No. 1496 9 December 2011

Innovate, grow, prosper
ICRISAT celebrates its 39th Annual Day

Dr Gengyun Zhang, Vice-President, BGI-Life Science Division, Shenzhen (China) delivering his address at the 39th annual day celebration of ICRISAT. Also seen are (L to R) Cristina Bejosano, DG William Dar, DDG-R Dave Hoisington and HRO Director Hector Hernandez.

A dynamic strategy of connecting poor farmers to markets, purposeful partnerships, and innovations with a systems perspective to achieve the mission to “reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation across the dryland tropics” were the main messages in this year’s annual day celebration. This, as the Institute moves forward to convert opportunities into successes in its quest for a better livelihood for the forgotten poor.

ICRISAT celebrated its 39thAnnual Day on 9 December at Patancheru by honouring its staff members, scientific triumphs, partnerships, loyalty and team spirit. The Special Guest on the occasion was Dr Gengyun Zhang, Vice-president, Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI)-Life Science Division, Shenzhen (China).

In his message, Director General William Dar pledged to renew and reinvigorate ICRISAT in a big way towards the larger objective of reducing poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation across the dryland tropics. He went on to highlight the importance of thinking creatively and innovatively to be able to do so.

“ICRISAT is now on top of the game, maintaining a good balance of science and institutional health, financial strength and stability, staff morale and development,” he said, elucidating on the successes achieved by the Institute.

Dr Dar delivering his address during the annual day celebration.

“We are also proud to be the first CGIAR Center to have led a global research team in the completion of the genome sequencing of pigeonpea. Our major partner in this effort was BGI-Shenzhen (China). The pigeonpea genome sequence is vital in accelerating breeding efforts, and will have enormous impact on the lives of millions who consider pigeonpea as the “poor people’s meat” because of its high protein content.”

In his inspirational address, Special Guest Dr Gengyun Zhang expressed pleasure in collaborating with ICRISAT. “The pigeonpea genome sequence was the start of collaboration of BGI and ICRISAT and we would like to continue such collaboration applied to the improvement of other crops as well,” he said.

Dr Gengyun Zhang on behalf of BGI-Shenzhen receiving the Research Partnership Award from Dr Dar.

He dwelt on BGI’s origin, the challenges faced and successes such as the rice and foxtail milllet genome. Speaking optimistically about the future, he added, “We will be more than happy to see the results of our collaboration with ICRISAT in applied breeding programs, especially in the crops that are generally grown by poor farmers in developing countries of Asia and Africa. And we feel very confident that together we should be able to take up these challenging tasks and deliver the results to the poor farmers in African and Asian countries.”

It was a day of rewarding the scientific efforts of staff. The prestigious Doreen Margaret Mashler Award went to the team of Suhas P Wani, KL Sahrawat, Girish Chander, K Krishnappa and K Anantha. The ICRISAT Science Award, given away by Dr Gengyun Zhang, consisted of the Promising Young Scientist award going to Dr Kaushal K Garg and Outstanding Scientist award to Dr K L Sahrawat. The Outstanding Scientific Support Team award went to the Sorghum Team in Samanko, Mali, on whose behalf Dr Tom Hash received the award. The Outstanding Partnership award was bagged by the Chickpea team of Dr Pooran Gaur in Andhra Pradesh.

The article Jatropha production on wastelands in India: Opportunities and trade-offs for soil and water management at the watershed scale” by Kaushal K Garg, Louise Karlberg, Suhas P Wani and Goran Berndes published in Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining (July 2011) bagged the Outstanding Scientific Article Award.

In recognition of his leadership in the pigeonpea genome sequencing initiative, Dr Rajeev K Varshney was given the Special Recognition Award.

ICRISAT strongly believes in the power of partnership. This year, the honor of Research Partnership Award went to the Beijing Genomics Institute and the award was presented by
DG Dar to Dr Gengyun Zhang. The Exceptional Scientific Article in a High Impact Journal Award went to the team of Rajeev Varshney et al.

Among the publications released on the occasion were – Status and future of sweet sorghum
in the Philippines, Compendium of chickpea and lentil diseases and pests
, and 6 Village at a Glance flyers. The day also saw the launch by Dr Dar of the Village Dynamics in South Asia project website.

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39th Annual Day in pictures


Loyality Day Awards 2011

Earlier on 8 December, Loyalty Day was celebrated as 123 employees from ICRISAT-Patancheru proudly came on stage to receive Loyalty awards from their respective MG members and Research Program Directors. Congratulating the awardees on the occasion, DG William Dar underlined the imperative of embracing new ways of thinking and doing through an inclusive process of cultural change in the quest for better livelihoods for the smallholder farmers in the dryland tropics of Asia and Africa.

“What will drive us along our journey together is Cultural Change, with its five shared values and five key cultural change areas. I urge you to internalize, adopt and practice these shared values and key areas,” Dr Dar emphasized. Apart from the Loyalty Awards, the Best Safety Award went to Mohd Abdul Ghaffar (RP-Grain Legumes). Deborah Jacob and B Buchaiah spoke on behalf of the NRS awardees and support staff awardees, respectively.


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Data management workshop for ICRISAT-HOPE and TL II Projects held in Dubai

Project leaders and data managers from ICRISAT-HOPE, TL II and N2Africa during the meeting in Dubai.

Project leaders and data managers from the ICRISAT-HOPE, Tropical Legumes II and N2Africa projects met in Dubai on 30 November - 2 December to define user requirements for a data management platform with technical support from aWhere. The meeting was arranged by ICRISAT as part of its efforts to explore possibilities and tools to coordinate, monitor, and document the impact of complex, multi-partner projects.

While the workshop discussion initially focused on internal users for location intelligence, it soon became apparent that the greater benefit resided in communicating to external audiences the outputs of ICRISAT-HOPE, TL II and N2Africa to foster awareness for future collaboration with delivery partners to achieve impact at scale. This drew on lessons learned by TL II in Ethiopia, for example where Catholic Relief Service became an important implementation partner in the delivery of improved bean varieties to smallholder seed producers.

Participants discussed and defined data requirements and user stories from various perspectives (internal, partners, donors, external) to establish software requirements. All user cases were captured for the ICRISAT-HOPE and TL II projects separately, although these will be combined into a single set of user stories. Additional user stories will be captured during the next few months from the various groups.

Participants agreed that a major challenge in implementing a data management system involves behavior change by scientists and ensuring acknowledgement/security of contributions by scientists in international and national research centers. The group discussed these issues and agreed on following the basic principles involving time embargos for public release of data to provide time for publications and a system to notify authors as to who downloads and how their data is used. It will be important to build trust during the early stages of deployment to ensure that quality data is submitted and will be integrated into staff evaluations. This in turn ensures that outputs from the projects supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) are a Global Public Good and foster greater collaboration across and outside the institutions involved.

The outcomes of the meeting will be communicated promptly to all key project staff to inform them and to have buy-in for the process of data sharing for the greater public good.

Participants from ICRISAT included Dave Hoisington, CLL Gowda, Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, Peter Craufurd, Tsedeke Abate, George Okwach, Pierre Sibiry, Trushar Shah, and Abhishek Rathore. They were joined by David Bergvinson and Yilma Kebede (BMGF), Arega Alene (IITA, Malawi), Andrew Farrow (CIAT, Uganda), and Marcel Lubbers (University of Wageningen/N2 Africa). Data management consultants from the aWhere group (John Corbett, Dave Lundberg, Stewart Collis, and Jim Pollock) facilitated the meeting.

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FAI Award for Research Paper

The research paper entitled “Fertigation in vegetable crops for higher productivity and resource use efficiency” by Ram A Jat, SP Wani, KL Sahrawat and Piara Singh published in the Indian Journal of Fertilizers was awarded the 2nd prize in Agricultural Sciences category. The award was received by Dr Ram A Jat during the inaugural session of the Fertiliser Association of India seminar on 7 December in New Delhi.

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WASA-Seeds Project West Africa workshop on maintenance breeding and seed production held

Chief of Party, WASA, SVR Shetty (front row extreme right) with participants of the workshop in Dakar.

Twenty five plant breeders, agronomists and seed quality control officers from four West African countries (Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger) assembled in Dakar on 29 November – 2 December to discuss the challenges to and opportunities for the commercialization of the seed sector and to develop training modules for the production of all classes of seeds of six major crops (rice, maize, sorghum, millet, groundnuts and cowpea) in the region.

Welcoming the participants, Dr SVR Shetty, Chief of Party of the West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA) gave an overview of the USAID-funded Seeds Project of the alliance which is being implemented by ICRISAT and its partners. He also thanked the Senegal National Agricultural Research System (ISRA) for hosting the workshop, and USAID for their active support in strengthening the seed systems in West Africa. He also elaborated on the need for public-private partnerships by citing an example of the successful evolution of the private seed sector in India during the last 40 years.

In his opening address, ISRA’s Deputy Director General Dr Alioune Fall congratulated WASA-SP for organizing the workshop. He said its objective and expected outputs were highly relevant for the implementation of ISRA’s strategic plan. He also highlighted the importance of quality seed production in the execution of the Senegal Presidential initiative: GOANA (Grande offensive pour la nourriture et l’abondance or Big offensive for food security).

