No. 1387 6 November 2009

Alliance of Centers reiterates commitment to the CGIAR change process

Alliance of Centers meeting Governing Board Chair Nigel Poole and Director General William Dar with other members at the Alliance of Centers meeting in Rome.

The Alliance of Centers expressed continued support to the on-going CGIAR change process and reiterated commitment to the guiding principles agreed upon during the Annual General Meeting in Maputo last year. This came out in a series of meetings held in Rome recently. Governing Board Chair Nigel Poole and Director General William Dar represented ICRISAT in these meetings.


In its statement, the Alliance reported four major milestones that it accomplished along with the CGIAR change management process:

  • Developed a draft constitution for the Consortium of CGIAR Centers describing the respective roles and responsibilities of the Consortium and Center Boards
  • Selected the inaugural board of the Consortium, which is expected to be up by next month
  • Completed preparatory analysis of the Consortium Office design and further development of shared services initiatives
  • Managed the development of a strategy and results framework (SRF) for the CGIAR, together with partners.

Articulating ICRISAT’s point of view on the ongoing CGIAR reform process, Drs Poole and Dar assured active engagement in the reform process. They pointed out that the criterion for success was an increase in funds for research to help poor people in the dry tropics. They stressed the need for a predictable, significant, and multi-year funding for the system.

The Alliance appreciated the role of the Transition Management Team (TMT) and hoped that the various work streams would soon converge into a coherent whole. Nevertheless, it cited specific areas of concern as follows:

  1. Pursuing simplicity in monitoring and evaluation and avoiding duplication
  2. Reaching agreement with donors on expected funding levels and sending money from the Fund directly to Centers under instruction from the Consortium
  3. Fair-sharing on “system costs” and its implementation through a binding agreement
  4. Pursuing face-to-face dialogues between Centers and donors for a healthy exchange on research and development issues and maintaining productive relationships
  5. Pursuing face-to-face dialogues between Centers and donors for a healthy exchange on research and development issues and maintaining productive relationships
  6. Improving communication on the impact of Centers and meeting the needs of national and international public fora
  7. Convincing society, donors, partners and Center Boards, staff and partners that the new CGIAR will deliver the reform goals of
  • Clear strategic focus
  • Increased research output, outcome and impact
  • Greater efficiency, effectiveness and relevance
  • Simplicity and clarity of governance
  • Enhanced decentralized decision making; and
  • Active subsidiarity to capitalize on complementarities of the Centers.

The Alliance also asserted its belief that the success of the CGIAR change process requires greater attention to building trust and mutual respect, starting with shared commitment to the foregoing goals.

In a related meeting of the Alliance with donors, the above concerns were well received and both parties agreed to further pursue their realization.

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ABI-ICRISAT participates in Social Entrepreneurship event

The Malla Reddy Group of Institutes along with Honey Bee network Andhra Chapter organized an event on Social Entrepreneurship on 21 October at their Kompally campus in Medchal, near Hyderabad. Anil K Gupta, Professor, Indian Institute of Management– Ahmedabad and Vice-Chairperson, National Innovation Foundation, was the Chief Guest, and SM Karuppanchetty was the Guest of Honor.

While Gupta spoke on Entrepreneurship – a Social Responsibility, Karuppanchetty addressed the students on the topic of Innovation and entrepreneurship for inclusive growth through business incubation. The event had a participation of over 200 management and engineering students, who were exposed to various opportunities and challenges in entrepreneurship and business incubation. Besides, some of the successful ABI incubates and innovators of the TePP program, such as Sheikh Mastan Vali, exhibited their models along with the innovators of Grass Roots Innovation Network.


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Open Field days on sorghum and groundnut in Mali

sorghum hybrids at Samanko Research Station Farmers from different regions of Mali viewing sorghum hybrids at Samanko Research Station.

Two Open Field Days were organized at the Samanko Research Station, Mali, on 27 and 28 October. The first day was devoted to farmers from the regions of Mali where ICRISAT is conducting collaborative research on sorghum and groundnut. A total of 145 farmers attended the open field day.

Welcoming the farmers, country representative Bonny Ntare assured them that their feedback will be taken into consideration while designing and developing appropriate varieties of groundnut and sorghum as well other production enhancing technologies. The farmers had a closer look at ICRISAT’s research fields on sorghum, groundnut, Striga, soybeans, juice extraction from sweet sorghum and various exhibits. Research assistants and technicians made the presentations in the local language (Bamana) and the National television covered the event.

