No. 1481 26 August 2011

ICRISAT in the 2nd Asian PGPR Conference
Harnessing bio-products for sustainable agriculture

Dr William Dar addressing the participants of the 2nd Asian PGPR Conference in Beijing, China.

Today’s global challenges are getting bigger, making daunting demands on agriculture to address worldwide food and energy security, food safety, human health, environmental sustainability, and improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Addressing the issue of producing more and better food for a ballooning global population, Director General William Dar spoke at the 2nd Asian Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) Conference held on 21-24 August in Beijing, China.

In his keynote address, Dr Dar emphasized the vital role of PGPR-based products such as bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides for sustainable agriculture. “Clearly, further increases in food production must be generated by the sustained use of ecologically sound, socially equitable, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable technologies such as PGPR-based products,” he stressed.

Dr Dar added that with an increasing pressure on agriculture to produce more food comes intensive cultivation and increased use of agrochemicals. This has resulted in the depletion of non-renewable resources and problems of toxic residues, pesticide resistance and resurgence of secondary pests.

“The use of bio-products is rising steadily in all parts of the world. Extensive and systematic research has enhanced the effectiveness of bio-products, and as a result farmers and growers are using them in greater quantities,” he noted.

Dr Dar also stressed that bio-products are particularly beneficial to smallholder farmers in the dryland tropics. Biological options of crop protection and production mitigate the increasing cost and negative effects of chemical pesticides and fertilizers particularly in dryland faming systems.

The conference was attended by about 200 participants from 20 countries in Asia, Canada, Europe, Mexico and USA. It was hosted by the Asian PGPR Society and organized by the Biocontrol Committee of the Chinese Society for Plant Pathology and the Department of Plant Pathology, China Agricultural University.

The inaugural session was chaired by Dr Zhaohu Li, Vice-President of the China Agricultural University, with Dr Munagala S Reddy, Chairman of the Asian PGPR Society welcoming the participants. Drs CLL Gowda and Hari Sudini of ICRISAT also attended the conference.

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ICRISAT joins forum on sorghum for agricultural development

Participants at the National Sorghum Transformation Initiative Stakeholders Forum.

The ICRISAT-WCA team in Nigeria led by Country Representative Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, participated in the Nigeria Presidential initiative on sorghum transformation stakeholders forum on 17 August in Abuja, Nigeria.

The major objectives of this initiative are to: tap into the existing low industrialization and rising market demand for sorghum in the country; increase sorghum productivity; create employment opportunity for the youth; and reduce malnutrition and poverty in the affected regions (North-east and North-west zones of the country).

In her opening remarks, Mrs Fatima BA Bamidele, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said, “The Federal Government of Nigeria intends to diversify the revenue away from overdependence on oil and gas into non-oil sectors. She added that “given Nigeria’s enormous agricultural potential, this sector is central to national transformation and in overcoming the challenges of reducing poverty and enhancing food security in the country.” She also stressed that initiatives are now ongoing to improve production of crops such as cotton, rice and tomato, as well as that of livestock and aquaculture sectors.

During the forum, five working groups were formed to address various areas of the sorghum value-chain transformation. ICRISAT was well represented in the research and development group, which addressed issues related to seed and seed distribution.

The Institute also participated in the capacity development, monitoring and evaluation group which addressed issues on capacity development and staff training of seed companies and seed growers; sharing of sorghum production technologies; and collection, collation, analysis and exchange of transformation information along the value-chain.

The meeting brought together 75 participants composed of scientists from the Nigerian NARES, seed companies, processors, industrialists, farmer unions, national and international NGOs and international agricultural research and development organizations.

Prof AB Obilana (former ICRISAT sorghum breeder) was appointed Team Leader of the Presidential Initiative.

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Pursuing public-private partnership
Pioneer Hi-Bred – ICRISAT discuss potential areas of collaboration

The Pioneer Hi-Bred team in a meeting with ICRISAT senior staff led by DDG-R Dave Hoisington to identify key priority research areas for possible collaboration.

Following up on a recent exploratory visit to develop collaborative activities with ICRISAT, a six-member team from Pioneer Hi-Bred, A DuPont Business based in Hyderabad visited ICRISAT-Patancheru on 23 August. The team consisted of: Ajit Nott, Group Leader,Trait Enabling Technologies; RS Mahala, Research Coordinator; Valasubramanian, Lead, Trait Characterization and Development; Eshwar Burgoni,Territory Production Lead; Amitabh Mohanty, Group Leader, Ag Traits; and Suchismita Roy, Communications Manager.

The visitors were met by DDG-R Dave Hoisington, who gave an overview of ICRISAT’s research-for-development activities, along with Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, Peter Ninnes, Kiran Sharma, KB Saxena, HD Upadhyaya, Mamta Sharma, KN Rai, Rajeev Varshney, Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur, L Krishnamurty and Cristina Bejosano.

The Pioneer Hi-Bred team viewing ICRISAT crop varieties at the SatVenture.

The key areas for collaboration identified during the meeting include: development of a genotype-independent haploid production system for pearl millet and other crops; lepidopteran control for pigeonpea; seed production technology for pigeonpea; technical training on event selections and other regulatory aspects of transgenic crops; awareness program on the application of biotech crops; and biofuels.

The Pioneer Hi-Bred team visited ICRISAT’s gene bank, applied genomics laboratory, and rainout shelter facility. Drs Kiran Sharma and Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur also gave the visitors a briefing/tour of PTTC and its translational research initiatives on transgenic crops and genetic engineering.

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Suvarna Bhoomi Yojane team building and review workshop

(L to R) Mrs Hemalatha, Director DoH; Honorable Minister of Horticulture Mr SA Ravindranath; Mrs Vandita Sharma, Principal Secretary and Dr SP Wani during the release of the INM brochure for the SBY(H) program.

