No. 1402 19 February 2010

Molecular Breeding for a Hunger-Free World

MBP launch Dr Dar with participants of the MBP launch program.

“Indian farmers have been practicing selective breeding for a long time. We just take it one step further by showing farmers precisely which genes produce favorable qualities. This will help them make more effective selection of crop parents. It has nothing to do with artificial gene modification.” This is how Director General Dr William Dar encapsulated the essence of the launching of Molecular Breeding Platform (MBP) in Hyderabad, India on 17 February.

Attended by over 80 key staff of CGIAR Centers and their partners, the four-day launch program of MBP is jointly initiated by the Generation Challenge Program (GCP) – a consortium of CGIAR institutes in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

William Dar at MBP launch Dr Dar speaks at the launch program.

The MBP will develop and deploy a sustainable web-based one-stop-shop for information, analytical tools and related services to design and efficiently conduct molecular-assisted breeding experiments. It will additionally bridge the gap between upstream and applied research in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia. It will have three components: the molecular breeding portal and helpdesk, information system and services.

The overall objective of the MBP is to provide access to and facilitate the adoption of modern breeding technologies, breeding materials and related information to improve plant breeding efficiency in developing countries.

Further in his address, Dr Dar pointed out that the global agricultural production will need to grow by 70% by 2050 to feed a projected population of about 9.1 billion. “This can happen in three ways – by bringing new land into agricultural production, increasing the cropping intensity on existing agricultural lands, and by increasing yields on existing agricultural lands,” Dr Dar stated.

Describing ICRISAT’s role in the MBP, Dr Dar said that the Institute will be involved in identifying, deploying and supporting tools for the management of genotypic characterization. It will also be concerned with establishing middleware infrastructure for networking database and applications and implementing a configurable workflow system for molecular breeding.

Jean-Marcel Ribaut, Graham McLaren, Dr Dar, Dave Bergvinson and RR Sinha interacting with the media.

Later speaking to the media, Dave Bergvinson, Program Officer of the BMGF, said that the Foundation will invest $12 million spread over five years. He said that the submerge-tolerant Swarna-Sub 1, a marker assisted rice hybrid, has been successfully tested by the Bisauri Regional Progressive Farmers Association in Uttar Pradesh under the supervision of Banaras Hindu University.

Chairing the event, Dr Jean-Marcel Ribaut, GCP Director, announced that MBP will be a non-profit public good. Graham McLaren, Head, Bioinformatics and Crop Information Systems at GCP explained the meeting objectives. RR Sinha, advisor Department of Biotechnology, Goverment of India also spoke.

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New Governor keen on visiting ICRISAT

Director General Dr William Dar accompanied by DDG-R Dave Hoisington met the honorable governor of Andhra Pradesh, ESL Narasimhan at the Raj Bhavan on 17 February. Governor Narasimhan assumed charge on 22 January. This was a follow-up of an interaction between the DG and the Governor during the recent BioAsia meet in Hyderabad.

During the courtesy call, the leadership of ICRISAT appraised the governor of its activities in the semi-arid tropics of the world where most of the poorest people live. Dr Dar was very specific in mentioning ICRISAT’s pioneering work in watersheds particularly the Kothapally model. He also invited the Governor to visit ICRISAT.

Responding to the warm invitation, the Governor said that he would not only like to visit the headquarters in Patancheru but also places like Kothapally, where he could see the fruits of ICRISAT’s labor. He enquired how ICRISAT could scale up its achievement for the benefit of a larger population.

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Sweet sorghum stover enhances milk yield and fat percentage

Sweet sorghum farmers Ch Ravinder Reddy with sweet sorghum farmers at Siddapuram village, in West Godavari district.

ICRISAT and partners are working with farmers in Ibrahimbad cluster in Medak district to promote the multipurpose sweet sorghum crop. ICRISAT and partners enable farmers to take advantage of the food, feed and fuel value of sweet sorghum by linking them to markets under the National Agriculture Innovation Project (NAIP), an Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) funded sub-project on Sweet sorghum ethanol value chain development.

Keeping in view the Institute’s experiences of bagasse feeding to milch animals, efforts were made during the previous monsoon to sensitize farmers about the advantages of using sweet sorghum bagasse as animal feed.

Simultaneously, ICRISAT encouraged private dairy farmers who use sorghum stover and fodder traders who supply chopped sorghum stover to the dairies in Hyderabad, to adopt sweet sorghum bagasse as animal feed.

sweet sorghum stover Milch animals relish sweet sorghum stover.

