No. 1537 21 September 2012

Public-private partnership for hybrid pearl millet cultivar diversity
Pearl Millet Scientists Field Day held at Patancheru

“Our thrust in pearl millet research will be on hybrid development even for the African regions. And the knowledge generated with your partnership in the Indian context is going to be valuable for developing hybrid programs for the African regions.”

Dr SK Gupta explaining about ICRISAT’s pearl millet research.   A scientist from Brazil admires a pearl millet variety as Dr KN Rai clarifies a point.

Thus declared Director General William Dar during the Pearl Millet Scientists Field Day held at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 20-21 September. The event provided a good opportunity for pearl millet researchers to select breeding materials and parental lines of potential hybrids, and to familiarize themselves with new tools and techniques recently developed or refined by ICRISAT scientists.

The Field Day was attended by 22 participants from the public sector and 38 from the private sector (including two scientists from Adriana Seed Company, Brazil) who are members of the Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (PMHPRC).

Deputy Director General (Research) Dave Hoisington and Acting Director for RP Dryland Cereals Vincent Vadez welcomed the participants while Dr SK Gupta presented the main objectives and program for the event, which was organized by the Research Program - Dryland Cereals.

Delivering the inaugural address, Dr Dar dwelt on the history of ICRISAT’s Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC) and chronicled its growth into a very productive platform with 30 active members in the Pearl Millet HPRC. The outcome has been significant grain yield improvement and production stability of this crop in India.

Scientists taking notes during the Field Day.   Dr Dar addressing the participants.

Speaking about the challenges of climate change, water scarcity, and desertification, Dr Dar added that these would necessitate developing genotypes that tolerate not only drought but also excess water. He also pointed out the need to tackle new diseases and pests and crop-livestock integration.

Following the inaugural session, participants went on a field trip to see a diverse range of materials dealing with seed parent breeding, forage lines/ populations, restorer parent breeding, downy mildew/blast nursery, screening for drought and salinity stress and genetic resources. Judging from the time they spent in the field examining the materials, a large number of lines are likely to be selected for further evaluation and use in their programs.

Prior to this, on 19 September, a brainstorming session on forage research and doubled haploid breeding was held for a select group of scientists from ICRISAT, NARS and the private sector.

In the plenary session, among those who spoke were Dr Louiz Bonamigo on “Pearl millet in Brazil: Use and possibilities” and Dr Rosana Mula on “Summer cultivation in pearl millet”. Representatives from the public and private sectors provided feedback on the potential usefulness of the materials they saw.

ICRISAT senior staff with invited scientists during the Field Day.

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ICRISAT-DBT sorghum biofortification project launched

Dr Dar delivers the opening address as (L-R) Drs Ashok Kumar, Hari Prasanna (DSR) and Vincent Vadez look on.

In line with ICRISAT’s mission goal of reducing malnutrition in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the ICRISATDepartment of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India Project on “Biofortifying sorghum with high grain iron and zinc concentration for combating micronutrient malnutrition”, was launched on 18 September at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

In the last 7-8 years, ICRISAT’s research with partners on sorghum biofortification under HarvestPlus has led to the development of improved hybrid sorghum parents and varieties with 50% higher grain Fe and Zn concentrations compared to the base level (30 ppm Fe and 20 ppm Zn). The current project aims to further enhance grain Fe and Zn concentrations in sorghum, the staple of 500 million people in 30 countries, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, regions where micronutrient malnutrition is rampant.

The current 3-year project is a logical extension of ongoing work on the identification of markers linked to QTL(s) governing grain Fe and Zn concentration in sorghum in order to transfer identified QTL(s) into elite hybrid parents using marker-assisted selection (MAS). In addition, the project will develop new mapping populations to validate the QTLs for use in MAS.

Welcoming the participants at the project launchcum- workplan development meeting, Acting Director for RP-Dryland Cereals Vincent Vadez elucidated on the objectives of the meeting and the importance of integrating biofortification into sorghum crop improvement research.

Delivering his opening address, Director General William Dar said, “Malnutrition is a blot on human society that is further spreading in some developing countries, including India, in spite of rapid economic development. It is high time the critical role of dryland cereals is recognized, since millets address food and nutritional security and are inherently adapted to climate change.”

