No. 1485 23 September 2011

Better crops for poor farmers
Generation Challenge Programme Phase II holds Meeting in Hyderabad

Inaugural program of the GCP GRM. Inset (left) GCP Director Jean-Marcel Ribaut giving the opening remarks and (right) Peter Ninnes, Director, Resource Planning & Marketing, delivering the welcome remarks on behalf of ICRISAT Director General William Dar.

Access to improved crops is a critical tipping point between healthy and hungry families. By using advances in molecular biology and harnessing the rich global stocks of crop genetic resources, the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) aims to bridge this gap by creating and providing a new generation of plants that meet the needs of resource poor farmers.

About 172 scientists from 40 countries are attending the GCP – General Research Meeting Phase II at Hotel Marriott in Hyderabad on 21-25 September. This global event has participants from various institutes and Principal Investigators from ongoing GCP projects sharing their research results and jointly planning for the incoming year.

Elaborating on the importance of the GRM in his opening remarks, GCP Director Jean-Marcel Ribaut said, “This is the first time that all the GCP Research Initiatives will be jointly reporting progress. The second phase of the project will see more projects being led by user country partners while developed country partners take a back seat as mentors and collaborators.” Thanking ICRISAT for hosting the event, he emphasized the Institute’s role as a valued GCP partner and one of the 18 GCP consortium members.

Phase I (2004–2008) of the GCP had a thematic approach and worked on 18 crops. Phase II (2009–2013) has adopted a more complementary approach and shifted focus to improving the drought tolerance of nine key crops. Research Initiatives covering the nine crops were launched in 2010 and cover comparative genomics for three cereals (maize, rice and sorghum).

Delivering the welcome remarks on behalf of ICRISAT Director General William Dar, Peter Ninnes, Director, Resource Planning & Marketing said, “the GCPs contribution towards characterizing germplasm collections at the molecular level and developing genomic resources in CGIAR mandate crops is remarkable.”

Participants of the GCP GRM being held in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, Dr Swapan Datta, Deputy Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) said India should give high priority to the project as the future of agriculture is based on science and technology.

Professor D Pental, Former Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University in his keynote address elaborated on the mustard improvement program led by his group and emphasized the importance of “open source” germplasm and pre-breeding activities. He praised CGIAR Centers for their contribution to crop breeding in developing countries.

“The GCP and its partners have demonstrated the role of genomics in germplasm characterization and in shortening the breeding cycle. NARS partners need to be motivated and encouraged to use these approaches in their breeding programs,” said Dr Rajeev Varshney, Principal Scientist, Applied Genomics, ICRISAT and Theme-I leader of GCP.

In addition to the plenary sessions, covering GCP activities, thematic areas and research initiatives, the meeting has parallel sessions focusing on nine specific crops (beans, cassava, chickpeas, cowpeas, groundnuts, maize, rice, sorghum and wheat), specialized informatics meetings and poster presentations.

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The ICRISAT-GCP research-for-development partnership

ICRISAT’s strategic plan to 2020 emphasizes the expanded collection of wild relatives of mandate crops; filling gaps by collecting landrace varieties; and pre-breeding analysis to access diverse traits for use in research, including efforts to understand genome diversity for
a majority of its collection. At present, ICRISAT is a major partner of GCP in Tropical Legume I, and three of seven research initiatives, namely, sorghum, chickpea and comparative genomics. ICRISAT leads two CRPs on Dryland Cereals and Grain Legumes, in which the GCP’s research portfolio is embedded. Capacity building is another major area where GCP and ICRISAT have been partners.

The GCP has supported ICRISAT in setting up bioinformatics and biometrics facilities. Together with CIMMYT and IRRI, ICRISAT developed the integrated decision support system for marker-assisted selection (iMAS) program in Phase I that is being used extensively by NARS partners. In Phase II, ICRISAT’s genomics, bioinformatics and biometrics scientists are developing tools to analyze the next generation sequence data. Similarly, ICRISAT is a major partner of GCP in the integrated breeding platform to develop tools and databases for the molecular breeding programs of NARS partners. ICRISAT is also offering marker genotyping services to GCP partners through its Centre of Excellence in Genomics.

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65th Governing Board Meeting ongoing in Patancheru

The Program Committee meeting attended by GB members and senior scientists and managers.

The ICRISAT Governing Board (GB) meets for the 65th time at ICRISAT Patancheru this week, 21-24 September. Headed by its Chair, Nigel Poole with seven GB members in attendance, the meeting will run for four days, coursing through various committee meetings and a field visit, to culminate in the main GB meeting on Saturday, 24 September.

The GB meeting kicked off with the Program Committee meeting on Wednesday, 21 September, which had a large turnout of scientists and managers.

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Training course on Agrobase Generation II in Mali

Participants of the Agrobase Generation II training held in Bamako.

A four-day training course on Agrobase Generation II was held in Bamako on 12-15 September, attended by four participants from Niamey, eight from Mali, and two from the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Mali. Dr Dieter Mulitze, CEO of Agronomix Software Inc. conducted the training which covered salient features of the software and plant breeding data management systems.

Using relational databases gives breeders the power to document detailed information on breeding material, its performance, as well as genetic information from multiple years, locations, traits, genotypes and previous analysis. “The software will tremendously help in documenting breeding activities and results, and will save time for generating lists, field books and performance results as well as in providing reports, thus improving the overall efficiency of our breeding programs,” said Dr Eva Weltzien, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT-Mali.

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DANIDA training advisor visits ICRISAT Niamey

Ms Annette Kaalund -Jφrgensen, DANIDA Fellowship Centre’s (DFC) Training Advisor visited ICRISAT-Niamey on 13 September to explore possible collaboration with ICRISAT and to explain the training opportunities offered by her organization. DFC is looking for partners among training institutions to work on capacity development initiatives and to offer training courses related to development and poverty reduction.

Annette Kaalund-Jφrgensen (4th from left) along with ICRISAT staff at Niamey.

Welcoming the visitor, ICRISAT-Niamey Country Representative Dr Mahamadou Gandah described the technical areas in which ICRISAT has training expertise, its capacity in supervising training participants, and facilities available at Sadoré and the ICRISAT Training and Visitors Centre (TVC) in Niamey. Ms Jφrgensen in turn indicated the possibility for partnerships in organizing training in Africa and Denmark.

In West Africa, DFC works in collaboration with Danish representatives in Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin and Mali. It also offers MSc courses.

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