17 May 2013
No. 1571

ICAR and ICRISAT boost partnership for food and nutrition security in India

(L-R) ICAR Director General Dr S Ayyappan, Director General Dr WD Dar and ICAR Deputy Director General (Crop Science) Dr SK Datta at the Joint ICAR-ICRISAT Projects Review and Planning Meeting held at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

The vigorous and enduring research partnership between ICRISAT and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) offers a synergistic response to the big challenge of ensuring food and nutrition security and improved livelihoods particularly of millions of resource poor, smallholder farmers in India.

“Rainfed agriculture is vital to India’s food security and in addressing the immediate need to increase pulses production in the country. About 42% of children here are malnourished, so our efforts not only focus on production but also on nutrition through priority food crops. The potential of using 12 million hectares of rice fallows for growing pulses and expanding the area under hybrid pigeonpea is reiterated in the Government of India’s plan to revitalize its agriculture. In this endeavor, strengthening our research and development collaborations with ICRISAT will be crucial.”

Dr S Ayyappan delivering his opening remarks during the meeting. Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

These views were shared by Dr S Ayyappan, Director General of ICAR, at the Joint ICAR-ICRISAT Projects Review and Planning Meeting held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 10 May. In his message, Dr Ayyappan acknowledged ICRISAT’s role in India’s programs and initiatives on watershed management, policy advocacy and South-South collaboration with countries in sub-Saharan African. He requested ICRISAT scientists to get more involved in various national level committees and to further help in the capacity building of the NARS.

In his opening address, Director General William Dar reiterated the importance of the ICAR-ICRISAT partnership in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in India. “We can elevate this partnership by leveraging on the strengths of each other, at both the leadership and scientist levels,” he emphasized. He also stressed the need to make Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) as a unifying goal, and to pursue South-South collaboration by sharing and exchanging successful rainfed agriculture models such as India’s Bhoochetana to Africa, and fertilizer microdosing which was started in Africa for adoption in India.

During the meeting, ICRISAT and ICAR scientists presented achievements and highlights of ICAR-ICRISAT partnership research projects in the 2010-2012 period, and plans for future areas of collaboration from 2012-2015. The group agreed to have new flagship research projects under following areas: climate change and natural resource management; markets, policies and institutions; dryland cereals; grain legumes; knowledge sharing and innovation; and agribusiness incubation.

Drs SK Datta, ICAR Deputy Director General (Crop Sciences) and CLL Gowda, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes welcomed the meeting participants and indicated the commitment of both institutions to strengthening research and development collaboration.

The meeting was attended by more than 40 participants from the ICRISAT headquarters, ICAR-New Delhi, NCAP-New Delhi, DGR-Junagarh, IIPR-Kanpur, Pearl Millet Unit-Jodhpur, DSR-Rajendernagar, NBPGR-New Delhi, and CRIDA-Hyderabad.

Participants at the meeting. Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

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Action platform explores public-private partnership in Bhoochetana

The Action Platform to Create Shared Value in Agribusiness is exploring possible public-private partnership (PPP) initiative for the ICRISAT-Government of Karnataka Bhoochetana project. The platform has a membership of 80 companies and is coordinated by the Enterprise Solutions to Poverty (ESP). It aims to organize PPPs to reach 20 million farmers in India by 2020.

Following a PPP session during the Bhoochetana project’s review and planning meeting at ICRISAT in February, the Action Platform held discussions at ICRISAT on 9 May, attended by 10 companies (Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd., United Phosphorus Ltd., Coromandel International Ltd., Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd., ITC Limited, ADM Agro, Star Agri, Nuziveedu Seeds, ESP and ICRISAT). The companies indicated their strengths, possible contributions and the preferred geographical regions in Karnataka where they would like a role in the partnership. The group will now put together a brief proposal to be presented to the Government of Karnataka when invited for further action.

The meeting was chaired by Dr SP Wani, ICRISAT’s Principal Scientist (Watersheds) as task force chair for natural resources of the Action Platform. Ms Nancy Barry of ESP facilitated the meeting.

