No. 1551 28 December 2012

India and ICRISAT partnership for impacts
Chickpea collaborative projects yield improved cultivars for smallholder farmers

Chickpea is the most important pulse crop in India in terms of both area and production. Over the last decades, improved chickpea cultivars have been released by the Indian national agricultural research system (NARS) partners using ICRISAT germplasm and breeding materials, raising production and incomes of millions of smallholder farmers.

Scientists from the Indian national system observe some improved chickpea breeding lines during the Chickpea Scientists’ Meet at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

The partnership between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and ICRISAT in chickpea improvement has led to the release of 40 improved chickpea cultivars in India, which accounted for 43 percent of the total indent of breeder seed for chickpea in the country in 2011-2012. Chickpea cultivar JG 11, covering about 80 percent of the chickpea area in Andhra Pradesh state and rapidly spreading in Karnataka, has the highest indent of breeder seed among chickpea cultivars in the country.

These were some of the highlights of ICRISAT’s research on chickpea presented at the biennial Chickpea Scientists’ Meet at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 20-21 December. The meeting brought together 50 chickpea scientists from the Indian NARS and ICRISAT to share knowledge on recent developments in chickpea research, and to provide Indian NARS partners the opportunity to select breeding materials and germplasm from ICRISAT’s fields.

M Sharma explains the pathology experiments conducted at ICRISAT.   HC Sharma elucidates on chickpea entomology.

The technical sessions included presentations on recent developments and future strategies for chickpea research. Among those who spoke were Dr NP Singh, Project Coordinator, All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on chickpea, on highlights of the project in the past two years; Dr Pooran Gaur on highlights of ICRISAT’s chickpea research; and Dr N Nadarajan, Director, Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur on priorities for chickpea research during the 12th five-year plan of the Indian Government.

Dr CLL Gowda, Director, Research Program on Grain Legumes, presented the proposed chickpea research and development activities under the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes, focused on the development of chickpea varieties with improved nitrogen fixation ability, improved nutritional quality, herbicide tolerance and suitability to mechanical harvesting.

Participants of the meeting visited ICRISAT facilities, particularly the RS Paroda Genebank; Center of Excellence in Genomics; controlled environment research facilities for disease resistance screening; Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC); and field experiments on physiology, genetic resources, breeding, pathology and entomology. The NARS scientists selected breeding lines and germplasm from the ICRISAT fields, which will be supplied to them after harvest.

Scientists from the Indian NARS represented Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand, New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and IIPR, Kanpur.

The Chickpea Scientists’ Meet is an annual event jointly organized by IIPR/ICAR and ICRISAT and held alternately at ICRISAT-Patancheru and IIPR-Kanpur.

Participants of the Chickpea Scientists’ Meet held at Patancheru.

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Promoting women entrepreneurs in agriculture

ALEAP President Mrs Rama Devi and KK Sharma exchange the MoA as Governor of Andhra Pradesh Honorable ESL Narasimhan looks on.

Women entrepreneurs need to be encouraged, more so in the agricultural sector, where their share in employment is close to 40 percent. ICRISAT’s journey in promoting women entrepreneurship entered a new chapter with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Association of Lady Entrepreneurs of Andhra Pradesh (ALEAP) on 18 December.

Under the MoA, which was signed by Director General William Dar, ICRISAT’s Agribusiness Incubator Program (ABI) will extend its agribusiness incubation services to women entrepreneurs interested in setting up agribusiness ventures, as well as provide onsite business incubation consultancy to ALEAP staff in nurturing an ecosystem for agri-entrepreneurship development.

ALEAP was formed in 1993 by a group of successful women entrepreneurs of Hyderabad to train, guide, and support women to be economically independent, and guide them in converting their ideas into businesses. The group aims to work for the upliftment and empowerment of women by establishing small and medium enterprises. Over the past two decades, it has gathered around 3,750 members and has three industrial parks apart from Business Development Cells across the state.

Speaking at the 20th Formation Day celebrations of the Association, Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Honorable ESL Narasimhan noted that encouraging entrepreneurship is the seed for the future of society and the economy, and lauded ALEAP for giving shape to the aspirations of many bold and innovative entrepreneurs. Empowering women by giving them a fair opportunity will help in the development of the society, he added.

In his remarks, Dr Kiran Sharma, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform, spoke about how the MoA would further the cause of empowering the lives of women in the agricultural sector, towards providing employment opportunities that are critical for poverty reduction.

