No. 1467 20 May 2011

Feeding the world
ICRISAT germplasm materials making impact on global food security


A total of 735 highly-nutritious and drought-tolerant crop varieties developed using germplasm and breeding materials from ICRISAT has been released in 78 countries, significantly contributing to increased income and better nutrition of resource-poor people in the dryland tropics.

ICRISAT’s substantial contribution to global food security over the last three decades was evident from the recent report on varieties released by National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) worldwide.

Using ICRISAT germplasm and breeding materials, 735 varieties/hybrids have been released by the NARS as of December 2010: sorghum - 242; pearl millet - 163; groundnut - 145; chickpea - 120; and pigeonpea - 65. Of these, 347 are in Asia (198 in India); 319 in sub-Saharan Africa (183 in East & Southern Africa and 136 in West & Central Africa); and 69 in the rest of the world.


The collaborative research partnership between India and ICRISAT has been particularly productive, as illustrated in the release of 198 improved varieties of sorghum (35), pearl millet (80), chickpea (36), pigeonpea (21) and groundnut (26) by national- or state-level release committees or by private sector seed companies, raising production and incomes of millions of smallholder farmers in the country.

On the varietal release report, ICRISAT Director General William D Dar said, “We are pleased that our germplasm and breeding materials are contributing to global food security. We congratulate all national program partners and ICRISAT scientists for this accomplishment. Through partnership-based international agricultural research-for-development that embodies Science with a Human Face, ICRISAT will continue to work for the improvement of the well-being of millions of smallholder farmers, particularly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.”

Grain legumes such as groundnut, pigeonpea and chickpea are susceptible to pests and diseases. This increases the risk for smallholder farmers and limits the adoption of improved cultivars. ICRISAT has scored important successes in this area and continues to battle these biotic constraints in an integrated way, by including breeding for resistance as well as the judicious use of biological, crop management and chemical control methods.

ICRISAT and its Indian partner institutions’ creation of the world’s first hybrid pigeonpea is now making major impacts on the income and nutrition of many poor people worldwide. These hybrids increase yield by an average of 33% in on-farm trials, adding about US$ 400 to net income per hectare. This will revolutionize the production of the high-protein ‘poor people’s meat’ crop across India, Myanmar and China in the coming years.


Earlier-maturing, heat-tolerant high-value chickpea varieties from ICRISAT, particularly JG 11, have more than doubled yields, from 600 to 1400 kg/ha in Andhra Pradesh state, India, stimulating a four-fold increase in sown area from 160,000 to 630,000 hectares. The added value of grain is US$69 million annually, reaped by 6 million people in rural farm households.

In Anantapur (India), where over 50% of farm income comes from groundnut, the new variety ICGV 91114 from ICRISAT increases yield by 23% and is characterized by its drought tolerance, higher-value large seeds, more uniform harvest maturity, disease tolerance and greater palatability of haulms (straw) for livestock. An estimated additional 42,000 tons of groundnut is being produced annually, worth US$ 3.7 million to 30,000 farm households (150,000 people). Net income from this crop increases by 35%, on the average 1.5 ha groundnut field area per farmer, worth an extra US$ 110. Cows fed on these haulms produce 11% more milk. By 2020, the impact of this variety in Anantapur is projected to increase to 35% from 0.75 million hectares of groundnut.

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Government of Karnataka – ICRISAT partnership
Bhoochetana initiative extended to 2012

Recognizing the importance of rainfed agriculture in achieving food security and reducing poverty, the Government of Karnataka recently renewed its partnership with ICRISAT by extending the Bhoochetana watershed initiative to 2011-2012.

Bhoochetana File picture of the 2009 inauguration of Bhoochetana.

Initially covering only six districts in Karnataka, the extended program will now cover all 25 districts, including irrigated farms. The program highlights the importance of a new paradigm for sustainable intensification of rainfed agriculture through integrated management of water, land and other resources at watershed scale.

This partnership started with a pilot project in 2009 through the Sujala Watershed initiative. ICRISAT’s pilot studies in the six districts for three cropping seasons clearly demonstrated the potential to double rainfed crop productivity by providing taluk-wise soil test-based recommendations for different crops based on stratified soil sampling and analysis and nutrient status mapping using GIS interpolation techniques. Soil fertility maps showing widespread deficiencies of zinc, boron and sulfur were prepared for the six districts.

Bhoochetana A farmer in his maize field in Kotur, Dharwad.

Findings from the pilot study became the basis for the launch of a mission mode project named “Bhoochetana” to enhance the productivity of rainfed crops in 25 districts using science-led interventions through the consortium approach.

The overall goal of the Bhoochetana program is to increase average productivity of selected crops in the 25 districts by 20% in four years. It also aims to scale-up best-bet options (soil, crop and water management and improved cultivars); train Department of Agriculture (DoA) staff in stratified soil sampling in villages, analysis of macro- and micronutrients, and preparation of GIS-based soil maps; and build capacity of the stakeholders (farmers and consortium partners) in sustainable management of natural resources to enhance productivity in dryland areas.

A consortium of various line departments (Watershed Development Department, Department of Statistics and Economics), three state agricultural universities (Bangalore, Raichur and Dharwad) and the DoA (nodal agency for the mission project) was formed by the ICRISAT watershed team to implement the program.

Under the Bhoochetana program for 2011-12, 2.8 million ha will be under improved management practices to enhance crop productivity. The initiative receives technical support from the ICRISAT watershed team led by SP Wani, particularly in developing a good scaling-up model through science-led interventions to benefit small and marginal farmers. 