Improving groundnut seed production in Malawi

The new groundnut lifter at Peacock Farms can lift 1-2 hectares of groundnuts in an hour.
Photo: S Sridharan, ICRISAT

The unmet demand for seed under the Malawi Government’s Farm Inputs Subsidy Program and the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction remains high. This has prompted farmers to increase hectarage for seed production and to adopt recommended seed production technologies. Along this goal, over 40 stakeholders within the groundnut value chain attended a training program on groundnut seed production and post-harvest management on
6-7 May in the lakeshore district of Salima in Malawi.

Organized by ICRISAT with funding from the Irish Aid through the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project, the training covered agronomic practices, pricing, and the need for high quality seed. It attracted representatives from smallholder farmer seed multiplication clubs, medium-scale contract growers, private sector (seed marketing organizations), and the Ministry of Agriculture’s Extension Officers. 

During the activity, ICRISAT Country Representative for Malawi, Dr Moses Siambi, encouraged the participants to share the knowledge and skills gained from the training with their fellow farmers upon returning home.

Mr Felix Sichali, Project Manager of ICRISAT’s Malawi Seed Industry Development Project, emphasized the importance of groundnut seed quality. “Producing and selling groundnut seed with poor germination rate will bring enormous losses to innocent farmers. It will result to time wasted to prepare their fields, a whole year’s loss in produce, and loss in terms of finances used to buy seed and expected sales proceeds that would have been realized after the sale of excess produce,” said Mr Sichali. 

Farmers often feel cheated when intermediate buyers in rural areas dictate the buying prices. On the issue of pricing, Mr Sichali encouraged farmers to be confident and set their own prices for their produce, applying the knowledge gained from the training. The training course was conducted by Mr Sichali and Mr Oswin Madzonga of ICRISAT.

Ms Catherine Kusamba, a groundnut seed grower who participated in the training, expressed her gratitude to ICRISAT for organizing the event. “Apart from learning about recommended agronomic and post-harvest management practices which will undoubtedly help us to produce more seed of high quality, the training was also an eye opener regarding agricultural marketing practices. This will enable me to bargain for better prices for my agricultural produce,” she said. 

ICRISAT has been working with a number of seed producers to increase the availability of certified legume seed under the Malawi Seed Alliance (MASA) brand. Certified seed of the MASA brand is sold throughout the country through the Malawi Government’s Farm Input Subsidy Program. Over the last few years, one of the seed producers, Peacock Seeds, has been able to establish a very viable business producing groundnut seed. Run by Mr Felix Jumbe, the company now plants 100 hectares of the variety CG-7. This large-scale production has required the use of new machinery to speed up the harvesting process.

Participants of the training program held in Malawi. Photo: F Sichali, ICRISAT

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Genomics needs to be an integral part of crop improvement programs, says ICRISAT Director General

Director General WD Dar emphasizes a point during the meeting, as Drs EA Siddiq (right) and Mohd Aslam (left)
look on. Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

"Faced by extreme challenges in feeding the world, we look to modern science tools like genomics and molecular breeding to facilitate crop improvement," said Director General William D. Dar during the inauguration of the 6th Meeting of the Department of Biotechnology – Project Monitoring Committee  in Agri-Biotechnology held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 9-10 May.

“ICRISAT is well placed to use these technologies with strong support from the Government of India. Our common goal is to benefit the millions of farming households who live and toil in the harsh conditions of the semi-arid tropics," he said, emphasizing the role of genomics as an important tool for crop improvement and the achievements as a result of the active collaboration between ICRISAT and the Department of Biotechnology.

Thanking the department for their contribution to several genomics and molecular breeding projects at ICRISAT, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics said, "With financial support from the department, ICRISAT has been able to extend marker genotyping services to a range of partners, enabling them to embrace genomic technologies in their breeding programs."

