No. 1379 11 September 2009

University of Western Australia Strengthens Ties with ICRISAT

The University of Western Australia (UWA) and ICRISAT will further strengthen the ongoing collaboration in dryland agricultural research. A delegation led by the Vice-Chancellor of UWA, Professor Alan Robson, expressed its wish to strengthen collaborative research, particularly in chickpea.

The delegation was in Patancheru on 9 September for a one day visit. Pro Vice-Chancellor Robyn Owens; Director, Institute of Agriculture, Kadambot Siddique; and Director, International Centre, Kelly Smith were part of the UWA delegation.

University of Western Australia delegation Director General William Dar with the University of Western Australia delegation led by Vice chancellor Alan Robson.

Recall that Dr Dar and Peter Ninnes had visited UWA in July this year as a follow-up to previous interactions with UWA, a university highly regarded in the field of agriculture in Australia.

Stressing the need for strengthening strategic partnerships, ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar said that the challenge of feeding the poor in developing countries is big and called for greater cooperation towards a solution. “We will be working on a new work plan for the coming two to five years so that ICRISAT and UWA can generate fundamental work for the people of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” he added. In appreciation of the collaborative work between the two institutions, he presented a certificate of recognition to Alan Robson.

Prof Robson stated that Australia, with vast tracts of semi-arid land mass, would encourage its Asian and African students to work closely with ICRISAT, which has extensive knowledge in this field. “We at UWA have decided to give more scholarships for students willing to work on Africa based research projects,” Prof Robson said. He said that UWA stood seventh in the publication of scientific papers this year in the field of plant sciences.

DG with Alan Robson DG handing over Certificate of Recognition to Alan Robson.

Explaining the vision and mission of ICRISAT, Director, Resource Planning and Marketing, Peter Ninnes said that half of the impoverished children in the world live in the Asian and sub-Saharan regions and added that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is deeply influenced by this very fact.

According to Siddique, UWA, which has an ongoing five-year breeding program in ICRISAT for Ascochyta blight resistant chickpea, has extended it for three more years. The ongoing program is slated to conclude by December this year. Similarly the university will encourage exchange of students for research at ICRISAT.

Offering increased financial assistance to Indian students, Robyn Owen announced fifty research scholarships for students wishing to pursue research in various fields in Australia, and a grant of Australian $ 25,000 per year for students who will undertake research under joint supervision of ICRISAT and UWA.

UWA delegation visits Genebank Alan Robson and his team at the Genebank with Dr Upadhyaya

The delegation visited the Genetic Transformation laboratory and evinced keen interest in the ongoing research there and also in the new facility being constructed for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops,
a Government of India, Department of Biotechnology - ICRISAT initiative.

They also visited the RS Paroda genebank, and Green House-3, which houses UWA and ICRISAT’s work on desi chickpea and chickpea diseases. The visitors were also taken through demonstration plots of pigeonpea, sorghum, groundnut and pearl millet. The visit culminated at the ICRISAT’s heritage Watershed.


UWA delegation visit in pictures

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Meeting on chickpea in RRFL of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh

Director General William Dar emphasized the need for increasing chickpea production using short duration high yielding varieties suitable for rain-fed rice fallow lands (RRFL) of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh states of India using improved cultural and crop protection technologies.

He was addressing the inaugural session of the two day review and planning meeting for Enhancing Chickpea production in the RRFL of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh following Improved Pulse Production and Protection Technologies (IPPPT) funded by the National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India on 8 and 9 September at Patancheru.

Participants of the review meeting on chickpeaParticipants of the review meeting on chickpea with the Director General.

Forecasting further increase in the demand for pulses as the cheapest source of dietary protein, Dr Dar observed, “There is scope to introduce and enhance pulse production as a second crop by expanding their production in selected niches. There is a big potential of about 30-40% of the approximately 15 million hectares of rain-fed rice fallow lands in the states of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, eastern Madhya Pradesh, Assam and others for this purpose”.

He further said that farmers in the RRFL regions have inadequate access to newly developed high-yielding varieties of chickpea and other pulses and the economical and user-friendly IPPPT. “These farmers have shown great interest in cultivating improved high-yielding varieties of chickpea in rice fallows as a second crop due to their adaptability and profitability in comparison to other crops, which seldom fail due to erratic rains,” he added.

On the first day of the meeting, presentations were made by Suresh Pande, Project Coordinator, NFSM Chickpea Project and project collaborators from both the states. Dr SK Dasgupta representing Ceres Beeja Research Pvt Limited, Kolkata, gave a presentation on the role of private entrepreneurship in establishing household village level seed systems.

Mr Rajdeep Singh representing National Agro Industries, Ludhiana expressed interest in the possibility of modifying zero-till seed drills and making them suitable for establishing chickpea in RRFL.

The second day of the meeting focused on the proposed work plan for next cropping season (2009/10) and general discussion on procurement of equipment and other logistics. Under the chairmanship of GTL-Crop Improvement CLL Gowda, location specific work-plans, which will be implemented in the next crop season, were developed.

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Governing Board to meet in Bamako

The 61st Governing Board meeting of ICRISAT will take place in Bamako, Mali, from 14 to 18 September. All the Management Group members and Research Committee members will attend the meeting. The Board members are expected to pay a visit to the President of Mali during the week.

Team ICRISAT welcomes members of the Governing Board to the meeting and wishes them fruitful deliberations and a happy stay at Bamako.

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Govt of Karnataka and ICRISAT sign MOU

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the Bhu Chetana mission program was signed by Director General William Dar and Principal Secretary of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka Dr Subramanya at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 7 September.