The second day was devoted to development partners, heads of missions, NGOs, farmer organizations, public sector, agro dealers, seed entrepreneurs and the Institut d’Economie Rural. Among them was a strong delegation from the USAID mission in Mali and GTZ. About 100 participants, who were guided through the research fields, followed the explanations attentively despite the hot and humid weather.

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Project Planning Meeting of Chickpea Molecular Breeding Network Proposal

The Project Planning Meeting of the Deployment of molecular markers in chickpea breeding for developing superior cultivars with enhanced disease resistance - (A Chickpea Molecular Breeding Network Proposal) funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India (Happenings 1385) was held on 29 October. This is the first ever meeting of ICRISAT and its partners since the sanction of this project. A draft work plan, which is the road map for the project, was developed and circulated and this will be further fine-tuned in due course. The project is expected to initiate molecular breeding activities with the objective of developing superior lines of chickpea with enhanced resistance to Fusarium wilt and Ascochyta blight.

Hector Hernandez, addressing the gathering on behalf of the Director General congratulated all the scientists from ICRISAT and collaborating institutes for writing a successful proposal. He called upon the research community to find solutions to problems brought about by population growth, climatic change, and land degradation in SAT areas. He emphasized the role of genomics tools to predict the needs of the poor farmers, and the synergies that will result from the close work of plant biotechnologists and breeders on research outputs.

Rajeev Varshney, Principal Investigator (PI) and Co-PIs Pooran Gaur, C Sivakumar, Suresh Pande, Mamta Sharma and Abhishek Rathore, collaborative partners including Drs Anita Babbar, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur; Om Gupta and Navinder Saini from Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur, were also present.

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ICRISAT’s MOU with Philipps University

On the sidelines of ANUGA 2009, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between ICRISAT and the Philipps University of Marburg, Germany to carry out collaborative research work in the areas of food science and food safety. The MOU was signed by Director General Dr William Dar and Michael Keusgen, Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy on behalf of Philipps University.

Philipps University
Abdul Rahman Ilyas and Saikat Datta Mazumdar, with Michael Keusgen (center), Dean Faculty of Pharmacy, Philipps University, Marburg, Germany.

The focus of the cooperation will be research on identifying and characterizing different plant bioactives (including ICRISAT’s mandate crops) for evaluation of their neutraceutical value. In addition, the collaboration will also focus on developing biosensor based rapid detection techniques for detection of food bioactives and contaminants. This joint activity will be carried out between the NutriPlus Knowledge Center of Agri-Science Park@ICRISAT and the department of Pharmaceutical and Food Chemistry of the Philipps University. It is the same laboratory where the first Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine, Emil von Behring, carried out his award winning work on Serum Therapy. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1901.

Abdul Rahman Ilyas (ASP) and Saikat Datta Mazumdar (NutriPlus) were present on the occasion.

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Farmers’ Day on sweet sorghum at Ibrahimbad

Under the National Agricultural Innovation Project’s subproject on Sweet Sorghum value chain, ICRISAT organized a Farmers’ Day Program at Ibrahimbad cluster in Narsapur Mandal of Medak District, Andhra Pradesh. The major objectives of the program were to present an overall scenario of sweet sorghum (hybrid CSH 22SS) cultivation in cluster villages, best-bet practices, integrated crop production practices including pest and disease management, nutrient management and benefits from application of farm machinery.

ICRISAT and Aakruthi Agricultural Associates of India (AAI) jointly organized the program. About 60 sweet sorghum farmers from Ibrahimbad, Errakuntal Thanda, Seethya Thanda, Durgaiah Thanda, Umla Thanda, Sikindalpur Thanda, Laxman Thanda and representatives of Govindarajupally, Hatnoora and Adampur participated in the Farmers’ Day. Belum VS Reddy, Principal Scientist, explained the background and objectives of the program and released a technical bulletin on “Improved sweet sorghum production practices” in the Telugu language brought out jointly by ICRISAT and the sub-project Partner Organizations. Copies of the publication were distributed to all participants.

The farmers expressed an eagerness to harvest and supply sweet sorghum stalks to the crushing unit even before maturity of the grain, as they felt that the grain filling is not proper due to terminal moisture stress, thus highlighting the need to breed and supply a hybrid that matures earlier than CSH 22SS.

