No. 1385 23 October 2009

Director General Strengthens Collaboration in North America

Director General William Dar who visited the USA and Canada recently, strengthened ties with two institutions of agricultural importance.

McGill University

The Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES) of Canada’s McGill University and ICRISAT have agreed to work together in the fields of research and training. The agreement was sealed when Director General Dr William Dar signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Dr Chandra A Madramootoo, Dean, FAES at the Macdonald Campus of McGill University in Montreal, Canada on 20 October. The agreement will be in force for a period of five years. As you know, Dr Madramootoo is currently also a member of our Governing Board.

Dr Dar and Dr Madramootoo sign the MOU Dr Dar and Dr Madramootoo signed the MOU at McGill University, Canada. Dr Said Silim is also present.

At the signing, Dr Madramootoo said that FAES is committed to excellence in teaching, research and service to ensure that humanity’s present and future food, health and natural resource needs are met while protecting the environment.

ICRISAT and FAES have agreed to cooperate and collaborate in research, training and other activities that further the aims and objectives of both the Institutions. It was decided to encourage visits from one Institution to the other for purposes of teaching, training, and joint research programs.

According to the MOU, the institutions will develop resources, policies and procedures, collaborative work plans, objectives and targets, implementation mechanisms, roles and responsibilities, and resource contributions.

FAES and ICRISAT will jointly explore external funding opportunities through project proposal development, thus enabling both parties to expand and extend their collaborative activities. Qualified students or researchers hosted by one institution would be able to gain access to research opportunities or degree programs at the other institution. It was also decided to encourage the exchange of scientific and research publications and information.

McGill University (or simply McGill) is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university.

Iowa State University

Iowa State University has been a partner of ICRISAT for decades. A number of linkage grants have been awarded to support the Iowa State University (ISU) partnership and a number of our scientists have participated in bi- or multi-lateral projects involving ISU.

Dr Dar at the Seed Science Center Dr Dar at the Seed Science Center, Iowa State University, Des Moines.

Director General Dr Dar visited ISU on 18 October while on a trip to Des Moines, USA, to attend the World Food Prize Symposium. His visit covered a number of laboratories and field stations of ISU. The Seed Science Center was of particular interest since it works closely with the West Africa Seed Alliance (of which ICRISAT is a partner) and the Seeds Project funded by USAID, and shares our interest in building capacity through distance learning.

The Extension and Outreach Division of ISU is globally renowned for its innovations and contributions towards institution-building in many countries. The Division’s current interest in innovations in outreach complement ICRISAT’s interests, and Dr Dar found their Global Academy concept a particularly promising one. The MOU signed by the two institutions will take the collaboration forward in this dimension. It is broad-based and sufficiently covers a wide range of joint research and training activities.

Jack Payne, Vice-President for Extension and Outreach at the Iowa State University signed the MOU on behalf of the University. Speaking at the occasion, Dr Dar said, “This development has great promise to take forward our vision of a continuum that links the research with farmers using a host of innovations.”

The process was facilitated by Mary Holz-Clause, Associate Dean at ISU, along with Dileep Kumar (formerly a research scholar in the KMS group) and V Balaji of KMS.

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DDG-R Hoisington addresses World Food Day at NIN

DDG-R, Dave Hoisington at NIN DDG-R, Dave Hoisington, giving the keynote address at NIN.

DDG-R Dave Hoisington was the Guest of Honor at a World Food Day celebration on 16 October at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. The celebrations were organized by the Association of Food Scientists and Technologies, India, (AFST) Hyderabad Chapter. Hoisington gave the keynote address on the theme Achieving food security in the time of crises. He talked in detail about the consequences of climate change on crops and its impact on food security. He also presented ICRISAT’s plans and programs to tackle the scenario arising as a result of climate change, with special emphasis on ICRISAT’s Climate change Risk Management Strategy – “Hypothesis of Hope”. Saikat Datta Mazumdar, Technical Director, NutriPlus Knowledge Center, Agri-Science Park@ICRISAT, who is a member of the AFST, was also present.

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UF-ICRISAT course on Cropping System Modeling concluded

course on Cropping System Modeling
DDG-R Dave Hoisington presenting a certificate to Alexander G Arizabal, in the presence of James Jones (extreme right) and Kenneth Boote (extreme left).

As part of the University of Florida (UF)-ICRISAT education center activities, a short course on cropping systems modeling was organized from 12 to 16 October at Patancheru. James Jones, Distinguished Professor of AgBio Engineering at UF, and Kenneth Boote, Professor of Agronomy, served as faculty, while Piara Singh served as a resource person. Jones is well known in the CGIAR for the variety of roles he has played, notably as the Chair of the Governing Board of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. Earlier he had also visited a number of our campuses and Boote had organized similar courses twice in the past at ICRISAT.

The course had 26 participants from India, the Philippines, Thailand and Mali. All the participants rated the course as outstanding in its content and in its organization. The UF team considered the course as a success and will take steps to pace the short-courses program on an even sound footing. DDG-R Dave Hoisington and the UF faculty spoke at the concluding session and distributed certificates to the participants.

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Mekerere University Team visits ABI-ICRISAT

Mekerere University Team from Uganda
Mekerere University Team from Uganda with DDG-R Dave Hoisington and SM Karuppanchetty at Patancheru.

The Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) arranged the visit of a five member team from Uganda’s Mekerere University, comprising Johnny Mugisha, Byaruhanga Yusuf Byenkya, Jakana Dan, Mawanda Robert Joseph and Mugula Jovin Kamugisha, from 13 to 16 October. The main objective of their visit was to have exposure on the business incubation and agri-business services in India. The team also visited incubators at Science & Technology Entrepreneurs Park, Noida, Foundation for Innovation and technology transfer at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and Business Planning Development at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

At Patancheru, the Ugandan delegation was greeted by DDG-R Dave Hoisington, who highlighted the strong relationship between ICRISAT and Mekerere University in Africa in the areas such as the HOPE project and HarvestPlus. KK Sharma and SM Karuppanchetty explained the activities of the agri-business incubator to the group.

