R&D programs

R&D Structure


West & Central Africa

Eastern & Southern Africa

Genetic Gains

Innovation Systems for the Drylands

CGIAR Research Programs

Dr Arvind Kumar

Deputy Director General -Research / Regional Program Director – Asia
Email: Arvind(dot)Kumar(at)cgiar(dot)org


The ICRISAT Research Program in Asia adopts an integrated and value chain approach to achieve the best possible impacts on farmers’ fields through building partnerships. The program addresses strategic and development research issues in the semi-arid tropics (SAT) to increase productivity, production and profitability for farmers while protecting the environment. We are working across the states in India, as well as in a number of countries in Asia, such as China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Myanmar and Nepal. The program is based on building partnerships, not only with the national research systems, but also with the corporates, non-governmental organizations, farmer organizations and development investors in the region.

The program is organized into six themes: Crop Improvement, Integrated crop management, Policies and impacts, ICRISAT Development Center, Plant Quarantine Unit, and Farm and Engineering Services. Its main objectives are to develop high-yielding stress-tolerant cultivars of the six mandate crops and make them available to different stakeholders; develop climate-smart integrated soil, water and nutrient management practices; develop enabling policies and institutions to achieve impacts and develop impact assessment tools; undertake large-scale science-led scaling-up/scaling-out initiatives; facilitate the safe exchange of germplasm across countries; and provide and maintain state-of-the-art research facilities at ICRISAT headquarters at Patancheru.

Our Team

Dr Harish Gandhi

Theme Leader, Principal Scientist & Regional Breeding
Crop Improvement
Email: H(dot)Gandhi(at)cgiar(dot)org

This theme focuses on the improvement of ICRISAT’s mandate crops using integrated breeding approaches. It makes extensive use of the global germplasm collections available in the ICRISAT Genebank and develops diverse breeding materials, keeping in mind traits preferred by farmers, industries and consumers, and those required for the adaptation of the crop in different geographies, changing climate and cropping systems. The current focus is on developing varieties in chickpea, groundnut and finger millet, hybrids in pearl millet, and both hybrids and varieties in sorghum and pigeonpea. The Breeding Management System (BMS) is being used for pedigree and data management. ICRISAT supplies diverse improved breeding materials to National Agricultural Research System (NARS) partners globally and varieties/hybrids developed from these materials are released by these partners. All breeding materials developed by ICRISAT remain as International Public Goods (IPGs). This theme also works with NARS partners in developing effective seed systems and enhancing the adoption of improved cultivars/hybrids along with integrated crop management practices. Knowledge sharing with partners is integrated in all the research areas.

Focus areas

Chickpea: High grain yield and quality; early maturity; tolerance to drought and heat stresses; resistance to root and foliar diseases and pod borer; suitability to machine harvesting; herbicide tolerance; and nutritional quality.

Groundnut: High pod yield and shelling outturn; drought tolerance; resistance to foliar and fungal diseases and stem rot; early maturity; confectionery type; high and low oil; high Oleic; aflatoxin tolerance; and processing quality.

Pigeonpea: High-yielding varieties and hybrids; resistance to fusarium wilt, sterility mosaic and pod borers; adaptation to different ecologies to fit into varied cropping systems; and improved seed systems.

Sorghum: High yield and quality of grain and fodder; resistance to shoot fly and grain mold; drought tolerance; high grain zinc (Zn) and iron (Fe); and higher biofuel yield.

Pearl millet: High grain and fodder yields; early to medium maturity; resistance to downy mildew and blast; high Fe and Zn content; tolerance to terminal drought and heat; and exclusive high green/dry biomass.

Finger millet: High-yielding blast-tolerant cultivars with preferred reddish grains; high calcium content, amenable to mechanical harvesting; and improved forage yield and quality.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:

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Dr Mamta Sharma

Theme Leader
Integrated Crop Management
Email: mamta(dot)sharma(at)cgiar(dot)org

This theme encompasses plant pathology, entomology, integrated pest management, bio-control and crop agronomy. Its overall goal is to develop cost-effective and eco-friendly disease and pest management technologies by engaging in basic, strategic and applied research in the areas of etiology, biology, epidemiology and management of major diseases and insect pests of our mandate crops. We also work on the climate change effects on pests and diseases and the development of adaption and mitigation strategies. The theme hosts a Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection. 

Focus areas

  • Host plant resistance against major diseases and insect pests of our mandate crops:
  • ChickpeaFusarium wilt, dry root rot, collar rot, Ascochyta blight, Botrytis grey mould, pod borer and beet armyworm
  • PigeonpeaFusarium wilt, sterility mosaic disease, Phytophthora blight; pod borers and pod fly
  • Groundnut – Leaf spots, rust, collar rot, stem rot, groundnut bud necrosis disease and aphids
  • sorghum – Charcoal rot, grain mold, anthracnose, leaf blight, rust, shoot fly, stem borer and midge
  • Pearl millet – Downy mildew, blast, rust, shoot fly and oriental armyworm
  • finger millet – Blast.
  • Monitoring virulence spectrum and variability in pathogen/pest populations at phenotypic and genotypic levels
  • Elucidating mechanisms and inheritance of resistance associated with expression of resistance to insects and diseases
  • Monitoring aflatoxin contamination in food systems, imparting training on its detection and management, and ways to produce aflatoxin-free groundnuts
  • Development of a consortium of bio-control agents (PGPR and microbial metabolites) having disease-pest inhibitory and plant growth promoting activity
  • Evaluating the bio-efficacy of synthetic, natural and bio-pesticides
  • Impact of climate change on diseases and pests
  • Developing and validating ICM packages using an on-farm approach
  • Capacity building and training farmers and NARS in the implementation of ICM; and mentoring students and post-docs.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:

Dr Sreenath Dixit

Theme Leader
ICRISAT Development Centre
Email: d(dot)Sreenath(at)cgiar(dot)org

The ICRISAT Development Center is an integral part of ICRISAT’s research for development agenda, focused on the Institute’s mission to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the dryland tropics. IDC undertakes scaling-up/out of ICRISAT’s science-backed technologies to achieve major impacts, involving integrating the outputs from its research across the whole value chain – from natural resource management to crop improvement, to on-farm and post-harvest practices and technologies. This includes crop improvement and farming and processing technologies not only of our mandate cereals and legumes, but also of other crops in different production systems in the SAT.

