No. 1417 4 June 2010

Climate Change Induces New Diseases in Chickpea and Pigeonpea

Chickpea Board Chair Nigel Poole and Drs William Dar with Suresh Pande and Mamta Sharma looking at the work on Effect of high temperature on Dry Root Rot (File Photo).

Chickpea and pigeonpea, two of our mandate crops are popularly known as poor people’s meat because they are packed with protein and amino acids, which are essential to human nutrition. Unfortunately, climate change has posed a serious threat to the cultivation of these crops, which are also important to the livelihoods of the poorest of the poor.

Our scientists have discovered two important facts – a) warmer temperatures are making chickpea susceptible to new diseases, and b) temporary flooding caused by heavy rainfall is making pigeonpea susceptible to the phytophthora blight disease.

Upon visiting climate change related experiments in the controlled environment facility at Patancheru early last month, Director General William Dar said, “The studies fortify ICRISAT’s stand that climate change has far reaching impact on food security and on the lives of the poorest of the poor. It also reminds us of our responsibility to further study the behavior of pathogens at different levels of temperature and soil moisture.”

Dr Dar emphasized the need for multidisciplinary collaboration among scientists working together to impart resistance to dry rot in chickpea and to phytophthora blight in pigeonpea. “Involving various scientists in the early stages of research, even if it is not conventional, will cut short the time gap towards a breakthrough. That is the beauty of working as a team,” he added.

controlled environment facility Mamta Sharma speaks at the controlled environment facility.

After a recent study by ICRISAT scientists, Suresh Pande and Mamta Sharma in ICRISAT-Patancheru stated that drought caused by prolonged high temperatures increases the vulnerability of chickpea to dry root rot caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia bataticola. Dry root rot can affect chickpea production, causing up to 100% crop loss.

Likewise, these scientists have also found that temporary flooding caused by heavy rain (>300mm) within 3-5 days, along with unusually low temperatures (25-280C) were responsible for the increasing resurgence of phytophthora blight in India.

Explaining the work done so far, Drs Pande and Sharma said that phytophthora blight is often confused with fusarium wilt. Irrespective of the soil types and cropping patterns, the disease attacked pigeonpea in different parts of India and in the Deccan Plateau in particular.

The two scientists have standardized protocols to further carry out studies on the foliar and seedling blight phases of the disease.

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ICRISAT meets rural agro-dealers in Zimbabwe

As part of efforts to develop and strengthen commercial input and output markets in Zimbabwe, ICRISAT-Bulawayo met with rural agro-dealers on 25 May to learn and share experiences in implementing voucher retail programs. ICRISAT is assessing the impact of providing relief seed through rural agro-dealers as part of the World Bank funded program executed by GRM International, an international development management company.

Zimbabwe Isaac Minde (far right), Mazvimavi (far left), David Rohrbach (next to Mazvimavi) with rural agro-dealers in Chikomba District, Zimbabwe.

Isaac Minde, Kizito Mazvimavi and Conrad Murendo of ICRISAT attended the meetings with retail operators. David Rohrbach, a former ICRISAT scientist now with the World Bank, also participated, together with Irene Chakoma of GRM International.

The discussions revealed that the voucher system (through which the agro-dealers stocked and sold seed to vulnerable households) improved the retailer’s cash liquidity and advertised their business as well as enhanced their business linkages with seed suppliers. Agro-dealers detailed constraints and opportunities of the voucher program and discussed possible areas of improvement if they are to continue with the relief input distribution.

Incorporating multiple seed suppliers and a variety of crop inputs was seen as vital to improving farmers’ crop choices. ICRISAT will continue researching ways to deliver crop inputs to farmers at lower transaction costs.

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DST Coordinator Akhilesh Gupta visits ICRISAT

Akhilesh Gupta Dr Akhilesh Gupta with Dr Dar, DDG-R Dave Hoisington and other senior scientists.

Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Advisor/Scientist/Coordinator of the Climate Change Program, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India visited ICRISAT-Patancheru on 31 May to explore the establishment of a DST-ICRISAT Centre of Excellence on Climate Change for Plant Protection Research. Suresh Pande, the program initiator, formally received Dr Gupta. They met with Director General Dr William Dar, DDG-R Dave Hoisington, and Global Theme Leader - Crop Improvement CLL Gowda to discuss climate change initiatives.

Dr Gupta was shown our plant protection R&D facilities and ongoing research housed in the Kanayo F Nwanze laboratory as well as the greenhouses, controlled environment facilities and insect rearing laboratory. Dr Pande explained the ongoing experiments on climate change and emerging diseases. He highlighted how climate change influences ICRISAT mandate crops, pests and diseases. Dry root rot of chickpea is one that is posing a major threat in view of higher temperatures. Dr Gupta saw the ICRISAT facilities that mimic the environment fluctuations and the emergence of new diseases, through state-of-the-art incubators.

Dr Gupta also interacted with HC Sharma, RP Thakur, S Gopalkrishnan and Hari K Sudini.

While meeting the Director General, Dr Gupta made a presentation on the national plan and strategies to meet challenges of climate change in India. Suresh Pande presented the need, goal, research focus and strategy intended for the new center.

