No. 1438 29 October 2010

Second National Workshop on Marker-Assisted Selection held at Patancheru

MAS Workshop Director General William Dar inaugurates the MAS workshop at Patancheru.

“High quality agricultural research is certainly part of the solution of world food security problems. There is an urgent need for more comprehensive and holistic solutions and integrated approaches that take changing needs and demands into account”, said Director General William Dar, setting the tone for the 2nd national workshop on marker-assisted selection.

In continuation of the 1st National Workshop of Accelerated Crop Improvement Programme (ACIP) of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India held in New Delhi in December 2009, ICRISAT in collaboration with DBT and the CGIAR Generation Challenge Program hosted the “2nd National Workshop on Marker-Assisted Selection (MAS) for Crop Improvement” during 27-29 October, at the ICRISAT-Patancheru campus. Though the workshop was termed a “national” workshop, about 100 delegates from 19 different countries and ICRISAT’s sister centers (CIMMYT and IRRI) and AVRDC participated in the workshop.

Rajeev varshney
Rajeev Varshney speaks at the inaugural meeting.

In his inaugural address, Dr Dar highlighted the CGIAR contributions in improving the livelihoods of poor, “But the question remains…” he continued, “How do we feed the already one billion hungry people in the world? And what about the projected 9.1 billion that will have to be fed by 2050!! Global agricultural production will need to grow by 70% by this time!” Referring to ICRISAT’s new strategic plan, Dr Dar said that biotechnology, including modern genomics technologies and MAS, are an integral part of the crop improvement program. He appreciated the efforts of DBT and the Generation Challenge Program in organizing this meeting. Dr Dar also recognized the role of ICAR in taking forward the results of ICRISAT to the national program, and acknowledged the help and support of leaders in genomics research, such as Professor Roberto Tuberosa from University of Bologna, Italy and Professor PK Gupta, Chair of ACIP-DBT.

Earlier, welcoming the delegates, DDG-R Dave Hoisington emphasized the need to have such meetings in India, which encourage the breeding community to integrate molecular tools in their breeding program. Professor PK Gupta expressed his happiness and thanked Director General Dar and ICRISAT for hosting the meeting. He outlined the objectives of the ACIP and mentioned that both DBT and he are hopeful of having some concrete recommendations, which DBT should be able to implement in their next call. Dr Swapan Datta, Deputy Director General-Crop Science, Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) highlighted the use of biotechnology tools (including both transgenesis and marker-assisted breeding) in crop improvement. Dr Datta assured the help and support of ICAR in crop improvement programs across the country.

MAS Workshop participants
Participants of the MAS workshop at Patancheru.

Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, GTL-Biotechnology, thanked DBT and GCP for sponsoring this event, and the participants, especially those who had come from abroad and from other parts of India, for their enthusiasm and active participation in the workshop. He also extended his gratitude to the Communication Office, FESP, Housing and Food Services, Security, FMU and Transport services for making the event successful. While closing the session, Rajeev Varshney, host of the meeting at ICRISAT, thanked Dr William Dar for his encouragement and support, DDG-R Dave Hoisington, MG Members including the GTLs of Biotechnology and Crop Improvement, for their help and support in organizing the meeting. Sincere thanks were extended to Mr KDV Prasad and Ms Manjula who were instrumental in arranging all logistical support, to make the meeting successful.

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Malawi Seed Systems Unit staff trained on genetic fingerprinting of groundnut and pigeonpea

Participants of the genetic fingerprinting training in Nairobi

For legumes, such as groundnuts, it is often difficult to differentiate the seeds from various varieties and to be sure that seeds are genetically “true-to-type”. Conventionally, seed samples are drawn from large lots and planted so that the morphological features can be compared against a set of descriptors, but this takes time and is expensive.

ICRISAT-ESA undertook a study to identify molecular markers that can be used for variety identification through DNA fingerprinting, which is quicker and cheaper than conventional methods. Any plant tissue can be used at any stage of growth and it is not dependent on a particular cropping season.

The members get hands-on training in fingerprinting and gel loading.

With funding from Irish Aid in 2010, ICRISAT has identified a set of 3 DNA markers for groundnut that can distinguish all the local and improved groundnut varieties that are cultivated in Malawi. This genetic fingerprinting technique will assist both breeders and seed regulatory agencies in ensuring that seed quality standards are maintained in the Malawi Seed Alliance and through maintenance breeding.

In order to disseminate these results to the Malawian Seed Industry, Santie de Villiers and Vincent Njunge conducted a week-long workshop from 11 to 15 October at BecA in Nairobi. Two staff members from the Malawi seed systems unit (Ms Grace Kaudzu and Mr Leonard Yikwanga), a PhD student from Malawi (Mr Justus Chintu) and a KARI scientist (Ms Esther Kimani) were trained in sampling, DNA extraction and PCR technology used for DNA fingerprinting of groundnuts and pigeonpeas.

