No. 1442 26 November 2010

African Scientists for South-South Collaboration with India

ASARECA visitors SP Wani explains watersheds to the ASARECA visitors at Patancheru.

There is a need to strengthen South-South collaboration between India and national agricultural research systems in sub-Saharan Africa on natural resource management and other areas through research for development. This was stressed by Director General William Dar during the visit of scientists from the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) at ICRISAT-Patancheru last week.

A team of 15 scientists from Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Uganda visited India from 13 to 20 November as part of the program to strengthen South-South collaboration between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and ASARECA countries on integrated watershed management.

William Dar
(L) The visitors with ICRISAT staff members, (R) Dr Dar speaks to the group.

ICRISAT facilitated the training-cum-exposure visit of the ASARECA team with financial support from ICAR (Department of Agricultural Research and Education), Government of India. The team arrived in India on 14 November and visited research agencies on soil and water management such as the Central Soil Water Conservation Research and Training Institute (CSWCRTI) at Dehradun, Indian Institute of Soil Science (IISS) in Bhopal and Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) in Hyderabad.

While at ICRISAT-Patancheru, the team had discussions with the GT-Agroecosystems team and visited heritage watershed sites. The group had detailed discussions on the long-term experiments on Vertisols, Vertic inceptisols and Alfisols by adopting the integrated watershed management approach.

ASARECA team The ASARECA team in the ICRISAT fields

In his address to the team, Dr Dar also spoke about ICRISAT’s new strategy anchored on Inclusive Market Oriented Development (IMOD), which focuses on harnessing markets for the poor to end poverty and hunger in the dryland tropics. Dr Dar also highlighted the importance of watershed management as an entry point in diversifying farming systems with high value crops for improving rainwater use efficiency and enhancing farmers’ incomes.

The group also visited Adarsha watershed, Kothapally, interacted with the farmers and observed different types of rainwater harvesting structures, crop diversification, livelihood options for women and landless people, wasteland rehabilitation, balanced nutrient management practices and improved livestock production based activities for improving livelihoods.

The team thanked Dr Dar, Team ICRISAT and the Government of India, who supported their trip. They described it as a good learning opportunity and pointed out that there were a number of technologies in the area of natural resource management that they can adopt in their region for enhancing the productivity of rainfed systems.

The visit was coordinated and facilitated by SP Wani who thanked ICAR, and in particular, Dr AK Singh, Deputy Director General, NRM, ICAR and Directors of WTC, CSWCRTI, IISS and CRIDA for facilitating the visit.

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Philippine Ambassador visits Patancheru

Philippine ambassador
HE Ronald Allarey and team with Dr Dar and senior staff members.

His Excellency Ronald Allarey, Ambassador of the Republic of Philippines to India, along with Mr Robert Ferrer, Embassy Consul and First Secretary; and Mr Vichael Roaring, Commercial Attaché, visited ICRISAT-Patancheru on 24 November.

The Ambassador and colleagues met Director General William Dar, DDG-R Dave Hoisington, Oscar Riera-Lizaraju, Peter Craufurd, Hector Hernandez, M Prabhakar Reddy and Rex Navarro, who also made a presentation on ICRISAT-Philippine collaboration for the visiting dignitary.

The Ambassador visited the Genetic Transformation Lab and the RS Paroda Gene Bank, where he was given brief overviews by KK Sharma and Shivali Sharma, respectively. During the farm visit, the Ambassador showed considerable interest in the water conservation at ICRISAT, farm management, watersheds, vermicomposting and the Jatropha plantation.

The Ambassador said that the visit had been a very good learning experience on rain fed agriculture and its contribution to food production. He also planted a mango sapling with Atty Hector Hernandez and M Prabhakar Reddy.

Philippine ambassador Visit
Dr Dar with the Philippine Ambassador HE Ronald Allarey and other Filipino guests at the reception.

During the farm visit, Mr Allarey was able to spot Corchorus plants, which are highly valued in the Philippines as a leafy vegetable, and remarked that this plant was the secret of his good health. Although Corchorus is a well known medicinal plant among Indian herbal medicinal plants, it grows as a weed in our fields and is seldom used as a vegetable here.

In the evening, Dr Dar hosted a reception in honor of the Ambassador, which was attended by the compact Filipino community in Hyderabad.

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XRF laboratory established at ICRISAT

Climate Change Dialogue
KN Rai with Mr Srinivas Mullapudi, Dr Nicholas Paltridge and AS Rao with the XRF machine at Patancheru.

HarvestPlus-supported research on genetic enhancement of grain iron and zinc content in pearl millet and sorghum at ICRISAT has made significant progress in assessing the variability for these micronutrients in a limited number of germplasm accessions and breeding lines. This was made possible with support from a well established analytical laboratory facility that does high precision analysis following Atomic Absorption Spectrometer (AAS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) procedures.

