No. 1493 18 November 2011

Improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers
ICRISAT-IFAD Project leads partners in harnessing the full potential of legumes

Participants of the ICRISAT-IFAD Project review and planning meeting at Patancheru.

Legumes are known as the “poor people’s meat,” supplying up to 13% of the daily protein requirement for hundreds of millions of smallholder families. Legumes also help reduce land degradation through sustainable intensification, regeneration of nutrient-deficient soils through nitrogen fixation, and most importantly, improving the livelihoods of smallholder households, as shown by ICRISAT and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in India, Nepal and Vietnam.

The project review and planning meeting of the ICRISAT-IFAD Project on “Harnessing the true potential of legumes: Economic and knowledge empowerment of poor rainfed farmers in Asia” was held at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 14-16 November. With three country partners – India, Nepal and Vietnam – the Project spearheads the selection and identification of farmer-preferred varieties of groundnut, chickpea, pigeonpea and other legumes and their production technologies through farmer participatory research.

(L to R) P Ninnes, CLL Gowda, DG W Dar, Ashok Seth, SN Nigam and D Hoisington launching the books at the project meeting.

In his inaugural message, Director General William Dar said, “The participation of India, Nepal and Vietnam in this IFAD Project ensured a wide sharing of technologies among countries, bringing in significant synergy in our efforts to help alleviate poverty by increasing legumes productivity in rainfed Asia.“ The Project”, he added, “has established close linkages with other IFAD investment projects in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa states in India, western mid-hill region in Nepal, and Tuyen Quang and Ha Tinh provinces in Vietnam allowing ICRISAT to work with the poorest of the poor in tribal areas.”

Addressing the participants, Ashok Seth, Consultant, IFAD emphasized the need to develop resilient systems in the light of climate change by utilizing outputs achieved in the project. He also highly appreciated the linkages developed with other IFAD loan projects in the partner countries. The meeting saw discussions on the adoption of identified varieties and technologies in the target regions, and their impacts during the project period (2007-2011). Informal seed systems for legumes involving seed banks and farmer seed associations were promoted in the target regions under this project to achieve seed self-sufficiency and variety replacement.

ICRISAT-IFAD workshop delegations from Vietnam (left) and Nepal (right), in a meeting with DG W Dar and DDG D Hoisington to further explore areas of collaboration between ICRISAT and the respective NARS on agricultural research for development.

A total of 23 project partners from the Odisha Tribal Empowerment & Livelihoods Programme (OTELP), Jharkhand Tribal Development Society (JTDS), Accion Fraterna (AF), Chhattisgarh Tribal Development Programme (CTDP), and Birsa Agricultural University (BAU) in India; the Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC), Western Uplands Poverty Alleviation Project (WUPAP), and Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development (FORWARD) in Nepal; and the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Science (VAAS) and Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI) in Vietnam participated in the meeting.

Two books – Production practices of black gram and mungbean by the Jharkhand Tribal Development Programme (JTDP) and Success story of groundnut variety ICGV 91114 (Devi) in Odisha by OTELP were launched during the occasion.


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Revitalizing pearl millet R4D
Crop improvement and seed production training held in Tanzania

Dr Yadav giving a demonstration in a pearl millet field in Tanzania.

The Tanzanian Department of Research and Development (DRD) conducted a training course on Pearl Millet Crop Improvement and Seed Production on 31 October – 4 November in Moshi, Tanzania, jointly sponsored by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and ICRISAT. The training organized under the Project “Innovations for sustainable production and utilization of pearl millet in drought prone areas of Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA),” attracted 37 participants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Delivering the welcome remarks, ASARECA’s Staple Crops Program Manager Fina Opio spoke of the high priority that ASARECA gives pearl millet among staple cereals in drought-prone areas. She noted that although the crop has shown high potential in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania and Kenya, very little research had been done on it and that most researchers were unfamiliar with breeding techniques.

Participants of the first ESA regional pearl millet training course.

Principal Scientist Mary Mgonja said that the training would facilitate a better understanding of the crop’s potential for food security in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) and provide knowledge and techniques for breeding for varieties and hybrids, seed production and marketing techniques, and diversified uses and market opportunities.

