No. 1549 14 December 2012

Project strategies for sorghum and pearl millet in Nigeria sketched out

Sorghum and pearl millet are important crops that can increase incomes and enhance livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Nigeria. Promoting the right varieties and production technologies in addition to creating linkages between producers and processors is crucial for this.

Participants of the HOPE project who met to discuss the R&D strategy for sorghum and pearl millet in Nigeria.

A research and development strategy for sorghum and pearl millet in Nigeria was drafted during a workshop of the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets project held in Kano, Nigeria, on 5 December.

The workshop was organized by project partners (Nigerian institutions and ICRISAT) to share and exchange implementation experiences, lessons learnt, plan for the future and standardize reporting format. One of its sessions was devoted to discussions with processing companies on ways of networking with farmers to supply quality grains to help both parties increase their income and improve farmer’s livelihoods. The project has promoted varieties and production technologies of sorghum and pearl millet through mini-pack distribution and demonstrations. It has also boosted the productivity of women processors by introducing modern small-scale processing technologies and linkages to farmers.

Welcoming the gathering, ICRISAT country representative Hakeem Ajeigbe outlined the project’s achievements and mentioned that over 6000 copies of the “Fighting Striga” DVD (with 10 modules) had been distributed to individual farmers, farmer groups and extension partners. He thanked the partners, especially the representative of Lifecare Ventures, who had travelled over 1000 km to attend the meeting.

The participants were split into two groups to deliberate on the country strategies for sorghum
and millet. Based on the groups’ reports, recommendations were made on finalizing the draft documents assigning responsibilities to individuals. Dr CT Hash was assigned to collate inputs for the strategy on millet, while DrAjeigbe will do the same for sorghum. It was agreed that the way forward lay in strengthening the partnership into an innovation platform and that linkages be made between producers and processors with developmental partners as initial brokers.

The workshop was attended by 15 participants from the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Community Based Agricultural and Rural Development Project (CBARDP), processing companies (Celsian mills Ltd, Gumel; Dala Foods Ltd, Kano; and Lifecare Ventures, Ota, Ogun State) and ICRISAT.

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Maharashtra farmers learn about value addition and processing of postrainy-season sorghum

Farmers at the postrainy-season sorghum demonstration plot at Patancheru.

To sensitize farmers on value addition and development of value-added products from sorghum grain and fodder, ICRISAT and the Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR) hosted 20 farmer couples from Parbhani, Beed and Jalna (Marathwada region) and Solapur, Ahmednagar and Pune (Rahuri region), Maharashtra on 10 December. The activity was part of the HOPE project.

The farmers were taken around RagnhildSohlbergmuseum, and AIP where they were shown how value-added products like biscuits and popped grain made from sorghum. They visited experimental and demonstration plots and learnt about the best management practices for sorghum cultivation.

Farmers get to see the range of value-added products at the Directorate of Sorghum Research.

At the ILRI office in Patancheru, they were shown value addition of sorghum fodder to feed blocks, chopped fodder and pellets. At DSR, DrMukesh and MrsVishala from the Center of Excellence on Value Addition and Processing demonstrated the machines used for processing, cleaning, grading, pearling, popping and roti making. The farmers were exposed to value-added products like flakes, multigrain atta (flour), biscuits, semolina and pasta made from sorghum grain.

The farmers were accompanied by MrPokharkar, Assistant Professor, Mahatma PhuleKrishiVidyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri and Sachin More, Assistant Professor, Marathwada Agricultural University (MAU), Parbhani and Co-Principal Investigators of the project. The visit was co-ordinated by Drs G Basavaraj and Parthasarathy Rao (ICRISAT) and DrDayakarRao  (DSR).

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Japan and ICRISAT fortify ties through Biological Nitrification Inhibition project

The Biological Nitrification Inhibition (BNI) in sorghum collaborative project between the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) and ICRISAT held its Annual Review and Planning Meeting at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 12 December.

Participants of the Annual Review and Planning Meeting held at Patancheru.

Welcoming the participants, Dr Watanabe, ICRISAT Project Leader, and DrSuhas P Wani highlighted the importance of BNI and the long collaboration between the Government of  Japan and ICRISAT in the area of natural resource management. Theme-wise presentations were made and discussed in detail.

Later, Mr Hideki Taniguchi, Secretary, Embassy of Japan, New Delhi and  DrYasuo Ando, JIRCAS Project Leader briefed DG William Dar about the project’s progress. Dr Dar, in turn, stressed the importance of the collaboration and urged the Japanese team to further strengthen ties between ICRISAT and the Government of Japan. Research Program Director – Resilient Dryland Systems, Dr Peter Craufurd, delivered the closing remarks.

The other participants of the meeting included
Drs GV Subbarao and Junichi Kashiwagi from Japan;
DrsIssahSurgi and Kenneth OpareObuobi  from Ghana; and team members from ICRISAT.

The project is funded by the Ministry of Fisheries, Government of Japan.

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Role of genomics in orphan crops’ productivity featured in Nature Biotechnology

Despite advances in genomics over the past 20 years, the overall adoption of genomics-assisted breeding in developing countries is limited, especially for complex traits like yield under environmental stress in several crops.

An invited opinion piece titled “Can genomics boost productivity of orphan crops?” published in Nature Biotechnology (Dec 6, 2012), the leading research journal in biotechnology, seeks to throw light on the prospects, potential and constraints of genomics in enhancing crop productivity of so-called ‘orphan crops’ in developing countries.

The opinion piece is authored by Rajeev Varshney, Director – Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG), ICRISAT; Jean-Marcel Ribaut, Director – Generation Challenge Programme, Mexico; Edward S Buckler, Geneticist, USDA/ARS and Cornell University, USA; Roberto Tuberosa, Professor, University Bologna, Italy; J AntoniRafalski, Group Leader, DuPont, USA; and Peter Langridge, Director and CEO, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics.

