No. 1418 11 June 2010

Climate Change Induces New Diseases in Chickpea and Pigeonpea

Multi-environment data analysis workshop participants Participants of the multi-environment data analysis workshop at Egerton University.

Aiming to equip scientists with a tool that would help them identify stable genotypes of crop plants suitable for cultivation in several locations, the ICRISAT-Nairobi cereals team, led by Mary Mgonja, organized a five-day training workshop on multi-environment trial (MET) data analysis from 31 May to 4 June at Egerton University, Njoro, Kenya. Twenty-five participants comprising ICRISAT-ESA Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) and Tropical Legumes-II (TL-II) breeders from Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe, and also NARS breeders, who are members of HOPE from Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Tanzania and southern Sudan, attended the workshop.

Besides Dr Mgonja, the organizing team included H Ojulong and E Manyasa from ICRISAT and Paul Kimurto of Egerton University. The training resource persons were Abishek Rathore and Roma R Das, Biometrics staff members from India.

In her introductory remarks, Dr Mgonja underscored that the training was in response to the External Program and Management Review (EPMR) recommendation to involve breeders in the HOPE project. The workshop was officially launched by Alfred Kibor, Director of Research and Extension, Egerton University. Kibor welcomed the participants and discussed the long collaboration between the University and ICRISAT. He highlighted the ongoing finger millet and chickpea joint activities under HOPE and TL-II projects, respectively. These activities, he hoped, would help identify suitable finger millet and chickpea varieties to be incorporated in the maize or wheat and barley cropping systems in the highlands of the Rift Valley.

The training covered basic statistics, design of experiments and the use of single and multisite analysis, understanding genotype X environment (G X E) and stability (Eberhart and Russel, AMMI, GGE and Factorial regression) and hands-on practice with users’ data. At the end of the training, participants received certificates, acknowledging their enhanced capacity. All the participants said that the training was useful and the skills they acquired in MET data handling will help them draw inferences for more efficient breeding work.

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ICRISAT and ACMAD promote computer literacy in West Africa

West Africa

ICRISAT-WCA has been distributing computers in West Africa over a year, mostly to partner organizations. This initiative is part of a global project launched by the Computer Aid International based in London. The principle is simple: Computer Aid receives second-hand computers from companies and private persons, which are then sold to organizations that usually cannot afford to buy them. The second-hand computers are sold in a no profit, no loss mode. The vision is to support developing countries in acquiring computing equipment for their development activities. The project for the sub-region was carried out jointly by ICRISAT, African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) and Roger D Stern, a professor from the University of Reading.

West Africa Farid Waliyar with enthusiastic school children and their newly acquired computer in Sadoré.

Two of the computers were officially handed over to a school in Sadoré, located in a village close to ICRISAT’s hub in Niger on 3 June. In the presence of the school’s director, teachers, village chief, children’s parents, the inspector for primary education at Say town, and of course the children, ICRISAT’s Regional Director Farid Waliyar underlined the importance of computers in children’s education. He said, “For the young generation, computers need to become self-evident and normal, even in the most remote villages. This would be for the sake of their development and that of their respective countries.” He thanked Dr Stern and his family for their generous donation, without which the entire project couldn’t have started at all.

A total of over 220 computers have been distributed by ACMAD and ICRISAT to a range of partner organizations and villages in several countries. The project will continue as a new delivery is expected soon.

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USAID food security project for Niger

USAID Participants of planning workshop of the new food security project for Niger.

Niger is undergoing a food crisis and as much as half the population is undernourished. Food is scarce and prices are rising. Several international organizations are working to find a solution to this problem that has been ongoing for several years.

CLUSA (Cooperative League of the USA) together with ICRISAT were selected by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) West Africa to lead a new $7.5 million project on food security in Niger. A planning workshop for the project was held from 7 to 9 June in Niamey for CLUSA, ICRISAT and Nigerien partners.

All agriculture development activities will be based on ICRISAT technologies, including the short duration millet, dual purpose sorghum, high yielding groundnut varieties and dual purpose cowpea varieties selected by ICRISAT. Other technologies to be adopted include African Market Gardens, new vegetable varieties from ICRISAT-AVRDC (The World Vegetable Center), Pomme du Sahel and new varieties of Moringa.

