26 April 2013
No. 1568

Promoting Rhizobacteria-based bioproducts for smallholder farmers

Dr Munagala S Reddy, Professor, Auburn University, USA and Chairman of the Asian PGPR Society presenting a token of appreciation to DG William Dar at the 3rd Asian Conference on PGPR and other Microbials held in Manila, Philippines. Looking on is Asian PGPR Society President Dr YR Sarma.

“Amid the depletion of non-renewable resources, accumulation of toxic residues, development of pesticide resistance and resurgence of secondary pests, further food production increases must be generated by the sustained use of ecologically sound, socially equitable, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable technologies such as Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR)-based bioproducts.”

Tackling the challenge for agriculture to produce more food to meet the demands of a growing population and the role of smallholder farming in attaining a food-secure world, Director General William D. Dar spoke at the 3rd Asian Conference on Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) and other Microbials on 21-24 April in Manila, Philippines.

In his keynote address, Dr Dar emphasized the vital role of PGPR-based products such as biofertilizers and biopesticides in sustainable agriculture. “We have to ensure that smallholder farming systems benefit from science-based innovations for improved productivity and resilience to harsh environments. At the same time, food security should not be accomplished at the cost of environmental health and biodiversity. Extending the science of PGPR for the benefit of smallholder farmers is the key,” he emphasized.

Dr Dar added that bioproducts are particularly beneficial to resource-poor, smallholder farmers in the dryland tropics. Biological options for crop protection and production mitigate the increasing cost and negative effects of pesticides and fertilizers particularly in the drylands which is characterized by subsistence farming and vulnerable, rainfed farming system. “The next step is for us to identify partnerships for product development and deployment to introduce innovative agricultural PGPR technologies to resource-poor smallholder farmers,” he stressed.

(Left) DG William Dar delivering the Keynote address. (Right) The PGPR executive body with ICRISAT staff.

The 3rd Asian PGPR Conference was attended by more than 150 delegates from 15 countries. It was organized by the Asian PGPR Society along with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), and was co-sponsored by ICRISAT.

ICRISAT scientists gave three oral presentations during the conference: (1) Dr SP Wani on “Assessing the effect of conservation agriculture, cropping systems and crop residues application on dynamics of PGPR in the semi-arid tropics”; (2) Dr S Gopalakrishnan on “Development of broad-spectrum actinomycetes for biocontrol and PGP of food crops”; and (3) Dr Hari Kishan Sudini on “Management of Aflatoxin contamination in groundnut at ICRISAT”.

Dr CLL Gowda moderated the session on “Commercial potential, trade and regulatory issues among Asian countries” while Dr GV Ranga Rao moderated the session on “Private Sector Partnerships”.

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AIP-ICRISAT to be knowledge partner for Seedtech Asia 2014

Mr Avi Rosner, Co-Managing Director, Kenes Group and Dr KK Sharma, exchanging the agreement.

ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) will be the knowledge partner for Seedtech Asia – 2014, an international event to promote seed and sustainable agriculture to be held in Hyderabad in 2014. This was decided during an agreement signing on 22 April between ICRISAT and Kenes Exhibitions Limited to jointly conduct the event.

The agreement highlights the cooperation and exchange and sharing of information in organizing the event. It also seeks to explore opportunities for organizing future events in Asia and Africa. The Kenes Group represented by Mr Avi Rosner (Co-Managing Director), Ms Prema Zilberman and Ms Kangan Varma, discussed the future plan and strategy for the event with Dr KK Sharma, CEO, AIP. Dr Sharma also highlighted the need to link agricultural science with agri-business to maximize the benefit of scientific research.

Kenes Exhibitions Limited is an Israel-based global scientific conference organizer, part of the Kenes Group which provides specialized and professional services for medical and scientific conferences.

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Malawi seed project showcased at Dublin Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice

Drs K Mazvimavi (extreme left) and M Siambi (extreme right) with ILRI Director General Dr Jimmy Smith (3rd from left), IFPRI Director General Dr Shenggen Fan (3rd from right), and other delegates at the conference.   Dr K Mazvimavi with former US Vice President, Al Gore.

ICRISAT and its partners in Malawi had the opportunity to demonstrate how its project with farmers to multiply improved and certified legume seeds for seed merchants has led to greater incomes and food security, and in ensuring widespread benefits through links with national subsidy programs and strong partnerships with Malawi’s smallholder farmers’ associations, government policy fora and the private sector.

The Irish Aid-supported project was presented at the Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice Conference under the theme “A new dialogue: putting people at the heart of global development” held in Dublin Ireland on 15-16 April.

The conference served as a platform for discussion on the linked challenges of hunger, nutrition and climate justice, and provided local practitioners, farmer organization representatives and vulnerable households the opportunity to tell their stories to key international policymakers. The conference was officially opened by Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins.

In his keynote address, former Vice-President of the United States, Mr Al Gore challenged delegates on the need to face climate denial head on and speak up about climate injustices around the world. He also talked about the smallholder farmers’ need for support and assistance to adapt to the changes. Citing solutions to prevent more damage being done, he said there was great potential in irrigation, agroforestry, increasing fertility and regenerating the soil, many activities that the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and other CGIAR Research Programs are working on. Traditional knowledge, coupled with new scientific information can make all the difference in helping farmers adapt, he concluded.

Speaking at the conference, Ms Mary Robinson of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice (MRFCJ) said that the event aims to encourage and inspire innovative thinking and solutions, as well as provide political leaders and policymakers the opportunity to listen, learn and lead. She stressed that the conference was taking place at a critical juncture in global development, when the international community was reviewing the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (two years before the target date of achievement) and policy discussions were beginning on the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 framework for international development.

