No. 1406 19 March 2010

ICRISAT and Philipps University Map Out Areas of Collaboration

Following up on the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between ICRISAT and the Philipps University, Marburg, Germany last October (see Happenings 1387, 6 November 2009), the Dean of the Department of Pharmacy, Dr Michael Keusgen, visited Patancheru on
14 and 15 March.

Dr Michael Keusgen Dr William Dar presenting ICRISAT’s flyer on ‘Why Invest in Drylands?’ to Dr Michael Keusgen.

The purpose of the visit was to carry out further discussions and identify collaborative projects between the two organizations. Dr Keusgen met with the Director General, Dr William Dar on 15 March.

Dr Keusgen updated Dr Dar on his areas of research interest and shared his discussions with scientists from different departments of ICRISAT on proposed areas of collaboration. He was accompanied by Abdul Rahman Ilyas, COO, Agri-Science Park and Saikat Datta Mazumdar, Technical Director, NutriPlus. During the discussions, potential collaboration on understanding the health benefits of ICRISAT’s mandate crops was brought forth.

Earlier in the day, Dr Keusgen had close interactions with scientists from GT CI, GT BT and GT AES and also visited the genebank and experimental farms. Dr Keusgen stressed that ICRISAT’s germplasm collection could be useful in identifying bioactive components with health benefits as part of this collaborative effort. In addition, the expertise of Dr Keusgen’s laboratory in carrying out research on the development of rapid detection and screening techniques was identified as another important area that could lend value to the collaboration. The laboratory can help develop tools to rapidly detect pathogens and food contaminants, and screen bioactives. Thus, the planned collaborative research would further strengthen the ongoing activities at NutriPlus.

As part of his visit, Dr Keusgen gave a detailed talk on “Pharmaceutical value of onions (Allium) and related species of Middle Asia” and “Biosensors for food and clinical applications” at ICRISAT-Patancheru. The talks were well attended and highly appreciated by the participants.

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Project to increase crop resilience holds annual meeting in Niamey

Community management of crop diversity to enhance resilience, yield stability and income generation in changing West African climates (CODE-WA) project held its annual Community of Practice (CoP) meeting in Niamey from 9 to 12 March. CODE-WA is funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Participants of CODE-WA Project Participants of CODE-WA Project Community of Practice meeting.

CODE-WA’s central hypothesis is that increasing crop yield and diversity in the farms will help farmers adapt to erratic climate. Therefore, a new methodology called ‘opposite pyramid approach’ was developed to achieve the adaptation of new plant materials in the short, three year span of the project. In this approach, a great number of new crops and diverse varieties are introduced to farmer organizations in the first year, and are grown on farms according to strict protocols provided by researchers.

Based on farmers’ evaluation, the number of crops and varieties are reduced in the second and third year. At the same time, the cropped area per variety is expanded and freedom is given to farmers to apply their local management practices. Furthermore, farmers receive training in variety conservation and seed production, so that they are able to keep several, even allogamous varieties in place.

At CoP, which saw the participation of several stakeholders, including farmer representatives and scientists of national agricultural research systems (NARS), the primary approach was fine-tuned. Representatives came from the four member countries – Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana. On farm activities this year will concentrate on a maximum of 4 or 5 varieties per crop.

Seed production training in villages has been scheduled and will be complemented by activities during the ‘Vertical Farmer Exchange Visit’. The latter is another methodology developed for the CODE-WA project, which brings together farmers from different agro-ecological zones so that they can exchange information on cropping practices apt for different climates.

The CODE-WA team is optimistic that the project, which ends in 2011, will be successful as the adoption of new crops and varieties will achieve better resilience against climate variability.

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ICRISAT chickpea climbing high hills in the Philippines

Chickpea has recently been introduced in the Philippines and is being evaluated for feasibility of cultivation in the highlands. A research project on Introduction and promotion of chickpea in the highlands of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) was launched in November 2007 by Director General Dr William Dar (see Happenings 1283, 8 November 2007). This project involves ICRISAT’s collaboration with Benguet State University (BSU), Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) and the Department of Agriculture in CAR (DA-CAR).

chickpea at BSU in Philippines An excellent crop of chickpea at BSU in Philippines.

ICRISAT supplied a large number of improved breeding lines to BSU for evaluation in CAR. BSU assessed these lines in the highlands of La Trinidad (Altitude: 1245 meters above sea level) and selected six lines for further evaluation. The trials went on for three years at BSU and farmers’ fields. Scientists got encouraging results in 2009-2010 that indicate a potential for cultivation in the highlands of Philippines.

Fernando Gonzales, the BSU Project Leader, recently organized a training program on chickpea production technology for staff members of the Department of Agriculture, CAR and BSU. Detailed work plans were developed to evaluate selected lines at various locations in Abra, Apayao, Kalinga and Benguet provinces in 2010. Several other experiments were planned to develop agronomic practices suitable for the Philippines.

Drs Pooran Gaur and Myer Mula from ICRISAT acted as resource persons and gave lectures on the various aspects of chickpea production technologies. Their report suggests that chickpea cultivation has a promising future in the highlands of the Philippines.