The project will be carried out in Filingue and Illela – the two most food insecure regions in Niger. It is an integrated project involving actors specializing in organization, financial management, marketing and irrigation. The project will give ICRISAT a platform for effective demonstration of its technologies and crops on a large scale.

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AP Forest Academy holds workshop

An International Workshop sponsored by the Pennsylvania State University, through a project supported by National Science Foundation, USA was conducted by AP Forest Academy in Hyderabad on Digital Governance and Surveillance Geo-informatics for Integrated Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Livelihoods on 8 and 9 June. During the inaugural session, SP Wani stressed the important link between natural resources and rural livelihoods, and emphasized the need for adopting an integrated natural resource management approach for sustainable development.

Mrs CS Rama Lakshmi, Director General of Andhra Pradesh Forest Academy, highlighted the need for developing partnerships and applying science in the area of natural resource management. Sixty participants attended the workshop.

GP Patil from the Pennsylvania State University, who is also associated with ICRISAT’s model watershed project at Jalgaon, Maharashtra, co-coordinated the workshop. SP Wani delivered a lecture on the topic of Sustaining Agricultural Productivity and Improving Livelihoods: Padmalaya Model Watershed, Jalgaon.

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Better chickpea varieties for greater productivity

Chcikpea meeting Participants of the annual review meeting on chickpea with Rex L Navarro.

The 3rd Annual Review Meeting of the project Evaluating candidate genes towards enhancement of drought tolerance in chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) funded by the National Fund for Basic and Strategic Research in Agriculture (NFBSRA) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) was held on 9 June at Patancheru. This project was initiated in 2007 to identify the candidate genes and quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for drought tolerance in chickpea to explore hardier varieties that could withstand drought and improve productivity. Rajeev Varshney welcomed the gathering and emphasized the objectives of the project and the meeting.

Director General Dr William Dar, represented by Rex L Navarro, Director of Communication, welcomed the gathering and said that the meeting will provide an opportunity to the Peer Review Committee and to national partners to appreciate ICRISAT’s efforts in chickpea improvement. He added that chickpea is one of the most important cool-season grain legumes in the semi-arid regions of the world, and India is its largest producer and consumer.

He also highlighted the need to aggressively pursue research, so that the world is equipped to face challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss, global food shortages and declining food stocks, exacerbating poverty, food insecurity, drought and increasing population pressure in the dry tropics and abiotic and biotic stresses.

Dr Dar said that molecular genomics can revolutionize breeding and research. ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics, established with the financial support of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, is making highly sophisticated equipment required for this research. In the case of chickpea, successful application of marker-assisted selection was a question until the recent past, due to the dearth of genomic resources. “However, recent efforts at ICRISAT in collaboration with its partner institutions across the world have made it possible to develop such resources,” he added.

Dr Dar congratulated the National Fund and ICAR for their generous support. He also commended the partners – National Research Center for Plant Biotechnology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology. JP Khurana, University of Delhi South Campus as a Chairman and UN Dwivedi, University of Lucknow as a Member of the Peer Review Committee, reviewed the progress of the network project and expressed happiness at the success of the project. They also made valuable suggestions on the work plan for the fourth year.

The collaborative partners who attended the meeting were R Srinivasan, Principal Investigator (PI) and PK Jain, Co-Principal Investigator (CoPI) from the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, Jitendra Kumar and C Bharadwaj from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. ICRISAT was represented by Rajeev Varshney, PM Gaur, L Krishnamurthy, Zaman Mainassara and Hima Bindu.

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NutriPlus discusses collaboration with KSU

William Dar with Sajid Alavi Sajid Alavi (centre) with Dr William Dar and Saikatdatta Mazumdar.

Sajid Alavi, Associate Professor, Extrusion Processing, Department of Grain Science and Industry, Kansas State University (KSU), visited ICRISAT on 8 June to discuss research collaborations with NutriPlus in the area of food extrusion.

Director General Dr William Dar discussed the proposed collaborative project of KSU and NutriPlus at a meeting with Alavi. Alavi talked about the ongoing research activities at the Kansas State University, especially in the area of developing extruded products using a combination of cereals and legumes, to provide food to populations in need. He emphasized that these products are pre-cooked, and so require less time and fuel to prepare. These products are also fortified with vitamins and minerals, thereby meeting nutritional needs.

