10 May 2013
No. 1570

Improving sorghum and millets for dryland farmers
ICRISAT-HOPE project reviews external evaluation report, maps out strategy for extension

Participants of the HOPE Project Management Team meeting held in Naivasha, Kenya.
Photo: Tiberious Etyang, ICRISAT

The Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia project led by ICRISAT has been helping poor smallholder farmers and consumers achieve food security and increased incomes through improved production and marketing of sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet. Results of a recent external evaluation have shown that the project has benefitted smallholder farmers from yield increases of the three major dryland cereal crops by enhancing technology utilization, linking farmers with markets, and strengthening capacity.

The HOPE Project Management Team held its first meeting this year on 22-23 April in Naivasha, Kenya to review the results of the external project evaluation report, review progress towards developing country strategies for sorghum and millets, develop a proposal for a no-cost project extension following the end of phase I in June 2013, and develop a concept note for a 5-year phase II of the project.

The management team noted that the report of the external project review was largely positive, and that the review team had recommended to the donor, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to consider supporting phase II of the project.

Proposals by scientists were reviewed by the team for activities to be undertaken during the six-month no-cost extension period from July to December 2013. The meeting was largely devoted to formulating features of a second phase of the project. It was pointed out that, in line with the new Gates Foundation strategy, the second phase will have a reduced coverage – from the original 11 countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and India) to 6 countries (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda in Eastern and Southern Africa; and Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria in West and Central Africa).

It is proposed to use the ICRISAT facilities in India, Kenya and Niger to develop high-end technologies that will support the six focus countries. It was also recommended that the proposed HOPE II be aligned with the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals. Participants of the meeting were divided into groups to consider key guiding questions whose answers would constitute the components of the concept note. ICRISAT’s Drs Alastair Orr and Dave Harris were assigned to compile resolutions and decisions that constituted a draft concept note submitted to the  Foundation.

Dr Dave Hoisington, Deputy Director General – Research, congratulated the project team for preparing adequately for the review. He thanked Project Coordinator George Okwach for putting together the necessary documentation and other materials for the review process.

Others who attended the meeting were Drs Said Silim, Stefania Grando, Farid Waliyar, Alastair Orr, Eva Weltzien, Mary Mgonja, Tom Hash, Nareppa Nagaraj, Parthasarathy Rao, SK Gupta, Belum VS Reddy, Chukka, Srinivasarao, Ashok Kumar, Tom Van Mourik, Henry Ojulong, Damaris Odeny and Mohammed Hassan.

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Workshop sets target for hybrid pigeonpea technology adoption in 2014

(L-R) Drs PS Dharmaraj (ARS, Gulbarga), KB Saxena, HD Upadhyaya and C Sudhakar (ARS, Tandur) at the kick-off workshop. Photo: L Vidya Sagar, ICRISAT

After long years of research and development by scientists from ICRISAT and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the hybrid pigeonpea technology is finally ready for adoption by farmers in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Odisha. A massive hybrid seed production program is being organized to promote pigeonpea hybrids on 100,000 ha in 2014. This is to be achieved in collaboration with public and private seed companies, agricultural universities, self-help groups, NGOs, and various State Departments of Agriculture.

A planning meeting was organized on 24 April at the ICRISAT headquarters attended by 30 farmers and 8 scientists from Andhra Pradesh and UAS Raichur (Karnataka), and 25 officials from the Andhra Pradesh State Seed Development Corporation, National Seeds Corporation, State Farms Corporation of India, private seed companies, and seed producing NGOs.

In his welcome address, Dr HD Upadhyaya, Assistant Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, stressed the need to increase pigeonpea production and productivity by cultivating hybrids. Dr KB Saxena, Principal Scientist, discussed the performance of hybrids over the last five years in on-farm demonstrations in diverse agro-ecological niches. He was optimistic about a 30-40% yield increase through the introduction of hybrids, but highlighted that the annual seed requirement would require active participation by both public and private seed companies.

Presenting the on-farm results of pigeonpea hybrid ICPH 2740, Dr C Sudhakar, Senior Scientist, Agricultural Research Station, Tandur (Andhra Pradesh) revealed a recorded 40% yield advantage over ruling varieties Asha and LRG 41 and 80% over local cultivars in the state. According to him, ICPH 2740 seed had been included in the state government’s seed chain from 2013 and it would be distributed to farmers on subsidy for cultivation during the 2013 season. Dr PS Dharmaraj, Principal Scientist (Karnataka) and Dr IA Madrap (Maharashtra) reported similar yield advantages in their respective states. Officials of government seed organizations, representatives of private seed companies and farmers involved in hybrid seed production shared their experiences.