In his opening message, DRD Director Fidelis Myaka said he was encouraged by ASARECA’s endorsement of pearl millet as a crop most suitable for ASAL and stressed the need to disseminate available technologies to increase farm productivity and develop resilient new materials. He reiterated the need to join regional research efforts to develop materials that will withstand current and future abiotic stresses. Addressing the participants, he said “You are fortunate to have these experts from ICRISAT, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Pioneer Overseas Cooperation; this is truly a South-South collaboration and we are very grateful to these resource persons.”

Among the topics covered during the training were pearl millet biology; hybrid parents breeding and hybrid development; germplasm characterization; MTA, SMTA and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources; population improvement; pest and diseases; seed production and marketing; and designing and analysis of trials. Participants gave country presentations on the status of pearl millet R&D and underwent hands-on training on selection of best plants for crossing, bagging, designing of crossing plan, pollination, and seed production at the DRD, Miwaleni research site.

Closing the workshop, Moshi’s District Commissioner Musa Samizi thanked ASARECA, ICRISAT and DRD for organizing the training and hoped that Tanzania as the principal investigating country would provide the required leadership to boost pearl millet R&D in
the region.

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On World Diabetes Day
ICRISAT and AVRDC promote agriculture and nutrition research to fight diabetes

ICRISAT employees led by Dr Dar and Dr Keatinge during the Global Diabetes Walk 2011 at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

To promote ways to prevent, treat, and control complications arising from diabetes, over 1200 staff members from ICRISAT and the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) – South Asia Office took part in the annual Global Diabetes Walk at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 14 November, World Diabetes Day. The walk was led by ICRISAT Director General William Dar and AVRDC Director General Dyno Keatinge.

Addressing the gathering, Dr Dar said, “Unless we are healthy and maintain the right balance between work and lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating nutritious food, there is a danger of diabetes catching up with us.”

To mark the occasion, a series of activities were held on the campus, ranging from a free blood sugar and diabetic retinopathy screening camp to a health awareness talk on the Role of diet in diabetes by Dr Keatinge. His talk was about the importance of vegetables like bitter gourd in reducing blood sugar levels and food-based solutions to managing the disease.

What we eat begins with what farmers can grow, and what they grow is shaped fundamentally by agricultural research. “Diabetes care is costing billions and billions of dollars each year, yet almost nothing is being spent to combat the problem from the standpoint of agriculture. It is a tragedy that agriculture and nutrition research have been viewed as two separate compartments; but at last they are now coming together,” said Dr Keatinge. He added that centers like ICRISAT and AVRDC working on legumes, fruits and vegetables need support to find solutions to overcome diabetes.

Also speaking on the occasion, Dr CN Reddy, Head-Medical Services, ICRISAT, reiterated that diabetes being a self-imposed disease, individuals must maintain an ideal body weight and an active lifestyle to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

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ICRISAT joins the National Krishi Mela in UAS-Bengaluru

Dr Baburao Mudibi, Commissioner (Agriculture), Govt of Karnataka (center) inaugurating the ICRISAT stall. Also seen in the picture are CLL Gowda and K Krishnappa.

ICRISAT showcased its research programs and technologies at the national-level Krishi Mela organized by the University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS), Bengaluru, on 16-20 November. ICRISAT’s stall displaying improved cultivars and soil, water and nutrient management practices was inaugurated by Dr Baburao Mudibi, Commissioner of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka.

ICRISAT was specifically invited to participate for its excellent partnership and collaborative research programs (Bhoo Chetana and Suvarna Bhoomi programs).The Institute was represented by CLL Gowda who participated in the inaugural session, and K Krishnappa and a team of scientific staff led by Raghavendrarao Sudi.

Over 30 farmers were awarded at the fair for their innovations and for implementing improved farming practices.

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First international training course on pigeonpea seed production held at Patancheru

Participants during the pigeonpea field visit.

The first international training course on pigeonpea seed production and crop improvement was held on 7-12 November at ICRISAT-Patancheru, with 30 researchers from India, Philippines, and Malawi participating.

The course aimed to improve the production of pure seeds of pigeonpea varieties and hybrids and management systems with emphasis on effective practices such as proper collection and characterization of materials; suitable screening for pests, diseases, drought, waterlogging and salinity tolerance; cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) breeding techniques; and improved agronomic and post-harvest practices.

CLL Gowda (Research Program Director, Grain Legumes), in his welcome address, encouraged the participants to provide suggestions and inputs to improve the design of future courses. Learning Systems Unit (LSU) coordinator Rosana Mula and her team formally launched the e-learning course on pigeonpea on this occasion, followed by a brief demonstration.

The course involved lectures and field exposures on pigeonpea and its socio-economic importance, biology, and agronomic practices; insect pest and diseases and their control measures; breeding methods to produce high-yielding pest- and disease-resistant hybrid seed and varieties suitable across locations; and other concerns such as crop commercialization and climate change.

Training course participants at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

Theoretical inputs on seed multiplication were simplified by resource persons KB Saxena and Rajeev Varshney, with practical demonstrations on selfing and crossing techniques. An update on transgenic pigeonpea, genomics, marker-assisted breeding, and statistical analysis were also covered.

Addressing the closing program, Director General William Dar highlighted ICRISAT’s recent achievement in pigeonpea genome sequencing, stressing the values of partnership, commitment, and harnessing the potential of young minds through encouragement and appropriate incentives.

The event, coordinated by KB Saxena, Myer Mula and ESA Director Said Silim, culminated in a field trip to pigeonpea growing areas in Medak district and a private seed company engaged in pigeonpea seed production.

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ICRISAT-CEG holds advanced training on molecular plant breeding

Participants of the training at Patancheru.

ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) conducted its 9th training course on Molecular Plant Breeding for Crop Improvement on 7-18 November at ICRISAT-Patancheru, under ICRISAT-CEG Phase II. Twenty-seven participants from Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Chile, and Indian state agricultural universities, ICAR research centers, research foundations, and the private seed industry took part in the training. The interactive course exposed them to advanced methodologies of molecular plant breeding such as DArT, SSR and SNP markers, linkage and QTL mapping, association mapping, marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS), genomic selection (GS), NGS technologies, and bioinformatics tools and their application in crop improvement.

Coordinator Rajeev Varshney stressed that while progress has been achieved in using molecular markers in improving productivity of some pulse crops, much still needs to be done to surmount challenges such as cost and infrastructure that are inhibiting technology access in most developing countries. CEG, he added, was set up for national partners to have access to technology through capacity building and genotyping services. Speaking on behalf of Director General William Dar, CLL Gowda described the major challenges that the agricultural community will face in the coming days, such as warming temperatures, droughts, floods, increasing land degradation, loss of biodiversity, rising food prices, zooming energy demand and population explosion that would pose extreme challenges to feed the world, and how genomic tools would play an important role in improving crop productivity, producing sufficient food, and ensuring better health and nutrition.

Also speaking on the occasion, Oscar Riera-Lizarazu (Research Program Director, Dryland Cereals) urged the participants to take advantage of advanced integrated tools and technologies to carry out their research.

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Rajeev Varshney speaks on groundnut genomics at AICRP meeting

ICAR Directorate of Groundnut Research, Director JB Misra (right) with Rajeev Varshney (center) and SN Nigam (left).

Rajeev Varshney was invited to give a presentation on “Genomics-assisted breeding for groundnut improvement” at the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Groundnut meeting held on 2-3 November at Bhubaneswar, Orissa. The objective of the presentation was to sensitize and encourage the groundnut community to use genomic tools in breeding to enhance crop productivity.

In a special session chaired by SN Nigam, Rajeev presented the progress made by ICRISAT and its partners in the area of groundnut genomics and gave examples of ICRISAT’s work in rust resistance in groundnut recently initiated with SN Nigam, Manish Pandey, P Janila and Hari Kishan Sudini.

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NAIP workshop on Tech-enhanced learning for NARS managers

Participants at the NAIP workshop in New Delhi.

ICRISAT in collaboration with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) organized a workshop to sensitize senior managers of NARS on Technology-enhanced learning for agricultural development on 7 November at the School of Agriculture, IGNOU, New Delhi.

The workshop held under the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) “Innovations in technology mediated learning: An institutional capacity building in using reusable learning objects in agro-horticulture” was coordinated by NT Yaduraju of KSI.

Twenty participants including deans and senior staff of state agricultural universities (SAUs) under ICAR attended the workshop.

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Strengthening ICRISAT-Tanzania partnership

Dr Fidelis A Myaka, Director of Research and Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Tanzania in a meeting with DG W Dar, DDG D Hoisington, Research Program Directors and other staff to further strengthen partnership in agricultural research for development.

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