Dr Mohd Aslam, lauding ICRISAT’s contribution to Indian agriculture, said, "We are pleased to partner with ICRISAT on crop improvement projects in pulses. ICRISAT has really lived up to its name by excelling in high-quality science, in establishing the Centre of Excellence in Genomics."

Speaking on the occasion, Dr EA Siddiq, former ICAR Deputy Director General (Crop Sciences) and Chair of the Department of Biotechnology-Project Monitoring Committee, said, "Modern genomics and breeding tools are essential for crop improvement, and ICRISAT is integrating genomics research in their crop improvement program in an excellent manner."

The meeting saw presentations from Project Coordinators and Project Investigators from several ongoing agri-biotechnology projects. Among the key presenters were: RP Sharma and KR Koundal (NRCPB); KK Narayanan (Metahelix); HS Dhaliwal (Ethernal Uni); PK Ranjekar (NCL); SK Datta (DDG-CS, ICAR); Deepak Pental (UDSC, New Delhi);  Akhilesh K Tyagi (NIPGR/UDSC, New Delhi) ;  Bharat Chattoo (The MS University of Baroda);  Karbi Datta (University of Calcutta, Kolkata): Narendra Tuteja and Sneh Lata Singla-Pareek  (ICGEB, New Delhi); Sampa Das and Amita Pal (Bose Institute, Kolkata);  M Udayakumar (University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore) and ICRISAT staff.

Participants of meeting. Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

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Tropical Legumes II research technicians undergo training at ICRISAT Bamako

Dr Bonny Ntare (standing) with a participant during a field session. Photo: D Dembélé, ICRISAT   Participants immersed in a discussion during a workshop session. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

An eight-day intensive training workshop to enhance the capacity of research assistants and technicians involved in the Tropical Legumes II project was conducted from 6-15 May at ICRISAT Bamako.

The workshop consisting of both lectures and field activities sought to improve the participants’ ability to provide high quality support in groundnut improvement. Some of the modules were on: breeding program management, planning and implementation of variety trials/nurseries and replication, phenotyping, participatory variety selection, and disease management. During the field activities on field plot techniques, plot lay out, and hybridization, the participants were able to make over 25 hybridizations by the time the training was over.

Appreciating the course, Mr Abraham Ily Sombé, seed breeder and conservator at the Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) said: “The practical sessions on hybridization of groundnut and methods of fighting groundnut diseases were very useful, techniques that I can use in our groundnut breeding program in Burkina Faso.” Participants were also introduced to the ELISA technique to detect aflatoxin.

The training staff consisted of Drs Bonny Ntare and Moses Osiru, assisted by Dekoro Dembele and Aoua Diallo. It was attended by key CGIAR and Tropical Legumes II research partners in West Africa, including  the Institut d’Economie Rural, Mali; Institut National de Recherche Agronomique du Niger;  Institute for Agricultural Research, Nigeria; l’Institut Senegales de Recherche Agricole; INRA, Burkina Faso; Savanna Agricultural Research Institute, Ghana; West Africa Center for Crop Improvement, Ghana; and ICRISAT Bamako.

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Building capacity in aflatoxin detection and management

Participants in the aflatoxin resistance screening field at ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

Continuing ICRISAT’s commitment to build the capacity of partners and fulfill the objectives of the CGIAR Research Programs, ICRISAT’s groundnut pathology unit conducted a two-week international training program on “Detection and Management of Aflatoxin Contamination in Crops” on 29 April – 10 May.
Welcoming the participants, Dr HC Sharma, ICRISAT Principal Scientist (Entomology) stressed the need for trained staff in developing countries to handle food safety-related research projects such as managing aflatoxin contamination in agricultural crops.

The training program comprised of hands-on laboratory training, lectures, open discussions and tours to ICRISAT facilities, attended by eight participants from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Niger and Malawi. During the feedback session, participants indicated that this was the first ever hands-on training in ELISA tests to detect aflatoxin they had attended.

