No. 1410 16 April 2010

ICRISAT Launches Village Seed Banks in Mahbubnagar District

Saving the dryland farmers from severe shortage of quality groundnut seed after shrinkage of the informal seed sector, ICRISAT launched Village Seed Banks (VSB) in five clusters of the backward Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The VSB project, which adds to the efforts of the state government, was undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Rural Development and Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) under the joint pilot project on Improving Rural Livelihoods through Integrated Agricultural Development in Mahbubnagar District of Andhra Pradesh.

mahbubnagar CLL Gowda addressing SHGs, Village Seed Bank committee members and farmers at Khasimnagar village.

Building the seed banks, the farmers in the villages of Wanaparthy, Ghanapur, Peddamandadi, Gopalpet and Pebbair mandals of Mahbubnagar district participated in the selection of groundnut varieties grown during the summer season. Among the five varieties tested, two varieties, ICGV 00350 and ICGS 44, were selected for postrainy season cultivation by a majority of the farmers.

Enterprising farmers in five villages successfully produced 20 tons of seed during the postrainy season and stored them in the village seed banks for subsequent sale to the farmers within the village. The average yield of these varieties ranged from 60 to 90% more than the local variety.

The VSBs in two clusters were inaugurated on 3 April. CLL Gowda, Global Theme Leader-Crop Improvement inaugurated the seed bank in Khasimnagar village. Head of the local panchayat, seed bank committee members and the chairman of the committee participated in the meeting.

In Jayanna Tirumalapuram village, the seed bank was inaugurated by Dr G Chinna Reddy, former minister for rural development. He appreciated the efforts of ICRISAT for successful implementation of activities and building the capacities of the farmers.

Addressing the gathering, CLL Gowda said, “Seeds are like your children, if you nurture them well in the beginning you reap a better crop”. He appreciated the farmers and village seed bank committee members for their commitment in establishing the VSB. The farmers in Jayanna Tirumalapuram felicitated the ICRISAT team for their contribution.

Village Seed bank Village Seed Bank at Thirumalapuram storing improved groundnut varieties ICGV 00350 and ICGS44 produced in the village.

The village seed bank model was developed and implemented by Ch Ravinder Reddy, Scientist (Technology Exchange) and facilitated by Ashok S Alur who participated in the program along with SERP field team members.

The postrainy season groundnut seed system presents a very different picture in the project villages of Mahabubnagar district. The supply from the informal sector has drastically come down and the state government stepped in with its subsidized seed supply program through different formal seed supply agencies like the AP State Seed Development Corporation (APSSDC), Hyderabad Agricultural cooperative Association (HACA), MARKFED, and Oil Seeds Federation. Sixty to seventy percent of the farmers depend on this source, but, it meets only 30-40% of their total seed requirement. Therefore, farmers look to other sources of seed supply including oil mills and local groundnut traders, or within the village from farmers better-off than themselves.

The habit of storing saved seed has declined due to prevalence of storage pests in the project villages over time. Farmers also use a high seed rate (80-100kg kernels) per acre practicing close planting (Chikku method) with high plant density. The poor germination and seedling mortality was attributed to the high seed rate, which facilitated spread of the root rot disease leading to reduction in plant population. The cost of the seed input is 50% the cost of production.

The alternative seed system model envisages integration of formal and informal seed systems for achieving the objective to provide quality improved groundnut variety seed at the right time and at reasonable price to small-scale farmers. The model developed was implemented in two steps (1) Introduction of improved varieties and selection of varieties with farmer participation, and (2) Seed multiplication of selected varieties using science based tools for production of quality seeds and seed procured by VSBC, which is stored in the village for their own use.

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A “warrior” in our midst!

Peter Ninnes, Director-Resource Planning and Marketing (RPM), was honored by the Crawford Fund and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) on 9 April at a dinner in Canberra, Australia in recognition of his contributions to Australian and global wheat research and development. Peter and a small group of others were awarded the title of ‘Australian Wheat Warrior’ in keeping with the vision, dedication and passion for improving food security displayed by Sir John Crawford and Dr Norman Borlaug.

Peter Ninnes Peter Ninnes receiving his award, with Carlos Perez del Castillo, Chair of the CGIAR Consortium Board and Neil Andrew (right), former Speaker.