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DBT approves Chickpea Project

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India has approved a network project on chickpea called Deployment of molecular markers in chickpea breeding for developing superior cultivars with enhanced disease resistance, in response to their first call under the Grand Challenge Program.

ICRISAT is the lead institute for undertaking this project with Rajeev Varshney as Coordinator and Principal Investigator (PI). In addition to Varshney, Pooran Gaur, C Sivakumar, Suresh Pande, Mamta Sharma and Abhishek Rathore are co-PIs in this project.

Funding of Rs 318.42 lakhs (US$ 686,000) has been granted, of which ICRISAT’s share will be Rs 158.45 lakhs. This 5-year project has several collaborating partners: Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur; Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur; Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Ahmednagar; and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad.

The project will initiate molecular breeding activities with the objective of developing superior lines of chickpea with enhanced resistance to fusarium wilt (FW) and ascochyta blight (AB). Eventually this will help raise chickpea production in India. Moreover, it will also establish the chickpea molecular breeding community of practice in India.

Several impacts are expected to emerge from this project, including introgressed chickpea lines with enhanced resistance to FW and AB; validated molecular markers associated with resistance to FW and AB for their deployment in chickpea breeding programs in India; proof-of-concept of molecular breeding in a pulse crop in India; as well as a number of conventional chickpea breeders trained in molecular breeding.

Congratulations to Rajeev Varshney and the entire network team that worked on actualizing this project.

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ICRISAT’s Climate Change initiatives impress German delegation

Representatives of the German GTZ
Representatives of the German GTZ at ICRISAT Niamey.

A delegation of 35 representatives of the International cooperation enterprise for sustainable development (GTZ) from Germany and their hubs in West Africa visited ICRISAT-Niamey on 15 October. The visit took place as part of GTZ’s regional workshop about Governing Natural Resources in Francophone Africa being held in Niamey the same week. ICRISAT was asked to give presentations on its strategy in view of climate change in West Africa’s semi-arid tropics. The focus was on two of ICRISAT’s projects funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

After Regional Director Farid Waliyar welcomed the visitors and Dougbedji Fatondji explained ICRISAT’s general strategy, Principal Scientist Bettina Haussmann detailed on genetic diversification as a means to deal with Climate Change referring to the BMZ funded project Mobilizing Diversity for Creating New Potentials for Pearl Millet and Sorghum Farmers in West and Central Africa. The objective of the project is to enhance long-term household food security in pearl millet and sorghum growing regions of West and Central Africa through more efficient and sustainable use of pearl millet and sorghum genetic resources.

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Writeshop on Water Productivity in the Crop-Livestock Systems

Addis writeshop
Sisito and Patricia Masikate focus on their papers at the Addis writeshop

Six students from Zimbabwe participated in a “writeshop” hosted at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 5 October. Albert Chirima, Andrew Sibanda, and Patricia Masikate from ICRISAT-Bulawayo and Daniel Nkomboni, Givious Sisito and Trinity Senda from Matopos Research Station attended the writeshop that was designed to support young professionals in developing their skills in writing scientific papers and policy development relevant materials for wider use.

The five-day writeshop was held under the auspices of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development funded project on Water Productivity in Crop-Livestock Systems of sub-Saharan Africa.

The objectives included documenting the research findings on water productivity at household, farm, landscape and higher levels; distilling key interventions and lessons that would enhance water productivity and improve the livelihoods of livestock keepers in sub-Saharan Africa; and creating a community of practice for future engagements in the area of water productivity.

The students made presentations on their work and field questions from peers and scientists.

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CIP signs MOU with ICRISAT

DDG-R Dave Hoisington, on behalf of the DG, and Pamela K Anderson, Director General, International Potato Center (CIP), Peru, signed a memorandum of understanding on 12 October, for promotion of Orange fleshed Sweet Potato(OFSP) in the tribal regions of Andhra Pradesh. Orange Fleshed Sweet potato is considered a possible solution to combat the range of Vitamin A deficiency among the tribal population through increased availability of the cheap source of Vitamin A rich food with high beta carotene content. Agriculture Science Park partner Rudraram Research Institute will introduce the OFSP crop in tribal areas for nutritional security and livelihood enhancement.

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Chinese delegation visits ICRISAT-Patancheru

A three-member delegation from the People’s Republic of China comprising Zhao Zhihai, President, Zhangjiakou Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hebei; Zhang Jinjing; Institute Director and Researcher, Millet Research Institute, Hebei and Tian Jiani, Researcher, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing visited ICRISAT on 12 and 13 October.

Chinese researchers with CLL Gowda
Chinese researchers with CLL Gowda and HD Upadhyaya.

The team visited the characterization/evaluation trials of small millets and selected promising foxtail millet accessions from the mini-core evaluation for use in their research programs. Zhao is a pioneer in foxtail millet improvement, and has developed hybrid foxtail millet (popularly called Super Millet) that gives up to 8 tons per hectare grain yield. The hybrid seed production depends on the photo and thermo-sensitive system similar to hybrid rice.

During the wrap-up meeting with CLL Gowda and HD Upadhyaya, the team discussed future collaborative research on foxtail millet, including the performance of hybrids (Super Millet) in other countries of Asia and Africa. They have also shown a keen interest in evaluating the foxtail millet mini-core collection at Zhangjiakou Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

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