It also undertakes development through scaling-up/out of improved technologies and products with corporates, NGOs and government organizations, and by involving policymakers and most importantly, smallholder farmers. The new science of scaling-up/out for development and impact is quite a challenge as it requires blending remote sensing, GIS, water management, land management, improved crop cultivars, and identifying climate smart production systems with social and institutional science, economics and most importantly, behavioral science. New and innovative methods of monitoring and evaluation are also to be integrated.

Focus areas

  • A global initiative covering all the areas where ICRISAT works in Asia
  • Integrate the outputs of strategic research from research programs and cross-cutting areas
  • Serve as a self-sustaining business model, attracting new resources from corporates and other development investors to be mobilized for this work
  • Serve as a platform to capture lessons learnt, wherein monitoring, development and learning (ME&L) is undertaken as a form of research
  • Provide feedback into ICRISAT’s research programs to support problem solving and demand-driven research rather than supply-driven research
  • Further develop the science of scaling-up/out through lessons learnt.

Website: http://idc.icrisat.org


Dr Rajan Sharma

Plant Quarantine Unit
Email: R(dot)Sharma(at)cgiar(dot)org

The Plant Quarantine Unit caters to the requirements of the ICRISAT scientific community with respect to germplasm exchange of ICRISAT’s mandate crops and small millets from its headquarters based in India. The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, India, is the plant quarantine authority responsible for ICRISAT’s germplasm exchange. The unit tests the seed health of all germplasm accessions regenerated for conservation as active and base collections in the ICRISAT Genebank in order to detect seedborne pathogens. Germplasm accessions with significant infection levels are identified for inclusion in the next regeneration plans.

Focus areas

  • Facilitate the import and export of germplasm and breeding material with appropriate quarantine inspection to arrest the introduction or export of insect pests and pathogens
  • Field diagnosis of diseases in the imported germplasm/breeding material grown in the Post-Entry Quarantine Isolation Area (PEQIA) and pre-export field inspections
  • Conduct seed health test of germplasm accessions for conservation in the ICRISAT Genebank
  • Maintain a database of germplasm and breeding material imported/exported
  • Maintain a database of fungal, bacterial and viral pathogens of quarantine significance detected in seed samples.

About Plant Quarantine Unit

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:


Mr Suresh C Pillay

Farm & Engineering Services
Email: S(dot)PILLAY(at)cgiar(dot)org

The Farm & Engineering Services supports ICRISAT’s researchers, other hosted CGIAR centers, NARS and other establishments based at the Patancheru campus. Its objectives are:

  • To develop and maintain land and water resources, soil and water conservation structures, research facilities, infrastructure and other farm structures
  • To provide quality services for operation and maintenance of the farm, provide controlled environment research facilities required for experiments
  • To improve and sustain land productivity for experiments by adopting sound natural resource management practices
  • To optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of the resources available through improved management
  • Operation, maintenance and optimum utilization of power, water, air-conditioning and civil and engineering infrastructure, buildings, machinery, instruments and equipment
  • Train and assist the National Agricultural Research Systems in research station development and management.

Dr Ramadjita Tabo

Regional Program Director – West & Central Africa
Email: R(dot)Tabo(at)cgiar(dot)org


Agricultural production and productivity in the semi-arid tropics of West and Central Africa (WCA) are influenced by the emergence of new markets, population growth, technological advances, climate variability and emerging threats due to climate change. Developing market access and disseminating improved production technologies is critical to take advantage of new opportunities, mitigate these challenges and to improve productivity.

The region is rich in biological diversity, and has immense potential for enhancing agricultural productivity thereby ensuring food supply and increasing farmers’ incomes. Sustainable intensification of farming systems can improve the livelihoods of small resource-poor farmers and fulfil the market demand opportunities of a growing population.

ICRISAT’s Regional Research Program in West and Central Africa has Country offices in Mali (Regional hub), Niger and Nigeria. Together with research and development institutions in the region, it conducts research to develop improved technologies to enhance the agricultural productivity of sorghum, pearl millet and groundnut.

The Research Program comprises four major themes – Crop improvement, Integrated crop management, Systems analysis, and Policy and impact. The theme on crop improvement aims to understand crop biodiversity by studying and exploiting phenotypic diversity, intra-varietal diversity and geographic differentiation. The focus is on improving farmer-preferred and market-oriented cultivars of pearl millet, sorghum and groundnut. The research on integrated crop management focuses on developing integrated natural resources, soil-water-crop and nutrients management options to improve agricultural productivity. We also work on economics of diversification and its sustainability. Socioeconomic studies enable the evaluation of the true impact of research and to identify appropriate technologies suitable for large-scale adoption in the region. Innovation Systems for the drylands aims to improve farm productivity by recognizing the importance of conditions needed to create demand for technologies, and how knowledge produced through systems thinking may be used to bring about such changes.

Our Team

Theme: Crop improvement

This research focuses on conserving plant biodiversity and developing cultivars to meet current and future needs by breeding improved crop varieties and/or hybrids of groundnut, pearl millet and sorghum. This research targets enhanced genetic gains for traits of interest by:

  • Utilizing the genetic diversity of groundnut (10,587), pearl millet (14,142) and sorghum (8,161) germplasm collections conserved in the regional genebank
  • Working on a breeding pipeline for traits of interest through hybridization, observation nursery, multi-environment yield trials and Participatory Variety Selection (PVS)
  • Diversification of parents, breeding lines and hybrid (sorghum and millet) development and deployment
  • Identifying representative test environments for target environments to reduce Genotype x Environment (GxE) interaction and enhance phenotyping accuracy
  • Institutionalizing the application of the Breeding Management System (BMS) to enhance efficiency of data collection, analysis & management; and using modern tools like NIRS & XRF to accurately measure specific traits
  • Using the Breeding Performance Assessment Tool (BPAT) to enhance breeding efficiency and guide in product development
  • Utilizing both main and off-seasons to speed up generation advance
  • Collaborating with national, regional and continental programs on germplasm exchange and molecular breeding (e.g. MAS, MABC)
  • Enhancing the availability of early generation seed of improved varieties (mainly breeder and foundation seeds) in partnership with national breeding programs
  • Developing capacity of seed producers (private, community based and farmer cooperatives) to enhance the availability of certified seeds for larger adoption and impacts.

