19 April 2013
No. 1567

Genomics of plant genetic resources for global food security

The ICRISAT team with Dr Suk-Ha Lee, GPGR3 Chair (2nd from right) in the ICRISAT exhibit booth at the GPGR3 symposium held in Jeju Island, South Korea.

The world’s population is projected to reach 10 billion by the year 2050, which will require a 70-100% increase in food production amid the effects of climate change that threaten food security across the globe. New scientific tools like genomics of plant genetic resources are the world’s best option to meet the food production requirement in the next 40 years.

“With the rapid advancement of genomics research, gene sequences should be available hopefully in the next 3-4 years for all plant species of economic importance. But the most important challenge to the scientific community will be to utilize these gene sequences and genome sequence diversity for crop improvement for food security, as well as for conserving biodiversity,” emphasized Dr CLL Gowda, Program Director - Grain Legumes, in the inaugural address he delivered on behalf of Director General William D. Dar at the 3rd International Symposium on Genomics of Plant Genetic Resources (GPGR3).

Tackling the challenges of addressing global food security today and in the future, GPGR3 is being held this week, 16-19 April, in Jeju Island, South Korea.

Dr CLL Gowda delivering the inaugural address on behalf of DG William Dar.

ICRISAT, in the last two years, has led a global research team in completing the genome sequencing of chickpea and pigeonpea, two important legume crops and major protein sources of the poor in the dryland tropics. “By the end of 2014, we should have genome sequenced all of our mandate crops (groundnut, pearl millet and sorghum, in addition to chickpea and pigeonpea). Not only this, we have challenged the ICRISAT genomics scientists to generate genome variation maps after sequencing several hundred lines in each of these crops,” Dr Gowda added.

During the inaugural session also chaired by Dr Gowda, the work and contributions of Dr Gebisa Ejeta, plant breeder-geneticist, World Food Prize winner and a former ICRISAT scientist, were recognized.

Dr Hari Upadhyaya, Head of Genebank and Dr Rajeev Varshney, Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) co-chaired the “Genomics of genebank” workshop, which had presentations from CGIAR and national programs. During the session, Dr Upadhyaya presented the ICRISAT genebank activities, particularly on genomic tools for germplasm characterization.

Dr Varshney chaired the session on “Toward reference genome for crop plants”, where he also delivered a presentation on “Genome sequence information for crop improvement in chickpea (Cicer arietinum) and pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan)”. Dr Dong Hong Kim (Post-doctoral Scientist) presented a poster on “Analysis of 96 Rhizobial sequence from chickpea nodules by whole genome sequence” while Dr Vikas Kumar Singh (Special Project Scientist) presented a poster on “Development of first multi-parent advanced generation inter-cross (MAGIC) population in pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan)”.

ICRISAT’s exhibition booth as one of the conference sponsors maps out the programs and activities of the institute’s Genebank and CEG.

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Call for Seed Awards 2013 applications

The SEED Initiative, funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has called for applications for the 2013 SEED Awards. 

The awards are intended for start-up entrepreneurs, women-led enterprises, or business ideas that integrate social and environmental benefits and solve pressing local issues or contribute to mitigating and/or adapting to climate change, or those needing support to establish and grow their enterprise.

The SEED Initiative is a global partnership for action on the Green Economy. It identifies and supports promising small-scale start-up social and environmental entrepreneurs around the globe, entrepreneurs that while working towards a greener economy also tackle poverty, marginalization and social exclusion.

The deadline for submissions is 12 June 2013, 23:59 CET. For more details, please visit

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Training of Food Testing Laboratory personnel from Africa concludes

A participant receives a certificate and memento from Chief Guest Mr Alok Ranjan Jha (2nd from right).

“This is a rewarding and valuable experience for us. We are now confident of applying in our own country what we have learned on state-of-the-art food testing equipment,” said Mr Paul A Correa from Gambia, one of the participants of the training on Knowledge and Skill Development of Food Testing Laboratory Personnel from African countries that concluded on 11 April at the ICRISAT headquarters.

Twenty-four participants from the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Senegal took part in this training sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India (GoI). It was part of the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) II initiative of the GoI being implemented by the NutriPlus Knowledge Program (NPK) of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP).

In his special address, Chief Guest Mr Alok Ranjan Jha, Deputy Secretary (Eastern and Southern Africa), Ministry of External Affairs, GoI, spoke of IAFS’ objectives in ensuring the development, capacity building and strengthening of the economies of the African countries. He acknowledged ICRISAT’s crucial role in setting up Food Testing Laboratories (FTLs) and Food Processing Business Incubators (FPBICs) under the initiative and expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the training program. He emphasized that capacity building would continue to be an important component of future IAFS initiatives.

