3) Indian President hands over ICRISAT seeds to the Philippines

The President of India, His Excellency Professor APJ Abdul Kalam, during his meeting with the President of Philippines, Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on 4 February, symbolically handed over the foundation seeds of improved peanut and sweet sorghum developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

President Kalam was on a three-nation tour to the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea. Aside from the hand over, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by India with the Philippines for cooperation in agriculture and related fields.

ICRISAT Director General William D. Dar and Agriculture Secretary Domingo F. Panganiban assisted in the hand over. Dar is a Filipino and was formerly the Acting Secretary of Agriculture and Presidential Adviser on Food Security.

According to Dar, the event marks a significant milestone in ICRISAT's partnership-based research, with the Presidents of India and Philippines further strengthening the bond. ICRISAT, an advanced international agricultural research institute, is headquartered in Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh, India, and it is privileged that no less than President Kalam promoted its research products in the Philippines.

ICRISAT like the Los Baños-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), belongs to the Alliance of Future Harvest Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

President Kalam handed over ICRISAT's large seeded peanut variety ICGV 86564, popularly known in India as ‘Asha' (meaning hope). Asha, which was released as ‘Walawe' in Sri Lanka and is at a pre-release stage in Malaysia, is gaining popularity in the confectionary industry and among groundnut farmers in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in India.

In the Philippines, Asha was introduced in 2005, and evaluated in a small plot to compare its adaptability and agronomic performance against other commercially grown peanut varieties. The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) is supporting this effort jointly with ICRISAT.

Initial tests indicate that this variety is commercially viable in the Philippines. For instance, at a yield rate of 3 tons per hectare, Asha had higher yield than farmers' varieties – UPL Pn 10, Namnama and BPI Pn 9 – in Cagayan Valley during the wet season of 2005.

Likewise, ICRISAT's improved sweet sorghum variety provides an additional source of income for poor farmers since it needs low input and the sweet juice extracted from its stalk can be converted to ethanol.

With soaring petroleum prices recently, many countries are encouraging the blending of up to 10% ethanol with petrol. This has created millions of liters of additional requirement for ethanol.

Eight of ICRISAT's promising sweet sorghum varieties were shared with the Los Baños –based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Research and Development (PCARRD) for testing in the first phase of the Cereals and Legumes Asia Network (CLAN) program. Initial results indicate commercial viability in the Philippines.

President Kalam commended ICRISAT during his address at the University of Philippines on 6 February. He said: “ICRISAT with its international experience of working in arid regions has developed short duration, disease and drought resistant varieties of important crops of this region beneficial to our farmers. They have introduced various tillage practices and nutrition management techniques to boost crop yields even under drought stress. This technology is enabling India to reclaim 5 more million hectares of the 33 million hectare of wasteland allotted for productive farming. According to experts, this will result in the deployment of 15 million people for dry land cultivation.”

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