No. 1541 19 October 2012

Partnerships for sustainable food, nutrition and income security
CGIAR Fund Council approves CRPs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

Strategic global agricultural research partnerships are indispensable in addressing the contemporary challenges of hunger, poverty and climate change. This is the rationale behind the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) – an approach that advances the CGIAR’s vision to reduce poverty and hunger, improve human health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience.

CGIAR Fund Council Chair Rachel Kyte (left) admiring sorghum diversity at the ICRISAT demonstration area during her visit to Patancheru on 19 October. With her are (L-R) Vincent Vadez (Acting Research Program Director - Dryland Cereals), Director General William Dar, Jack Stein (World Bank Director for South Asia Sustainable Development) and Belum Reddy (Principal Scientist - Sorghum). Sorghum is one of the focus commodities of the CRP on Dryland Cereals.

Through hard work, perseverance and good science, ICRISAT led its partners in obtaining the CGIAR Fund Council’s (FC) approval of the CRPs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals, and give hope for a more food, nutrition and income secure life to billions of poor in the dryland tropics of the world.

The two CRPs received approval from the FC based on the recommendations of the CGIAR Consortium Board (CB) and Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC). In developing the approved versions of the CRP proposals, all partners, stakeholders and external experts assembled and synthesized the required information, met and discussed key messages, developed the revised framework and reconfigured the proposals taking into consideration the earlier comments of ISPC and FC.

This concerted effort has resulted in the compelling CRPs, which with their approval, can now be moved forward for full implementation. All partners now face the bigger challenge – mapping out the three-year program of action to ensure the successful implementation of the two research programs.

The CRP on Grain Legumes focuses on improving chickpea, common bean, cowpea, groundnut, faba bean, lentil, pigeonpea and soybean crops grown by poor smallholder families in five regions (in order of production area and numbers of poor people): South and Southeast Asia, Western and Central Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Central and Western Asia and North Africa.

FC Chair Rachel Kyte with Dr Dar at the groundnut demonstration area. Groundnut is one of the focus commodities of CRP on Grain Legumes. Also seen is CLL Gowda (Research Program Director - Grain Legumes).

The Program aims to benefit 300 million poor by the end of its first 10-year cycle. It is a global research-for-development collaboration involving four members of the CGIAR Consortium: ICRISAT as lead center, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Other principal partners include the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme, four large national agricultural research systems (EIAR-Ethiopia, EMBRAPA-Brazil, GDAR-Turkey, and ICAR-India) and the USAID-supported Dry Grain Pulses and Peanut Collaborative Research Support Programs.

The CRP on Dryland Cereals is a global partnership between two members of the CGIAR Consortium – ICRISAT as lead center, and ICARDA, the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme, the French institutes CIRAD and IRD, key national programs (EMBRAPA-Brazil, AREEO-Iran and ICAR-India), and the USAID-supported INTSORMIL Collaborative Research Support Program.

The Program focuses on millets, sorghum, and barley – climate-resilient crops that dryland families and their livestock mostly depend on. Demand for these crops will increase by nearly 50 percent by 2020 compared to the beginning of the millennium. The effects of climate change compound this challenge; it has been projected to reduce sorghum and pearl millet yields by almost 17 percent by 2050 in Africa alone. Therefore, the research challenge is to raise the productivity of these crops to meet this growing demand, while retaining or even increasing their resilience against stresses.

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ICRISAT germplasm for Svalbard Global Seed Vault

As part of the agreement between ICRISAT and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center (NGRC - formerly Nordic Gene Bank), Norway, the ICRISAT Genebank has deposited seed samples of 86,600 in-trust germplasm collections into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway during the years 2008-2011.

This year, another set of seed samples of 11,200 accessions were shipped for the depositions to the vault in the first week of October. The shipment reached safely and seed samples were deposited into the designated vault chambers. The passport and conservation information on these accessions were successfully uploaded to the public data portal at With these depositions, the total number of duplicate samples of ICRISAT germplasm at the seed vault has increased to 97,800 representing sorghum (30,712), pearl millet (18,695), chickpea (16,806), pigeonpea (9,434), groundnut (12,295), finger millet (5,818), foxtail millet (1,413), proso millet (813), little millet (460), kodo millet (648) and barnyard millet (706). In addition, 4,350 duplicate samples of these accessions were conserved in the seed vault for monitoring germination.

ICRISAT gratefully acknowledges the support from the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), NGRC and the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), India in this important task of saving global agricultural biodiversity for future generations.

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ICRISAT-HOPE Gender Specialist visits Kano center

Women of Gambawa village demonstrate to
Dr Goodrich (far right) the mixing of processed millet (fura) with yoghurt.
  A roundtable discussion in progress with partners.