Recall that prior to joining ICRISAT in May 2009, Peter worked at CIMMYT for 12 years where he was the Executive Officer-Research mainly responsible for liaising with donors and investors, negotiating contracts, and for overall project management. In addition, he dealt with the development and articulation of institutional papers related to resourcing of CIMMYT’s agenda. Apart from all these responsibilities, Peter was Secretary to the CIMMYT Board of Trustees for four years.

Mindful of his new role at ICRISAT, Peter used the occasion to further enhance relations between a number of Australian agencies and ICRISAT. Carlos Perez del Castillo, Chair of the CGIAR Consortium Board and the Honorable Neil Andrew, former Speaker of the House in the Australian Parliament and now Chair, Crawford Fund Board of Governors, were also present.

We congratulate Peter Ninnes on this noteworthy honor and wish him many more such recognitions of his dedication and hard work.

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IFAD biofuels project midterm review in Patancheru

TCL plant in Nanded MTR members Drs V Pal Singh and Rabindra Nath Roy (third and fourth from left) observing sweet sorghum trials at TCL plant in Nanded.

A two member midterm review (MTR) team comprising Virendra Pal Singh of World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Rabindra Nath Roy, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) visited ICRISAT-Patancheru during 8-12 April and interacted with sweet sorghum and Jatropha team members of the ICRISAT-International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) biofuels project Linking the poor to global markets: Pro-poor development of biofuel supply chains (Grant No. 974).

Belum VS Reddy, Project Coordinator, made a presentation on the overview and achievements of the project during the last two years, since its launch in May 2008. Other scientists made presentations on cultivar development, pests and disease tolerance, and socioeconomics of sweet sorghum. On behalf of the Jatropha team, Suhas P Wani made a presentation on the progress in Jatropha R&D.

The review team visited Tata Chemicals Ltd (TCL) sweet sorghum ethanol plant in Nanded (Maharashtra) and interacted closely with TCL staff members on current issues of sweet sorghum based ethanol value chain. Discussions centered on how this project can address the productivity issues of sweet sorghum for up-scaling its cultivation towards sustaining the commercial viability of the ethanol plant, while at the same time improving the livelihood opportunities of farmers of the semi-arid tropics. They were accompanied by P Srinivasa Rao during the visit to Nanded. The MTR team also visited the distillery and the ongoing sweet sorghum trials.

At Patancheru, on 12 April, Belum Reddy made a presentation to the MTR team on ICRISAT linkages with the private sector. The team also had a session on financial review with Rajesh Agrawal, Director, Finance, and MS Raju, Manager, Finance before the final wrap-up session with CLL Gowda, Theme Leader, Crop Improvement and Belum Reddy.

The team will be visiting the Cassava program in Vietnam, and will be participating in the Annual Work Planning and Project Steering Committee meetings on 27 and 28 April at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

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World Bank nominates new chair for CGIAR fund council

World Bank President Robert Zoellick has nominated Inger Anderson as successor to Katherine Sierra, as Vice- President Sustainable Development, and as the Bank’s nominee for Fund Council Chair. Katherine Sierra has decided to retire at the end of June this year.

Inger Anderson Inger Anderson

Inger, a Danish national, is currently the World Bank Sector Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa region, a position she took up in 2008. Since joining the Bank in 2001, she has worked in a number of capacities, including as Sector Manager Water and Urban Development in Africa; Director for the Water, Agriculture and Social Development Department, Middle East and North Africa region; and Director of the Sustainable Development department in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Prior to joining the Bank, Inger worked at the United Nations in New York for 12 years, including in UNDP’s Regional Bureau of Arab States and in the United Nations Drought and Desertification Office. While at the UN, Inger also served on the UN’s three member delegation to the Middle East Multilateral Peace Talks. Inger has extensive experience in Sudan where she worked from 1983 to 1987. During that period she worked for an NGO in the post famine and drought years. Inger received her Master’s Degree in Development Economics and African Politics from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies.

In a message, the outgoing Chair of CGIAR Fund Council, Katherine Sierra said, “The past four years working with the CGIAR have been truly gratifying because of what we have been able to achieve together. The CGIAR’s rapid response to the food price crisis of 2008 and its track record in tackling the twin challenges of food security and environmental sustainability demonstrate the growing importance of this science network in confronting the global challenges we face today. The reform process we embarked on together is preparing the system to become even more strategic in tackling global challenges.”

“I remain thoroughly committed to seeing the CGIAR reform process through during the next important phase: endorsing and launching the partnership’s new Strategy and Results Framework and the initial set of Mega Programs at the inaugural Funders Forum and second Fund Council meetings this coming July in Rome, which I plan to chair,” she continued.

