No. 1480 19 August 2011

Roundtable meet discusses climate-resilient rainfed agriculture

(Left to right) Mr JK Tandon, CEO, Corporate Sustainability, Jindal Steel Works (JSW); DG William Dar; and Dr AK Singh, DDG, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) at the Roundtable on Climate Change and Rainfed Farming Systems.

Climate change is indeed around the corner. In Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh, the area has turned ‘arid’ from ‘semi-arid’ over the last thirty years. Within a season, crops can be grown only within 10-15 days. Another case is Parbhani in Maharashtra, where due to extreme temperatures, sorghum may not grow in the postrainy season in 10-15 years.

Providing sustainable and science-based solutions and pro-poor approaches to climate change adaptation was the focus of the Roundtable on Climate Change and Rainfed Faming Systems held at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 16 August. In this event, discussions focused on how to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies to manage risk and protect the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers who live in rainfed regions.

Inaugurating the roundtable, Director General William Dar said, “Much more than crop yield and quality, climate change will have far-reaching consequences for agriculture that will disproportionately affect poor and marginalized groups who depend on the sector for their livelihoods and have a lower capacity to adapt.”

(Left) Dr Dar highlighting the importance of community participation in tackling climate change and (right) Dr SP Wani responding to queries at the press meet.

Dr Dar also emphasized that “climate-related crop failures, fishery collapses and livestock deaths already cause economic losses and undermine food security, and these are likely to become more severe as global warming continues.” He cited a recent study which estimates that the annual costs of adapting to climate change in the agricultural sector to be over US$ 7 billion.

Sixty five scientists representing international and national research institutions, government departments, civil society organizations and private companies came together at this event organized by ICRISAT with the JSW-Times of India Earth Care Initiatives 2011.

Well-known panelists during the meeting included Dr AK Singh, Deputy Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); Dr PK Joshi, Senior Program Manager, IFPRI; Dr B Venkateswarlu, Director, CRIDA; Dr Sachin Oza, Executive Director, Development Support Center; Dr SB Dandin, Vice Chancellor of the University of Horticulture; Mr JK Tandon, CEO, Corporate Sustainability, Jindal Steel Works (JSW); Mr Biswanath Sinha, Sir Dorabji Tata Trust; Mr Gopichandran Ramachandran, Gujarat Energy Research & Management Institute (GERMI); and Mr Mukund Gorakshkar of JSW.

Participants of the Roundtable.

Among the areas covered by the roundtable were adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with the impacts of climate change; climate change and its impact on water management; building resilience of communities through institutional and policy innovations; developing social capital in rainfed areas; climate-resilient rainfed agriculture initiatives in India; industry and development dilemmas; and emerging issues in dryland agriculture related to climate change.

The roundtable was followed by a press meet where Dr Dar and the panel members answered queries from journalists. Dr Dar highlighted the importance of community participation and integrated watershed management approach as an entry point for building resilient natural resources and communities to cope with the challenges of climate change.

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Training in molecular markers strengthens capacity of partners in ESA

A scientist learning laboratory procedures in Striga management.

Striga hermonthica infests cereal-based cropping systems in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to manage the weed have led to control options and now the biology of the weed, the mechanisms of resistance and the effects on the host plants are much better understood.

With a view to providing an extensive theoretical background on the use of molecular markers in crop improvement, with a focus on Striga and sorghum, two training workshops were recently conducted in Nairobi at ILRI/BecA on 25-30 July and 1-5 August.

The first was supported by ASARECA in collaboration with the African Biodiversity Conservation and Innovation Centre (ABCIC), which is led by former ICRISAT scientist Dr Dan Kiambi. The second workshop was funded by the BBSRC-SARID project in collaboration with Prof Julie Scholes of Sheffield University.

We vow to eradicate Striga, say these enthusiastic trainees at the courses held in ILRI/BecA at Nairobi.

Conducted by ICRISAT scientists Santie de Villiers, Santosh Deshpande, Henry Ojulong and McDonald Jumbo, together with Dan Kiambi and Julie Scholes, the courses focused on sorghum as a crop and on understanding and mitigating Striga infestation as a biotic constraint to productivity. Both courses were attended by about 14 scientists from the region, including Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Kenya.