As part of the monitoring activities under the ICRISAT-HOPE project, Gender Specialist Chanda Goodrich visited ICRISAT-Kano on 5-8 October.

A roundtable discussion was organized between Dr Goodrich and ICRISAT-HOPE and TL II partners from the National Research Institutes (IAR, Zaria and LCRI, Maiduguri); the State Agricultural Development Projects of Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States; and a local NGO, the Green Sahel Agricultural and Rural Development Initiatives (GSARDI). Discussions centered on gender mainstreaming in project implementation, importance of gender disaggregation in reporting and cultural and gender sensitivities, among others.

Dr Goodrich also visited women and men farmers in Gambawa village and women processor project partners in Gumel, accompanied by ICRISAT Nigeria Country Representative Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe and Director of GSARDI, Alh Mohammed Adamu. They were shown the project’s sorghum plots and integrated Striga control demonstrations by the various groups in Gambawa, and the local and improved processing of millet grains in Gambawa and Gumel, respectively.

In Gambawa, women are very active in farm activities, doing more than 70% of contract weeding and almost 100% of threshing; planting is also largely done by women and children, while processing is exclusively a woman’s task in addition to household chores. The farmers thanked ICRISAT and GSARDI and promised to increase their participation in the coming years.

Women farmers have already benefited from the improved varieties and management system extended to them, such as lower incidence of Striga on improved sorghum varieties and management with early maturity and higher grain yields. It was agreed that two lead farmers will be identified, each to be provided 0.5 ha of land for demonstration of improved technologies of sorghum, millet and groundnut as mother trials. A register will also be open for other farmers from which to choose crops and important constraints, allowing for group marketing and purchase of produce and input.

Dr Goodrich encouraged the women farmers to cooperate more with the scientists on technology development and dissemination in the area, to form cooperatives and have routine cash contributions to be used for agricultural and social activities.

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H Upadhyaya elected Honorary Fellow of ISPGR

Dr Hari Upadhyaya, Assistant Research Program Director, Grain Legumes, and Head, Genebank was elected Honorary Fellow of the Indian Society of Plant Genetic Resources (ISPGR) for 2012 for his outstanding contributions to the field of Plant Genetic Resources, leading to significant growth in agriculture. Dr Upadhyaya was honored on 6 October along with Dr Swapan K Datta, DDG (Crops), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, as the other Honorary Fellow for 2012. Dr RS Paroda, Former Chair of ICRISAT Governing Board and Patron of ISPGR presented the Honorary Fellowship to Dr Upadhyaya. In the 25 years history of ISPGR, only seven scientists, including Drs H Upadhyaya and SK Datta in 2012, have been honored with the Honorary Fellow.

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Anniversary celebration in ESA

The ICRISAT Nairobi team celebrated the Institute’s 40th founding anniversary on 5 October at the Enashapai Resort and Spa in Naivasha with fun and leisure activities that included sumptuous meals, a guided wild animal park tour, gala dinner, presentation of awards, dance competitions, music and raffle ticket draws (see pictures below).

The celebration was led by ESA Director Said Silim who, along with Ganga Rao, received the outstanding partnership award for the region. Dr Silim was also honored by the ICRISAT Nairobi staff for his leadership. The Resource Mobilization Award was given to Allistar Orr and Lieven Claessens, while Bernard Munyua, Daniel Ajaku and Patrick Sheunda were acknowledged for their significant contributions to the Institute.

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TL-II training programs held at ICRISAT

Dr MCS Bantilan with participants of one of the TL-II training programs.

ICRISAT conducted two separate training programs in Patancheru under the Socio-economic component of the Tropical Legumes II (Phase II) project.

The “Orientation-cum-training program for the conduct of baseline surveys” was conducted on 1-3 October for new project partners under Phase II, which included representatives from the Indian NARS and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). Identification of baseline survey sites, development of survey instruments and modus-operandi for actual implementation of surveys were discussed and finalized for chickpea in Bangladesh. Similar baseline survey work plans were developed with Indian NARS partners for groundnut in Orissa and chickpea and pigeonpea in Bihar state, under the coordination of the Orissa University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (OUAT) and the Bihar Agricultural University (BAU), Sabour.

The second training program was on “Real-time tracking of varietal diffusion” for Phase I NARS participants from ANGRAU (Andhra Pradesh), UAS, Dharwad (Karnataka) and TNAU (Tamil Nadu) on 4-5 October. This training program focused on tracking the Phase I project intervention villages and beneficiaries of seeds for chickpea in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states and groundnut in Tamil Nadu state, and assessing the extent of adoption of improved cultivars. Development of sampling strategy, survey instruments and collection of beneficiaries’ information were discussed and planned for the conduct of large-scale surveys in these locations.