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ABI-ICRISAT’s co-business incubator initiates technology exchange

The Agri-Business Incubator-ICRISAT (ABI) has laid a new pathway to commercialize technology through the co-business incubator at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore. A new Cry gene discovered by TNAU has been taken up by Bioseed Research India Pvt Ltd, for product development and commercialization.

co-business incubator initiates technology exchange Officials of TNAU and Bioseed Research India Pvt Ltd exchanging documents.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between TNAU and Bioseed Research India Pvt Ltd on 6 April at the university. According to this agreement, TNAU and Bioseed will take up co-product development of commercial crop hybrids using the new gene. Murugesa Boopathi, Vice-Chancellor, TNAU appreciated the efforts of ABI-ICRISAT and ABI-TNAU in achieving this milestone. He also noted that the hybrids and varieties released by TNAU exhibit better performance and needed to be commercialized through private companies like Bioseed.

Paresh Kumar Verma, Director (Research), Bioseed Research, thanked the management of the university for providing a new platform for commercially exploiting the technologies available with the university. He also said that Bioseed will initiate steps to involve itself in commercializing the hybrids and varieties of TNAU through a public private partnership.

Speaking at the event, Kiran K Sharma, Head, ABI, said that ABI-ICRISAT will work towards commercializing technologies developed by the university and to strengthen the relationship between the two institutes to complement each other in achieving many such milestones.

DS Parihar of Bioseed, P Subbian, Registrar; R Samiyappan, Director, Centre for Plant Molecular Biology; R Ganesan, Director-Agri-Business Development; V Udayasuriyan, Professor and Head, Department of Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of TNAU and R Bhubesh Kumar, Assistant Manager, ABI-ICRISAT were also present.

This new platform on co-business incubation pioneered by ABI-ICRISAT is expected to enhance technology commercialization entrepreneurship and impact on farm livelihoods.

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Orissa to adopt ICRISAT-WWF’s innovative sugarcane cultivation

As part of the ICRISAT-World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) project on improving water productivity in agriculture, several field based approaches are being developed, where less water than normal will be used to irrigate crops. This approach ensures that the exploitation of groundwater and the judicious use of surface water can be adapted in the context of climate change. Based on the success of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which uses less water, less seed and less fertilizer but increases the farmers’ yields, the project has put together a field based approach known as Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI). An Oriya version of the SSI manual Stepwise Guide to SSI Practices was released in Bhubaneswar, Orissa (in eastern India) recently.

Releasing the SSI manual Damodar Rout, Orissa Agriculture Minister and Bhiksham Gujja releasing the SSI manual in Oriya at the seminar in Bhubaneswar..

The English version of the manual was released by Director General Dr Dar in May 2009. This received significant attention from farmers, millers, media and policy makers. Based on the specific demand, this manual is being translated into various Indian languages. The Oriya version was prepared in partnership with the local NGO Nirman.

During the launch of the Oriya version at a seminar held at the Red Cross Bhavan in Bhubaneswar on 13 April, State Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout announced that his government had decided to take up SSI on an experimental basis across the state.

“SSI involves techniques similar to that being used in SRI, which is getting an encouraging response in the state. We will certainly ask scientists of Orissa University of Agriculture Technology (OUAT) to analyze the feasibility aspect of SSI,” said Damodar Rout.

Speaking on the occasion, Biksham Gujja, Team Leader of ICRISAT-WWF Project and Senior Advisor, Freshwater Program, WWF-International said that by adopting SSI, a farmer will be able to produce at least 20% more sugarcane while reducing 30% of water input and 25% of chemical input.

SSI will help sugarcane growers overcome problems such as rising cost of cultivation, unavailability of good quality seed, imbalanced nutrient management and other practices like mono-cropping that often resulted in low productivity, Gujja said.

SSI was introduced in Nayagarh district in 2009 where 20 farmers showed interest in planting sugarcane following the SSI method in four acres of demonstration plots. There was a marked difference in the yield of conventional sugarcane cultivation and SSI. While the girth of cane in SSI was found to be larger than the cane of conventional cultivation, overall weight of a cane was higher by 0.4 kg in the case of SSI cane.

Pitabas Dalai, a farmer from Nayagarh district, who tried the technology in his field, said the water input has been reduced by about 50% and the need of labor has also been decreased substantially compared to the traditional method. The new method also provides enough scope for multi-cropping in the sugarcane fields.

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