Specifically, the theme’s priorities are:

  • Resistance/tolerance to drought, low nutrients and adaptation to climate change and variability
  • Resistance to important yield limiting diseases, weeds and insect pests
  • Resistance to aflatoxin in groundnut
  • Nutrition and grain quality, including micronutrients and oil quality
  • Dual-purpose crops for grain, stover and crop residue uses
  • More nutritious cereals and legumes
  • Diversification of breeding lines and hybrid development
  • Mining germplasm collections to identify new sources/traits to enhance tolerance/resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses
  • Genotyping for specific traits
  • Adaptation to marginal environments including low phosphorus
  • Market and consumer preferred traits, e.g., confectionary types in groundnut.

Theme: Integrated crop management

This research theme focuses on science-based productivity enhancement through:

  • Integrated natural resources management to improve water-use efficiency
  • Soil/water/crop and nutrients management for increased productivity through:
    • Piloting and up-scaling efficient management and utilization of land and water resources
    • Large-scale adoption of integrated hydraulic, agronomic and soil management practices
    • Micronutrient application
    • Improving groundwater access and use through improved agricultural water use and solutions
    • Tillage practices
    • Crop residue and manure management
  • Off-season production of high value crops through efficient and adapted water use systems
  • Integrated pest and disease management in cereal and legume crops
  • Assessment of the performance of integrated crop management options
  • Bio-reclamation of degraded lands
  • Crop diversification
  • Policy formulation on efficient water withdrawal and use
  • Biophysical and economic modeling
  • Training on modeling and systems research
  • Aflatoxin management.

Theme: Systems analysis

This theme focuses on the systemic analysis of conditions that trigger agricultural intensification, and how to support inclusive market-oriented development through digital agriculture and associated technologies. It specifically addresses:

  • Developing and scaling-up models for wide diffusion of proven agriculture smart technologies for sorghum, millet and groundnut.
  • Characterization of target populations of environments and evaluation of GxExM interactions on yield and profitability of crops using crop simulation models
  • Development of innovative products by bundling index insurance products with other business services to increase market penetration of promising technologies
  • Testing automated, remote sensing-based methods to scale up attainable yield gap quantification for locally dominant crops
  • Improvement of field-scale seasonal yield prediction with satellite data assimilation in smallholder production systems
  • Calibration of advanced simulation tools such as the CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Tool (CRAFT) for spatialized prediction of yields for major crops of the West African Semi-Arid and Sub-Humid Tropics
  • Regional Impact Assessments of climate change on agricultural production in representative sites of West Africa
  • Development and implementation of land tenure services for rural communities to secure the land capital and empower smallholders
  • Whole value chain modeling to identify bio-economic tradeoffs and leverage points for value chain optimization and systems design
  • Transformation of gender norms in agriculture and natural resource management
  • Development of IT platforms to include smallholders into networks through enhanced access to credit and financial services, insurance, quality inputs at affordable prices and next generation agricultural advisory services 

Theme: Policy and impact

This research theme looks at policies and institutions as well as the impact of adoption of improved technologies. Specifically, the theme conducts research on:

  • Onset situation analysis and baseline data collection for impact studies
  • Socio-economic studies and analysis to support farmer transition from subsistence to market-oriented production with productive and nutritious sorghum, millet and groundnut production packages for multiple uses
  • Regional impact assessments of the performance of different improved production technologies and approaches.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:

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Dr Rebbie Harawa

Regional Program Director – Eastern & Southern Africa
Email: R(dot)Harawa(at)cgiar(dot)org


Smallholder farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) face many challenges such as low productivity and profitability, poor access to improved inputs (seeds, fertilizer, knowledge) and equitable markets. Food and nutritional insecurity and low income are therefore common.  ICRISAT’s research program in ESA works to address these challenges in its Country offices based in five countries — Kenya (Regional hub), Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique — as well as in Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and Eritrea. The program seeks to strengthen the value chain of its climate-smart crops (sorghum, finger and pearl millets, groundnut, chickpea and pigeonpea) to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Currently, the region works in four thematic areas: Crop improvement and seed systems; Integrated crop management; Systems analysis; and Adoption, markets and impact.

Our Team

Theme: Crop improvement and seed systems

This research theme focuses on breeding improved varieties and/or hybrids of chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, pearl millet, finger millets and sorghum. The research targets enhance genetic gain for traits of interest through:

  • Trait/allele discovery and deployment for stress tolerance to biotic and abiotic production constraints, improved nutritional quality and market traits to accelerate the use of the natural genetic diversity of ICRISAT’s mandate crops
  • Early variety development with traits of interest using multi-locational performance trials and participatory variety selection to identify promising new breeding lines
  • A new focus wherein breeding programs identify target population environments for our crops across the region
  • Late variety development testing of candidate lines with national partners for local adaptation and formal release, together with public NARS partners, private sector partners along the value chain, including farmers
  • Development of marker tools for trait introgression and variety tracking
  • Institutionalizing the application of the Breeding Management System (BMS) and Breeding Performance Assessment Tool (BPAT)
  • Backstopping and building institutional and human capacities of NARS programs to modernize breeding programs and for early generation seed production.