He thanked DBT for their financial support, and urged the team to extend the outputs of projects in India to other countries. The Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR), Hyderabad and Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth (MKV), Parbhani are partners in this project.

Participants of the meeting.

Dr Ashok Kumar, Principal Investigator for the project, presented an overview of the progress of sorghum biofortification research at ICRISAT and the objectives, methodology, outputs and timelines of the new project. Representing DSR, Senior Scientist Hari Prasanna conveyed the Director’s message and spoke about biofortification efforts at their institute. Later, the group developed workplans for year 1 under the chairmanship of Dr Belum Reddy. SP Mehtre (MKV) and Santosh Deshpande presented the workplans which were accepted by the group.

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VDSA meeting of minds – harmonizing data management, research and advocacy

Dr Cynthia Bantilan stressing a point on harmonization at the workshop.

“Coordinate, communicate, follow-up” – This was the crux of the message delivered to stakeholders during the Village Dynamics Studies in South Asia (VDSA) project harmonization workshop organized at Golkonda Resorts, Gandipet, from 13-15 September.

The project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), aims to decrease the incidence and severity of absolute poverty in South Asia’s semi-arid and humid tropics by markedly increasing the availability of time-series district, household, individual, and field-level data.

The workshop aimed to achieve a “meeting of minds” among the project’s stakeholders and create a common understanding of project activities in terms of impacting policy – both short-term and long-term – and steps forward towards achieving impacts across the three regions of South Asia (semi-arid tropics of India, humid tropics of East India, and tropics and subtropical region of Bangladesh).

The presentations by staff aimed at prioritizing cross-cutting issues, clearing regional differences, agreeing upon revised and updated workplans and harmonizing methodology and survey approaches. The workshop also tackled the issue of mutually agreed upon production of research outputs, dissemination and reporting strategy, and fostering strategic partnerships with other stakeholders in each of the regions.

The project team was inspired and challenged as Director for RP-Markets, Institutions and Policies (MIP) Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Prof Ramesh Chand, resource persons Drs SS Acharya and Wijaya Jayatilaka and Foundation Program Officer Tuu-Van Nguyen emphasized the need to keep in mind the outcome and impact of the VDSA project. On prioritization of core research activities and agenda, rather than just communicating what VDSA can offer, the team was encouraged to go beyond the “supply driven” model to a “demand driven” model by simply asking decision-makers: “what do you need?” This was considered an important entry point into policy debates, and the importance of this logic was very well articulated and elaborated by Prof SS Acharya.

Playing moderators, Tuu-Van Nguyen and Cynthia Bantilan emphasized the need for multidisciplinary research in the project activities. The team was encouraged to cross disciplinary boundaries. The discussions also outlined the tasks ahead for harmonization considering the diversity of issues and keeping in mind the need to nurture creativity and innovation.

Participants of the VDSA meeting.

The VDSA project staff from ICRISAT (Cynthia Bantilan, Uttam Kumar Deb, Madhusudan Bhattarai, P Parthasarathy Rao, Anjani Kumar, Chanda Gurung Goodrich, R Padmaja, Lalmani Pandey, N Nagaraj, VK Chopde, GD Nageshwar Rao, K Kavitha, GV Anupama, Kaushik Basu, Soumitra Pramanik, Elias Khan, Ravichand, Byjesh and E Jagadeesh); East India (Ramesh Chand, Usha Rani Ahuja, Rajni Jain, Prabhakar Nanda, RKP Singh and Mukesh Kumar Sinha); and Bangladesh (Humnath Bhandari and Alamgir Chowdhury) attended, apart from Tuu-Van Nguyen, SS Acharya and Wijaya Jayatilaka.

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VDSA review meeting and field investigators’ training workshop held

Participants of the VDSA field investigators’ training workshop held at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

A week-long training workshop was held for 44 participants, including field investigators from 18 villages across five states of SAT India (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat); data entry operators; and 15 scientists from RP-MIP from 3-8 September, as part of the VDSA project.

The program was organized to enhance field investigators’ ability to collect high quality household survey data; standardize data collection and data entry activities across the villages in SAT India; and to have a better understanding of household data and data collection procedures. It also aimed to improve their capacity for participatory research in the villages and obtain feedback on using Computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) that is being tested in three villages in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

A field investigator receives a certificate of participation from Dr MCS Bantilan.