It was decided that Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka would produce hybrid seed on over 700 ha of land. With an expected yield of 700 kg/ha, there would be enough seed to achieve the target of 100,000 ha in 2014.

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Crop-livestock integration project partners meet in Bulawayo

ACIAR representative G Mburathi (left) discusses the need for better crop-livestock integration in Zimbabwe. Also seen is André van Rooyen.
Photo: S Sridharan, ICRISAT
  Ms P Masikati (center) and farmers show the fodder produced on on-farm trials in Matobo district. Photo: B Chiwaka, ICRISAT

With a view to integrating crops and livestock at the household level to improve livelihoods, three CGIAR centers – ICRISAT, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) convened at ICRISAT Bulawayo on 24-26 April for the first annual review and planning meeting of the project “Integrating crops and livestock for improved food security and livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe”.

Kick-started last year, the project, also known as ZimCLIFS, attempts to break rural communities’ short-term dependency on food aid and facilitate their transition towards food security and developing more stable and profitable rural livelihood strategies.

In his opening remarks, ICRISAT Country Representative Dr André van Rooyen, emphasized that the project brings together three research institutes with different agendas. “We have to be bigger than our individual institutes. ZimCLIFS is happening at a time when Zimbabwe truly needs this sort of work,” he said, referring to Zimbabwe’s recovery after a serious economic crisis that severely curtailed the ability of smallholders to earn a living from their farming activities.

Speaking on behalf of the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and discussing its commitment to Africa, Mr George Mburathi said, “Around 25% of ACIAR’s funding comes to Africa and the Australian government is serious about research not staying at the research station.” Describing the project as the first one to integrate crops and livestock at the household level in Zimbabwe and its great potential to identify solutions to alleviate poverty, he stressed the need to connect farmers to markets and identified the innovation platform approach as a key tool to educate all stakeholders about the project and its results.

In his opening remarks, Project Coordinator Godfrey Manyawu, ILRI, outlined the meeting objectives to review the progress made in terms of activities, outputs and budgets and to decide on the content of the 2012-2013 annual project report for ACIAR. Participants agreed to share their experiences and to introduce and discuss project monitoring and evaluation.

On 25 April, Ms Patricia Masikati, ICRISAT, took the participants on a field tour to Famugwe in Matobo District to look at on-farm trials that determined the effect of rotating maize with fodder crops such as lablab, sun hemp, mucuna and cowpeas. They also learned about how the project will monitor the effects of this alternate feed on livestock. This was an opportunity for participants to interact with project farmers, during which the farmers confirmed the importance of functional goat and fodder markets and how their absence affects the ability of farmers to earn a profit from their livestock.

On the last day, team members split into two groups to plan for 2013, where they discussed farmer profiling to characterize the project farmers, determined which interventions benefitted the different categories, and the development and implementation of a communication strategy. The meeting was attended by representatives of the three organizations, project partners from Zimbabwe and Australia, and donor representatives.

The ZimCLIFS is in line with ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (lMOD) approach of helping the dryland poor move from poverty to prosperity through science-based innovations and by harnessing markets while managing risks.

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ICRISAT scientists monitor tropical legumes baseline survey activities in Bhagalpur, Bihar, India

ICRISAT scientists and collaborators from BAU interact with farmers in Simariya, Bhagalpur, Bihar. Photo: ICRISAT

Baseline survey activities are being undertaken in Bhagalpur district of Bihar as part of the Tropical Legumes II project. A team composed of ICRISAT scientists Drs Madhusudan Bhattarai and Moses Shyam D (Research Program - Markets, Institutions and Policies) visited project partner Bihar Agricultural University (BAU) on 9-13 April, where they met economist Dr Meera and legume breeder Rakesh Dev Ranjan, project stakeholders, and farmers growing improved chickpea cultivars provided by ICRISAT.

The objective of the visit was to monitor ongoing chickpea baseline survey activities, provide technical support on the survey work, assess its progress, and obtain a better understanding of farmers’ constraints and opportunities in adopting new chickpea cultivars in the project areas. Discussions were held with partners on timely completion of survey activities. The partners were also trained in computer entry of survey data, data management and coding systems.

The major crops grown in the project target sites in Bhagalpur district are paddy, maize, pigeonpea (bund cultivation) in the rainy season (kharif) and wheat, chickpea, pigeonpea, sesame, lentils, maize, green peas and vegetables in the postrainy season (rabi). Chickpeas and lentils have lately gained popularity due to their favorable market prices and ability to thrive with minimum additional inputs and less irrigation in the postrainy season.

