The Crop Protection and Seed Health cluster is dedicated to developing effective and environmentally friendly solutions for managing diseases and pests that affect our speciality crops in Asia, with a focus on India, Eastern and Southern Africa, and West and Central Africa.

Our work involves conducting research on the biology, causes, spread, and management of major diseases and insect pests. We identify sources of disease resistance and insect pest tolerance, integrating them into breeding programs. We also focus on early detection and surveillance of pests and diseases, developing diagnostic methods, and implementing integrated pest and disease management approaches. Additionally, we work on improving storage solutions for grains and seeds, managing mycotoxins, and studying microbiology-related solutions for stress and nutrient uptake optimization.

Our state-of-the-art facilities enable us to assess the impact of climate change on pests and diseases and develop strategies for managing emerging threats. Furthermore, our Plant Quarantine Unit ensures adherence to international phytosanitary standards, facilitating the conservation, sharing, and use of germplasm. Our key areas of focus include identifying resistant sources, developing detection tools, characterizing pathogens and pests, promoting biocontrol methods, studying climate impacts, enhancing nitrogen fixation, mitigating mycotoxin contamination, and conducting seed health testing and diagnostics.

We also organize training programs and workshops to enhance expertise in pest and disease management and seed health testing. Through our research and collaboration, we aim to contribute to sustainable and resilient crop production.

     Affordable Aflatoxin Testing: Developed cost-effective and versatile ELISA-based technologies to estimate aflatoxins in food, feed, and human blood samples. Our analysis costs only $1-2 per sample, compared to $20-30 with other techniques. This effort has helped establish over 20 aflatoxin testing labs globally, including in India, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam. As a result, Malawi regained its groundnut exports to South Africa and the European Union.

     Disease Resistance in Pearl Millet: Through careful monitoring and screening, we identified stable resistance sources for diseases in pearl millet. This diversified the genetic base of parental lines, enabling effective management of ergot, smut, and downy mildew. Our contributions were recognized with the King Baudouin Award of the CGIAR in 1996. Additionally, we shared blast-resistant lines with breeding programs, contributing to disease control efforts.

     Disease Resistance in Chickpea and Pigeonpea: Our identification of disease-resistant donor lines significantly improved crop varieties. In chickpea, we shared around 50 resistant donor lines for wilt, Ascochyta blight, and dry root rot. Notably, the wilt-resistant line WR-315 (ICC 11322) has been widely adopted globally. In pigeonpea, we provided 48 disease-resistant lines for wilt, sterility mosaic disease, and Phytophthora blight. Varieties like ICP 8863 (Maruti) and ICPL 87119 (Asha) have become leading resistant lines.

     Climate Change Research Facility: Established a state-of-the-art climate change research facility to develop strategies for crop protection in the face of climate variability and change.

     Biological Approaches: Successfully demonstrated natural farming techniques to regenerate resilient soil systems and protect crops. On-farm releases of the parasitoid Telenomus remus have resulted in significant parasitism of the fall armyworm. Additionally, effective entomopathogenic fungi and biopesticides have been identified for the management of the fall armyworm.

     Innovative Fungicides: Identified highly effective fungicides for seed treatment in pigeonpea, chickpea, and groundnut, surpassing the currently used ones in efficacy.

     Seed Health Assessment: Assessed the seed health status of 55,359 accessions for long-term conservation of healthy germplasm in our genebank from 2012 to 2021.