Alavi also mentioned the cost effectiveness of these products and acceptance among the aid agencies that use them to provide nutrition to the poorest of the poor in countries such as Mozambique. Saikatdatta Mazumdar, Technical Director, NutriPlus, who attended the meeting, stated that the development of similar extruded products, using ICRISAT mandate crops, has already been initiated at NutriPlus. He mentioned that a project involving the University, ICRISAT and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, is being proposed to further explore the possibilities of using the mandate crops to develop value-added extruded products. As part of the proposed initiative two students from IIT, Kharagpur have recently taken up internship at NutriPlus.

Alavi also had detailed discussions with CLL Gowda and Kiran Sharma, and visited the fields, the genebank and the Agri-Science Park@ICRISAT facilities. During his visit, Alavi gave a talk titled Grain Sorghum Utilization for Secure and Safe Food Supply around the Globe - Ongoing Research at K-State.

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Marseille-Provence team visits Patancheru

Marseille-Provence team at ICRISAT Marseille-Provence team with KK Sharma and Aravazhi Selvaraj at Patancheru.

A five-member French delegation consisting of Mattieu Vis of Provence Promotion Economic Development Agency, Olivier Blin and Sophie Tardieu of Renaissance Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Marseilles, France, VP Rao of iBRAIN Life Sciences plc, UK, and Devadanam of Lifetech, Hyderabad visited Agri-Science Park (ASP) and Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) at Patancheru on 7 June.

The ASP team welcomed the delegation and subsequently discussed possible collaborative activities with French companies and research organizations in the areas of functional and therapeutic foods made of ICRISAT mandate crops.

The team also had a discussion with KK Sharma and Aravazhi Selvaraj of ABI about partnership opportunities. The discussion raised the subject of providing soft landing support to Indian companies in France and vice-versa through ICRISAT’s new initiative NIABI (Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators) platform. They also talked about providing opportunities for the French agribusiness management students of collaborating institutes in Provence as research interns at ABI-ICRISAT. The team also interacted with VLSN Prasad from Solax Biosciences, a Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises Incubatee of ABI-ICRISAT. Prasad talked about their technology that uses steviocides as natural sugar.

Provence Promotion, the economic development agency of the Bouches-du-Rhône, was created by the Marseille-Provence Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the County Council. Its goal is to help both French and foreign companies and entrepreneurs establish themselves successfully.

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ABI-ICRISAT participates in conference on business incubation

ABI-ICRISAT at a conference SM Karuppanchetty with David Monkman (second from left) and other dignitaries in Orlando.

The Ohio-based National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) is the world’s leading organization that advances business incubation and entrepreneurship. Each year, it provides thousands of professionals with information, education, advocacy and networking resources to bring excellence to the process of assisting early stage companies. NBIA serves more than 1,900 members in over 60 nations.

NBIA held an International Conference on Business Incubation from 16 to 19 May in Orlando, Florida, USA marking its 25th anniversary. The event featured sessions on the future of the industry, international issues and basics of incubator management, strategies for helping clients, various funding sources and much more. Over 500 incubation and economic development professionals from over 40 countries gathered in Orlando to learn, share ideas and network.

Highlights of the conference: Celebration of NBIA’s 25th anniversary at the opening reception, tours to the Disney Entrepreneur Center and the University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program, keynote addresses by Jerry Ross, executive director of the Disney Entrepreneur Center, and Alan Ladwig, Deputy Associate Administrator for Public Outreach in the Office of Public Affairs at NASA headquarters, a panel of global incubation leaders discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the industry and NBIA’s 2010 annual awards presentation.

SM Karuppanchetty, Deputy COO, Agri-Science Park@ICRISAT & Senior Manager ABI-ICRISAT took part in the conference, particularly in the rural and international forums. ABI-ICRISAT presented its competence in the niche space of agri-business and its significance in poverty reduction. During the conference he met NBIA President & CEO David Monkman, who was impressed by the new initiative of Networks of Indian Agri Business Incubators. Mr Monkman expressed his willingness to participate in its events and strengthen it globally.

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