Dr Dar welcomed the delegation and highlighted the support of the Government of Karnataka towards enhancing agricultural productivity of dryland agriculture through a science-led approach. He stressed the need to have a holistic approach to benefit a large number of smallholders in dryland areas for improving their livelihoods.

MoU with Karnataka DG and the Principal Secretary to Karnataka Government exchanging MOU.

In response, Dr Subramanya said that he valued ICRISAT’s contributions and help to the Government of Karnataka through the Bhu Chetana initiative, which will benefit a large number of dryland farmers in Karnataka.

The Government of Karnataka and ICRISAT have been working together for the last four years through the Sujala watershed program supported by the World Bank. The findings from the Sujala-ICRISAT collaborative project have been taken up by the Government of Karnataka to enhance productivity of dryland crops in 24 districts by adopting a mission approach with a consortium of institutions. ICRISAT is providing technical support for planning the productivity enhancement measures, and is undertaking detailed soil mapping in selected districts.

The three member delegation led by Dr S Subramanya included Mr Baburao Mudbi, IAS, Commissioner and Dr KV Sarvesh, Director (Agriculture).

During the field visit, the visitors appreciated the development of high-yielding, stress-tolerant, short-duration cultivars and showed keen interest in the forthcoming medium-duration pigeonpea cultivars that can replace the existing Maruti cultivar in Karnataka.

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DG appreciates research on genetic resources

Director General William Dar visited groundnut pre-breeding experiments of genetic resources on 9 September.

promising groundnut lines Director General Dar looking at one of the promising groundnut lines.

Dr Dar was pleased to see some very promising groundnut lines with high pod, seed and haulm yields, greater shelling percentage and 100-seed weight that were developed using wild germplasm.

He congratulated the genetic resources group on their remarkable achievements in enhancing traits of economic importance in groundnut using wild and unadapted germplasm.

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BBC interviews DG on sweet sorghum

Director General Dar in an interview recorded in Patancheru for the BBC on 10 September said that sweet sorghum beats all other competing bioethanol producing crops such as sugarcane in productivity. He was answering a question on ICRISAT’s research on sweet sorghum and the advantages of growing sweet sorghum compared to other biofuel crops.

DG interview with BBC Camera crew capturing Director General’s interview on Biofuels.

Dr Dar said that the ability of sweet sorghum to withstand drought, saline and alkaline soils, and water logging has been proven by its wide prevalence in various regions of the world. The per day ethanol productivity of sweet sorghum is higher when compared to sugarcane, this besides a shorter growing period of four months and low water requirements. Due to its lower cost of cultivation and familiarity with cultivation of sorghum, the ability and willingness of farmers to adopt sweet sorghum is high.

Advocating the cultivation of sweet sorghum, he said that it suits the small farm holdings in the SAT areas and also helps the agro-based industries to set up ethanol producing units in the surrounding areas.

Mr Ashish, the BBC representative based in Mumbai, will be producing the feature based on footage shot in Patancheru for over two days.

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President of AGRA visits ICRISAT-Bamako

Dr Namanga Ngongi, the president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) visited ICRISAT’s Samanko station in Bamako, Mali, on 9 September.

The objective of the visit was to get familiarized with the various partners in preparation for the AGRA summit that will take place in Bamako in early October.

President of AGRA visits ICRISAT Bamako Dr Namang Ngongi (fourth from left) and Farid Waliyar at ICRISAT in Bamako.

Farid Waliyar, Director-WCA made a presentation on the focus of ICRISAT’s research in WCA. He emphasized the domains in which ICRISAT and AGRA are collaborating, such as microdosing and the public and private sector partnership through the West Africa Seed Alliance.

Dr Ngongi reiterated the importance of Mali, where AGRA has initiated a number of activities, and said that he looked to ICRISAT and partners such as IER for technical support.

He was accompanied by Dr Frank Attere, his special assistant, Dr Bino Teme, Director General of Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER) Mali and Mr Alfred Sallia, a consultant with AGRA.

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Mahbubnagar farmers trained on soil health management

ICRISAT, under its Department for Rural Development Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (DRD-SERP) project on ‘Improving Rural Livelihoods through Integrated Agricultural Development in Mahbubnagar District of Andhra Pradesh’ organized a Training program on Soil Health Management-Options and Alternatives for the lead farmers, and village and cluster activists, from 25 villages covering 5 clusters in Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh. The training was organized jointly by GT-CI and GT-AES of ICRISAT and SERP at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 10 September.

Farmers from Mahbubnagar district in training program Farmers from Mahbubnagar district participated in the training program.

Fifty participants representing farmers groups from Wanaparthy, Ghanapur, Pebber, Peddamandadi and Gopalpet clusters participated in the training. Belum VS Reddy, Principal Scientist (Breeding), explained the background of the program. P Parthasarathy Rao, Principal Scientist (Economics), explained the objectives of the training program. PM Gaur, OIC-GT-CI addressed the farmers and appealed to them to make use of the interventions of the project. SP Wani, KL Sahrawat and Ashok Alur from ICRISAT and Nageshwar Rao and Srinivas Raju from SERP participated in the inaugural program.

The experts team consisting of G Pardhasaradhy, V Nageshwar Rao and Babu Rao from GT-AES spoke on soil health management, soil test based nutrient application, soil fertility management and alternative methods of soil fertility management.

The farmers utilized the interactive session to clarify their doubts. They also visited the watershed area, crop demonstration area and SatVenture.

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