No. 1425 30 July 2010

Molecular Markers for Breeding Better Vegetables and Legumes

Learning program participants Participants of the fourth learning program with Drs William Dar, ML Chadha (on Dr Dar’s right), Dave Hoisington and other senior staff members.

ICRISAT and AVRDC (World Vegetable Center), recipients of the CGIAR’s 2009 Science Award for Outstanding Partnership, are jointly holding their fourth learning program on Application of molecular markers in vegetable and legume breeding at Patancheru from 26 to 31 July.

The program aims to share their repository of knowledge and skills with public and private sector personnel, participants from partner national agricultural research systems, NGOs in South Asia as well as Cereals and Legumes Asia Network (CLAN) member countries. Currently, 28 participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka are taking part in this learning program.

William Dar Dr Dar making a point.

Opening the training program, Director General William Dar pointed out that it is difficult for poor farmers to move beyond subsistence farming as long as they are insecure about their own sources of basic nutrition. “Hence, ensuring basic food supplies for the extremely poor is critical, because hunger and malnutrition are not conducive to social stability and economic growth,” Dr Dar stated.

Stressing the need to grow legumes, he said that increased cultivation of legumes is essential for the regeneration of nutrient-deficient soils and for providing proteins, minerals and vitamins to humans and livestock. They also improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers around the world. He also underscored the importance of vegetables in providing vital nutrients for human health.

Inaguration Drs ML Chadha, William Dar, Dave Hoisington and CLL Gowda at the inaugural.

Dr Dar then explained the framework of inclusive market-oriented development (IMOD) that will help farmers rise from subsistence farming to become prosperous growers of high-value cash crops. Encouraging scientists to fully exploit molecular markers, he said that the tool will open up new avenues for vegetable and legume breeding research.

DDG-R Dave Hoisington; Global Theme Leader - Crop Improvement, CLL Gowda; Global Theme Leader – Biotechnology, Oscar Riera-Lizarazu; and Director AVRDC Regional Center for South Asia, ML Chadha; also spoke on the occasion.

participants interacting Participants in an interactive session

The 6-day course covers molecular marker systems in plant breeding, basic principles and theory of marker-assisted selection in modern vegetable breeding, application of molecular markers in commercial breeding programs, mapping population, linkage map, quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis and a host of other informative topics.

Since January 2008, AVRDC and ICRISAT have been conducting research on the genetic, physiological and molecular approaches to improve heat and drought tolerance of tropical tomato. Identifying and developing tomato breeding lines with improved drought and heat tolerance with the help of genomics, molecular genetics, and effective identification and utilization of genetic resources is an ongoing process.

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Chickpea in rainfed rice fallow lands review and work plan meeting

The annual review and work plan meeting of the project Enhancing Chickpea Production in Rainfed Rice Fallow Lands (RRFL) of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh States of India was held at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh on 26 and 27 July.

Work plan meeting Participants of the annual review meeting in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.

The meeting was held to review the progress and innovations made in the project and the sustainability of models developed. Representatives from the consortium of institutions including Directorate of Research, Zonal Project Director, ICRISAT, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV), Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (IGKV) and national agro-industries participated in the 2009-10 progress review and 2010-11 work plan development meeting.

The project is funded by the National Food Security Mission, Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. It is executed and implemented by ICRISAT in collaboration with IGKV in four districts in Chhattisgarh, and with JNKVV in four districts of Madhya Pradesh.

Suresh Pande presented the overall progress made by ICRISAT and partners in 2009-10. While complimenting the concerted efforts of the consortium team, he appealed to them to focus more on productivity enhancement and increase the area of rainfed rice fallows to enhance chickpea production.

He urged the participants to look for alternative technologies for improvement of chickpea to make the crop more profitable. All the partners made brief presentations and proposed work plans for the year 2010-11. SK Rao and RN Sharma made presentations on the progress made in 2009-2010 in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, respectively. After thorough discussions, a consolidated work plan was developed by the project team.

SS Tomar from the Directorate of Research welcomed the participants and appreciated the progress and the efforts made. The committee approved the 2010- 2011 work plan and suggested the future course of action for the project team based on their experiences in 2009 and 2010.

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ICRISAT-UF center expands to a consortium

William Dar with K Ramesh Reddy V Balaji and K Ramesh Reddy with Dr Dar.

ICRISAT and the University of Florida have formally entered into an agreement to develop a joint International Education Center to meet the capacity development needs of various partners in developing countries, in particular those in the Indian Ocean region. This agreement was entered into by Dr William Dar, and the Vice President of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), U Florida. There have been five courses offered under the umbrella of this arrangement during 2009-10, and courses have been lined up all the way until March 2011.

Dr Dar released a brochure of the ICRISAT-UF center on 30 July at Patancheru. He also launched the web site of this project. Dr K Ramesh Reddy, Chairman of UF Soil and Water Science was present on the occasion. He serves as the principal contact on behalf of U Florida. The leader of KMS, V Balaji, serves as the contact on behalf of ICRISAT. The arrangement is now being expanded to make this into a consortium anchored by U Florida and ICRISAT. More than five land grant universities in the US have expressed their interest in becoming members of the consortium. Dr Dar said that this was always his vision that ICRISAT should enhance its role of bridge-builder and catalyst in all training and education matters, which is a significant requirement in all the regions where ICRISAT works.