Chickpea was found to be a traditionally grown crop in rainfed farming systems in the survey areas, sown in October - November to take advantage of the residual moisture after the harvest of paddy. Though farmers here have been growing chickpeas for over a century, they mostly depend on two widely grown local traditional cultivars (Desla Plan and Desi Run). The non-availability of seed of improved variety, lack of awareness about new chickpea varieties, high incidence of wilt and pod borer, and high percentage of flower drop are the major constraints faced by farmers.

In some places in Bhagalpur, farmers themselves maintain pure seed on their farm. Take the case of Manoj Kumar Singh, an innovative farmer in Kotwal village of Bhagalpur district. He is one of the cooperative farmers of the Tropical Legume II project who grew over 8 cultivars of chickpeas in 2011-2012 provided by ICRISAT through the local partner BAU. He has been growing and maintaining 8-10 different chickpea cultivars in his field, serves as a source of information to his fellow farmers and distributes new cultivars to them. Like any experienced plant breeder, he recognizes 10-15 cultivars by line number and characteristics.

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Early talks in setting up an agribusiness incubator in Nepal

A high-level 13-member delegation from the Project for Agriculture Commercialization and Trade (PACT), Ministry of Agriculture Development, Government of Nepal, visited the Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) Program under ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) on 19-20 April.

The group led by Project Director Mr Yogendra Kumar Karki was briefed about AIP and its operations. The delegates were taken to Aakruthi Agricultural Associates of India to understand ABI’s role in promoting seed business ventures involving smallholder farmers and the commercialization of open-pollinated seed varieties. They also visited 24 Letter Mantra, an organic retail outlet of Sresta Organics Limited that was supported by the ABI program.

AIP COO Mr SM Karuppanchetty and the delegates discussed ways of implementing and handholding the Yuva Kisan incubator in Nepal for PACT. The delegates in principle agreed to avail of AIP’s support in setting up an incubator in Nepal.

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Progress being made on Global Yield Gap Atlas

(L-R) Profs M Ittersum, K Cassman and Dr M Wopereis (DDG Research, AfricaRice) during the workshop.
Photo: R Raman, AfricaRice

Robust estimates of yield gap are an essential metric for diagnosing limiting factors as a means to improve crop management, to determine research priorities, and to locate rural development efforts. Yield gap is the difference between actual farm yield and yield potential under growth conditions without limitations to crop growth from water, nutrients, or pests. This was the theme of the international workshop of the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas (GYGA) project held in Cotonou, Benin on 23-24 April. GYGA was initiated by the University of Nebraska and Wageningen University with regional coordination by ICRISAT and AfricaRice.

The project seeks to produce an agronomically sound, transparent, reproducible and  publicly accessible yield gap atlas, initially for 5 cereal crops (maize, wheat, rice, millet and sorghum) in 5 countries in West Africa (Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ghana), 5 in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia) and 2 in South Asia (India and Bangladesh).

The workshop deliberated on the project’s progress in ongoing data collection efforts and development of research methodologies and protocols to create the atlas. Plans for Phase II to cover more countries and crops, apply the GYGA protocols for country-specific food security studies and include more partners and related projects were covered. New ideas were also discussed on applying the atlas protocols for food security studies and targeting of sustainable intensification options during the second phase of the project.

The meeting brought together country yield gap agronomists and representatives from ICRISAT, AfricaRice, HarvestChoice, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and other CGIAR Research Programs. Phase 1 of the project (2012-2013) is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was represented at the workshop by Dr Christian Witt.

The workshop was organized by Dr Lieven Claessens (ICRISAT Principal Scientist and Regional Coordinator), Prof Ken Cassman (University of Nebraska and Chair of the CGIAR ISPC) and Mr Martin van Ittersum (Wageningen University) and hosted by AfricaRice.

More information, presentations and the atlas can be found on www.yieldgap.org. An interview with Prof Cassman can be found at http://youtu.be/WvoPZ6Gd9AM  

Participants of the workshop held in Cotonou, Benin. Photo: R Raman, AfricaRice

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Experiences shared at ICRISAT-HOPE planning workshop in Nigeria

Participants of the HOPE project planning workshop held at ICRISAT-Kano, Nigeria. Photo: ICRISAT

To share and exchange implementation experiences and lessons learnt, the HOPE project led by ICRISAT held a planning meeting on 25 April at ICRISAT Kano, Nigeria.

The project has promoted varieties and production technologies of sorghum and pearl millet through mini-pack distribution and large-plot demonstrations, and integrated Striga and soil fertility management options. It has also boosted the productivity of women processors by introducing modern small-scale processing technologies, and linking farmers to markets.

Welcoming the participants to the workshop, ICRISAT Country Representative Dr Hakeem A Ajeigbe outlined the project’s achievements. He also thanked the partners, especially representatives of the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) who were able to attend the workshop despite some challenges faced by the Institute.