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Partner activities planned for Mali 2013 dryland cereal cropping season

A farmer cooperative (Bélèko) representative presents plans for 2013 activities. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Recognizing the crucial role of partnerships particularly in the context of the new ICRISAT-led CGIAR Research Program on DrylandsCereals, about 50 farmers and farmer association representatives, seed producers, agrodealers, NGOs and researchers gathered on 30 April – 2 May at ICRISAT’s Samanko research station to plan for 2013 research and development partner activities in Mali.

Welcoming the participants, Dr Farid Waliyar, ICRISAT Regional Director for West and Central Africa underlined the importance of partnership and working together under the two CGIAR Research Programs, particularly in promoting improved nutrition and health.

The results of the last cropping season in Mali were examined and presentations were made on the performance of sorghum hybrids in experimental fields and the economic analysis related to 31 sorghum tests. Results from farmers’ fields showed that sorghum hybrids gave average yields ranging from 2000 to 2300 kg compared to only 1400 kg from the traditional control variety. Results from an economic analysis revealed greater economic efficiency in the use of hybrid seeds such as Fadda, Sewa and Pablo. The working groups focused on the distribution of seed produced and the monitoring of upcoming cropping season activities (breeding, selection sites, test and demonstrations trials as well farmers field schools).
The meeting also saw discussions on integrated soil fertility management options (for millet and sorghum) and other agronomic options for testing during the season, such as  soaking and grain coating, fertilizer microdosing and techniques to fight Striga. Results of the research on millet varieties developed with the Institut d’Economie Rurale du Mali (IER) were also discussed.

The workshop concluded with a presentation of planned research activities with farmers associations and NGOs for the cropping season, including their requirements for varietal testing, trainings on seed production techniques, and fertilizer microdosing. Plans were outlined to communicate available technologies to farming communities via radio.

The workshop was part of the ICRISAT-HOPE project, the McKnight Foundation Seed Project and the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals.

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Launch of ‘Socioeconomics Discussion Paper Series’

ICRISAT scientists reviewing group discussion results from across Research Program interaction. Photo: ICRISAT

One of the key discussion points in the Annual Social Scientists meeting in Patancheru last December 2012 was the need for timelier dissemination of research results from the Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies. The program produces a large number of research reports, some of which are published as journal articles, others as ICRISAT publications. But the majority of reports, which contain useful information on a wide range of subjects, remain buried as ‘grey literature’ that is often hard to find and quickly disappears from sight after one or two years.

This need was quickly taken up by an ad-hoc working group. The result is the start of Discussion Paper Series, which aims at making these reports rapidly available. After intense discussion about the types of work to be published in this series and the target audience,  the team proudly launches the ‘Socioeconomics Discussion Paper Series’ which is now accessible from the Open Access Repository (document type: Socioeconomics Discussion Paper).
The ‘Series’ concept encourages feedback from a wide audience from within and outside ICRISAT, in order to improve the work of socioeconomics scientists as well as obtain further insight into the needs of biophysical scientists. Additionally, all datasets used for a discussion paper will be made available via dataverse ( http://dataverse.icrisat.org/dvn/). We encourage everyone to have a look at the papers that are already out but also keep checking for updates and provide feedback to the authors wherever possible.

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Solar pump for enhanced water use efficiency inaugurated

Director General WD Dar inaugurates the solar pump.
Photo: Vasundhara, ICRISAT

Apart from developing and adopting an integrated watershed management consortium model, ICRISAT has also been taking steps to enhance water-use efficiency in the watershed areas through public-private partnerships.

One such PPP initiative deals with the use of renewable solar energy to energize drip system using borewell water at the ICRISAT headquarters, undertaken jointly with Jain Irrigation Systems Limited. The initiative also involves strategic research in different irrigation methods and the response of high-value crops like pigeonpea, groundnut and vegetables to supplemental irrigation. Jain has supported ICRISAT’s watershed team in setting up a solar panel and drip system to run a 3.5 HP pump.