These methods will continue to be used for precision analyses of the intermediate and final breeding products, and of the breeding lines and germplasm accessions to be used in crossing programs. However, we have felt the need for cost effective and rapid screening procedures to conduct the first-stage screening of a large number of germplasm accessions and breeding lines. This would help us discard those without the desired levels of micronutrients for further use in breeding, and thus speed up the breeding process. While some staining procedures developed at ICRISAT, and a Near Infrared Reflectance Spectrometer (NIRS) facility in the ILRI laboratory have been handy in the iron/zinc analysis at much lower cost and at much greater speed, their precision has not been up to the mark.

HarvestPlus has long been looking for a method that is rapid, cost effective and precise. Flinders University, Australia, which is a part of the HarvestPlus program, was assigned to find such a method. It tested a desk-top X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF) instrument, (widely used in the petroleum, cement and iron industry, for its effectiveness) and found that the correlation between the XRF and ICP values for both iron and zinc in pearl millet was very high (r>0.95). Similar high correlations were found in rice and wheat.

The XRF instrument needs no more than a small air-conditioned room, the recurring cost is very low (US$ < 1/sample compared to the current $5-6 for AAS and ICP), and it has the ability to handle about 250-300 samples/day (compared to 100-150 samples/day for AAS and ICP). Further, unlike AAS and ICP, the XRF analysis is non-destructive, so the seed analyzed can be used to plant the next crop.

Encouraged with these results, HarvestPlus established the first XRF facility at IRRI, and now the second one at ICRISAT-Patancheru. Dr Nicholas Paltridge from Flinders University, and Mr Srinivas Mullapudi from Volga Instruments Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad, visited ICRISAT-Patancheru from 22 to 25 November, tested the instrument, calibrated as well as validated pearl millet and sorghum samples, and trained Scientific Officers of the pearl millet and sorghum breeding departments.

This facility will also be used for other ICRISAT mandate crops on a limited scale, as well as for rice and wheat samples from HarvestPlus-supported projects in India on a cost-recovery basis.

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ICRISAT-Bulawayo trains World Vision and AGRITEX personnel on seed production

Climate Change Dialogue
Sakile Kudita stresses a point during the training session.

World Vision International in Zimbabwe organized seed multiplication training from 15 to 18 November in two districts, Umzingwane and Bubi, for Agricultural Technical and Extension (AGRITEX) and for World Vision field staff. McDonald Jumbo, Sakile Kudita and Nkazimulo Ngwenya from the Crop Improvement team (Breeding) at ICRISAT-Bulawayo conducted the training, and trained fifty AGRITEX and World Vision field staff members.

Zimbabwe is faced with a critical shortage of seed and the little seed available is too expensive for many smallholder farmers. World Vision is currently implementing a 2-year community seed production project targeting smallholder farmers in order to make seed available to resource-poor farmers. ICRISAT in Zimbabwe has been working on a foundation seed multiplication project supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Based on this, World Vision International requested the services of ICRISAT to train their field staff and AGRITEX on the basic principles of seed multiplication. The trained personnel will later train and work with smallholder farmers in the target areas to produce seed that will be stored and distributed to more needy farmers in subsequent years. ICRISAT will provide technical backstopping services once work on seed multiplication has started, thus making sure that all procedures are followed in the seed multiplication process.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the training, World Vision Project Coordinator, Mr Farmer Mulagis, emphasized the importance of seed security as one of the major factors that contributes to successful farming.

Staff members McDonald Jumbo, Sakile Kudita and Nkazimulo Ngwenya with a group of trainees.

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Training on pigeonpea food products in Ilocos Norte

TiE-ISB Connect 2010 Members of the Sumader Association with the food they prepared.

As part of the Philippine-ICRISAT collaborative project on Accelerating Pigeonpea Adoption, Production and Utilization in Northern Luzon, Philippines, the Mariano Marcos State University, Batac City, Ilocos Norte conducted a hands-on training on pigeonpea food preparation in Sumader Association of Family Entrepreneurs (SAFE) multi-purpose center of Brgy Sumader, Batac City, on 7 November.

The one-day training was organized and coordinated by SAFE Chairman, Engineer Rogelio; and Adviser, Dr Criselda Balisacan. SAFE is a registered association by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and received Php100,000 grant-in-aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Ilocos Norte for the training.

Nineteen family heads and their immediate family members took part in the training-cum -demonstration. The primary purpose of the training was to share knowledge and skills about the uses and nutritional benefits of pigeonpea, adding value to pigeonpea and producing pigeonpea-based products.

Mr Fernando P Sugui, National Pigeonpea Coordinator and Ms Vina May Grace Cabugon, Food Service Supervisor of MMSU were the resource persons. They demonstrated how to prepare a number of Philippine snacks such as embotido, meaty balls, buchi and caramel bar using boiled pigeonpea seeds. This activity was in preparation for the harvest of pigeonpea seeds planted by the association in a 2 ha area, (the crop is now at the podding stage). At present, the housewives are already making pigeonpea food products for sale. Their customers are the students and teachers of the Sumader Elementary School of the locality.

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