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International conference on plant nutrition

ICRISAT and Infinitus Agri, a partner organization of Agri-Science Park @ ICRISAT, will organize an international conference on plant nutrition at Patancheru from 11 to 13 August. The theme of the conference is Plant nutrition for another green revolution. The three-day conference will focus on molecular plant nutrition, plant nutriomics, integrated plant nutrition, custom plant nutrition, environmental pollution caused by plant nutrition and policies for effective plant nutrition. It will also organize an interface with plant nutrient manufacturers.

The organizing committee members are: Dr William Dar (Chairman), Y Durgaprasad of Infinitus Agri (Convener), CLL Gowda, SP Wani, B Venkateswarlu (Director, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture), BC Virakthamath (Director, Directorate of Rice Research), DM Hegde (Director, Directorate of Oil Seeds Research) and AR Ilyas (secretary to the committee). For further details go to:

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Guide to pigeonpea-enriched products in the Philippines

Malawi Brochure on pigeonpea-enriched foods.

The Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Batac City, Ilocos Norte, Philippines under the leadership of the University President Miriam E Pascua and the project staff members Fernando P Sugui (National Pigeonpea Coordinator) and Ms Vina Grace Cabugon (Food Service Supervisor), have perfected seven recipes using pigeonpea flour. These seven snacks kroepoek, espasol, puto, polvoron, cuchinta, doughnut and maja blanca are popular Filipino delicacies.

A brochure ‘Products N-Rich with Pigeonpea’ on these recipes was developed by MMSU and released this June. This is intended to intensify the project Strengthening Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) Adoption, Production and Utilization in northern Luzon, which is jointly supported by ICRISAT and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development.

This brochure will act as learning material for practitioners, including homemakers, on the production of food with adequate quantities of calories and proteins.

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Training course on the application of molecular markers

ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG), supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India announced its 8th training course on Application of Molecular Markers in Crop Improvement to be held during 8-19 November at Patancheru. ICRISAT-CEG has already trained 160 scientists in seven previous training courses.

Molecular markers training course participants File photo of Dr Dar with the participants of seventh training course on Molecular tools for Crop Improvement.

The main subject of the course is the application of molecular markers in crop improvement. Rather than data generation, the major focus of the course will be on the analysis and the use of marker genotyping data.

Using different biometrics and bioinformatics tools, the course will provide hands-on training in sample preparation, experimental design and the data analysis components of molecular markers. Construction of genetic linkage maps, marker-trait association based on linkage mapping procedures and use of decision support systems in molecular breeding will be highlighted in the course. In addition, participants will be exposed to the new advances in genomics, bioinformatics and modern breeding through lectures on association genetics, next generation sequencing, marker-assisted recurrent selection, genomic selection and novel bioinformatics approaches.

The eighth training course is open to mainly Indian scientists. However, a few scientists from developing countries who have demonstrable ability to use the techniques can also apply. Selected Indian participants will be provided with 2nd class AC train fare by the shortest route to and from ICRISAT, and board and lodging at Patancheru. Candidates selected from other developing countries will have to be sponsored by either their organization or other funding agencies for their travel expenses while ICRISAT will take care of their board and lodging at the ICRISAT campus. The last date for submitting online applications is 25 August at

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ICRISAT-Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) bid farewell on 21 July to two staff members who will be greatly missed.

ESA Peter Cooper (standing tall in the center), Bancy Mati (in printed blouse) and other Nairobi staff members.

Peter Cooper joined ICRISAT in 2004 as a Principal Scientist to lead ICRISAT’s strategy on climate risk management and adaptation to climate change in the semi-arid tropics (SAT). Dr Cooper’s strategic thinking and leadership in research produced a clear vision of how ICRISAT can meet these twin challenges. He was the lead author of ICRISAT’s Operational Research Strategy ‘Adaptations to climate change in the SAT’. Peter’s numerous publications, notably on the ‘Hypothesis of Hope’, showed how the skills and experience of ICRISAT’s crop modelers, Geographic Information System experts and plant breeders could deepen our understanding of how to mitigate climate change. He leaves a strong legacy for the future.

Bancy Mati, coordinator of the Improved Management of Agricultural Water in Eastern and Southern Africa (IMAWESA) Network since 2004, leaves ICRISAT-ESA to become fulltime Professor of Soil and Water Engineering at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Juju, near Nairobi. ICRISAT staff know Bancy as a hard working professional, who arrives early in the morning and leaves late in the evening. She contributed a lot to ICRISAT by developing strong collaborations with partners in ESA and globally. ICRISAT colleagues praised her networking skills, positive attitude and friendly nature. We look forward to collaborating with Bancy in her new role.

In an informal lunch ceremony and presentation, Said Silim and many colleagues paid tribute to the work of Peter Cooper and Bancy Mati, and to their inspiration and friendship.

Team ICRISAT wishes them the very best for the future. As we say in Swahili. “Kwaheri ya kuonana” (with blessings till we meet again)!

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