The participants deliberated on the project’s major achievements in 2012 and the way forward, and shared their experiences in the project implementation. A session chaired by Dr Ajeigbe discussed implementation plans for a no-cost extension of the project and that of the Nigeria Sorghum Transformation Value Chain project. Plans were also developed to achieve the objectives during the no-cost extension ending December 2013.

Participants at the workshop included representatives from the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) – Zaria; LCRI; Community Based Agricultural and Rural Development Project (CBARDP) from eight states in Northern Nigeria and the Jigawa and Katsina states; Green Sahel Agricultural and Rural Development Initiative (GSARDI); and ICRISAT. This work is being undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals.

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Agri-business incubation approach highlighted at Farmers’ Day celebration at Annamalai University

Mr SM Karuppanchetty at the Farmers’ Day celebration at Annamalai University. Photo: B Kumar, TNAU

ICRISAT’s AIP and its approach to empowering farmers, innovators and students by fostering entrepreneurship in agriculture and allied sectors was showcased during the Farmers’ Day celebration at Annamalai University, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu on 17 April.

Representing AIP-ICRISAT, Mr SM Karuppanchetty stressed the increasing need for entrepreneurship in agriculture and allied sectors. He spoke on accessing technologies from the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators, clients and ABI partners; and ABI’s Farmers Producer Organization (FPO) in Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh.

The Farmers’ Day celebration focused on discussions on current trends in agriculture. Among the guests present were Dr R Kathiresan, Dean of Agriculture, Annamalai University; Mr Radhakrishnan, Joint Director of Agriculture (Cuddalore district); Dr Ka Elango, Assistant Director of Agriculture (Special Schemes - Cuddalore district); and Mr AS Nanna Badsha (Rasi Seeds).

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Draft generic knowledge models finalized at Fishpedia workshop

Dr NT Yaduraju delivering his lecture during the workshop. Photo: ICRISAT   Participants from 15 partner organizations at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi. Photo: ICRISAT

Draft generic knowledge models on fisheries were finalized after discussion with domain experts at the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB)-funded Fishpedia project workshop held at the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kochi on 29-30 April. Co-organized by ICRISAT and the Indian Institute of Technology – Kanpur (IIT-K), the workshop was attended by 30 participants from 15 partner organizations involved in R&D activities in fisheries.

Delivering the inaugural address, CMFRI Director Dr Syda Rao, lauded ICRISAT for taking the lead in the project and NFDB for supporting the long awaited activity. A Fishpedia brochure was released on the occasion.

The workshop included lectures by Dr NT Yaduraju (ICRISAT) and Mr TV Prabhakar (IIT-K) and hands on training on c-maps and knowledge models by Ms Kiran Yadav (ICRISAT) and Ms Tulika Sharma, Mr Shravan Shukla and Mr Chinmay Das (IIT-K). The participants found the workshop very useful and felt they could confidently implement the project in their respective organizations.

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CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), South Asia research reviewed

Review and work plan meeting participants at ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Partners from the Indian national program participating in the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) met at ICRISAT Patancheru on 7 May to review research conducted in 2012 and to develop work plans for 2013.

Dr CLL Gowda, Research Program Director- Grain Legumes and ICRISAT’s focal person for the program spoke on the genesis and overall objectives of the A4NH and its future outlook. Dr Hari Sudini presented an overview of the work done in 2012, and introduced the milestones and research targets for 2013 related to Theme 3 on Agriculture Associated Diseases, with special focus on aflatoxin contamination in groundnut.

Participants from ICAR’s Directorate of Groundnut Research, Junagadh, Gujarat; State Agricultural Universities (UAS-Raichur, Karnataka; TNAU-Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and ANGRAU-Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh); and the AF-Ecology Center, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh presented the progress made in 2012 and actively participated in developing the work plans for 2013

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New sweet sorghum crusher inaugurated at ICRISAT

Dr S Grando feeding stalks into the crusher.
Photo: V Sandhya, ICRISAT

A new three-roller efficient sweet sorghum crusher with above 50% juice extraction efficiency was recently installed at the steel yard by ICRISAT’s Sorghum Breeding program. The crusher was formally launched by Dr Stefania Grando, Research Program Director - Dryland Cereals on 8 May. Dr P Srinivasa Rao, Senior Scientist (Sorghum Breeding) explained that the new crusher can crush about 3 tonnes of sweet stalks per hour and will facilitate screening of sweet sorghum breeding materials. About 100,000 sweet sorghum samples are being crushed every year at the headquarters from which data on juice yield and Brix (%) are collected to compute for sugar yield levels. During the launch, Dr Grando highlighted the need for automated data collection and better integration with data analysis platforms like Agrobase and IBWS.

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