This training will facilitate uptake of this technology in the Malawian seed certification scheme through confirmation of varietal identity, seed purity testing/confirmation and tracking of disseminated varieties in farmer fields. The latter will monitor adoption of released varieties and provide a measure of the impact from the release of new varieties.

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Gates Foundation program officer visits HOPE project in WCA

Dr Yilma Kebede views a sorghum crop at a farmer’s field in Diola, Mali.

The Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) Project team in WCA was host, between 10 and 15 October, to Dr Yilma Kebede, a Programme Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr Kebede visited ICRISAT in Niger and Mali to familiarize himself with the progress and constraints of the project in West Africa. The HOPE Project is funded by the Gates Foundation, and is currently in its second year of operation.

In his travels Dr Kebede was accompanied by Dr Farid Waliyar, Regional Director-WCA, Dr Said Silim, Regional Director–ESA and also Principal Investigator of the HOPE Project, and Dr George Okwach, the HOPE Project Manager.

Helping National Institutes to Impact Farmers’ Lives in Niger

Dr Kebede started his tour in Niger with a field visit to Dan Tchiandou, one of the project sites. Accompanied by Bettina Haussman, Jupiter Ndjeunga, Fatondji Dougbedji and Tahirou Boye, Dr Kebede met and interacted with farmer seed producers of the ICRISAT millet variety ICMV-IS-99001. He also interacted with a farmer with whom the project is carrying out an Integrated Genetic and Natural Resource Management demonstration. The team also met a group of 20 farmers involved in a Farmer Field School on Integrated Striga Management, followed by a visit to INRAN’s millet processing laboratory in Niamey. INRAN is Niger’s premier NARS institution and key collaborator with ICRISAT in the HOPE project. At the laboratory, Dr Kebede met and exchanged views with women’s associations involved in millet and other agricultural product transformation.

While in Niamey, Dr Kebede paid a courtesy call on INRAN Director General, Dr Abdoulaye Mohamed, where he urged INRAN to use the HOPE Project to achieve INRAN’s R&D objectives of impacting farmers’ lives in Niger.

Before leaving Niamey for Bamako, Dr Kebede held discussions with the scientists involved in the project. He was accompanied by Farid Waliyar. Jupiter Ndjeunga and Bettina Haussmann made presentations on the overview of HOPE Project activities in Niger and also specifically on the progress of the ongoing research activities under the project.

HOPE Project highly appreciated in Mali by farmers and partners

In Bamako, Mali, Dr Yilma Kebede started his tour by paying a courtesy call on Dr Bino Teme, Director General of the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), a strong partner institution with ICRISAT for many years, and also a key partner in the HOPE Project. Accompanying Dr Kebede in this visit were Farid Waliyar, Said Silim, Bonny Ntare (ICRISAT Country Representative in Mali), Peter Craufurd, GTL-Agroecosystems, who was visiting Bamako, and George Okwach. Dr Teme was accompanied by his deputy Dr Bourama Dembelle. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the long-term cordial relationship and close collaboration between ICRISAT and IER, and especially the work that was being accomplished through the HOPE Project.

At IER’s Sotuba research station in Bamako, Dr Kebede viewed and discussed HOPE project sorghum breeding work being done in collaboration with IER scientists. He was accompanied by Said Silim and George Okwach. The ICRISAT scientists in the team included Eva Weltzien and Fred Rattunde, who are involved in these trials with IER. The IER team was led by Dr Mamourou Diourte, who is a key collaborating scientist in the HOPE Project.

Dr Kebede travelled to the Koulikoro region for a day-long visit and discussions with farmers, agro-dealers, and various stakeholders. At Waccoro and Diola, he met with small-scale farmers who are producers of certified seeds. He viewed and discussed the work with farmer field schools and individual farmers on Striga-control systems and other improved technologies.

While in Bamako, Dr Kebede also attended the second HOPE Project management meeting, which was chaired by the Project Coordinator, George Okwach. He then toured the HOPE Project experimental fields at Samanko, accompanied by the Project’s Objective Leaders from other regions. The tour was led and conducted by Eva Weltzien and Fred Rattunde.

Throughout his tours, Dr Kebede expressed his satisfaction at the work being done with partners to change the lives of the rural poor. He, however, challenged the HOPE project management and scientific team to give serious thought to and ensure strengthening of the national institutions and programs. He also called for the channeling of more resources to delivery and uptake of technology.

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MSME team visits ABI-ICRISAT

MSME team
DDG-R Dave Hoisington and SM Karuppanchetty with the MSME team.

Dr Madhav Lal, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Government of India, and his team of five members from MSME (Hyderabad) visited ICRISAT and Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) on 13 October. SM Karuppanchetty of ABI-ICRISAT addressed the group and gave a presentation on MSME Incubation Scheme-Clients Profile and Progress.

During the presentation, Karuppanchetty talked about the process of screening and selection of the MSME clients at ABI-ICRISAT and the level of MSME funding availed by the incubatees. Later, he presented details of the MSME fund utilization status and progress of each client individually. Six MSME clients were also present for the meeting: Mr Subba Rao (Aakruthi Agricultural Associates), Mr Rami Reddy (BR Cooking Sprays), Mr Raghavendra Prasad (Wifin Technologies), Mr Murali Krishna (Jytra Engineering), Mr Suresh Suryadevara (Individual Entrepreneur) and Mr VVLN Prasad (Solax Bio Sciences). As a part of this presentation, the various challenges faced by the clients were put forward to MSME officials.