Mr Jha explained that the IAFS II initiative is based on the Framework of Cooperation and the associated plan agreed between India and the African Union at the Delhi Declaration in April 2008. “The successful utilization of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program offered by India has been a manifestation of the South-South Cooperation that effectively exists between Africa and India. The enhancement of scholarships and training positions under the ITEC program, as well as the creation of new courses to train African nationals in specified areas all emerge from these,” he added.

He urged the African participants to take advantage of the upcoming opportunities in capacity building being offered under the initiative and elaborated on the IAFS-III projects being planned for 2014.

In his address, Dr KK Sharma, CEO, AIP emphasized that the training would lead to the setting up of ISO 17025:2005 accredited Food Testing Laboratories in these countries, create markets and generate demand for a wider diversity of higher-value foodstuffs and agro-industrial products. “The training program and similar activities in capacity building are the key to strengthening the agricultural value chain and enabling Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD),” he said.

Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, COO, NutriPlus Knowledge Program, gave a detailed overview of the training activities undertaken during the closing program.

Participants of the training program with ICRISAT staff.

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Advances in seed information systems development in Malawi

Mr P Modi (4th from left) briefing seed services staff on seed information system development.

Seed is a vital farm input that needs careful management across the value chain in order to improve farmers’ productivity. In Malawi, the Seed Services Unit, under the Director of Agriculture Research Services, is mandated to assure and certify the quality of all crop seed before it is routed to the farmer. The Unit has faced a number of challenges, one of which was the tedious manual system of record keeping.    

An analysis of the Unit’s information system in 2010, led to ICRISAT investing in a computer-based system that could improve the efficacy of the Unit. The first module focusing on seed grower registration was developed and commissioned that same year, capturing details such as grower name, contact details, field location, crop species and varieties being produced, facilitating quick access to information on the grower by Seed Services Officers. However, the module was incomplete, requiring the addition of Inspection and Testing Modules.

Mr Pradyut Modi, ICRISAT’s Senior Manager, Information Systems Unit was in Malawi recently to make an assessment of the Seed Services Unit Officers’ information requirements relating to Seed Inspection and Testing before a software application could be developed. The assessment was successfully done during the first week of April 2013.

Briefing the Seed Services staff, Mr Modi said that the system development was going through a very important phase and that the consultative approach would ensure that the final product is of true value to all officers involved in seed certification. The Inspection and Testing Modules would be ready for use by July 2013.

(L to R) Drs W Makumba, M Siambi, M Banda and Mr P Modi at a meeting.

Prior to this, Mr Modi accompanied by Dr Moses Siambi, ICRISAT Malawi Country Representative and Mr Felix Sichali, Project Manager of the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project, had a meeting with the Deputy Director for Agriculture Services, Dr Mackson Banda and the Station Manager for Chitedze Agricultural Research Station, Dr Wilkson Makumba.

Dr Siambi briefed them on the importance of installing such a system and how it would improve efficiency and eliminate any unscrupulous dealings during seed certification processes.

The Seed Information System development is being funded by Irish Aid through ICRISAT’s Malawi Seed Industry Development Project.

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Odisha pigeonpea project holds review and planning meeting

Participants of the Odisha pigeonpea project’s review and planning meeting held at Siripur, Odisha.

Nearly 4,070 hectares were sown using the Improved Pigeonpea Production Technology (IPPT) and 1,262 hectares with the seed production program in 2012 under the project “Introduction and expansion of improved pigeonpea production technology in rainfed upland ecosystems of Odisha.” Of these, 914 hectares have been certified by the Odisha State Seed & Organic Products Certification Agency (OSSOPCA). These achievements highlighted the project’s review and planning meeting held at Siripur, Odisha on 4 April.

Presenting the 2012 achievements, Dr MG Mula, ICRISAT Scientist (Seed Systems) said that 491.6 tons of Foundation, Certified and TL (hybrids) seeds had been produced as part of the project activities. Apart from the project’s procurement of 60 tons seeds for the 2013 cropping season, Dr RS Gopalan, Director of Odisha’s Directorate of Agriculture and Food Production, urged private and government seed corporations to procure their own seeds rather than buy from other states. Dr Gopalan appreciated last year’s institutionalization of the seed delivery system where pure quality of farmer-preferred seeds of varieties and hybrids are sustained.

Presenting the plans for 2013, Dr Mula said that the project proposes to cover 6,740 hectares for the 2013-2014 cropping season, of which 1,240 hectares will be under the seed production program. Apart from IPPT and seed production, Farmer Participatory Varietal Selection Trials  in 105 sites; construction of godowns; operationalization of dal mills; and capacity strengthening of stakeholders including mass media are planned.  