Specifically, the theme has the following research priorities:

  • Developing high-yielding farmer- and market-preferred varieties adapted to diverse agro-ecologies, consumer preferences and market needs
  • Developing varieties and hybrids resilient to climate variability (e.g. drought and heat/cold tolerance)
  • Resistance to diseases, pests and parasitic weeds
  • Demand-driven adoption based on value by value chain actors and farmers based on Participatory Variety Selection (PVS)
  • Multipurpose use for grain, fodder, industrial and crop residue and soil fertility management as part of sustainable intensification technologies
  • Developing the capacity of farmers’ cooperatives to support scaling up and adoption of new crop production and processing technologies to increase resilience and incomes
  • Strengthening seed systems with particular focus on:
    • Shoring up formal and informal seed production and delivery systems.
    • Improving seed production and distribution chain quality assurance systems (using ICT for certification) via strategic partnerships with the private sector and public agencies.

 Theme: Integrated crop management

 This research theme focuses on science-based productivity enhancement through:

  • Integrated natural resources management to reduce the degradation of resources and to improve water productivity
  • Sustainable intensification focusing on integrated deployment of genetic and environmental components that include:
  • Soil/water/crop and nutrients management for increased productivity through:
  • Piloting and scaling up of efficient management and utilization of land and water resources
  • Development of easy-to-use fertilizer recommendation decision support tools to target and improve nutrient use efficiency
  • Large-scale adoption of integrated hydraulic, agronomic and soil management practices
  • Increased use of spate irrigation in the drylands for pasture and dryland crops
  • Multiple cropping systems as part of double cropping and off-season production of high value crops
  • Integrated disease management with a focus on reducing aflatoxin contamination and reducing foliar and grain diseases
  • Assessment of the performance of integrated crop management options
  • Bio-reclamation of degraded lands
  • Crop diversification and intensification
  • Policy formulation on collective action and efficient water withdrawal and use
  • Biophysical and economic modelling incorporating system components
  • Training on modeling & systems research.

 Theme: Systems analysis

 This theme’s focus is on crop modeling and remote sensing, and includes:

  • Developing and scaling-up models for large-scale diffusion of proven agriculture smart technologies for sorghum, millet and groundnut
  • Climate analysis and reliable predictions to facilitate policy decisions
  • System analysis for efficient targeting and scaling up of best-bet options
  • Remote sensing with the use of GIS tools
  • Monitoring and modelling
  • Transformation of gender norms in agriculture and natural resource management.

Theme: Adoption, Markets and Impact

This research theme mainly works on understanding the adoption process and impacts, supported by an analysis of how markets drive this process and what policies hinder or support it. Specific research includes: Analyzing the process of adoption, focusing on the spread of technologies and the drivers of technology adoption to guide future research

  • Documenting the impact of past research on income and nutrition to provide feedback on successes and failures that will guide institutional learning, inform institutional priority setting and “reverse engineering”, and replicating past successes to maximize returns on research investments
  • Market analysis to provide direct information on demand factors along the value chain, including end users. Post-harvest losses (quantity and quality) is a critical area; including processing, grades and standards and value addition to enable smallholder farmers to unlock the potential of structured markets.

Participatory research approaches are used to increase the depth of knowledge and improve interventions and recommendations. In conjunction with larger datasets, this research provides well-rounded insights and improves the understanding of wider quantitative results.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:

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Dr Rajeev K Varshney

Research Program Director – Genetic Gains
Email: R(dot)K(dot)Varshney(at)cgiar(dot)org



The Research Program on Genetic Gains aims to enhance the gains generated through breeding programs and varietal replacement in farmers’ fields by harnessing the full potential of the Institute’s genebank, modern genomics, molecular biology and breeding approaches. This will benefit smallholder farmers with increased productivity, profitability and improved nutrition and, at the same time, address the market need for improved varieties in the semi-arid tropics of the world.

The Program will pursue these activities through the integrated efforts of the following Themes/Units: Genebank; Pre-breeding; Genomics & trait discovery; Cell, molecular biology & genetic engineering; Forward breeding; Biotechnology – Eastern and Southern Africa; Seed Systems; and Sequencing & informatics services.

This global program works very closely with the three regional Research Programs – Asia; Eastern and Southern Africa; and West and Central Africa as well as the global Research Program on Innovation Systems for the Drylands. 

The program hosts the ICRISAT Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) and the Platform for Translation of Transgenic Crops (PTTC), that provide state-of-the-art facilities to undertake genomics and transgenic research, respectively.

Our Team


Dr Vania Azevedo

Email: V(dot)Azevedo(at)cgiar(dot)org

The Genebank serves as a repository for the collection of germplasm of ICRISAT’s six mandate crops: sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut; and five small millets: foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet, proso millet and barnyard millet. The integrated Genebank at Patancheru (India) and three regional locations in Nairobi (Kenya), Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) and Niamey (Niger), function under the international framework for conservation of plant genetic resources.  The ICRISAT Genebank, in coordination with the Crop Trust, provides support to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and maintains and develops Genesys, a global online portal for data on genebank accessions.

ICRISAT Grin-Global is available at http://germplasm.icrisat.org

ICRISAT Genebank: http://genebank.icrisat.org/

Focus areas

  • Assembling and collecting germplasm: New accessions are fully integrated into the collection to fill gaps in the genepool
  • Conserving germplasm under long-term (LTS) and medium term storage (MTS) and monitoring the viability of conserved germplasm
  • Safety duplication of viable accessions at another genebank (first level) and at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (second level).
  • Regeneration and multiplication of germplasm: Growing out and regeneration of accessions that have declined in viability or seed quantity
  • Supply of germplasm and associated information
  • Repatriation of native germplasm to NARS partners who have lost their collections.
  • Characterization (phenotypic and genotypic) of germplasm and diversity assessment.
  • Evaluation of germplasm (including wild relatives) for traits of economic importance (biotic and abiotic stresses, agronomic, seed and nutritional traits)
  • Seed health testing and cleaning of new and regenerated germplasm accessions for conservation and exchange
  • Strategies for enhanced use of germplasm in crop improvement programs: Establishing and augmenting core and mini core collections and identify trait specific germplasm and conduct inheritance studies.
  • Maintaining, improving and expanding datasets and promoting their use through GRIN-Global and Genesys
  • Developing partnerships and enhancing the capacity of NARS partners in managing germplasm collections
  • Establishing and updating Quality and Risk Management Systems, genebanks operation manuals and staff retention plan.
  • Reporting on SMTAs to the Governing Body of the Treaty and to the FAO on Conservation and sustainable use of PGRFA Article 15 of the Global Plan of Action (GPA)
  • Strengthening regional genebanks in Africa for the efficient management of regional diversity and representative global diversity for enhanced germplasm use in the region
  • Regional genebanks collect, conserve, characterize/evaluate, regenerate, distribute germplasm and associated information, and enhance capacities of NARS partners in the region to manage diversity.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:

This theme is responsible for enriching the variability in the cultivated genepool by exploiting unadapted germplasm (exotic landraces and crop wild relatives) that cannot be used directly in breeding programs. The theme provides a link between the genebank and the breeding programs through close collaboration across themes. Its major focus is to identify desirable traits and/or genes from unadapted germplasm and transfer these genes into well-adapted genetic backgrounds that lead to the development of new genepools with higher frequency of useful genes. Potential recombinants/introgression lines with acceptable agronomic performance are identified and made available to crop breeders worldwide. This ensures the continuous supply of new, highly diverse and useful genetic variability into breeding pipelines to develop new cultivars with a broad genetic base.

Focus areas

  • Development of pre-breeding populations including AB-QTL, BC-NAM, CSSLs, etc, using exotic landraces and wild relatives of chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, and pearl millet, and well-adapted popular cultivars
  • Introgression of genes/alleles conferring resistance/tolerance to dry root rot, botrytis grey mold, ascochyta blight, pod borer, and cold/frost in chickpea; Phytophthora blight, pod borers (Helicoverpa armigera, and Maruca vitrata), and salinity in pigeonpea; late leaf spot in groundnut; and leaf blast, and terminal drought and heat tolerance in pearl millet
  • Study the inheritance of resistance/tolerance to important biotic/abiotic stresses and other traits using pre-breeding populations
  • Identify marker-trait associations using pre-breeding populations including AB-QTL, BC-NAM, CSSLs, etc. to accelerate introgression of genes/QTLs in elite cultivars with minimum linkage drag
  • Characterization and evaluation of pre-breeding populations for morpho-agronomic traits and biotic/abiotic stresses and nutrition-related traits to identify promising introgression lines
  • Share stable promising introgression lines to strengthen breeding programs globally.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:


Dr Rajeev Gupta

Theme Leader
Genomics & Trait Discovery
Email: G(dot)Rajeev(at)cgiar(dot)org

The theme’s overarching aim is to develop genetic and genomic resources and tools for crop improvement. This encompasses structural, comparative, translational and functional genomics approaches for mapping, analyses, dissection and characterization of target traits leading to marker/allele discovery and initial validation for deployment in crop breeding to accelerate the rate of genetic gains in ICRISAT’s mandate crops.

Reference genome sequences of all the ICRISAT mandate crops have become available in recent years through ICRISAT being a leader or participant in a global sequencing consortia. The re-sequencing of diverse germplasm sets of these crops is underway. Genomic regions/QTLs/MTAs have been identified and characterized for agronomic, quality, nutrition, biotic/abiotic stress tolerance, and other important demand-driven traits. Molecular markers have been identified and developed for several important traits in these crops.

Focus Areas

  • Developing genomic resources and tools
  • Developing a better understanding of crop genomes and high throughput genotyping assays
  • Developing appropriate genetic resources targeting important traits
  • High resolution trait mapping for candidate gene discovery and validation
  • Markers discovery, development, and initial validation for deployment in crop breeding
  • Obtain insights into the molecular mechanism of complex traits.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:

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Rajeev Varshney

Dr Rajeev K Varshney

Theme Leader
Forward Breeding (OIC)

This theme is responsible for integrating various molecular breeding approaches, i.e. marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC), marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS) and genomic selection (GS) in the product development process at ICRISAT. Such integration should allow for accelerated rate of genetic gain across all mandate crops by leveraging expertise from various groups inside and outside ICRISAT.

Focus areas

  • Collaborate with the theme on Genomics and Trait Discovery to validate identified markers
  • Convert candidate molecular markers to high-throughput enable marker system
  • Establish and use of high throughput and cost-effective genotyping platforms
  • Forward breeding-based breeding solutions to crop improvement
  • Deploy molecular breeding approaches e.g. MAS/MARS/GS in collaboration with the themes on Crop Improvement and Genomics and Trait Discovery
  • Lead/engage in developing analytical tools, platforms and databases for molecular breeding
  • Meta-analysis using sequencing and re-sequencing data for haplotypes-based selection
  • Explore and use new approaches like metabolomics and proteomics to develop biomarkers.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:


Dr Pooja Bhatnagar Mathur

Theme Leader
Cell, Molecular Biology & Genetic Engineering
Email: P(dot)BHATNAGAR(at)cgiar(dot)org

The theme is responsible for consolidated efforts in developing biotechnological tools towards candidate gene discovery and validations, transgenic breeding and translational research. It combines system biology approaches for forward and reverse biological engineering involving innovations yielding to products using existing as well as newer tools and technologies.

The theme combines multiple platforms to develop and test new approaches to develop transgenic crops to support the demand for increased yield and overall agricultural productivity, specifically targeted to constraints for which no genetic traits are available in conventional plant breeding. From gene/promoter validations to genetic modification towards commercialization, our understanding of crop biology are merged with the principles of engineering to bring newer technologies and research platforms focused on addressing biotic and abiotic constraints, overcoming yield barriers, and focusing on quality traits in our mandate crops. The pipeline encompasses a broad range of biotechnology solutions, which we are progressively merging to deliver effective solutions. The discovery research will integrate science with emerging ethical, legal and societal issues to mature innovative plant biotechnology solutions to meet the growing demand for improved agricultural productivity and healthier nutrition.

The Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC) is a unique initiative of ICRISAT with support from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India to facilitate the translational/advancement of potential transgenic proof-of-concept technologies into usable products. PTTC operates and collaborates with a larger research community beyond the boundaries of a single institution. Work is undertaken in a network mode consisting of expert organizations involved in different verticals of transgenic research using the ‘Hub and Spokes’ concept, where PTTC serves as the locus with the basic infrastructure for research, training, and outreach activities, having a series of collaborative institutes for specific activities such as toxicity, allergenicity studies, multi-site field trials, etc.  With self-contained infrastructure and a well-established network, PTTC offers the complete pipeline of solutions for the effective development and translation of transgenic crops from ICRISAT as well its public sector partners and their delivery through Public-Private sector collaborations.

Focus areas 

  • Understanding the basic genetic and molecular mechanisms that control plant development and physiology.
  • Developing tools and biotechnologies for research, innovation and products in ICRISAT mandate crops
  • Integrating discovery research with emerging ethical, legal and societal issues to responsibly mature innovative plant biotechnology solutions for agriculture.

This theme contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs:


Dr Damaris Odeny

Theme Leader
Email: D(dot)Odeny(at)cgiar(dot)org

The Theme ESA- BT is responsible for developing and integrating cutting-edge technologies with conventional breeding to develop varieties that address specific needs in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) with respect to food and nutrition security, climate change, soil degradation and other environmental constraints. The theme works very closely with all the themes under the Global Research Program on Genetic Gains and provides tools and technologies for their deployment in ESA. It also undertakes research activities in close collaboration with national, regional and global partners leading to capacity development of stakeholders. The activities also leverage existing, publicly available genomic resources including whole genome sequences, re-sequencing data, molecular markers arrayed on different platforms and transcriptome data.
Focus Areas

  • Identification of molecular markers linked to traits (and quantitative trait loci regions) of interest to breeders in ESA
  • Introgression and pyramiding of traits of interest into farmer-preferred varieties in the region
  • Determination of the extent of genetic diversity within reference germplasm
  • Functional characterization and validation of traits of interest
  • Determination of seed purity and fingerprinting of relevant breeding lines and released varieties.

This theme contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs:


Chris Ojiewo

Dr Christopher Ochieng Ojiewo

Theme Leader
Seed Systems & Project Coordinator – TL III
Email: E(dot)Monyo(at)cgiar(dot)org

The goal of this theme is to enhance the productivity of farming systems in the semi-arid tropics through increased use of modern varieties from diverse germplasm. The purpose is to develop and evaluate more efficient and cost-effective seed supply options and institutional arrangements. This goal will be best served by strongly anchoring activities into appropriate Global and Regional Research Programs where interdisciplinarity can be enhanced and resources more efficiently and effectively utilized. The theme will deliver research outputs to end beneficiaries, mainly smallholder farmers and governments.

 Focus areas

  • Building smart partnerships across seed systems actors: Through partnership we not only learn from our partners’ seed production and delivery schemes, but also share our experiences. This win-win partnership needs to be maintained and nurtured through projects and programs.
  • Aggressive inclusive market support: Our seed systems research will closely ground interventions in available market outlets so that smallholders adopting a new crop variety do not bear the cost of market failure.
  • Tailored capacity building and other support systems along seed systems: Lack of technical knowledge and skills to produce and deliver quality seed hampers quality seed delivery to smallholder farmers. Seed producers need tailored empowerment to effectively deliver on their job.
  • Developing strong communication systems: Seed systems research can deliver expected impacts for smallholder farmers when communication activities articulate into research design.
  • Advocacy and lobbying for more favorable regulatory and policy environments: The easy with which seed of improved varieties is made available to target beneficiaries depends on how flexible and tailored the policy environment is.

This theme contributes to the the CGIAR Research Programs:

This unit offers unit genomics and informatics services to cater to the needs of genotyping and sequencing for a range of applications in different themes of the global research program on Genetic gains, other Research Programs, and NARS partners. An arm of the Center of Excellence in Genomics (ceg.icrisat.org), it provides services on a cost-to-cost basis with the objective of enhancing genomics applications in breeding as well as research at ICRISAT and its partner institutes.

The CEG hosts state-of-the-art genomics platforms such as HiSeq 2500, MiSeq, ABI3730, Microarray Spotter & Scanner, LiCOR, etc. and ahigh-performance computational analysis platform with 408 cores, 6 TB RAM and 572 TB storage.

Services offered:

  • De novo and re-sequencing of genomes
  • RNASeq/Transcriptome sequencing and small RNA sequencing
  • ChiP-Seq, Methylation/Bisulfite sequencing
  • SNP (KASPassay) and SSR genotyping
  • DArT genotyping
  • qRT-PCR analysis
  • Sequence alignment and variant calling based on next generation sequencing data
  • Basic genome and transcriptome analysis
  • Genotyping-by-sequencing analysis
  • Training in sequencing and genotyping data analysis.

 ICRISAT- Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG)

Efficient crop breeding requires high-throughput allele determination at low cost for better prediction of an individual’s phenotype from its genotype. The Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG, ceg.icrisat.org) caters to the needs of the genomics research and molecular breeding community. It hosts modern genomics platforms including HiSeq 2500, MiSeq, ABI3730, Microarray Spotter & Scanner, LiCOR, etc, and the high-performance computational analysis platform with 408 cores, 6 TB RAM and 572 TB storage.

The CEG facilities are used by scientists from the global research program on Genetic Gains and other research programs to develop genome sequences, transcriptome assemblies, high-density genetic maps, and establishing marker-traits associations; for the low-cost and high-throughput genotyping technologies in breeding; to characterize germplasm and specialized genetic populations; for fingerprinting seed samples collected from farmers’ fields to assess the adoption rate of improved varieties; and to provide genotyping and sequencing services to scientists at ICRISAT and  NARS partners.