MCS Bantilan, Program Director – Markets, Institutions and Policies and other scientists of the TL II (Phase II) project were actively involved in the deliberations, and also provided valuable feedback to NARS partners during two training programs.

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ICRISAT and INRAN hold field day in Niger

To increase awareness on the applicability and adaptability of agricultural technology packages, the Institut National de Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN) and ICRISAT jointly set up a demonstration plot in the village of Toulwaré (30 km from Niamey) in an estimated 4.5 ha of land. On 5-6 October, the demonstration trials were opened to farmers and other visitors.

Niger’s Minister of Agriculture addresses the visitors.

The first day was attended by key guests and officials, as well as a number of farmers from surrounding villages. The Minister of Agricultural Development of Niger gave the opening message during the field day. He was accompanied by the Governor of Tillabéry, Director General of INRAN, and ICRISAT Country Representative in Niger. Officials from Niger emphasized the quality of the work done in the demonstration plot and congratulated ICRISAT and INRAN for their scientific and development collaboration.

The second day featured an exhibition of several varieties of cowpea, groundnut, millet, sorghum, sesame, okra, casiatora and hibiscus. Field demonstrations were conducted on farming techniques such as conservation of water and soil and fertilizer microdosing.

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ICRISAT hosts Accelerated Crop Improvement Programme (ACIP) meeting

(Left) Participants of the ACIP meeting. (Right) DG William Dar addresses the participants.

The XI Task Force Meeting on Accelerated Crop Improvement Programme (ACIP) of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was hosted at ICRISAT on 11 October. Attended by the Task Force members, Project Coordinators, Principal Investigators (PIs) and Co-PIs, about 45 ongoing projects under 7 network projects were reviewed during the meeting.

“These days, Hyderabad is the center of the global discourse on biodiversity. Despite lots of critics and nonbelievers, modern biotechnology including marker-assisted breeding, transgenic crops and genomics are all useful in biodiversity conservation,” said Director General William Dar in his address to the group.

Dr Dar added that “ICRISAT’s collaborative experience with India’s DBT has been very productive, as evident in the establishment of the Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) headed by Dr Rajeev Varshney, and the molecular breeding in chickpea, among several others.” He also recognized the role and contribution of DBT in the establishment of the Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC) at ICRISAT.

Dr RR Sinha, DBT Senior Adviser, acknowledged ICRISAT’s work and willingness to extend help in organizing the meeting at the Patancheru campus. Professor PK Gupta, Chairman of the DBT-ACIP Task Force, congratulated ICRISAT for its outstanding facilities and excellent meeting arrangement and hospitality.

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ICRISAT at the 3rd AgMIP Global Workshop

ICRISAT scientists participated in the 3rd AgMIP (Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvements Project) Global Workshop to learn initial results and help develop ongoing and future work of AgMIP. The meeting was held at the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy on 10-12 October.

AgMIP is advancing research activities for climate scenarios, crop modeling, economics, and information technology teams, as well as regional initiatives and crop-specific assessment. Over the last year, AgMIP has made considerable strides in building a global, transdisciplinary network of scientists to evaluate the impacts of climate change on crop production and food security around the globe. Plans are underway to expand AgMIP activities in South Asia.

Dileepkumar Guntuku at the 3rd AgMIP global workshop held in Rome.

Dileepkumar Guntuku, Global Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation presented a summary of AgMIP South Asia Projects at the workshop, as he will be leading the AgMIP South Asia Capacity Building and Knowledge Sharing Coordination team. Peter Craufurd, Cynthia Bantilan, KPC Rao and other ICRISAT scientists participated in the workshop.

The AgMIP South Asia Regional Projects kickoff meeting will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 12-16 November 2012, co-hosted by IWMI.

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Wheat biofortification group meeting

Participants of the wheat biofortification group meeting held in Patancheru.

ICRISAT-HarvestPlus organized a review and planning meeting of the wheat biofortification research group in India at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 15-16 October. Nineteen participants including 5 from the national agricultural research system, 8 from the private seed sector and 6 from ICRISAT/CIAT/CIMMYT participated in this meeting.

Following an overview of the HarvestPlus research development and delivery framework and strategy presented by Wolfgang Pfeiffer, Deputy Director of HarvestPlus, research partners presented the results of 2011-2012 and developed planting plans for 2012-2013. Besides several trials constituted by CIMMYT’s HarvestPlus project for multilocational evaluation, another trial of high-Zn lines developed by a DBT-funded project at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, will be also be evaluated multi-locationally in 2012-2013, provided a quick approval for sharing this material can be obtained from the DBT. Sharing of this material is likely to accelerate the development of high-Zn wheat varieties.

In his concluding remarks, ICRISAT’s KN Rai made a specific mention of the significant progress made in biofortified wheat cultivar development and the increasing participation of the private seed companies, all of which are members of the Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium.