No. 1539 5 October 2012

67th Governing Board Meeting
At the threshold of ICRISAT’s fifth decade

This year, ICRISAT celebrates its 40th anniversary marking four decades of commitment and dedicated service to the forgotten poor in the drylands. Through the decades, the ICRISAT Governing Board (GB) has been a strong pillar of support and guidance in the Institute’s journey through change, accelerated growth, increased networking, global recognition, and agricultural impacts in the dryland tropics of the world.

The ICRISAT Governing Board with the Management Group and Research Committee at the 67th GB meeting in Patancheru.

To enable the Governing Board (GB) to participate in ICRISAT’s 40th anniversary celebrations, the 67th GB meeting was held back-to-back with the anniversary program which is usually done in early December. At the threshold of ICRISAT’s fifth decade, the event was held on 27-28 September at Patancheru.

One of the key decisions arising from the meeting was the approval of ICRISAT’s budget of US$ 66.411 M for 2013. Likewise, the Board approved the adoption of the CGIAR Consortium’s Policy on Intellectual Assets and the appointment of KPMG as external auditors. It also recognized the Institute for its quality science, significant impacts, strong financial health, and excellent management.

The GB meeting saw the induction of three new members, namely, Ms Minnie Matthew, Chief Secretary to the Government of Andhra Pradesh, ex-officio member and host country nominee;
Mr Ashish Bahuguna, Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, ex-officio member and host country nominee; and Ms Oluwande Muoyo, a certified public accountant from Nigeria and Chair, GB Audit Committee. The new members injected fresh vitality and improved the gender balance of the GB, with 5 women out of 12 members.

All the GB members actively participated in the anniversary science symposium, the loyalty day, the anniversary day program as well as in the conduct of the various committee meetings and the GB meeting itself.

In his report, GB Chair Nigel Poole emphasized the ongoing program for developing board members across the CGIAR System. For instance, Gry Synnevag and Molapo Qhobela attended the CGIAR’s Board Orientation Program held in Rome in June. Dr Poole also noted the greater sense of accountability and fiduciary responsibility among GB members arising out of recent developments in the CGIAR. He emphasized the need for closer collaboration and communication among Centers and GB members and higher level dialogues with donors to strengthen work relationships.

ICAR Director General and GB Vice-Chair S Ayyappan reported that under the 12th 5-year plan of India, there are a number of collaborative areas between ICRISAT and ICAR. These include research on the Institute’s mandate crops, biofortified cereals such as finger millet, genomics and genome sequencing, ICT4D and watershed management. New areas of collaboration include capacity building in farm management, student training and guidance, setting up agribusiness incubation centers, and business planning and development units in the ICAR system. He was thankful to ICRISAT for collaborating with ICAR and IRRI in organizing the successful meeting of this year’s Council for Partnership on Rice Research in Asia (CORRA) and looks forward to more such collaboration, particularly for the 2013 World Agricultural Forum (WAF) in Hyderabad.

Director General William Dar highlighted the submission of the revised CRP 3.5 on Grain Legumes and CRP 3.6 on Dryland Cereals for Category 1 approval by the Fund Council (FC). These have been recommended for approval by the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) on a noobjection basis by the FC. He also updated the GB on the work of the new Impact Assessment Office and the sustained implementation and monitoring of ICRISAT’s annual performance indicators. The streamlined Strategic Marketing and Communication Office (SMCO) has ramped up strategic resource mobilization opportunities, targeting 10% increase in revenues, and sustained a donor-focused, global media campaign on CRPs, flagship innovations and breakthroughs through enhanced use of high impact articles and the social media.

Members of the GB also expressed their appreciation for the efficient execution of the week-long 40th anniversary. The next GB meeting will be held on 07-10 April 2013 in Dakar, Senegal.

The 67th GB meeting in session.

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ICRISAT & ICAR host 6th international conference on legume genetics and genomics

(L-R) Conference Chair Rajeev Varshney, Director General William Dar, ICAR DDG (Crop Science) Dr Swapan Datta, and Dr Rick Dixon, Senior Vice President and Plant Biology Division Director of Noble Foundation during the inauguration of the 6th ICLGG conference.

Legumes, known as “food for all” as
they represent a healthy and affordable dietary source for all types of people,
rich or poor, are the subject of a big, international scientific conference here
in Hyderabad.

The 6th International Conference on Legume Genetics and Genomics (VI ICLGG) hosted by ICRISAT and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) opened on 2 October, bringing together more than 500 delegates from 44 countries, representing different disciplines of legume biology. The conference is part of a series of earlier ICLGG conferences held in the US (twice), France, Australia and Mexico, and is the first to be organized in Asia.

“Grain legumes are a cost-effective option for improving the diets of low-income consumers who cannot easily afford meat, dairy products and fish,” said Director General William Dar in his inaugural address. He stressed that globally, grain legumes contribute significantly towards reducing poverty, improving food security, nutrition and health, and sustaining the world’s natural resource base.

“The use of modern crop improvement technologies for grain legumes will be crucial to speed up the development of improved varieties that can provide high yields and improved livelihoods to smallholder farmers and at the same time meet the challenges of harsh environments and the threat of climate change,” Dr Dar added.

Dr Swapan Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science) of ICAR, highlighted the role of legume crops in India’s food security. “Our country is the world’s largest producer and consumer of several legume crops, yet it is still a major importer of these crops,” said Dr Datta. The conference, he added, is of great significance for India in improving its domestic supply and in meeting the demand by 9% to 26% in the coming years using genomics-based modern science in legume breeding.

Dr Rick Dixon during his inaugural lecture.

In his inaugural lecture, Dr Rick Dixon, Senior Vice President and Plant Biology Division Director of Noble Foundation, highlighted the importance of understanding the basic phenomenon of legume biology and presented an example of harnessing genomics in improving Lucerne, a forage legume crop. Dr Dixon is a Member of the National Academy of Science, the world’s most prestigious science academy.

“High quality science needs to be translated into crop improvement,” said Dr Rajeev Varshney, Director of ICRISAT’s Centre of Excellence in Genomics and the Conference Chair. ICRISAT together with national partners such as ICAR has played a critical role in releasing several hundred improved varieties and hybrids of legumes in many developing countries of Asia and Africa. ICRISAT has also started to decode the genomes of legume crops that will enhance precision and efficiency of breeding programs. For instance, last year, ICRISAT scientists together with partners from more than 10 organizations worldwide completed the genome sequencing of pigeonpea published in Nature Biotechnology, the highest impact factor journal in the area of biotechnology. ICRISAT, together with 11 major partners, is also presently leading the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Grain Legumes.

A total of 62 talks and 293 poster presentations will be delivered in 13 sessions during the conference. VI ICLGG is expected to provide an outstanding forum to stimulate ideas and establish collaborations as well as to initiate intense discussions about future innovations and directions in the basic and applied fields of legume biology. The conference will conclude on 7 October.

Dr Dar addressing the participants of the conference.   Dr Swapan Datta delivering his keynote address.

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Groundnut farmers’ field day held at Samanko, Mali

Visitors attentively listening to information provided by an ICRISAT technician.   A group of farmers admiring new groundnut varieties during the field day.

A groundnut farmers’ field day was held at the ICRISAT research station at Samanko, Mali on 27 September, giving farmers a good opportunity to familiarize themselves with recently developed groundnut breeding lines with resistance to foliar diseases and other attributes. WCA Assistant Director Dr Bonny Ntare (groundnut breeding) welcomed the farmers and presented a brief history and achievements of ICRISAT in Mali.

The field day was attended by 115 farmers (64 women and 51 men) from over 10 villages in the Koulikoro, Sikasso and Kayes regions of Mali who are involved in participatory variety trials for groundnut and other crops.

The farmers were accompanied by staff of NGOs namely, Sahel 21, Plan Mali, CAAD, Mali Folk Centre, and AfriqueVerte. The farmers had a guided tour of groundnut seed multiplication plots, breeding nurseries and pathology trials. They also visited demonstration plots for sorghum and integrated Striga management. All participants received a DVD entitled “Fighting Striga” which contains 10 short farmer-to-farmer instruction videos on issues related to soil fertility and Striga management.

The farmers were impressed by what they saw, experienced and learned during the field day. One groundnut farmer from Koutiala expressed his appreciation of the diversity of groundnut varieties. Many women farmers were interested in the confectionary groundnut types because of their large pods and heavy vegetative growth, and requested that seed be made available to them to test in their gardens.

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Sorghum scientists’ field day conducted at Patancheru

Sorghum scientists taking notes as Dr B Reddy explains progress in the sorghum improvement program.

Rains did not bless Patancheru this year, recording 13% less rainfall during the 2012 crop season compared to the normal season, but sorghum withstood this deficit with all its resilience and adaptability, lifting the spirits of sorghum scientists. A field day was organized on 3-4 October at Patancheru to showcase the depth and variability in the sorghum material bred for various traits and nuances in different disciplines of sorghum improvement program. A total of 25 public sector and 7 private sector scientists participated in the program.

Inaugurating the program, Director General William Dar challenged the scientists to diversify sorghum-based products to meet market demand, and communicate information on improved product technologies developed in partnership research. This, he added, is a way of arresting decline in sorghum area and making it a more competitive crop beyond 4Fs (food, feed, fodder and fuel) to benefit smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics.

Dr Dar also emphasized on the need to reinforce existing and develop new partnerships to bring about visible difference not only in terms of productivity enhancement but in increasing the incomes of small farmers. Earlier, Vincent Vadez, Acting Director, RP-Dryland Cereals welcomed all the participants to the field day and requested them to go through the material and provide feedback on the materials and approaches ICRISAT are adopting in its sorghum improvement program so as to improve efficiency. A Ashok Kumar gave a brief account of the weather during the 2012 rainy season and the status of the sorghum crop at ICRISAT.

Participants visited the main gate demo field to see the best material under demonstration for various traits. The group also visited various fields to have a feel of the material. Belum VS Reddy, A Ashok Kumar, HC Sharma, P Srinivasa Rao, V Vadez, Vishal Gate and Ramu Karri explained the progress of work in various areas and the organization of material in different fields to facilitate the selection by scientists. In-house presentations by Michael Blummel, Ramana Reddy, (fodder value chain), Parthasarathy Rao (sorghum value chain), Santosh P Deshpande (applied genomics) and DVSSR Sastry (Genebank) were also held.

Presentations were also given by A Ashok Kumar on biofortification of sorghum; P Srinivasa Rao on commercialization of sweet sorghum in Asia; HC Sharma on IPM in sorghum and B Reddy on the progress of sorghum improvement for postrainy season adaptation. NT Yaduraju spoke to the group on Agropedia, and Chukka Srinivas on database management and new tools. A plenary session was held, and in his closing remarks B Reddy called on the participants to make use of new information and products developed by ICRISAT in partnership research and work to generate outcomes that help smallholder farmers.

Participants of the field day at Patancheru.

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ICRISAT signs MoU with University of Agriculture Sciences – Raichur

Dr Dar exchanging a signed MoU with Dr BV Patil, Vice Chancellor of UAS-R.

Director General William Dar and Dr BV Patil, Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture Sciences – Raichur (UAS-R), signed an MoU for enhancing collaboration in research and development. UAS-R was created in 2010, after its bifurcation from UAS-Dharwad. ICRISAT scientists have been working in the target areas now under UAS-R (northern districts of Karnataka State) since 1970s, as all ICRISAT mandate crops and natural resources management (NRM) research are important in these districts.

Dr BV Patil, accompanied by
Dr S Janagoudar, Director of Research, and Dr MK Naik, Dean PG Studies, held discussions with several ICRISAT scientists (CLL Gowda, V Vadez, BVS Reddy, KB Saxena, PM Gaur, H Upadhyaya, N Yaduraju, and KH Anantha) to further enhance research collaboration in areas related to crop improvement, soil and water conservation, and policy research; and also on joint thesis research for MSc and PhD students.

Dr Dar reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to partner with UAS-R scientists in enhancing R4D in the target areas, and promised all support in furthering the cause of smallholder farmers in the region, considered as one of the poorest in Karnataka. Dr BV Patil thanked Dr Dar for his commitment, and promised to send batches of newly recruited scientific staff for exposure visit and training at ICRISAT.

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ICRISAT and Digital Green join hands for Bhoochetana

Dr SP Wani explaining the work of Bhoochetana during the inauguration of the Digital Green collaborative project at Hassan, Karnataka.

To enhance the reach of the Bhoochetana program in Karnataka, ICRISAT and Digital Green signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the effective dissemination of good management practices through a farmer-centric video approach. This approach will not only share videos among farmers for training and demonstration but through an interactive mode will also collect feedback from the farmers and enable scientists and policy makers to analyze and use the results in designing strategies to further improve the dissemination systems.

Director General William Dar and
Mr Rikin Gandhi, CEO of Digital Green signed the MoU on 26 September at ICRISAT-Patancheru, in the presence of Dr KV Sarvesh, Director, Department of Agriculture, Govt of Karnataka, along with Drs Suhas Wani, Dileepkumar Guntuku and K Krishnappa from ICRISAT.

The initiative was launched in Karnataka on 23 September where farmer facilitators were exposed to the new technology. The program was attended by Department of Agriculture, Govt. of Karnataka official, Dr Deepaja; Mr Rikin Gandhi from Digital Green; and Ms Alina Paul, Communication Consultant, along with Drs SP Wani and K Krishnappa from ICRISAT.

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Agropedia bags Agriculture Leadership Award-2012

Dr TV Prabhakar (2nd from right) receiving the award from Union Agriculture Minister of State, Mr Harish Rawat and Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Prof Prem Kumar.

Agropedia bags Agriculture Leadership Award-2012 T he Agropedia phase 2 consortium led by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur has been awarded the Agriculture Leadership Award-2012 for best extension activities in the field of agriculture. Consortium leader, Dr TV Prabhakar of IIT-Kanpur received the award on behalf of Team Agropedia at a function held at Hotel Taj Palace, New Delhi on 19 September during the 5th Agriculture Leadership Summit 2012. The award is given annually by Agriculture Today Magazine to those individuals/organizations that have made outstanding contributions in the field of agriculture.

The ICRISAT-led first phase of this ICAR-NAIP consortium (2007-2010) conceptualized, developed and deployed Agropedia for use by stakeholders and the public. Today, Agropedia is a huge digital agriculture repository with more than 7,500 registered users with about 16000 published nodes of 19 major crops grown in the country. Agropedia also received the eIndia Jury Award 2010 and the eWorld Forum Award 2012 for the best ICT-enabled agricultural initiative.

Agropedia Phase 2 launched in April 2011 was successful in developing Voice-Krishi Vigyan Kendra (vKVK) – a mobile-based knowledge delivery platform. Using the platform, extens9999ion workers and agricultural experts can record agro-advisories on their mobile phones and send them to farmers’ mobiles as voice messages. The project is currently being pilot tested in 30 KVKs of UP, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka covering more than 20,000 farmers. Recognizing its potential, ICAR has proposed to adopt this technology in all its 630+ KVKs under the 12th Five-Year Plan.

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