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Best paper award on agricultural statistics

A research paper titled “Soil Fertility Mapping and its Validation using Spatial Prediction Techniques” co-authored by Dr Abhishek Rathore, Senior Scientist - Biometrics (with Dr KN Singh, Dr AK Tripathi, Dr A Subba Rao and Salman Khan) has been selected for the Best Paper Award in the field of Applied Statistics by the Indian Society of Agricultural Statistics. Dr Rathore received the award on 19 December at the International Conference on Statistics and Informatics in Agricultural Research held at the Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute, New Delhi, where he spoke on “Integration of Genomic Selection and MARS Modules in ISMU Pipeline”.

Workshop on impacts of social safety net programs on rural livelihood

Social safety net (SSN) programs have now become key public policy instruments by governments to mitigate the effects of the growing fuel, financial and food crises the world over.

MCS Bantilan giving an overview of the project during the planning workshop.

Under the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Market, Policy and Institutions, a planning workshop on the three-year project, “Impacts of Social Safety Net Program on Rural Livelihood in Semi-Arid Tropics (SAT) of India” was held at ICRISAT-Patancheru on18-19 December. The workshop aimed to analyze the impacts of major social safety net programs, particularly the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (MGNREGA), on select indicators of social outcomes.

Delivering the inaugural message, Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Director, Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies (RP-MIP), highlighted the need for a common understanding of the different components of project activities among the key partners, namely: Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR), Ahmedabad, Gujarat; SaciWATER (South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies), Hyderabad; University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru (UAS-B), Karnataka; and Alagappa University, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu.

Dr Bantilan provided an overview of the project activities and their inter-linkages with other CRPs, emphasizing on the need for a better understanding of government programs, formal and informal institutions, and social safety net-related interventions across the semi-arid tropics of India and some parts of Africa.

In the next two years, the project will analyze the impacts of MGNREGA on key program objectives and outcomes of the CRP, particularly on labor participation in public works, real wage, and consumption and asset creation of smallholder farmers in 18 select villages in five states of India.

Dr Madhusudan Bhattarai of RP-MIP presented a three-year road map of the project objectives, methodologies and activities planned across sites. D Narasimha Reddy, Professor, SR Sankaran Chair, National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad, presented an overview of MGNREGA program activities across the states of India, and its influence on the dynamics of rural labor markets.

The participants critically reviewed and discussed the project’s research components, outputs, scope of assessment, methodologies, and the role and time of delivery of outputs, including inter-linkages of activities across partners.

Dr Uttam K Deb of RP-MIP presented an overview of social protection issues in the villages of the Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) project, and explained the various modules of panel survey data that provide minute details on households, including governmental interventions. Drs N Nagaraj, Chanda Goodrich, Amarender Reddy, Nedumaran S, and VK Chopde of RP-MIP also presented their findings and research methodologies on various topics.

Participants of the planning workshop held at Patancheru.

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Two chickpea projects on genomics reviewed

Two chickpea collaborative projects were reviewed in a meeting held at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi on 18-19 December.

Participants of the review meetings of two chickpea projects held in New Delhi.

The project “CoE: Translating Genomics Research for Pulse Improvement” funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India (GoI) had its 3rd Review and Planning meeting, while the project “Genomic Approaches for Stress Tolerant Chickpea” funded by the Department of Science and Technology, GoI under the Australian-Indian Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) scheme held its 2nd Review and Planning meeting.

Dr Malavika Dadlani, Joint Director (Research), IARI inaugurated the meeting on behalf of the IARI Director. As project coordinator, Dr Rajeev Varshney gave the project overview. The session on the CoE project was co-chaired by Drs KV Prabhu, Head, Division of Genetics, IARI and Jitendar Kumar (IARI), with presentations from ICRISAT (Anu Gorantla), IIPR (KR Soren), and IARI (S Tripathi).

The session on the AISRF project was co-chaired by Drs Varshney and PM Gaur with presentations from ICRISAT (M Roorkiwal), National Institute of Plant Genome Research (M Jain) and IARI (Ch Bharadwaj) and discussions on project work plans.

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Stakeholders discuss business plan for food processing incubators

A stakeholder’s conference was held to understand the needs of food business entrepreneurs and develop a business plan for setting up food processing business incubators at the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL), Uganda on 18 December. The activity was part of the India-Africa forum summit, an initiative of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), Government of India (GoI), to establish Food Processing Business Incubation Centers (FPBIC).

Stakeholders who met in Uganda to initiate food processing business incubators.

Forty participants composed of representatives from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Director and staff of NARL, food industry experts and consultants, and food business start-up entrepreneurs came together to strengthen the initiative. They were divided into three groups – food business start-ups, professional/experts and government officials – and deliberated on the issues, challenges, and expected framework for establishing the FPBIC. Food business experts, government officials and consultants also provided suggestions on the stakeholders’ business plan.

The conference was chaired and inaugurated by Dr William Kyamuhangire, Associate Professor, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University. Mr Stephen A Biribonwa, Senior Agriculture Officer from Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, spoke on the India-Africa collaboration.