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ICRISAT hosts data management training for VDSA Bangladesh team


The Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) Project, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by ICRISAT-IRRI-NCAP in partnership with national institutes in Bangladesh and India, successfully organized a week-long training program on 9-13 May on Data Entry and Management at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

During the opening session, HRO Director Hector Hernandez and MIP Director Cynthia Bantilan reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment towards capacity building of its partners and team members. Apart from discussing data warehousing, data gathering on anthropometric variables, analysis of data and preparation of village profiles, the program also tackled issues pertaining to collection, processing and management of meso-level (district) data.

The training program was organized with a view to enhancing the data management capacity of the VDSA project in Bangladesh. It was designed to provide participants skills in: (1) creating, customizing and modifying data dictionary, data entry screens, and the ability to apply logic to control the data entry in CSPro; (2) data capture and data editing; and (3) generating tables and converting CSPro data to Excel, SPSS, STATA, etc.

Five members from Socioconsult Ltd. (Alamgir Chowdhury, John Marandy, Md. Mokhlesur Rahman, Golam Mindia Chowdhury and Md. Sarowar Hossain) and two members from IRRI-Bangladesh (Humnath Bhandari and Taznoor Samina Khanam) participated in the program.

K Ravi Chand, KV Anupama, K Kavitha, P Parthasarathy Rao, LM Pandey, E Jagdeesh and Uttam Deb served as resource persons during the training.

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CRS explores partnership opportunities with ICRISAT

Dr Totobesola (left) of CRS with ICRISAT scientists.

ICRISAT-Sadoré on 13 May received officials from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Sahel region. The officials included Dr Mireille Totobesola, CRS Technical Advisor for Agriculture, Sahel region; Mr Ousseini Sountalma, Marketing Specialist responsible for CRS Niger agriculture program; and Dr Boukary, Hama Coordinator of Projet Filières Sésame-oignon et Gombo in Niger.

The discussions focused on possibilities for joint project proposals to donors on improved cereals and vegetables. Highlights of the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project and the ICRISAT-AVRDC joint programs were presented. The visitors had a field tour of the Sadoré centre.

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ABI-ICRISAT enrolls new entrepreneurs under SBV program


ABI-ICRISAT strongly believes in developing and promoting rural seed business ventures at village level through public, private and people partnerships (PPPP) in order to bridge the demand-supply gap of open pollinated quality seeds. Towards this objective, the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program on 17 May conducted interviews to select the 4th batch of seed business venture (SBV) entrepreneurs. SBV is an initiative of Aakruthi Agricultural Associates of India (AAAI), an implementing partner of the SBV program in the Rayalseema region of Andhra Pradesh.

Around 10 applicants from 5 Andhra Pradesh districts, Kurnool, Mahaboobnagar, Anantapur, YSR district of Kadapa and Nizamabad attended the program held at the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP). The selection process was preceded by a program in which ABI-ICRISAT gave the entrepreneurs insights into the functioning of the seed business ventures program and its benefits to the farming community.

A total of six entrepreneurs were selected, for whom a training program is scheduled on 23-24 May at ICRISAT-Patancheru. The SBV program currently hosts 110 entrepreneurs (65 from Tamil Nadu and 45 from Andhra Pradesh).

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Tom Hash takes up a new assignment in Sadoré!

Tom Hash

C Tom Hash has taken up a new assignment leading the pearl millet improvement team based at ICRISAT-Sadoré, following the recent departure of Bettina Haussmann.

Tom has served ICRISAT for 25 years in various capacities related to cereal breeding, most recently leading activities on molecular marker development, and use of molecular markers in diversity assessment, QTL mapping, and marker-assisted selection of sorghum and pearl millet based at ICRISAT-Patancheru. With collaborators at Haryana Agricultural University, his team at Patancheru succeeded in developing the first public sector-bred product of DNA marker-assisted selection (in any crop) to be released for cultivation in India – the pearl millet hybrid HHB 67 Improved. This hybrid has been rapidly adopted by the seed industry and farmers as a higher yielding and more disease resistant version of previously popular hybrid HHB 67 that succumbed to downy mildew disease.

Priority areas for his mission in West Africa will be strengthening conventional breeding efforts in the region by enhancing disease screening capabilities, integrating marker-assisted breeding tools into on-going population improvement and hybrid development activities, and improving linkages with the developing seed industry.

Team ICRISAT congratulates Tom and wishes him all the best in his new responsibility.

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USAID officials visit Sadoré


ON 16 MAY, USAID officials visited ICRISAT-Sadoré to further enhance collaboration between the two parties. The visitors included Mrs Lisa Franchett, Deputy Mission Director for Accra; Mr William Noble, USAID Niger Country Program Manager; and Mr K Aboubakar, USAID Niger and Senior Program Assistant.

WCA Director Farid Waliyar gave an overview of ICRISAT’s various programs in the region, laying emphasis on the Institute’s new strategic plan to 2020 and the approaches planned to help farmers reap the benefits of market-oriented agriculture.

Discussions concerning the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) project, WASA Seed project and AGRA microdose project and breeding were led by Drs Robert Zougmore, Paul Bukner, Mahamadou Gandah and Tom Hash.

ICRISAT and USAID agreed to work on joint proposals by ICRISAT, the Centre Régional de Formation et d’Application en Agro météorologie et Hydrologie Opérationnelle (AGRYHMET), the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD), and the WASA Seed project.

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