The complexity of the parasite and the progress made at Sheffield University on phenotyping systems to study Striga attachment and resistance mechanisms were discussed. Participants were exposed to and trained in laboratory procedures for leaf sample preparation and shipment, DNA extraction, DNA quantity and quality tests, electrophoresis and SSR genotyping. They also gained insights into marker-assisted trait introgression, and genotyping data analysis using PowerMarker and DARwin, and were introduced to QTL mapping. The latest developments and technologies available for genotyping and genomics were also discussed.

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HOPE training on value chains, technology utilization and M&E held

A training course on ‘Value Chains, Adoption, Monitoring & Evaluation and Impact Assessment’ was held at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 10-12 August under the aegis of the HOPE project. HOPE aims to increase sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet yields for targeted farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by 35-40% in its first four years. This is to be achieved by enabling and motivating farmers to plant improved varieties and related management practices through the development of markets and value chains from input supplies to output markets.

The program was attended by project partners from Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) and Marathwada Agricultural University (MAU), Maharashtra; Rajasthan Agricultural University (RAU), Rajasthan; Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU), Gujarat; and Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Haryana.

Welcoming the participants, Dryland Cereals Program Director Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu highlighted the importance of the training to achieve the project’s objectives. In her inaugural address, MIP Program Director Dr Cynthia Bantilan laid emphasis on strategic ways to achieve goals set under the project, and measuring impacts to gauge the success of project interventions. The project coordinators of Objectives 1 and 5, P Parthasarathy Rao and N Nagaraj respectively, presented the outline and importance of the training program.

Participants of the HOPE training course on Value Chains, Adoption, Monitoring & Evaluation and Impact Assessment held at Patancheru.

The training program on value chains was led by Dr Parthasarathy Rao with support from resource persons Radhika Rani, National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD); G P Reddy, National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM); Aravazhi Selvaraj (ABI- ICRISAT); B Dayakar Rao, Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR); and Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar (NutriPlus Knowledge Program). Basavaraj from ICRISAT gave a presentation on calculation of margins and costs along the value chain.

The training on Adoption, M&E and Impact Assessment was led by N Nagaraj with support from K Palanisami (IWMI) who delivered a talk on evaluation of development programs/projects using economic surplus methods. The highlight was a lecture by Jeff Davis (former Program Leader, Impact Assessment and Policy Linkage, ACIAR) on methodologies for impact assessment including spillover impacts.

A half-day discussion on reviewing the third year’s work plans for Objectives 1, 5 and 6 was also conducted with the partners, scientists and other related staff.

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The agribusiness sun rises in the East Zone

Dr Satapathy (Director, NIRJAFT) handing over a certificate of registration to Mr Hasin Sk. Yasin
(a farm innovator) from Malda. Also seen are Mr SM Karuppanchetty (extreme left), Mr Subrata Rana of EcoDev Consulting (far right) and Dr RC Agrawal, National Coordinator-Component 1, NAIP.

An agribusiness development camp was held at the National Institute of Research on Jute and Allied Fibre Technology (NIRJAFT), Kolkata, on 11 August, jointly conducted by the Zonal Technology Management-Business Planning and Development (ZTM-BPD) unit of NIRJAFT and the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program of ICRISAT. NIRJAFT’s ZTM-BPD is a co-business incubation partner of ABI-ICRISAT through the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI) of the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP).

The camp was conducted to identify and promote agribusiness ventures with high potential developed by NIRJAFT and 16 Central Research Institutes in the East Zone and support agri-entrepreneurs with innovative ideas.

Welcoming the participants, NIRJAFT Director Dr KK Satapathy elaborated on the objectives of the camp and related modalities. The Vice Chancellor of West Bengal University of Animal & Fishery Sciences, Prof Chandrasekhar Chakrabarty, was the Chief Guest.

In his address during the opening session, NAIP National Director Dr Bangali Baboo commended ABI-ICRISAT for making NIABI a supportive network for promoting agribusiness in the country. ABI-ICRISAT was represented by SM Karuppanchetty, COO, ABI-ICRISAT and Jonathan Philroy.

Attended by about 140 people including 67 entrepreneurs, scientists, resource people, media representatives and support staff, the camp had interactive sessions on jute technologies, agribusiness, farm business and agri-innovations, with discussions on the technicalities and business potential of the technologies on offer. The session detailed the services being offered through business incubation.