More details about Center of Excellence in Genomics here http://ceg.icrisat.org/


Dr Anthony Michael Whitbread

Research Program Director –  Innovation Systems for the Drylands and Country Representative – Tanzania

Email: A(dot)Whitbread(at)cgiar(dot)org



Innovation Systems for the Drylands is one of the two cross-cutting global programs at ICRISAT. The concept of an innovations systems approach recognizes the importance of   conditions that are needed to create demand for technologies and how knowledge may be used to bring about food secure and sustainable livelihood systems in resource-constrained smallholder farming systems. An important component of innovation systems thinking is that innovations most often emerge from systems of actors collaborating and communicating with each other. Key to our approach in facilitating such dialogue is the use of systems analysis approaches using computer-based simulation tools.

The Research Program works across five themes: Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP); Systems Analysis for Climate-Smart Agriculture (SACSA); Markets, Institutions, Nutrition and Diversity (MIND); Monitoring, Evaluation, Impact Assessment and Learning (MEIL); and Digital Agriculture.

The program underpins ICRISAT’s work in its three regions:  West and Central Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa and Asia. The Program draws on a legacy of strong research and applications within ICRISAT and aims to provide the knowledge base, strategic foresight and modelling, social and economic sciences that can inform technical inputs and research priority advice to ICRISAT in order to attract sustained investments for semi-arid tropical agriculture in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Gender is mainstreamed and integrated throughout the Program’s portfolio.  A strengthened research orientation is toward results and impact.

Our Team


Dr Kiran K Sharma

Theme Leader
Agribusiness and Innovation Platform
Email: K(dot)Sharma(at)cgiar(dot)org

AIP is an initiative of ICRISAT that is focused on enhancing the research outcomes of ICRISAT and its partners through innovative engagement models involving start-ups and industries for faster, wider-scale impact at the smallholder farming community level. AIP complements the innovative systems thinking approach by linking entrepreneurs, farmer groups and industries with ICRISAT Programs, thereby enabling avenues for cross-learning, assimilation and development of new solutions to tackle problems faced by smallholder farmers and rural communities.  AIP comprises of three components: Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program; Innovation & Partnership (INP) Program; and Nutri-Plus Knowledge (NPK) Program.

Focus areas

  • Technology transfer from ICRISAT and its partners to entrepreneurs and institutions for wider outreach and impact at the farm level
  • Identifying grassroots agri-based innovations for refinement and scaling-up for market access
  • Facilitate an ecosystem that promotes collaborative learning within the program and among external partners (such as Government departments, input players, financial agencies, post-harvest service providers, etc) to identify innovative solutions for farming problems, and scale-up agro-technologies and processes that benefit farmers
  • Promote agribusinesses and start-ups that benefit farming and rural communities, especially those which are into developing novel business models involving ICT-based applications for agriculture; innovative, knowledge-based farming input models and systems; post-harvest processing  methods and tools; and value-added nutritious food products based on ICRISAT’s mandate crops.
  • Facilitate the Agriculture-Nutrition connect through innovative food processing technologies and products linked to local crops and targeted towards addressing malnutrition among children and lactating mothers in rural communities
  • Facilitate rural youth and women to undertake small-scale agribusiness ventures in food processing, farm inputs, seed business, etc
  • Facilitate protection of intellectual property for innovations in the agricultural sector
  • Support entities created for, by, and of the farmers with technology access, business process refinement, its sustainability and scale-up; and use of such platforms to integrate with the Program’s operative areas and start-up services, thereby enabling cross-learning opportunities
  • Facilitate industry-research public-private partnerships that benefit smallholder farming systems
  • Facilitate linkages with companies interested in agro-based rural socio-economic development, and jointly develop and implement CSR-supported projects
  • Facilitate knowledge dissemination and skill enhancement activities in entrepreneurship, adoption of new technologies and crop improvement practices.

For more information: http://www.aipicrisat.org

This theme contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs:


Michael Hauser

Theme Leader
Markets, Institutions, Nutrition & Diversity, Innovation Systems for the Drylands Program
Email: M(dot)Hauser(at)cgiar(dot)org

The theme capitalizes on ICRISAT’s core competencies in socio-economic research and  inherits large panel datasets (e.g. VLS/VDSA data) and diverse expertise in the fields of resource and development economics, social science, and policy and institutional analyses.

The theme focuses on applying analytical techniques to understand the impact of policies, markets, and cooperation patterns on diverse aspects of rural development in dryland systems and, more specifically, the emergence and adoption of innovations. Interactions between agricultural innovations and household constraints such as cash flow, labor, health and nutrition as well as social features (specifically gender relations) are studied at the household and community level.

The theme addresses five broad sub-areas:

  • The assessment of market incentives follows the value chain approach. MIND implements applied research on the basis of multi-stakeholder engagements (e.g. innovation platforms). Value chain analyses are critical inputs to priority setting of various lines of ICIRSAT research identifying leverage points to generate enhanced income and systems resilience for smallholder farmers.
  • The theme explores farmer responses to the uncertainties and risks of dryland farming due to climate change and market shocks that threaten their businesses, livelihoods and survival. It develops tools to increase their adaptive capacity (e.g. through climate forecast; integrated whole farm analysis) as well as to mitigate the consequences of such challenges (e.g. by developing insurance instruments).
  • The governance of the management of agricultural landscapes is an interplay of diverse institutions, involving a wide range of stakeholders at multiple scales. MIND assesses how incentives/disincentives emerging from state, market and cooperation mechanisms affect the productivity and innovative spirit of farmers. This takes into account impacts on a variety of ecosystem services.
  • A Gender, Diversity and Nutrition sub-theme aims to integrate gender and nutrition research across the program and across the Institute by developing and applying tools and methods for using sex-disaggregated data and nutrition metrics. This research specifically puts social relations at the heart of understanding gender dynamics in agriculture and offers a unique opportunity to examine the gender implications of changes in production systems, institutions and institutional arrangements, policies and programs over time, focusing on nutrition outcomes for men, women, adolescents and children.