Inaugurating the solar pump in the presence of management and staff of the Research Program – Resilient Dryland Systems on 13 May, Director General William D. Dar highlighted the importance of the innovative efforts being undertaken by the program to enhance water-use efficiency in rainfed areas. He also stressed the importance of the partnership with Jain and thanked its representative Mr MB Reddy and his team for their commitment and cooperation.

Dr Wani explained the solar pump mechanism, which can pump water up to 40 m head with a 3.5 HP pump at a flow rate of 7.7 to 9.7 m3 per hour. He also explained a new initiative for aquifer recharge being undertaken by the ICRISAT’s Farm, Engineering and Transport Services to enable maximum rainwater to drain into the ground to recharge wells.

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Pigeonpea project in Odisha makes headway

A two-day planning workshop-cum-training was held in Bhawanipatna, Odisha on 14-15 May to finalize areas to be covered during the third year cropping season of pigeonpea in five districts of the state under the project “Introduction and Expansion of Improved Pigeonpea (Arhar) Production Technology in Rainfed Upland Ecosystems of Odisha”.

Dr RP Mula conducting a project assessment at Kesinga, Kalahandi. Photo: B Sahoo, ICRISAT

With 6900 hectares covered so far (1240 for seed production of varieties and hybrids, 42 hectares for FPVST, and 5618 hectares for IPPT), farmer participation has increased. Monitoring field visits revealed that facilities like dal mills and godown services are making a difference in seed production and processing. This could serve as an impetus for widespread adoption of the improved  varieties and hybrids developed by ICRISAT. The dal mill ensures good quality and cheaper dal at the smallholder farmer’s doorsteps. Nearly 49 tons of foundation and certified seeds of farmer-preferred varieties and hybrids are currently being processed in two processing plants (Kalahandi and Nauparha). The seeds will be used during the 2013-2014 cropping season.

Seventy participants from the Department of Agriculture, OSSOPCA staff, NGOs and local ICRISAT staff representing the districts of Kalahandi, Nauparha, Rayagada, Boudh and Bolangir were present during the activity spearheaded by Dr Myer G Mula. Special guests included RKVY consultant Dr Nimai Charan Swain and the Department of Agriculture’s Mr BK Dey.  Among the other activities during the event were a brief training on varieties and hybrid seed production and management (Mr Vijay Kumar) and a discussion on the mid-term assessment study (Dr Rosana P Mula) to be implemented together with NGOs (Loksebak – Kalahandi; Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan – Nauparha; Peoples Forum – Boudh; Centre for Social and Tribal Development – Rayagada; and Shramik Shakti Sangha – Bolangir).

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Director General calls on new Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh

Dr Dar presenting the ICRISAT folder to Dr PK Mohanty. Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

In a recent courtesy visit, Dr William Dar conveyed ICRISAT’s felicitations to Dr Prasanna K Mohanty on his appointment as the new Chief Secretary of the State of Andhra Pradesh and to welcome him
as ex-officio member of the ICRISAT Governing Board. During the visit, Dr Dar underscored the excellent relationship between the State and ICRISAT and looking at opportunities of elevating such collaboration. He also shared with Dr Mohanty the four project proposals recently submitted to the State government for funding: (1) Soil health mapping and piloting innovative knowledge sharing systems: Bhoochetana; (2) Increasing productivity and profitability of groundnut cultivation in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh; (3) Promoting high-yielding pigeonpea hybrids in Andhra Pradesh; and (4) Sustainable enhancement of  productivity of sorghum under rice-fallow system in Andhra Pradesh.

Dr Mohanty expressed a keen desire to support ICRISAT’s initiatives in the State to benefit especially the economically marginalized farmers in the drier areas. A distinguished IAS professional, Dr Mohanty holds an MA in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics, an MA in Political Economy from Boston University (USA), a PhD in Economics also from Boston University (USA), and a postdoctoral fellowship from Harvard University (USA).

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