Dr RS Gopalan (center) presides over the meeting with Dr Giri (left) and Dr Mula (right).

Also presented were plans for the implementation of the mid-year project assessment (RP Mula and H Anupama); women’s participation in the project (KB Saxena, H Anupama and RP Mula); and hybrid technology (S Kumar, KB Saxena and RV Kumar).

The meeting was chaired by Dr RS Gopalan, Director, along with Deputy Director Saroj Das (Pulses) and Deputy Directors of Agriculture (DDAs) of the five recipient districts of Nauparha, Rayagada, Kalahandi, Boudh and Bolangir.

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ICRISAT and West African Centre for Crop Improvement sign partnership agreement

(L to R) Prof Eric Danquah, Director, WACCI with ICRISAT Director General WD Dar and Governing Board Chair N Poole during the signing of the MoU.

ICRISAT and the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 8 April in Dakar, as part of the Partnership Day during ICRISAT’s Governing Board meeting.

The MoU, which will be in force for five years, aims at cooperation and collaboration in research for development, training and others activities. It encourages the exchange of scientific materials, publications and information as well as visits of staff and admission of students. ICRISAT and WACCI will also jointly explore external funding opportunities through project proposal development, thus enabling both parties to extend their collaborative activities.

WACCI based at the University of Ghana aims to train plant breeders with capacity to lead the conversion of genetic and molecular discoveries into innovative solutions that result in improved varieties to benefit agriculture and improve food security in West Africa.

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Promoting innovations and entrepreneurship through incubation

That innovation and entrepreneurship are critical drivers of social and economic development was highlighted at the recent Innovations and Entrepreneurship Promotion Program held at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI), Ahmedabad, India.

Representing ICRISAT at the event, Mr SM Karuppanchety, COO, ABI program of AIP-ICRISAT emphasized that there is now a greater awareness among developing economies of the need to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Hence, policymakers and other stakeholders are increasingly viewing business incubation as an important tool to enable competitive enterprises and create sustainable jobs. He also spoke on initiating, planning and implementing business incubation activities to promote knowledge-based enterprises; assistance and support required to set up technology-based business ventures; and business incubator sustainability, among other areas.

Mr SM Karuppanchetty during the presentation in Ahmedabad.

The Program was aimed at preparing and training participants in the functional areas of business incubation by sharing the knowledge and experiences of Indian incubation managers and accelerating the process of promoting innovations and entrepreneurship in developing countries.

The participants included incubation managers, academia/professionals intending to set up incubation centers, business counselors, entrepreneurship trainer-motivators, business promotion officers, and staff of government organizations engaged in investment/business promotion.

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ICRISAT’s molecular breeding approaches in groundnut improvement presented

Dr P Janila during her presentation.

ICRISAT’s approaches in groundnut breeding and progress made through the adoption of integrated molecular breeding was presented at the All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Groundnut (AICRP-G) workshop held at the Junagadh Agricultural University, Junagadh, Gujarat on 15-17 April.

Representing ICRISAT and giving the presentation at the workshop’s inaugural session was Dr P Janila, Scientist - Groundnut Breeding.

The workshop sessions focused on groundnut improvement, agronomy and pest and disease management. Taking note of the dwindling groundnut production in India, a brainstorming session on “An appraisal of current groundnut scenario and emerging research requirements” was conducted, chaired by Dr NC Patel (Vice Chancellor, Junagadh Agricultural University), with Drs JB Misra, SN Nigam, and DJ Dangaria as resource persons. Soilborne diseases, increasing demand for groundnut haulms for fodder use, farm mechanization, seed storage facilities and soil and water management emerged as key issues at the session attended by scientists and progressive farmers.

Also during the workshop, two ICRISAT-bred groundnut varieties – CTMG-6 (ICGV 05049) and ALG-060320 (ICGV 94118) – have been proposed for identification by State Agricultural Universities. Identification is a prerequisite for the release of a variety in India.

Aiming to introduce more improved groundnut varieties, the breeder seed indent for 2014 of the old variety TMV 2 (grown on 80% of the area, released in 1940) is now less than 3% of the total breeder seed indent of 1,249 tons. This is a long-awaited shift being realized through the government’s policy to stop subsidizing seed of TMV 2. Interestingly, the breeder seed for ICRISAT-bred variety ICGV 91114 accounted for 14% of the total indent for India.

About 100 scientists from across Institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and State Agricultural Universities participated in the workshop.

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