No. 1458 18 March 2011

Pursuing IMOD
ICRISAT inaugurates Agribusiness and Innovation Platform building

ABI GB Board Chair Nigel Poole, Board Member Deborah Delmer, Mrs Betty Dar, Dr W Dar and Dr KK Sharma inaugurate the new AIP building.

Laying down the foundation for inclusive market-oriented development (IMOD) that will spur innovation, growth and prosperity in the drylands, the new Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) building was inaugurated today,
18 March at ICRISAT-Patancheru. Governing Board Chair Nigel Poole, together with Board Member Deborah Delmer, Mrs Betty Dar, Director General William Dar and AIP-CEO Kiran Sharma, led the inauguration ceremony attended by over a hundred staff, guests and AIP team and clients.

“This is the fruit of our hard labor, forward looking and thinking out of the box, as well as our commitment to enhance public-private partnership to promote our products and innovations and help provide the poor with goods and services to participate in IMOD,” said Dr Dar in his inaugural message. He also expressed his appreciation to the Government of Andhra Pradesh for partnering with ICRISAT to cover the agri-science component of the Genome Valley initiative, and for investing in the establishment of the then Agri-Science Park, now AIP.

In his address as chief guest, Dr Poole “thanked the Government of Andhra Pradesh for coming up with the vision of an agri-science park aimed to enhance agri-enterprise development and the well-being of the farmers.” He stressed that mutual vision, respect and appreciation of what each party can bring to the table are vital for public-private partnership to work. “When we work together, we can succeed,” he added.

AIP envisions to enhance the prosperity of farmers through agribusiness development with public-private-people partnerships. The building has a total floor area of 1737 sq m including built-up area of 1144 sq m. It has an administrative office, and facilities like conference room, laboratory and office space for clients and partners.

AIP is composed of three flagship components which include: Agribusiness Incubation (ABI) Program, Innovation and Partnership (INP) Program and NutriPlus Knowledge (NPK) Program. These initiatives will work towards pursuing ICRISAT’s vision of a prosperous and resilient dryland tropics.

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Food security in the drylands
Genomics for pulse improvement

Prof SiddiqDr Dar awards Prof Siddiq with a plaque from ICRISAT, recognizing the latter’s outstanding contribution to agricultural science and dedication to farming.

Pulses play a vital role towards economic growth and food security in the dryland tropics. Their impact on improving the livelihoods and dietary diversity, especially of vulnerable communities, is the rationale behind the project Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG Phase-II): Translating Genomic Research for Pulse Improvement. Funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), GoI, the project was launched on 16 March 2011 at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

“These are extraordinary times, when the road to attaining food security and poverty alleviation is riddled with challenges such as decreasing agricultural lands, depleting natural resources, looming climate change, and poor investment in agriculture,” said Director General William Dar in his inaugural address. He pointed out that given these challenges, the scientific community must intensify the use of novel genomic approaches.

In his welcome address, Dr CLL Gowda, Grain Legumes Program Director, raised the importance of pulses to smallholder livelihoods, as well as to peoples’ diet as a cost-effective source of protein. “This exemplifies ICRISAT’s principle of applying scientific innovations to end poverty, reduce hunger and malnutrition, and improve the livelihoods of dryland farmers to improve agricultural production and help achieve a prosperous and food-secure world,” he said.

During the meeting, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Project Coordinator and CEG Leader, explained how this project complements the second phase of Tropical Legumes I funded by the Generation Challenge Program. He also stressed that the project is in line with ICRISAT’s Strategic Plan to 2020 aimed at generating products and innovations that will link the dryland poor to markets.

CEG II launch meetingParticipants of the CEG II launch meeting at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

The CEG-Phase II partners are the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi; Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR); Kanpur and Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Hyderabad. With Dr Varshney as Project Coordinator and PI, other Co-PIs from ICRISAT include Drs Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, PM Gaur, Isabel Vales, S Senthilvel, Abhishek Rathore, Vincent Vadez, Mamta Sharma, Trushar Shah, Mahender Thudi and Rachit Saxena.

During the meeting, ICRISAT felicitated Padmashree EA Siddiq, Professor and Director of Biotechnology, ANGRAU, Hyderabad. Prof Siddiq was conferred Padmashree in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Indian agriculture for more than four decades.

Dr Dar honored Prof Siddiq with a plaque for his outstanding contribution to the highest quality of agricultural science and his dedication to the farming community. Prof Siddiq responded that the award would raise his responsibility to do more and inspire other agricultural researchers in the country.

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Promoting Livelihoods along the Sweet Sorghum Value Chain

Sweet sorghum value chain Participants deliberate during the third annual review meeting of the ICRISAT-ICAR-NAIP sweet sorghum ethanol value chain development project

The need for alternative markets and product development was stressed during the third annual review meeting of the ICRISAT-ICAR-NAIP sweet sorghum ethanol value chain development project, held at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 11-12 March. Attended by consortium partners from national and international organizations/universities, farmer representatives from project villages and Aakruthi Agricultural Associates of India (AAAI), and ICRISAT scientists, the meeting involved reviewing the progress of work in 2010 and devising work plans for 2011-2012.

Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, Director, Dryland Cereals Program, welcomed the participants and highlighted the importance of energy along with food security considering rising fossil fuel prices in the international market. Dr Vincent Vadez, Assistant Director, gave a brief account of the focus of the program and the importance of its biofuels portfolio in helping smallholder farmers.

Sweet sorghum value chain Participants of the meeting.

Presenting the project’s progress in 2010-11, Consortium Principal Investigator Belum Reddy challenged team members to strive to enhance on-farm yields, make the crop profitable to farmers, and enhance syrup recovery. He also appreciated the work of the team members for various accomplishments like innovations made to modify crusher rollers to suit sweet sorghum stalk, achieving the targeted juice output of 350 liters per ton of stalk, attaining a record syrup output of 65 kg per ton of stalk, and reducing overall syrup production costs by 22%.

Mr ST Borikar, Chairman, Consortium Advisory Committee (CAC) expressed his appreciation of the progress made by the team in making the value chain workable and suggested steps to make it more sustainable. He recommended exploring alternative markets and product development for sweet sorghum syrup to make the crop more profitable for farmers.

After the deliberations, consolidated work plans for 2011-12 were developed and approved, to be published as a special document.

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A blueprint for grain legumes
Five Centers Meet in Dubai for Grain Legumes CRP Proposal

CRP Representatives from five centers lay out the blueprint for grain legumes.

The significance of working together cannot be overemphasized. Intent on pursuing an innovative and holistic direction to improve international partnerships, five centers (AVRDC, CIAT, ICARDA, IITA, and ICRISAT) working on grain legume crops, met from 10-13 March in Dubai to revise their joint proposal for a CGIAR Research Program (CRP). ICRISAT was represented by Dave Hoisington, Peter Ninnes, CLL Gowda, Pooran Gaur and Mark Winslow.

The CGIAR currently improves 11 different legume crops and collectively constitutes the world’s strongest grain legume improvement effort. Discussions focused on strengthening the rationale for a Grain Legumes CRP based on the comparative advantages of these crops for reducing poverty, hunger, malnutrition/ill health, and environmental degradation across all the CGIAR’s agro-ecosystems where these crops fit. Program thrusts will be built around these four strong targets, which correspond to the newly-approved CGIAR System Level Outcomes.

The meeting identified strong advantages to be gained by the centers from working together on key constraints and opportunities such as genetic correspondence (synteny) between genes for disease, insect and stress resistance, yield and other traits; geospatial mapping of target environments and climate change-legume interactions; socio-economic and value-chain modeling; and seed systems among others. The revised proposal is now under intensive development and will be submitted to the Consortium Board in early May.

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HOPE Project Management Team meets in Naivasha, Kenya


The Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) Project Management Team held a two-day meeting in Naivasha, Kenya, on 1-2 March, followed by a field day at the KARI-Kiboko Field Research Station on 3 March. The meeting sought to review year 1 project activities, determine how unmet objectives can be realized in year 2, and ensure that the project as a whole is on track.

Aiming to improve the project’s visibility, Ms Nadia Manning-Thomas, a Knowledge Sharing Specialist with CGIAR ICT-KM, was invited to share ideas on needs and opportunities for research communication for internal and external audiences, and possible tools for enhancing visibility and knowledge sharing.

The team agreed to mainstream the gender plan into the project, as well as to invite the Project Advisory Board to participate in regional meetings and visit on-going activities within the region.

ICRISAT DDG-R Dave Hoisington concluded the meeting by expressing his optimism that the project would go back on track, and encouraged the team to continue working together with openness and commitment.

Field Day at Kiboko


At the Kiboko Field Research Station, Dr Mary Mgonja gave participants an overview of ICRISAT’s on-going cereals research that targets a total of 20 countries. Participants were also shown seed increase plots for sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet to demonstrate the effective linkage between breeding and management objectives with improved production. Discussions centered around the importance of sorghum hybrids, drought-tolerant varieties, and identifying materials suitable for southern Sudan.

Representing the partners, Dr Paul Kimurto, Egerton University, praised the excellent collaboration between ICRISAT, the NARS and the private sector not only under the HOPE Project but in all aspects of improving agriculture in the drylands. Dr Farid Waliyar, ICRISAT Director, WCA, gave his concluding remarks on behalf of the Management Group.

An Agri-entrepreneur’s Plea

HOPE Dr Riera-Lizarazu leads the wrap-up discussion during the field tour.

“This is the future,” said Mr Jacob Githigi, Agribusiness Manager of East African Malting Ltd (EAML), referring to sorghum hybrids and their potential to increase crop productivity and link farmers to markets. During the Kiboko field day wrap-up discussion led by Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, Director, Dryland Cereals, Mr Githigi raised concerns about low-yielding varieties grown by farmers. He pointed out that while his company had started producing lager beer using sorghum, the brewery was constrained by inadequate supply, 8,000 tons of sorghum grain from farmers as against the company’s target of 24,000 tons. He urged ICRISAT scientists to remain committed to the speedy release and ensure accessibility of quality seeds of sorghum hybrids.

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