and freedom fighter. In 2014, as a result of bifurcation of state of Andhra Pradesh, ANGRAU was renamed Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University on 3 September 2014 to commemorate Professor Jayashankar, an eminent educationist and an ardent Telangana ideologue. PJTSAU is the only agricultural university of Telangana State and ranked 10th among 72 state agricultural universities in the country. Dr Jagadeeshwar R, Director of Research; Dr Pradeep T, Director-Seed Research & Technology Center; Dr V Anitha, Dean, Post-Graduate Studies, and Dr Kalpana Sastry, Managing Director, Agri-hub Foundation and other university officers joined the honorable Vice Chancellor during this visit.
The team from PJTSAU visited ICRISAT, Hyderabad, on 16 March 2021.