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Announcing the Suri Sehgal Lake at Patancheru

inauguration of the lake.
Dr Dar and Dr and Mrs Sehgal at the inauguration of the lake.

Director General Dr William Dar and Dr Surinder M Sehgal (Suri Sehgal) inaugurated a 16 hectare, newly excavated lake at the black saline area of ICRISAT-Patancheru this morning. The granite marker at the new lake reads, “In recognition of Dr Suri Sehgal, Visionary, distinguished agriculturist and renowned philanthropist “. The inauguration ceremony was attended by DDG-R Dr Dave Hoisington, Dr MD Gupta of the Sehgal Foundation, Mr Jai Sehgal, and other senior staff members.

Dr Sehgal lauded the efforts of ICRISAT in the conservation of the environment and announced his support in the further development of the lake. He also appreciated ICRISAT’s initiatives in the preservation of germplasm and watershed management. Dr Dar expressed satisfaction over the ongoing collaboration between ICRISAT and the Sehgal Foundation with regard to sorghum and pearl millet.

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Training on harvesting sweet sorghum in Samanko

A training program on the procedures and practices of harvesting sweet sorghum for collaborative trials of ICRISAT and IER (Institute for Agro-Economy) took place recently at ICRISAT’s Samanko research station in Mali. Scientists and technicians from IER research stations as well as technicians and students from Samanko participated.

The objective of the training was to enhance the understanding of the different steps for harvesting sweet sorghum, ranging from the optimal date of harvest and sampling strategies for biomass to grain yield evaluation, juice extraction and brix° measurements.

Sweet sorghum harvest-and-trait evaluations involve various steps that need to be organized in an efficient way to assure that observations are carried out under the best possible conditions. Juice extraction, for instance, has to be carried out during harvesting using crushers that have been imported from India. Keeping this in mind the training contained practical exercises and discussions on the constraints and most efficient ways of carrying out the observations. Further, participants developed a manual especially tailored to the variety trials.

Sweet sorghum research in Mali is being carried out by IER and ICRISAT within an IFAD-funded project titled, Harnessing water-use-efficient bioenergy crops for enhancing livelihood opportunities of smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

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Visitor from Stockholm Environment Institute

Johan Rockstrom
Johan Rockstrom with SP Wani during the field visit at Patancheru.

Dr Johan Rockstrom, Executive Director, Stockholm Environment Institute & Stockholm Resilience Centre (SEI-SRC) Sweden visited ICRISAT-Patancheru on 1 November to discuss an on-going collaborative project between ICRISAT and SEI on investigating resilience for food and ecosystems services in the Indian watershed management experiences. Kaushal K Garg, Visiting Scientist is working in this collaborative project. Johan was in India to deliver an invited lecture during the Nobel week organized by Sweden and India in Pune, which is an annual event after the declaration of the Nobel Prize. SP Wani briefed him about ICRISAT activities and took him around the watershed experiments and other facilities at ICRISAT. Progress of the on-going collaboration has been reviewed and ways to strengthen collaboration further, were discussed.

ICRISAT and SEI have a long relationship in the area of improving rainfed agriculture, and a number of publications, including the book Unlocking the Potential of Rainfed Agriculture by CABI and a paper on Opportunities to increase water productivity in agriculture with special reference to Africa and South Asia, were published. A team of scientists from SEI will be visiting ICRISAT in December.

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ICRISAT’s sweet sorghum stands tall

sweet sorghum
Tall sweet sorghum lines in BP4A plot at Patancheru.

Could there be a sweet sorghum taller than 5 meters?

The answer seems to be an emphatic yes.

During the rainy season of 2009, the sweet sorghum team saw for the first time the tallest sorghum ever at the on-station experiment at Patancheru. The plants were above 5 meters in height in plot (BP 4 A). It was decided to use these high biomass lines for breeding non-lodging high biomass energy sorghums in addition to selecting them for their sweet and juicy stalk.

These lines can be used to develop low lignin containing sorghums amenable to lignocellulosic ethanol production, which will have tremendous potential in the foreseeable future. Average Data on the tall sorghum: Height: 5.50 m; Brix%: 20.0; Stem diameter: 22 mm; Single stalk weight: 1.3 kg and Duration: 112 days.

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