Mr SM Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program, AIP-ICRISAT presented an overview of the FPBIC and explained the framework of the meeting to develop the business plan.

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Agri-business incubation mentors meet at ICRISAT

(L-R) SM Karuppanchetty, CLL Gowda, Bangali Baboo and KK Sharma at the release of the NIABI year planner for 2013.

The Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program of AIP-ICRISAT conducted a one-day workshop for Mentors of the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI) under the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) on ‘Handholding and Mentoring of BPD Units of NARS’ on 24 December at ICRISAT-Patancheru. The workshop was to facilitate mentoring arrangements for the NAIP-BPD units to facilitate funding for their entrepreneurs.

Mentors, business incubator managers and entrepreneurs deliberated on identifying areas of support required by the BPD units and entrepreneurs. The bankers guided the mentors and clients with information on funding. Modalities of engagement were worked out and 13 formal agreements were signed and exchanged among mentors and mentees.

Delivering the welcome address, Dr Kiran Sharma, CEO, AIP-ICRISAT gave a brief overview of NIABI’s activities over the last two years. Speaking on behalf of Director General William Dar, Dr CLL Gowda, Director, Research Program on Grain Legumes emphasized the crucial role of incubators in bringing different stakeholders together to accelerate the development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services.

Chief Guest, Dr Bangali Baboo, National Director, NAIP, spoke on the need to promote agri-business for the well-being of society and on making it commercially viable for job generation within the agriculture sector. He underlined the three key elements for successful hand holding and mentoring of the BPDs, namely, analysis of the techno-economic viability of entrepreneurial ideas, generation of commercial data, and creation of effective and detailed project reports for clients by the BPD units.

Over 60 participants, including Principal Investigators (PIs) and business managers of NAIP BPD units, entrepreneurs of BPD units, mentors of NIABI, senior bankers and ICRISAT staff participated in the meeting. The event also saw the release of NIABI-Nexus, the bi-annual newsletter of NIABI, and the NIABI year planner for 2013 by Drs Baboo, Gowda and Sharma.

Participants of the workshop for mentors of NIABI held at Patancheru.

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Host plant resistance lecture delivered by ICRISAT scientist

HC Sharma being felicitated by Niranjan Panda.

Dr Hari C Sharma delivered the first Dr Niranjan Panda series lecture on “Host Plant Resistance to Insects: Potential and Limitations” at the Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology (OUAT), Bhubaneswar, on 7 December. The “Host Plant Resistance (HPR)” lecture series was initiated by Dr Niranjan Panda, a distinguished entomologist, former professor and Head, Department of Entomology, OUAT, and Visiting Scientist, IRRI. Dr Panda was instrumental in initiating the lecture series to spread the message of HPR’s usefulness in pest management for environment conservation and food security.

The meeting was presided over by OUAT Vice-Chancellor Dr DP Ray, with Dr Niranjan Panda as the chief guest.

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Farmers urged to produce chickpea as an export cash crop in Njoro district, Kenya

Farmers and extension staff who participated in the field day-cum-training held in Njoro district, Kenya.   Participants taste the different dishes made from chickpea.

Farmers and extension staff interacted with researchers from ICRISAT and the Egerton University at a chickpea field day held at St Mtakatifu Clara in Lare division, Njoro district, Kenya under the Tropical Legumes II project on 30 November. The event presented an opportunity to discuss several chickpea production challenges like low plant stand, lack of seed, and insect pest (mainly pod borers) and disease (Aschochyta blight) infestations.

Dr Paul Kimurto of Egerton University discussed the potential of chickpea from being a subsistence crop to becoming an export cash crop. According to him, the Njoro canning factory is currently buying green pods of Kabuli chickpea for canning and export at Ksh 75 (USD 0.87) per kilogram, and is willing to enter into contractual agreements with Egerton University through the TL II project.

TL I and II activities in Kenya include seed production and distribution, identification and facilitation of adoption of farmer- and market-preferred chickpea cultivars in the arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) areas, development of drought genotypes through introgression of QTL root traits using marker-assisted breeding (MABC), identification of genotypes with improved resistance to Ascochyta blight and Fusarium wilt, and enhanced resistance to pod borer in each target location, and building capacity of partners (extension workers, NGOs, farmers, seed merchants) in chickpea production technology.

Drs Ganga Rao and Peter Kaloki (ICRISAT-Nairobi), Paul Kimurto and Bernard Towett (Egerton University), St Mtakatifu Clara in Lare -Catholic Dioceses of Nakuru, Ministry of Agriculture -Extension staff of Njoro district and 75 farmers took part in the field day which also saw the display of value-added products such as chickpea cakes, roasted seeds, stew, and mandazis.

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