The piece also discusses why it is essential to invest in orphan crops (and not just major crops); how modern approaches like next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies and genome wide association study (GWAS) are expected to accelerate genomics and genetic research; and how modern breeding approaches like genomic selection (GS), marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS) and marker-assisted back crossing (MABC) will enhance genetic gain in coming years. It also dwells on the role of information technology, training and capacity building in improving and sustaining genomics-assisted breeding approaches in developing countries.

Congratulating Rajeev Varshney on this success,
DG William Dar said, “This is another honor for Rajeev and for the institute”. Praise also came from Governing Board Chair Dr Nigel Poole who said,
“I am so proud of you and your contribution to ICRISAT and science in general”.

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Groundnut diseases: Priorities identified for joint research among Asian countries

Three economically important soilborne diseases of groundnut – bacterial wilt, stem and pod rot (white mold) and Sclerotinia blight – were identified as priority for coordinated research among Asian countries at the recent Groundnut Bacterial Wilt and Sclerotium Stem Rot Diseases Working Group meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand.

Participants of the Working Group meeting held in Bangkok.

Fifteen partners from the NARS of China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, who represent major groundnut-growing regions of Asia, took part in this meeting. A draft work plan was prepared focussing on developing integrated disease management strategies, improving the reliability of diseases screening techniques, identification of resistant sources, breeding high-yielding and disease-resistant varieties, understanding soil microbe population dynamics as a strategy towards disease management, germplasm exchange, and training courses for young scientists. The working group also serves as a platform to enable collaboration among  members of the group.

Dr CLL Gowda, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, welcomed the participants  and emphasized the growing importance of soilborne diseases of groundnut in Asia. He was optimistic that working groups could synergize research efforts to tackle regionally important problems. He also reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to coordinating such research efforts in the interest of smallholder farmers in Asia.

The meeting was inaugurated by DrThongchaiTangpremsri, Director, Field and Renewable Energy Crops Research Institute (FCRI), who fondly recalled his organization’s long-term association with ICRISAT, and underlined that the current meeting revealed their common goals towards enhancing agricultural production and productivity of the drylands of Asia.
Joining the meeting virtually, Professor Liao Boshou, Deputy Director, Oil Crops Research Institute and technical co-ordinator of the Groundnut Bacterial Wilt Working Group, reported the overall objectives of the meeting and joined in the following day to finalize the work plans of the working group.

The meeting was organized by ICRISAT, Oil Crops Research Institute, Wuhan, of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing; and FCRI, Bangkok, of the Department of Agriculture, Thailand. Drs P Janila and HariSudini from ICRISAT led the discussions and preparation of work plans.

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Manthan Special Mention Award 2012 for Agropedia

The NAIP consortium project on Agropedia, of which ICRISAT is a partner, has pioneered the development and deployment of a mobile-based extension delivery system for the farming community.The platform, popularly referred to as virtual KVK (vKVK), aims to empower KVK personnel in the delivery of agro-advisories as voice messages to farmers.

Acknowledging its importance, the project was awarded the Manthan Special Mention Award 2012 at a function held in New Delhi on 1 December. The lead center, Indian Institute of Technology - Kanpur, received the award from Dr Amir Ullah Khan, Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) on behalf of Team Agropedia. The Manthan Award is given away by the Digital Empowerment Foundation.

Agropedia is a digital agriculture repository with over 7,500 registered users and about 16,000 published nodes of 19 major crops grown in the country. ICRISAT led the first phase of this consortium during 2007-10.

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Hands-on training in phenotyping of diseases in chickpea and pigeonpea

Developing crop varieties resistant to disease and maintaining their resistance are major challenges in plant breeding. Accurate diagnosis and greater understanding of causal agents of disease is key to success in this area. Improving knowledge of these diseases using modern methods is therefore crucial.

Hands-on training in controlled environment phenotyping.

ICRISAT in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) organized the first International Training Course on “High throughput phenotyping for identifying disease resistance in chickpea and pigeonpea” from 3-8 December at ICRISAT-Patancheru. 
Speaking to the learners, Director General William Dar in his opening address emphasized the importance of sharing knowledge and improved technologies through such courses. He  stressed the need to work on climate-resilient agriculture and appreciated the timely initiative of Dr Suresh Pande and his team in setting up the Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection (CoE-CCRPP) at ICRISAT. 

Twenty-three participants from ICAR institutes, State Agricultural Universities, and six  participants from the Philippines, Nepal, and Bangladesh were taught the nuances of diagnosing diseases and reliable and repeatable resistance screening techniques to identify disease-resistant sources in chickpea and pigeonpea. The course focused on hands-on training to develop the greenhouse, controlled environmental and field resistance screening techniques for the management of diseases as well as in using disease rating scales, selection of disease-resistant parents and identification of improved genotypes for developing resistant cultivars.
Scientists and research staff from Research Program – Grain Legumes (Drs Suresh Pande, Mamta Sharma, PM Gaur, KB Saxena, and Sameer Kumar) and external experts in plant pathology (Drs S C Dubey, IARI; Dr Om Gupta, JNKVV; DrLivinderKaur, PAU; and DrAshwaniBasandrai, HPKVV) shared their experiences with the participants. Each participant went through step-wise resistance screening protocols for all important diseases in both plants.

Four Information Bulletins on chickpea and pigeonpea disease diagnosis (2) and phenotyping of diseases (2) were released on the occasion. At the end of the course, conducted by ICRISAT’s Legumes Pathology Unit and Learning Systems Unit (LSU), the trainees were presented with certificates of participation by Dr CLL Gowda.

Participants of the training held at Patancheru.

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