The participants went through six training modules on maintaining genetic stability of recommended varieties of the six major crops; identified institutional challenges and opportunities for sustainable production of high quality breeder, foundation and certified seeds; and suggested general avenues for rapid commercialization of the seed sector in West Africa.

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UFl-ICRISAT course on cropping system models held

JW Jones of AgBio Engineering explains a point to a participant.

As part of the University of Florida (UFl)-ICRISAT collaborative training activities, ICRISAT’s Learning Systems Unit (LSU) organized a short course on “Cropping system models: Application in land resource management” on 5-9 December at Patancheru. Dr James Jones, Distinguished Professor of AgBio Engineering, and Dr Kenneth Boote, Professor of Agronomy from UFl served as faculty for the 31 participants from India, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

M Madhan, Manager, Library and Information Services, welcomed the participants and DDG-R Dave Hoisington gave the inaugural address. The India Meteorological Department (IMD), Government of India, sponsored 10 candidates for the course. In the valedictory on 9 December, DG William Dar distributed certificates to the participants.

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Training workshop on ensuring data quality and Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI)

Participants of the training at Patancheru.

The Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) Project organized a week-long training workshop on Ensuring Data Quality and Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) from 28 November to 3 December. The program was organized with a view to enhancing the ability of field investigators to collect quality data from the villagers, and provide a greater understanding of the data and data collection process to data entry operators. The program also aimed to train the field investigators in using CAPI machines for interviewing farmers. A total of 18 field investigators and 14 data entry operators participated in the training program. While the theoretical part of the training was held at ICRISAT-Patancheru, the practical training was conducted in Shirapur and Kalman villages in Solapur district of Maharashtra.

Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Research Program Director – Markets, Institutions and Policies, highlighted the importance of training in ensuring timely delivery of quality output. Dr Uttam Deb, Principal Scientist (Economics), in coordination with P Parthasarathy Rao, Principal Scientist (Economics), successfully planned and managed the training program. Ravi Chand, GV Anupama, Y Mohan Rao, VK Chopde and GD Nageswara Rao served as resource persons.

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ICRISAT and EMRC International partner for the 2nd Africa- India Economic Mission

ICRISAT and the Brussels-based EMRC International will once again be coming together for the second edition of the Africa-India Economic Mission to be held in Hyderabad, India, from 11-16 December, with the aim of bringing under a single platform African and Indian decision makers, experts and business community. The mission will facilitate access to India’s leading institutes and foremost agricultural equipment, irrigation and crop corporations, providing a basis for potential business ties, with a focus on public-private partnerships. “More and more people want to go right to the source of innovation and gain insider access to what is happening in India,” says Samuel Pulido, Project Manager at EMRC International.

The five-day mission will feature visits to and technical meetings at India’s world-renowned agricultural research institutes, companies linked to equipment and machinery, water conservation and management, bio-fuels, seeds and fresh produce management. Participants will be exposed to India’s exceptional and groundbreaking agricultural and business know-how.

According to DG William Dar, “South-South cooperation is going to play a key role in the development of agriculture and agribusiness in the coming days. There is a wealth of learning and exchange repository with India, which can benefit Africa in a big way, especially when the Government of India has announced financial and technical support to African countries.”

The mission will expose participants to ICRISAT’s Agri-Business and Innovation Platform (AIP) as a model for fostering agribusinesses in order to bring Research for Development (R4D) innovations to the market for faster and wide-scale impact.

“There is know-how and there are technologies out there to ensure real agricultural development. What is important is that people can access and exchange techniques and partner together,” says Idit Miller, Vice President of EMRC International.

To register for the Africa-India Economic Mission, please visit

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Kano Station conducts farmers’ PVS of groundnut varieties

(Left photo) Women farmers do a pair wise ranking of groundnut varieties. (Right photo) Farmers admiring the well podded groundnut in Nigeria.

Two farmer groups comprising 26 women and 21 men visited ICRISAT’s groundnut variety trials in Minjibir near Kano, Nigeria, for participatory varietal selection (PVS) of groundnut varieties and pair wise ranking of attributes. This was conducted on 22 elite groundnut lines that were selected for aphids and rosette resistance. In the pair wise ranking of attributes, while women ranked grain yield and oil content as the most important attributes, the men ranked fodder yield and drought resistance as crucial.

Gender differences were evident in the PVS. While over 90% of the men cast their vote for only 4 of the 22 varieties, women voted in favor of about 50% of the varieties on display. The farmers expressed happiness with the return of ICRISAT in Nigeria and said they were eagerly awaiting the release of new improved groundnut varieties and crop management practices.

This initiative was led by Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, System Agronomist based in Kano, Nigeria

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