Dr Akhilesh Gupta was enthusiastic about developing a possible national network center within ICRISAT for research in plant protection in view of climate change. Dr Dar expressed his full support for the initiative, which will be coordinated by Suresh Pande.

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Training on the use of delta carbon

delta carbon Participants of the training program on delta carbon, in Japan.

A training activity under the auspices of the Generation Challenge Program (GCP) project G2008 titled Linking genetic diversity with phenotype for drought tolerance traits through molecular and physiological characterization of a diverse reference collection of chickpea had been conducted successfully at the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) at Tsukuba and at Hokkaido University, Sapporo in Japan, during 25 – 29 May.

JIRCAS, as part of its activity with a facility of Isotopic Ratio Mass Spectrophotometer, had been selected as the place for this training. Four NARS partners (Asnake Fikre, Ethiopia; PS Basu, Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur; M Sheshshayee and K Viswanatha both from University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore) participated in this program.

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Niger’s Environment Ministry briefed

Brigadier General Abdou Kaza Brigadier General Abdou Kaza with Farid Waliyar at the ICRISAT stall.

On the occasion of the International Day of Biodiversity, the Ministry of Environment of Niger and the Game Park-Parc W (wetlands) organized a two-day event at the park during 22-23 May.

The ICRISAT stall at the event presented our work on biodiversity in West and Central Africa. Plants and seeds, as well as posters on vegetables, fruit trees, African Market Garden, pearl millet, sorghum and groundnut diversification were exhibited. Our gene bank was also highlighted.

The main target group of the two-day event was young people from Niger with whom ICRISAT’s Regional Director Farid Waliyar engaged in lively discussions about how biodiversity can help prevent hunger in the wetlands of Niger. Dr Waliyar was part of the delegation with Niger’s new Minister for Water, Environment and the Fight against Desertification, Brigadier General Abdou Kaza who visited the stands of several organizations at the event.

The delegation stayed over 20 minutes at ICRISAT’s stall and the minister expressed his wish to visit Sadoré research station soon and get a more detailed understanding of ICRISAT’s work. The great interest among young people in our work once more showed that agricultural research is becoming increasingly popular.

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McKnight Foundation funds four projects

Impressed by the progress and achievements of several projects it had funded earlier, the Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation has decided to lend further support to ICRISAT’s work in Africa under the aegis of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP). CCRP’s focus on helping ‘resource-poor rural people in developing countries achieve food and nutritional security’ has attracted financial support for four ICRISAT projects. These are:

  1. Assessing and refining the concept of dynamic genepool management and simultaneous farmer-participatory population improvement in pearl millet and sorghum

    The project will assess and refine the methodology for dynamic genepool management and participatory improvement of pearl millet and sorghum populations in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. This is expected to contribute to: i) diversification of farmer-grown cultivars ii) development of new farmer-preferred cultivars with specific adaptation to farmers’ needs iii) concepts for in-situ conservation of farmer-preferred germplasm and iv) capacity building in the West African region.

    A four-year project with funding of $432,000, it will have the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), the Institut National d’Environnement et de Recherches Agronomiques (INERA), and farmer organizations in the three countries as partners. The Principal Investigator is Bettina Haussmann.

  2. Sustaining farmer-managed seed initiatives for sorghum and pearl millet in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso

    With the help of participatory sorghum and pearl millet breeding activities in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, farmers are identifying diverse, new varieties with improved yield and yield stability. An initial assessment of sorghum seed distribution in Mali has confirmed that adoption of sorghum varieties is not primarily through formal seed systems supported by commercialization efforts, but rather through farmer-managed trials, with social networks circulating seeds to other households in the same or even distant villages.

    This project will strengthen the capacity of local seed initiatives by: a) building on previous efforts b) adopting new approaches to systematically involve women in all seed activities c) working with a range of communication tools, and d) strengthening capability of farmer organizations to use the results of farmer-managed trials.

    Apart from ICRISAT, the other participating organizations are IER, INERA, National Agricultural Research Institute of Niger (INRAN) and several farmer organizations. The overall coordinator is Eva Weltzien. The project is for four years, and the funds generated are $ 567,000.

  3. Groundnut varieties improvement for yield and adaptation, human health and nutrition

    The overall goal of this project is to reduce poverty by improving income levels. Specific objectives are: a) to enhance food and nutrition security by investing in the improvement of groundnut yields, b) to understand the level of aflatoxin contamination in Malawi and Tanzania and its effects on human health, and c) to design and implement strategies for contamination reduction. The two countries have more than 300,000 farm families who can benefit directly by adopting improved groundnut technologies.

    The Project Leader is Emmanuel Monyo, and the project has been granted $664,000 for a 4-year period. Partners are the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), Kamuzu Central Hospital-Malawi, Department of Research & Training (DRT) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Tanzania and the Sokoine University of Agriculture.

  4. Overcoming phosphorous limitations to sorghum and millet production in the Sudanian zone of West Africa

    This project in Mali aims to help sorghum and pearl millet farmers in the Sudanian zone of West Africa overcome one of their major constraints – phosphorus deficiency. 

    Coordinated by Fred Rattunde, the bridging funding of $20,000 will support the continuation of activities in 2010 that build on previous work conducted in the Dynamic Genepool Project. Partners include IER, the University of Hohenheim and several farmer organizations.

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