Each village investigator showcased his village in a special poster presentation session. This was followed by discussions on issues and constraints faced by them. Dr Sandhya Shenoy from NAARM, Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad spoke on guidelines and tools in qualitative data collection and analysis. Sessions were also held on basic health care and knowledge of first aid while working/staying in the village (Dr CN Reddy) and HR policies in relation to project activities (Mr AJ Rama Rao). RP-MIP scientists made presentations on major drivers of change in agricultural productivity and growth, agricultural water management and water scarcity, labor market, risk and return trade-off in SAT India farming, writing village profiles, and collecting data on gender and nutrition.

RP-MIP Director Dr Cynthia Bantilan underlined the importance of staying in villages to collect data and understanding village livelihoods; and the relevance of the training in ensuring high quality survey data and project outputs. Dr Madhusudan Bhattarai, Mr VK Chopde, and Mr GD Nageswara Rao coordinated and facilitated the workshop. P Parthasarathy Rao gave away certificates to the participants on the concluding day.

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Andhra Pradesh releases improved varieties and hybrids

Three varieties and a hybrid were released by the Andhra Pradesh State Varietal Release Committee last month, as per a notification from the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural Univeristy (ANGRAU), Hyderabad.

Part of the ICRISAT-ANGRAU collaboration under the Tropical Legumes (TL) II project in Andhra Pradesh, the releases include RGT-1 and ICPH 2740 (pigeonpea); NBeG-3 (chickpea) and TCGS 1043 (groundnut).

RGT-1(Tandur Tella Kandi) is a white-seeded pigeonpea variety with resistance to wilt and sterility mosaic disease (SMD), selected from ICRISATsupplied breeding material. It is the first whiteseeded pigeonpea variety from the university since its inception in 1964, and the first pigeonpea variety from the Agricultural Research Station (ARS), Tandur since its inception in 1988.

ICPH 2740 is a high-yielding, medium-duration, wilt- and SMD-resistant pigeonpea hybrid developed by ICRISAT. It has been extensively tested in the state by ARS, Tandur over a period of three years (2008 - 2011).

Chickpea variety NBeG-3 is from the Regional Agricultural Research Station Nandyal, Kurnool District. A desi variety tolerant to terminal drought and heat stresses, this was selected from the RILs of Annigeri x ICC 4958 supplied by ICRISAT.

Groundnut variety TCGS 1043 is from the Regional Agricultural Research Station Tirupathi, Chittoor District. It is derived from the cross VRI 2 X TCGT 6. ICRISAT-bred line ICGV 86031 is one of the parents of TCGT 6.

Chickpea variety NBeG-3.   RGT-1: A white-seeded pigeonpea variety with resistance to wilt and SMD.

Pigeonpea hybrid ICPH 2740 in a farmer’s field in Andhra Pradesh.   A lush crop of groundnut variety TCGS 1043 and (inset) its pods.

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Millet breeders visit ICRISAT Kano

The visitors in the groundnut varietal trial plot.   At the millet-sesame on-farm intercropping trial plot in Gumel.

As part of the ICRISAT-HOPE project monitoring activities, ICRISAT millet breeders Drs C Tom Hash (ICRISAT Niamey) and Ignatius Angarawai (Nigeria National Millet Breeder, LCRI Maiduguri) visited ICRISAT Kano and on-farm millet and sorghum ISSFM trials in Kano and Jigawa States of Nigeria from 28-29 September 2012.

The scientists were taken around the fields by Mallam Gujungu, Extension Officer of Green Sahel Agricultural and Rural Development Initiative (GSARDI), a collaborating NGO in the State. They visited millet agronomy, groundnut varietal screening and agronomy, sorghum breeding and agronomy trials. In Jigawa State, they met with women processors and farmer groups in Gambawa village.

During the discussions, farmers conveyed to them that low soil fertility and Striga infestation in sorghum, millet and cowpea were major constraints to greater productivity. They visited ISSFM plots of sorghum and millet which showed significant growth following improved treatment over local practices even at the vegetative stage. The farmers thanked Dr Hash, ICRISAT and GSARDI for the improved seeds and training and promised to adopt and spread the technologies they were being exposed to.

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