Dr Madhav Lal was satisfied with the level of progress shown by the clients and he said that the MSME team at Hyderabad would support a few clients on technical requirements related to designing and engineering. He also extended his support to clients facing problems regarding statutory clearances.

Karuppanchetty elaborated on how ABI-ICRISAT supported the MSME clients at the technical and business front. He also put forward two new proposals for funding from MSME and two pending proposals of Business Planning and Development Units before MSME officials for consent. He requested Dr Madhav Lal for his support in registering with the MSME Cluster Development Programme (MSME- CDP) and Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE).

The session was encouraging for ABI and its clients as Dr Madhav Lal was satisfied with the MSME Scheme progress at ABI, and ensured his support in future endeavors.

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Farmers’ Day 2010 held in Karnataka

Farmers Day 2010 Dr RR Hanchinal inaugurates the Farmers’ Day event at Dharwad.

ICRISAT Farmers’ Day 2010 was held at Neeralkatti, Dharwad District, Karnataka State, India on 26 October. The program was jointly conducted by ICRISAT and the Government of India-sponsored project on Model Watersheds, Government of Karnataka-sponsored project Bhoo Chetana, and University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UAS-D).

This year’s event was unique as the main attraction for the farmers was not only the participatory research and development trials conducted on farmers’ fields but also the research experiments conducted by four post-graduate students of UAS-Dharwad on farmers’ fields.

Nine hundred farmers and 100 department officials, UAS-D senior staff members and students along with journalists participated in the event. Following the invocation song by the villagers and lighting of the lamps by the dignitaries, Dr CP Mansur welcomed the delegates and spoke about the various programs at the Neeralkatti watershed.

The event began with the inauguration of the registration stall by Honorable Vice-Chancellor of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad Dr RR Hanchinal. Later, Dr Hanchinal visited the on-farm participatory research and development trials involving soil test-based nutrient management trials compared with farmers management practices for a number of crops in the village. He also visited the research plots of PhD research students on farmers’ fields and assessed different land farm treatments for in-situ moisture conservation for different crop rotations. He appreciated the experiments as they were large size plots unlike the ones on the research station. He also thought that the replicated trial was very well conducted.

Farmers Day 2010 Ashok Alur displays ICRISAT seeds to Madam Seema Masuthi as SP Wani looks on.

The farmer with whom the student conducted the research experiment highlighted the fact that even with the reduced level of chemical fertilizer this was the best crop in his field in his lifetime.

The Chief Guest for the Farmers’ Day function, Madam Seema Masuthi, Honorable Member of Legislative Assembly, Dharwad Rural, inaugurated the ICRISAT exhibition stall and inspected various exhibited samples and the posters. She was very appreciative of the good work done by ICRISAT in different districts of Karnataka.

The event was successfully organized by the Farmers’ Day Committee co-chaired by SP Wani and CLL Gowda, assisted by other committee members and a number of volunteers who ensured the success of the Farmers’ Day.

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Training course on Chickpea Improvement held at Patancheru

ICRISAT-NiameyChickpea training course Dr Dar with participants of the training course and senior ICRISAT scientists.

As a part of the capacity building exercise under the Tropical Legumes I (TLI) - Phase II project entitled Improving chickpea productivity for marginal environments in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa of CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), a training course entitled Modern Breeding Technologies for Chickpea Improvement is being held from 25 October to 19 November at Patancheru.

Inaugurating the meeting, Director General William Dar said, “Chickpea is an important source of energy, protein, minerals, vitamins and fibers that can play a vital role in overcoming problems of nutritional insecurity. We can’t afford to gloss over the fact that childhood malnutrition in dryland Asia stands at 42% and at 27% in Africa.“ Referring to ICRISAT’s new strategic plan, he continued, “In addition to all these steps, linking farmers to markets is critical to boost farm production and farmers’ income to check the widening rural-urban disparity and diversify rural livelihood options.”

The participants of the course are taking part in ongoing activities on chickpea breeding, physiology and entomology at ICRISAT; molecular markers and molecular breeding activities for chickpea improvement; training in experimental design, analysis of genomics data for breeding applications (these activities will be covered in the training course Application of Molecular Markers for Crop Improvement, which will be held in the same venue from 8 to 19 November).

In addition, the course participants are also taking part in the 2nd National Workshop on Marker-Assisted Selection for Crop Improvement being held at Patancheru from 27 to 29 October (see lead story). During their stay at ICRISAT, the course participants will also have an opportunity to interact with plant breeders, molecular biologists, pathologists, entomologists, physiologists, biometrics and bioinformatics specialists.

The training course will prepare the participants to apply the knowledge gained at ICRISAT for chickpea improvement in their parent institutes.

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