They also pointed out that the “potential area for chickpea production in Benguet is 10,000 hectares”. They anticipate that “marketing should not be a problem as chickpea is already consumed in the Philippines and the current demand is being met through imports. The post-harvest facilities available at BSU can be used for processing and adding value to the chickpea,” they added.

Chickpea is commonly known in Philippines as garbanzos. Its beans are preserved in syrup and eaten as sweets and in local desserts such as halo-halo. The cultivation of chickpea is gaining worldwide importance. The top ten producing countries are: India, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia, Iran, Myanmar, Canada, Ethiopia, Mexico and Iraq.

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Coming full circle: ULPC delivers sorghum and pearl millet to the World Food Program

On 16 March, the Union of Cereal Producers (ULPC) of Dioila district in Mali celebrated a special occasion: the fulfillment of its first contract of grain delivery to the World Food Program’s new initiative called ‘Purchase for Progress’.

ULPC President speaking to media Daouda Traore, ULPC President speaking to media at the store house.

The total sales volume is 150 tons of sorghum and 70 tons of pearl millet. The president of the Union, Daouda Traore, explained that most of the sorghum being delivered is of one variety that was identified through joint variety testing and release. The Union has been producing seed of this variety, Soumba, for five years.

The Union was established in 2001 and aims to enhance food security in Dioila in particular and Mali in general. The Union also aims to increase farmers’ incomes through cereal marketing. It constitutes 43 cooperatives, with 1,569 members, including 516 women.

Since 2002 the ULPC has been collaborating with ICRISAT and Regional Agricultural Research Center (IER), the Malian national program, to identify sorghum varieties suitable for the fertile region in the Malian cotton belt. Ever since, ULPC has established a seed business to ensure that its members, as well as other farmers in similar ecologies, can access seeds of the new varieties.

Farming members of the Union have been able to increase productivity of sorghum and produce significant surplus grain. The ceremony marked the beginning of a new era with large scale contracts, fulfilling specific quality requirements after a year that was generally labeled as difficult in most production zones. This event also coincides with an important milestone of the HOPE project in Mali, which is an increase in sorghum and pearl millet productivity.

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Tamil Nadu farmers grow ICRISAT’s groundnut

Namakkal is a district in Tamil Nadu state of India, where Farmer Participatory Varietal Selection (FPVS) has been highly effective and successful. In this district, only the Virginia bunch type groundnut variety is grown in more than 47,500 hectares as a mono-crop under rainfed conditions. Other districts in the state predominantly grow the Spanish bunch variety.

SN Nigam and TNAU scientists in Namakkal SN Nigam and TNAU scientists interacting with a groundnut farmer in Namakkal.

After discussing with groundnut farmers, work started with seven Virginia type test varieties along with the local control variety, TMV1, in 12 villages of the district in the 2008 monsoon. TMV1, which was released in 1940, was included in FPVS trials, including 27 mother trials (MT) and 63 baby trials (BT).

In the first year itself, the farmers’ choice was narrowed down to ICGV 87846 as it was a front runner all the way. Its average pod yield is 1,603 kg per hectare. It was 20% superior to the nearest test variety and 85% superior to the local variety TMV1 in pod yield. In the 2009 rainy season, 237 paired comparisons (ICGV 87846 + local variety) were conducted for wider evaluation in the district. A detailed evaluation chart comprising details right from germination, vigor, flowering, pod number, pod and seed traits besides reaction to pest, diseases and drought was provided to farmers for their recordings. The farmers collectively decided which variety to pick based on the evaluation.

The results revealed that ICGV 87846 was distinctly superior when compared to others, for pod yield, drought tolerance and disease resistance. When provided to groundnut traders, the variety received good feedback. The seed production of the identified variety started immediately.

ICGV 87846 is a semi-erect type, maturing in 125-135 days. It is also tolerant to foliar diseases such as rust and late leaf spot and thereby yields higher haulms, which are good cattle feed. The pods are medium sized with tan color. The shelling outturn is 73.5%, and the oil content is 49.5%. The semi-erect nature of the plant provides for easy uprooting of the plant without losing the pods in the soil. ICRISAT and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) are multiplying large quantities of this variety.

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Short-term course on Geo-statistical Analysis

ICRISAT and the University of Florida will be conducting a short term course on Geo-statistical Analysis of Environmental Data from 5 to 9 April at Patancheru. The Instructor of the course will be Pierre Goovaerts from the University of Florida.

Enrolment in this course is limited to the first 20 participants, and registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The course fee is Rs. 25,000 and it includes one copy of a CD with lecture notes, PowerPoint slides (pdf ) and sample datasets. The fee also includes meals and refreshments during sessions and on-campus accommodation (twin-sharing in flats or single in dormitory). The last date for receipt of applications is 26 March.

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Dr Dar meets AP Chief Secretary

Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh with William Dar
Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh, Mr SV Prasad and Director General Dr William Dar during a courtesy call on him made by the DG and Director Finance Rajesh Agrawal this week. Mr Prasad, who recently assumed office in the Andhra Pradesh Secretariat, and who is one of ICRISAT’s new Governing Board members, recognizes the continuing important work ICRISAT is doing for the state and for the country, and has assured his support to elevate our research partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh. Team ICRISAT warmly welcomes Mr Prasad to the ICRISAT family.