13) ICAR and ICRISAT Research Partnership Highly Successful

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) have had a research partnership since ICRISAT was established in 1972 at Patancheru, near Hyderabad. In 1976 an MoA for collaborative research was signed and a joint ICAR-ICRISAT Policy Advisory Committee (JIIPAC) was constituted to identify areas of collaboration for research. The Directors General of ICAR and ICRISAT, Dr Mangala Rai and Dr William D Dar, are joint chairpersons of this extremely effective committee.

“The research partnership between ICAR and ICRISAT has been highly productive,” said Dr Rai. Since 1982 there have been releases of improved pearl millet varieties, early-maturing and wilt resistant chickpea varieties were released in 1990 and 2004, and pigeonpea and groundnut varieties that have been adopted by many farmers in many states. “Greater successes have come from the development and releases of cultivars of these crops developed by the Indian program scientists using improved germplasm supplied by ICRISAT,” said Dr Dar.

In recent years, the research partnership has expanded to include both strategic and applied research. During 2002-2005 there were 25 projects – seventeen dealing with genetic resources, crop improvement, and integrated disease and pest management, two with natural resource management, five with socio-economics and policy, and one with Information and Communication Technologies. In the strategic research areas, prominent fungi causing grain mold and two major quantitative trait loci for shoot fly resistance in sorghum were identified; breeding efficiency of alternative cytoplasmic male-sterility (CMS) systems was investigated and two improved CMS systems were identified in pearl millet; commercially viable CMS systems were identified in pigeonpea; a consortium model of participatory watershed development and management was developed and implemented; a joint vision document targeting research for development in rainfed agriculture was prepared, and the Virtual Academy of Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT) was established.

High in the applied research areas was the development and release of a downy mildew resistant hybrid of pearl millet (HHB67-2), the first crop product of molecular marker assisted technology in India. Pigeonpea hybrids with 30-50% grain yield advantage over varieties were identified; practices to reduce aflatoxin levels in groundnut were tested; and short-duration, large-seeded kabuli chickpea varieties were adopted by farmers. Village Level Studies were expanded to cover more villages in partnership with NCAP and SAUs. Valuable baseline village-level data, and baseline data for the whole SAT soil series in India for their potential to sequester carbon was documented. The impacts of these researches have been felt in other countries of Asia and Africa, thus raising this partnership to one of a global significance. “Valuable recognition was reflected in the King Baudouin Award to ICRISAT, ICARDA and NARS (including India) Chickpea Team in 2002; and through the Chaudhary Devi Lal Award to the AICPMIP (including ICRISAT) outstanding AICRP in 2003,” chorused Drs Rai and Dar.

During the present meeting, 32 partnership projects (2 continuing and 30 new) were presented and approved. These projects will strengthen evaluation within ICRISAT's core collection; screening of wild species of all three legumes for resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses; development of improved breeding lines and hybrid parents with high yield potential; and resistance to biotic stresses by integrating conventional and molecular breeding approaches; nucleus and breeder seed production in legumes; carbon sequestration in SAT drylands; participatory integrated water management; livelihood enhancement through bio-diesel plantation and mixed crop-livestock systems; synthesis of village level studies data and meta-analysis of impact assessment studies; rural household strategies to adapt to climate change; and development of weather data capture and storage system to enhance agricultural advisory in rainfed areas.

The solidity of the ICAR-ICRISAT partnership was strikingly evident as both Drs Rai and Dar agreed that such research collaboration is solid and at its peak for the benefit of the dryland farmers of India.

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