ICRISAT was represented by Dr Kizito Mazvimavi, Head of Impact Assessment and Dr Moses Siambi, Country Representative, Malawi. Dr Siambi also led a delegation of ICRISAT partners in Malawi from the government, National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM), and smallholder women farmers.

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Linking women groundnut seed producers to seed markets in Mali

(L-R) Ms Maimouna Coulibaly and Ms Mariam Coulibaly with Dr Bonny Ntare of ICRISAT.

ICRISAT and partners in Mali have, in the last 11 years, successfully built women community-based groundnut seed systems in Wakoro. Individual farmers and women’s groups have been empowered and trained on seed production and small-scale business skills and marketing, and are now producing good quality certified groundnut seed.

As a result, farmers now have access to good quality seed leading to production of good quality grains. However, though interventions in the production aspect have been relatively successful, those at the marketing level remain a great challenge in the groundnut value chain.

In line with ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach to explore opportunities to link farmers to markets, 14 women groundnut seed producers from Wakoro and the Faso Kaba Seed Company met at ICRISAT Samanko station in Mali on 17 April. Together with ICRISAT scientists, they deliberated on production of quality groundnut seeds, contracts, certification and marketing.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Farid Waliyar, ICRISAT Regional Director for West and Central Africa highlighted the importance of linking seed famers with the private sector to ease their access to markets. “Quality seeds can help increase yields by nearly 20% and these women farmers were trained to produce high-quality groundnut seed,” he noted.

The meeting culminated with a plan that would benefit both the producers and the seed company. The Wakoro Women Groundnut Seed Producers Association will produce about 43 tons of groundnut seeds in 2013, and the Faso Kaba Seed Company will purchase the entire lot. The seed company will also explore credit opportunities with the National Agricultural Development Bank of Mali (BNDA) to fund their operations. Crops such as maize, sorghum and cowpea could also benefit from this linkage.

Expressing satisfaction with the arrangement, Mrs Maimouna Coulibaly, President of Faso Kaba Seed Company said, “Thanks to ICRISAT, this is the first time a company will be linked with women seed producers. It’s a great satisfaction for us to find a secure partner in this domain.”

Speaking on behalf of the Wakoro Women Groundnut Seed Producers Association, its President Ms Mariam added, “We trust this will lead to a win-win partnership between our association and Faso Seed Company.”

Women groundnut seed producers and Faso Kaba Seed Company representatives with ICRISAT staff in Samanko.

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Need to strengthen India’s forage scenario highlighted at consultation meeting

(L-R) Dr KN Rai, Mr S Bhoosreddy (Joint Secertary, DAHDF), Mr N Kumar and Dr S Grando during the meeting.

“While the success of the Green Revolution in India is well known worldwide, that of the White Revolution has not been much told. There is a need to share the experiences and learning from this sector and strengthen the forage/fodder scenario in the country to enhance livestock productivity,” said Dr Stefania Grando, Program Director - Dryland Cereals, speaking on behalf of Director General William Dar at the Forage Consultation Meeting held on 18 April at the ICRISAT headquarters. The activity was a follow-up of a meeting in January of this year to work together to strengthen forage production in India.

Underlining that sorghum and pearl millet are among the important forages grown in India, Dr Grando said that partnership research in increasing forage productivity and quality in these crops would help smallholder farmers realize high incomes through enhanced livestock productivity. She acknowledged the work being done by ICRISAT and ILRI in improving these crops and highlighted the need to upscale the technologies along with various partners to increase outreach.

Enhancing forage/fodder yield and quality, research and development needs of forage, policy support for the sector, quality of data on fodder availability and requirements, and ways to improve quality of data were among the topics discussed during the meeting.

The participants included senior scientists and managers from the Indian NARS, the Department of Animal Husbandry (DAHDF), New Delhi, and stakeholders from the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute (IGFRI), National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR), Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Advanta India, JK Agri Genetics, Dodla Dairy, Sree Venkateswara Veterinary University, ICRISAT and ILRI.

Mr Sanjay Bhoosreddy, Joint Secretary, DAHDF made a presentation on the fodder scenario in India. Among those who spoke were SP Sharma (Director, DAHDF),  Sunil Reddy (Dodla Dairy), Suresh K Gupta (JK Agri Genetics), Kumar Durgesh (IGFRI), C Aruna Reddy (DSR), SK Gupta (ICRISAT) and Michael Blummel (ILRI). The proposal to enhance sorghum and pearl millet productivity and quality was presented by Dr Ashok Kumar, and steps to move the proposal forward were finalized.

Participants of the forage consultation meeting held at the ICRISAT headquarters.

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ICRISAT at the Philippine research managers’ convention

(L-R) Drs Dileepkumar and MG Myer speaking at the 23rd PHILARM Convention in the Philippines.

Three scientists from ICRISAT – Drs G DileepKumar, Myer G Mula, and Rosana P Mula attended the 23rd Philippine Association of Research Managers, Inc. (PHILARM) convention in Naga City, Philippines, where they presented papers to over 200 scientists from various international and national research institutes. Drs Dileepkumar and RP Mula presented a paper on “Use of innovative ICT tools and approaches for effective agricultural knowledge sharing and communication” while Dr MG Mula spoke on “Seed system: Key to sustainable pulse agriculture for smallholder farmers in the dryland tropics.”

In the same occasion, the “William D. Dar Leadership Award” was presented by the ICRISAT scientists to two awardees – Dr Ruperto Sangalang, Commissioner of Education and former president of the Cavite State University, and posthumously to Mr Richard Juanillo, former Deputy Executive Director for Institutional Development of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquaculture and Natural Resources Research and Development.

In his acceptance speech, Dr Sangalang acknowledged Dr Dar’s significant role in the transformation of ICRISAT, and of the Philippine R&D system in his various capacities in the past as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, research leader of a state university, and Executive Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) and PCAARRD.

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