Encouraged by the success of the Bhoochetana program in Karnataka, ICRISAT’s watershed team now provides technical support to yet another initiative – the Suvarna Bhoomi Yojane, Horticulture or SBY(H).

Under the scheme, over 250,000 smallholder farmers were granted cash incentives by the Government of Karnataka. ICRISAT’s watershed team was tapped to help these farmers to shift from production of low-value crops to high-value vegetables, fruits and spices.

The project commenced in June with the provision of technical support to farmer beneficiaries and the collection of baseline data from 1600 field trials in different villages demonstrating productivity enhancement of high-value crops.

The scheme is consistent with ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach that seeks to empower smallholder farmers to grow their way out of poverty through market-oriented agriculture.

As part of the SBY(H) initiative, a team building-cum-review workshop was held on 18 August in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Giving the welcome and opening messages were Dr DL Maheshwar, Additional Director, Department of Horticulture (DoH) and Mrs Vandita Sharma, Principal Secretary, Government of Karnataka, respectively.

Dr SP Wani presented the project’s progress and identified areas that need to be strengthened to enhance the impact of the scheme. District representatives from the Department of Horticulture also reported on progress and issues to be addressed.

Mr SA Ravindranath, Minister of Horticulture, Government of Karnataka joined the workshop during the review process and led in releasing the brochure on ICRISAT-DoH-SBY(H) consortium on integrated nutrient management.

The SBY(H) consortium formed by the ICRISAT team is composed of 22 partners from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, Raichur, Dharwad; University of Horticulture, Bagalkot; Bengaluru University; Indian Institute of Horticultural Research; NGOs; private companies like the Jain Irrigation Systems; and line departments of the Government of Karnataka.

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HR heads of CGIAR Centers in Asia meet in Bangkok

CGIAR Asia HR Heads during the meeting in Bangkok.

FOLLOWING THE 2012 inter-Center training and development calendar for Asia-based Centers, a CGIAR Asia Human Resources (HR) heads meeting was held on 18-19 August in Bangkok, Thailand.

Hosted by CIFOR, the meeting was attended by seven HR heads, namely, Fiona Farrell (IRRI), Christine Croombes (IWMI), Liza Velasquez Moore (CIFOR), Idah Ogoso (ICRAF), Susheela Sabaratnam (WorldFish), Raj NP (ICARDA), and Hector Hernandez (ICRISAT).

Among the issues discussed were benchmarking of HR policies, especially on medical insurance for Nationally Recruited Staff, and Van Breda and Medex coverage for Internationally Recruited Staff.

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Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies holds workshop for TL-II

Participants during the workshop deliberations.

As part of the BMGF-funded Tropical Legumes-ll (TL-ll) project, the Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies (RP-MIP)organized an Economist and Breeders Workshop on 18-19 August at ICRISAT-Patancheru. RP-MIP is executing Objective 1 of the project on Targeting crop breeding and seed delivery efforts to enhance the impact on the livelihood of the poor in drought-prone regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

During the workshop, MIP Research Program Director Dr Cynthia Bantilan highlighted the importance of the TL-ll project in significantly improving the productivity of grain legumes in Asia. She added that the project’s mission-mode approach has led to increased incomes of poor farmers in the targeted areas of the region.

With the next phase of the project soon to commence, she called upon partners/collaborators to be more proactive in synthesizing project outputs for better and more meaningful policy prescription.

Participants of the TL-ll workshop.

Workshop presentations include PVS trials, early adoption, farmers’ preferences, monitoring and evaluation, impact assessment and lessons learned by partners in each of the mandated crops, namely chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra. ICRISAT breeders Drs SN Nigam and Janila (groundnut), and Drs M Mula and Arvind (seed systems and chickpea) participated in the session. Drs Nagaraj, Amarender Reddy and Basavaraj also contributed to the deliberations and in refining project outputs for seed delivery mechanism and institutional and policy implications.

The closing session chaired by Dr Bantilan and Dr Uttam Deb elicited new ideas for research priorities and direction for the second-phase implementation of TL-ll. Mr GD Nageswara Rao, project coordinator, organized the meeting.

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Case study on ICRISAT bags 2nd prize in ISB-Ivey Case Competition

Turnaround of ICRISAT: Transformational Leadership of Dr William D Dar – A Case Study bagged the 2nd prize in the Indian School of Business (ISB) and Richard Ivey School of Business (Ivey) Case Competition 2011. The case was written by Sunita Mehta, Senior Assistant Professor, Vishwa Vishwani Institute of Systems and Management along with Wg Cdr SK Sharma, COO, Indian Air Force, Centre for Leadership and Behavioral Sciences.

The case describes the various adversities which Dr Dar and Team ICRISAT turned into opportunities when he took over the reins of the institute. It also discusses his previous stints in the Philippines in various capacities and the style of leadership he pursued during those times.

The annual competition organized by the Community Technology Learning Center (CTLC) is conducted with the twin objectives of coming up with high-quality internationally benchmarked cases about Indian businesses and providing a platform for mentorship of Indian case writers by world-class faculty from Ivey and the ISB.

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Seminar on New Frontiers in Information for Development

MR SARWAT HUSSAIN, Senior Communications Officer and Hub Leader, Africa Region Strategic Communications, The World Bank, USA, delivered a seminar on the topic New Frontiers in Information for Development: The World Bank’s Open Data Initiative on 24 August as part of the Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) seminar series. A former staff of ICRISAT, Mr Sarwat’s seminar was well attended particularly by former colleagues who take pride in his impressive and inspiring story – rising from the ranks to become a key figure in The World Bank’s strategic communication initiatives.

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