Farmers from Siddapuram village, Akiveedu Mandal of West Godavari district visited the decentralized crushing unit (DCU) at Ibrahimbad and had hands-on experience about the sweet sorghum fodder value chain process and the impact of bagasse feeding on milk yield from the local farmers. They purchased 100 kg seed of sweet sorghum hybrid CSH 22 SS from ICRISAT and sowed in the rice fallows (after harvesting rainy season paddy) in November 2009, along with black gram as a mixed crop. Sowing black gram in rice fallows is a general practice in that region as it helps utilize residual moisture and enriches soil as it is a legume crop. Nearly 20 farmers have taken up sweet sorghum for fodder in over 1-2 acres each, in West Godavari district.

On the request of farmers of Siddapuram village, Ch Ravinder Reddy, Scientist (Technology Exchange) visited their village. During the visit, he discussed with a farmer, Satyanarayana Raju about the status of sweet sorghum crop in the field and its productivity. An increase in the yield and fat content of cow’s milk was observed at Mr Raju’s farm and by three other farmers, who started feeding sweet sorghum stalks to their cows from 1 February.

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New Governing Board Member visits Patancheru

Dr Adama Traore, new member of ICRISAT Governing Board visited ICRISAT-Patancheru on 18 February. During his visit Dr Adama met Director General Dr William Dar and DDG-R Dave Hoisington. He planted a sapling marking his visit to Patancheru.

During the day the GB member visited the RS Paroda genebank, laboratories and interacted with scientists.

Dr Traore, who has a PhD in veterinary medicine from Karl Marx University, Leipzig, Germany, is Executive Secretary and Research Director of Mali’s National Committee on Agricultural Research (CNRA). He has also been member, Board of Trustees, West Africa Rice development Association, and Advisory member of American-Eurasian network.

Dr Adama Traore   Dr Adama Traore
Dr Dar with new GB member Dr Adama Traore.  

Dr Adama Traore planting a sapling in the presence of Dr Dar.


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ICRISAT participates in ISBA 2010 annual conference

ISBA-2010 annual conference SM Karuppanchetty speaks at the ISBA-2010 annual conference in New Delhi.

Agri-Business Incubator at ICRISAT (ABI) participated in the fourth annual conference cum exhibition of the Indian Science and Technology Entrepreneurs’ Parks and Business Incubators Association (ISBA) 2010 held in New Delhi from 8 to 10 February. The focal theme of the conference was Innovation through incubation: way forward for sustained inclusive growth.

Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of state for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences inaugurated the three-day conference and said, “Incubation is the best vehicle for innovation, which can play a significant role in achieving inclusive growth. There is much greater potential left to be harnessed to bring technologies to the market and convert our young technopreneurs to become job creators instead of job seekers”.

T Ramasami, Secretary Department of Science and Technology and SK Brahmachari, Secretary, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research also addressed the participants. RMP Jawahar, President, ISBA, Rajendrea Jagdale, Secretary General, ISBA and Arun Nigavekar, Mentor Academia-R&D Workshop, ISBA were also present. SM Karuppanchetty, accompanied by Rama Sunderraj, attended the conference and made a presentation on Seed Business Incubation - Promoting Sustainable Social Enterprises.

The exhibition gave a unique opportunity to people to witness some of the novel technologies and products in areas ranging from crime detection, hazard mitigation, herbal pesticides, value added products made from forest wastes and bio-diagnostics. Around 200 national and international delegates besides a large number of visitors from academic organizations and investors participated in the exhibition. ABI participated in the exhibition and showcased its newly created Network of Business Incubators (NIABI), which is supported by ICAR-NAIP.

ISBA-2010 annual conference V Sivaprasad receiving the award from Prithviraj Chavan.

The ISBA-2010 also hosted the second ISBA innovation and entrepreneurship award. Union minister Prithviraj Chavan gave the national award for Outstanding TBI 2010 (Technology Business Incubators) to Vellore Institute of Technology. He also gave away ISBA 2010 Awards to nine outstanding incubatee companies under different categories.

An incubatee of ABI, M/s Matrix Agri-Sciences Pvt. Ltd received the Best Start-up Entrepreneur award. The award has been given in recognition of establishing and running its business successfully with ABI support. V Siva Prasad, Chairman and Managing Director, thanked ISBA and ICRISAT for supporting their venture through incubation.

The first annual conference of ISBA was held at ICRISAT-Patancheru in February 2007. Supported by the Department of Science and Technology of Government of India, the conference has gained substantial momentum and is now a recognized event in the global incubation industry.

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Expert consultancy for strategic planning

After the successful completion of the three regional in-house retreats, an expert consultancy workshop will take place in Patancheru from 23 to 25 February. This event will involve experts from several countries and ICRISAT’s Management Group. Jürgen Hagmann of the People, Innovation and Change in Organizations (PICO Team) who helped in the regional retreats will also facilitate this event. The general strategic plan framework based on the outcome of this and previous events will be reported to the ICRISAT Governing Board in March.

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