No. 1534 31 August 2012

New genomics and breeding tools for food security
ICRISAT hosts workshop on next generation genomics for crop improvement

Participants of the 3rd International Workshop on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Data Analysis and Modern Breeding Approaches held at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

With an unprecedented global demand for higher yields within sustainable production systems, advances in genomics for enhanced breeding efficiency are now shaping modern crop improvement towards long-term food security.

New tools of modern breeding like the next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies for modern crop improvement are crucial in speeding up the development of improved varieties that can provide high yields and improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said Director General William Dar in his inaugural remarks at the 3rd International Workshop on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Data Analysis and Modern Breeding Approaches held on 27-31 August at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

Dr Dar also thanked CGIAR’s Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) and collaborators from several advanced research institutes (ARIs) that helped ICRISAT take the lead in developing and using NGS tools in its genomics and breeding program.

The workshop brought together 45 participants from Australia, France, Germany, India, Philippines, Mexico, UK and USA, as well as representatives from IRRI and CIMMYT. It built on two earlier workshops as part of the GCP-sponsored project to develop tools for using NGS and high-throughput genotyping technologies in breeding through genome-wide selection (GWS) and marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS).

In his welcome address, Vincent Vadez, Acting Program Director, RP-Dryland Cereals, highlighted the importance of genomics technologies and modern breeding approaches. “By identifying genes associated with desirable traits using next generation approaches, scientists hasten our response to feeding the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rajeev Varshney, Director of the Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG), gave a brief overview of the project and workshop, stating that ICRISAT started using next generation genomics technologies about four years ago to assemble genome sequence and other genomic resources that have already been shared with its partners. “Next generation genomics approaches have ushered us into the modern breeding era,” said Dr Varshney. These approaches helped initiate molecular breeding in crops like chickpea and groundnut.

Emeritus Professor PK Gupta, Chair of the Accelerated Crop Improvement Programme of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT), delivered the inaugural lecture on “New Approaches in Crop Breeding”. He appreciated ICRISAT’s ongoing efforts in developing and sharing genomics and breeding tools with national partners. ICRISAT’s Abhishek Rathore, Sarwar Azam and Trushar Shah helped organize the workshop.

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ICRISAT-HOPE and McKnight seed projects hold pearl millet field day in Niger

Farmers and officials visiting plots of ICMV-IS 89305 (left) and SOSAT-C88 (right).

On 29 August, ICRISAT and the National Agricultural Research Institute of Niger (INRAN),in collaboration with the Maradi Region Agricultural Department, held a Field Day at a road-side pearl millet variety demonstration plot at Maradi, Niger.

The Field Day was attended by the Secretary General of the Governor’s Office and the Regional Director of Agriculture for Maradi Region, the Director of INRAN’s CERRA-Maradi Research Station, scientists and technical support staff from both the ICRISAT Sahelian Center and INRAN CERRA-Maradi, local seed producers, and more than 100 farmers from a total of ten villages in the vicinity of Maradi.

During the activity, farmers compared the performance of four ICRISAT pearl millet varieties in 20 m x 50 m plots each – including locally popular improved varieties SOSAT-C88 and ICMV-IS 89305, ICRI-Tabi and Mil de Siaka, which are poised for release in Niger later this year. The vulnerability of SOSAT-C88 to millet headminer provided INRAN entomologist Dr Ibrahim Baoua an excellent opportunity to discuss with farmers effective biological control system developed for this important insect pest of early-flowering pearl millet varieties.

Similarly, INRAN pathologist Issa Karimou interacted with farmers on managing downy mildew in ICRITabi and Striga in SOSAT-C88 and Mil de Siaka.

Meanwhile, ICRISAT HOPE project seed systems consultant Paul Buckner and local seed producers spoke with farmers about ongoing seed production and plans for the coming year. Farmers were particularly impressed by the excellent performance of high-tillering, compact-panicled, medium-earlyflowering variety ICRI-Tabi, which despite some mildew-infested plants showed good levels of resistance against both headminer and Striga, combined with excellent agronomic performance.

There is a growing farmer interest in ICRI-Tabi, the best non-Iniari germplasm source of high grain iron and zinc concentrations identified to date in pearl millet from West Africa, and in the pipeline for enrolment in Niger’s national list of recommended varieties later this year. Breeder seed multiplication of ICRI-Tabi is scheduled to be initiated at ISC in the coming dry season.

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Collaborative legume projects with IFAD and AGRA launched in ESA

The EU-IFAD-funded project “Enhancing productivity of groundnut and pigeonpea cropping systems in Tanzania and Uganda” and the AGRA-funded project on “Improving soil fertility, productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Northern Uganda by intensifying and diversification of pigeonpea cropping systems” were launched in Nairobi, Kenya, on 14-15 August.

ICRISAT-Nairobi staff and representatives of the NARES of Tanzania and Uganda at the projects’ launch.

The launch was attended by 10 representatives from ICRISAT-Nairobi (Said Silim, Alastair Orr, Emmanuel Monyo, Ganga Rao, Peter Kaloki), and the NARES of Tanzania (Omari Mponda, Robert Kileo, Stephen Lyimo) and Uganda (Yuventino Obong, David Kalule Okello).

The EU-IFAD-funded project aims to improve the food sufficiency and income of smallholder farmers in selected groundnut and pigeonpea growing areas where the potential for enhancing crop productivity for these crops is high. It will facilitate commercialization of these crops by linking growers with markets.

The AGRA-funded project aims to increase food security and incomes of smallholder farmers in Northern Uganda through atmospheric biological N fixation and the application of strategic amounts of fertilizer microdosing in pigeonpea-based systems.

In his opening remarks on 14 August, ESA Director S Silim presented the achievements of the groundnut and pigeonpea R&D collaboration between ICRISAT and the NARES of Tanzania and Uganda. He also highlighted the importance of the two projects in further improving production and productivity of the two crops in selected agro-ecologies of the target countries. Emmanuel Monyo introduced the IFADfunded project, while Alastair Orr presented the project’s evaluation and monitoring system plan.

On 15 August, ICRISAT’s Ganga Rao introduced the AGRA-funded project for Uganda, while Stephen Lyimo from the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Arusha shared his experiences with an ongoing AGRAfunded project in Tanzania in terms of technology adoption drivers and “going beyond demos” concept. Alastair Orr presented value-chain analysis methods and prospects for groundnut and pigeonpea in the two countries, while partners from Tanzania and Uganda presented work plans and budgets for both the IFADand AGRA-funded projects.

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ICRISAT-ABI participates in Agritech India 2012

The Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness Innovation Platform (AIP) participated in a three-day agribusiness exhibition, Agritech India 2012, on 25-27 August in Bangalore. The exhibition presented successful cases of overcoming technical constraints in enhancing crop production and productivity due to farmers’ lack of access to technologies and inputs, logistics and marketing. The event attracted participants from 300 companies across 20 countries.

ICRISAT-ABI participated by showcasing farm engineering technologies of the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI). Mr Ashok Kumar Murarka, Chairperson, Commercial Agriculture Alliance, Nepal, expressed interest in collaborating with ICRISAT in facilitating NIABI technologies in Nepal.

The exhibition offered insights into farm mechanization, pre- and post-harvest management of food crops, food processing, and marketing and retailing. It also presented cases of transforming farmers into rural agri-preneurs by adopting cutting-edge technologies to enable them to compete in the global markets.

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