This theme contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs:

water-land-ecosystemspimrelogo5  relogo2

Dr Andrew Smith

Theme Leader
Systems Analysis for Climate Smart Agriculture
Email: S(dot)Andrew(at)cgiar(dot)org

The research theme on Systems Analysis for Climate-Smart Agriculture encompasses a multi-disciplinary team to investigate agricultural systems at various levels of their complexity in order to predict the most promising interventions to be made at the farming system level to optimize returns at the economic, cultural, social and ecosystem level. Suitable interventions are then designed to maximize benefits for the farming communities. The focus is to understand and utilize G×E×M×S (genotype by environment by management by society) interactions, a complex and challenging puzzle that turns into an opportunity when cracked into components and then used to prioritize research investments to maximize return. The theme’s work is rooted in a clear understanding of crop adaptation to stress, with a particular view to climate change, seeking both genetics and agronomic options which are then linked up to the Genetic Gain global program by delivering high throughput and precise phenotypic data to harness the genetics of key adaptive traits. It uses simulation analysis to make predictions of the most suitable traits and agronomic management options, and in doing so links up with breeders and agronomist at the regional and global level to define these targets.

Part of the work involves refining and improving crop models by adding functions on the basis of new crop coefficients, and also system analysis of experimental data to test the robustness of the model predictions. System analysis outputs are used to undertake socio-economic scenario analysis of the effects of interventions on livelihoods at regional scales. Weather data and seasonal forecasts are used to develop crop suitability maps at a regional scale to assess risks associated with a particular cropping decision. 

Focus areas

  • Trait dissection for climate change adaptation: To understand the biological basis of stress adaptation and to develop the assays to pick up promising genetic variants
  • Phenotyping:  To harness the genetics of key adaptive traits across crops; to derive crop coefficients for crop modelling use at a high throughput; and to link both platform-based phenotyping on genetic traits to field-based phenotyping to better understand GxExM interactions and generate data for simulation analysis validation
  • Crop Modelling:  Generating prediction maps with G or M alterations; improving modelling output by running robustness tests with experimental data; and generating new model loops
  • System analysis: By scaling up one ladder to undertake predictions at the system level (from one crop/one year to multiple crops and seasons; and socio-economic analysis on a regional basis to assess effects of interventions on livelihoods
  • Weather forecast and predictions: Develop crop suitability maps at a regional scale based on long term weather observations; assess seasonal forecasts to make crop recommendation at a regional scale; and generate soil and weather data repositories for simulation use in SAT target regions.
  • Training and capacity building: To develop capacity in phenotyping, both human and physical; and on system analysis.

Read more on: http://gems.icrisat.org/

This theme contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs:

relogo2 water-land-ecosystems


Mr Ram Kiran Dhulipala

Digital Agriculture & Strategic Initiatives
Email: R(dot)Dhulipala(at)cgiar(dot)org

Digital agriculture as a driver of innovation in agriculture provides a major opportunity to  bring smallholder farmers out of poverty in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Technology is being used to deliver information from various sources (downscaled information and analytics on market, weather, farming system, and soil) as locally specific advisories directly  to farmers on smart phones or tablets; in the application of risk management intelligence on markets or weather in the banking or insurance sectors; and in business intelligence by harnessing information to a dashboard to monitor project outputs.

 Focus  areas

  • Explore how and what information and ICT might be delivered to create new services for smallholder farmers, value chains and communities
  • Conduct leading-edge research on the technical and social dimensions of digital agriculture, specifically how and what information will lead to practice change, gaining of efficiencies and overall impacts on farm livelihoods
  • Support the Institute’s effort towards building new partnerships for enhanced development impact using ICT platforms and tools, particularly through connections with leading private sector innovators
  • Oversee the Institute’s role as a mediator in knowledge sharing and innovation through updated ICT tools, including the piloting of virtual educational, library and learning programs.

For more information: http://ihub.icrisat.org/

This theme contributes to the CGIAR Research Programs:



CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals Agri-food Systems (2018-22)

The CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals Agri-food Systems (GLDC) focuses on increasing the productivity, profitability, resilience and marketability of critical and nutritious grain legume and cereal crops grown in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. It is aa Research for Development investment of US$413 million over five years (2018-22).

CRP-GLDC is one of 12 CRPs delivering to the CGIAR’s Strategy and Results Framework (SRF) 2016–2030. By 2030, CGIAR and its partners will aim for 150 million fewer hungry people, 100 million fewer poor people, at least 50% of whom are women, and 190 million ha less degraded land (http://www.cgiar.org/about-us/our-programs/).

The CRP has prioritized integrated research for development on six legume (chickpea, cowpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, lentil, soybean) and three cereal (sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet) crops grown in semi-arid and sub-humid dryland agroecologies.
CRP-GLDC will be managed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), supported by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Bioversity International. These CGIAR partners will lead key programs of the CRP along with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the French-Agriculture Research for Development (CIRAD), and Institute of Research for Development-France (IRD).

Broad partnerships are essential for CRP-GLDC and include the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) collaborators in West Africa (Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger), East and Southern Africa (Ethiopia, Sudan, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique), and South Asia (India and Myanmar), Sub-Regional Organizations, non-Government Organisations and private companies to increase regional adoption of improved crop varieties and enhance market opportunities for smallholder farmers.

GLDC Director: Dr Kiran K Sharma
Email: K(dot)Sharma(at)cgiar(dot)org


CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems

Focal point: Dr Anthony Whitbread
Email: A(dot)Whitbread(at)cgiar(dot)org

CGIAR Genebank Platform

Focal point: Dr Vania Azevedo
Email: v(dot)azevedo(at)cgiar(dot)org

CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

Focal point: Dr Anthony Whitbread
Email: A(dot)Whitbread(at)cgiar(dot)org

CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH)

Focal point: Dr Michael Hauser
Email: M(dot)Hauser(at)cgiar(dot)org

CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM)

Focal point: Dr Michael Hauser
Email: M(dot)Hauser(at)cgiar(dot)org

CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture

Focal point: Dr Abhishek Rathore
Email: a(dot)rathore(at)cgiar(dot)org

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