The event also had an agri-exhibition showcasing technologies on seeds and planting materials, fisheries, farm engineering, dairy, animal husbandry, post-harvest technologies and management. They represented four theme areas from ABI-ICRISAT, Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA), Central Research Institute for Jute and Allied Fibres (CRIJAF), Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI), Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), National Research Centre (NRC) on Yak, NRC on Pig, NRC on Mithun and NRC on Litchi.

Of the 14 participants who were interested in taking up various technologies, three made spot registrations with ZTM-BPD to utilize its services, from which a revenue of Rs 4 lakhs is expected to be generated. The three were given certificates of registration. Seven participants registered for agro-technologies, four took up farm business ventures, two agribusiness innovations and one jute technology.

In his closing remarks, Dr KK Satapathy appreciated ABI-ICRISAT’s efforts in planning and conducting the camp and ensuring the targets were achieved.

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A bestseller on chickpea and lentil diseases!

The “Compendium on Diseases and Insect Pests of Chickpea and Lentil”, edited by Weidong Chen, HC Sharma and Fred Muehlbauer, earned the status of a bestseller in the American Phytopathological Society, USA in 2011. With contributions from 81 scientists worldwide, and a joint foreword by Dr WD Dar, DG, ICRISAT and Mahmoud Solh, DG,ICARDA, the publication describes 40 diseases and insect pests of chickpea and lentil, serving as a guide for researchers, extension agencies, administrators, and farmers.


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ICRISAT-ESA staff undergo AGROBASE training

A training session on AGROBASE Generation II software in progress in Nairobi.

ICRISAT-ESA staff involved in plant breeding and agronomy participated in a four-day training course on 9-12 August at the ICRISAT Nairobi office in Gigiri on the use of AGROBASE Generation II software. The course was conducted by Dr Dieter Mulitze, president and founding CEO of Agronomix Software Inc. based in Winnipeg. Dr Mulitze has been developing plant breeding software since the 1970s and has been conducting such training courses for AGROBASE since 1990. The software is extremely important for data management and analysis for plant scientists, agronomists and plant breeders.

In his welcome address, ESA Director Dr Said Silim spelt out the problems the Institute has had to confront with archiving data due to the lack of a standard format for data capturing, leading to loss of crucial information.

Participants were given proficiency training in the use of the software. The topics covered included design and management of research groups and experiments; development of planting plans; data manipulation; data analysis; varietal comparisons; generating crosses for various breeding schemes (plant breeding system) and seed inventory; among others.

Scientists, agronomists and plant breeders who took part in the training course.

According to Trushar Shah, Bioinformatics scientist at ICRISAT, “the purpose of the exercise is to strengthen data management at the institutional level and improve efficiency and consistency.” The software has several benefits and will offer the scientists comprehensive solutions, thereby saving on time, money and effort.

Dr Ganga Rao, one of the participants had this to say, post-training: “The software is very useful for plant breeding experiments – from the design of planting plans, data collection up to analysis and varietal selection”.

Similar workshops are scheduled in WCA and Asia.

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ICRISAT at Agri-Intex 2011

ICAR DG Dr S Ayyappan (far right) at the ICRISAT stall at Agri Intex 2011 in Coimbatore.

ICRISAT participated in the International Agricultural Trade Event ‘Agri-Intex 2011’ held from 28 to 31 July at the Coimbatore District Small Industries Association (CODISSIA) Trade Fair Complex, Coimbatore, at which its Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) program was showcased. The event was jointly organized by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) and CODISSIA and inaugurated by Dr P Murugesa Boopathy, Vice-Chancellor, TNAU. Dr S Ayyappan, Secretary (DARE) & Director General, ICAR was the chief guest for the valedictory meet.

Agri-Intex is an International Expo in South India that exhibits cutting-edge technologies which are fuelling the new revolution in agriculture and its allied practices, especially in the areas of irrigation technology and farm mechanization.

The event served as a platform to promote activities of the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program of AIP-ICRISAT and its partner institutions or Business Planning and Development Units (BPDs) under the Network of India Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI). A NIABI stall was set up at the venue, which was represented by SM Karuppanchetty of ABI-ICRISAT. Many prospective entrepreneurs were identified for incubation services under different BPD units during the event. Dr Ayyappan visited the pavilions of NIABI and the BPD unit of TNAU and interacted with the incubatees. More than 300 agro-companies participated in the event.

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