02 August 2013
No. 1582

Seed Consortium promises sustainable seed system for postrainy sorghum in Maharashtra, India

A model seed system facilitated by a Seed Consortium will mean more produce, greater incomes and enhanced livelihoods for farmers growing postrainy season sorghum in Maharashtra.
Photo: ICRISAT file photo

For the past 25 years, attempts to disseminate seeds of improved sorghum cultivars to farmers in Maharashtra State of India have been met with low adoption rates and consequently low productivity. A newly formed Seed Consortium combining the expertise of ICRISAT and private and public partners promises to bring hope to smallholder farmers in the State and make available improved sorghum seed for the postrainy season.

July 23 was a significant day in the lives of smallholder farmers in Maharashtra. It marked the formation of a Seed Consortium that will develop a sustainable seed system for easy access and availability to farmers of improved sorghum seed for the postrainy season. It will also pave the way for the development of a consensus roadmap to enhance the adoption rate of improved varieties by ensuring greater seed production, procurement and marketing.

The formation of the consortium was the highlight of the workshop on “Sustainable postrainy sorghum seed systems development” held in Pune, Maharashtra. In his opening address during the workshop, Mr RB Deshmukh, advisor to the Dryland Agriculture Mission, Government of Maharashtra commended efforts by ICRISAT and partner institutions in transferring improved cultivars and management technologies to over 33,000 farmers in the last four years, leading to a 40% increase in production.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Maharashtra; State Agriculture Universities; and ICRISAT who participated in the workshop. Photo: Aundekar, MAU

In Maharashtra, hybrids are the cultivar of choice in the rainy season and adoption by farmers reaches up to 95%, while open-pollinated varieties are preferred in the postrainy season. About 2.9 m ha is sown to postrainy season sorghum with average productivity being as low as 0.5 t ha-1. The major seed source for postrainy season sorghum is the farmer’s own saved seed of cultivars and local landraces like Maldandi, Barshizoot and Dagadi. Private and public sector seed companies are not interested in production and marketing of improved open pollinated cultivars due to economic considerations.

During the workshop, private and public sector seed companies shared their views on production of different varieties of seed and their future plans. Seed produced by the private sector meets less than 10% of the State’s seed needs; the major share being that of the age-old variety M35-1.

ICRISAT’s Ch Ravinder Reddy (Coordinator, Seed Systems) presented the way forward with concrete action plans for developing a postrainy season seed system for Maharashtra, emphasizing on the denotification of obsolete varieties, an increase in seed replacement ratio, and calling for a greater role for public and private sector partners in the multiplication and marketing of improved varieties. Presentations were also made on existing seed systems in Maharashtra and seed availability and access by the farmers (SR Gadakh) and HOPE project outcomes and partnership for scaling up and early adoption studies (BVS Reddy, A Ashok Kumar and  N Nagaraj).

Mr SS Adsul, Director of Extension and Mr JN Deshmukh, Director, Seed Quality Control, Government of Maharashtra, responded positively to the proposed action plan, recommended the denotification of obsolete varieties, and suggested that the state seed corporation (Mahabeej) work with State Agriculture Universities to obtain breeder/foundation seed of improved varieties for seed production and distribution.

Ch Ravinder Reddy presenting the action plan for seed systems in Maharashtra. Photo: Aundekar, MAU

The workshop recommended the development of a model seed system with private-public seed sector partnership to produce and disseminate improved seed varieties to meet the requirements of 3 m ha in three years. The Department of Agriculture agreed to extend support to the Seed Consortium to sustain the seed mission within current government schemes.

The workshop was organized by the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals, ICRISAT and its partners, the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), and the Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth (MKV), Maharashtra. The Seed Consortium will comprise of ICRISAT, the Directorate of Sorghum Research, MPKV, MKV, private and public sector seed companies, the Commissioner of Agriculture (Department of Agriculture), Government of Maharashtra, and farmer representatives. This activity is part of the HOPE project which falls under the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals.

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Zinc Field Day highlights soil-plant-human nutrition link

Dr WD Dar addressing farmers, researchers, policy makers and private company representatives on Zinc Field Day. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

“It is estimated that the combined economic loss due to deficiencies in iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine in India would be 2.5% of the GDP. A similar study in China has shown that while the cost of solving the problem of iron and zinc deficiency would be less than 0.3%, the failure to solve this problem could result in loss of 2-3% of the GDP. Hence, the need to achieve more nutritious food through micro-nutrient supplementation and food fortification,” said Director General William D Dar.

Dr Dar was addressing farmers, researchers, policy makers and private company representatives who were participating in the Zinc Field Day organized jointly by ICRISAT and Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey on 1 August at the ICRISAT headquarters. The occasion was meant to enhance awareness among farmers and other stakeholders about the role of zinc and other micro- and secondary nutrients in sustainable agriculture, and to assess the research and development gaps for achieving  food and nutritional security through sustainable development.

Stressing the need for a holistic solution to micronutrient deficiency in food produce, Dr Dar said, “Genetic improvement alone cannot solve the problem of micronutrient deficiency. We need to ensure that there is sufficient availability of these nutrients in the soils to be taken up by the improved cultivars through genetic enhancements for increased micronutrient uptake.” 

Welcoming the participants, Dr Suhas Wani, Assistant Research Program Director and Principal Scientist (Watersheds) described the link between soil nutrition, plant nutrition, animal nutrition and human nutrition for sustainable development. “Adopting science-based interventions through balanced nutrient management is critical to producing more and better food,” Dr Wani underlined. He also elaborated on the Bhoochetana project experience in Karnataka, where food production on 3.7 million hectares had increased by 20 to 66% by adopting soil test-based nutrient management options, improved cultivars and soil-water management practices. He also stressed the importance of new and challenging scientific developments such as nano fertilizer technologies and increased bioavailability of plant nutrients through  gluconated formulations using micro-organisms.

Dr Levent Ozturk from Turkey presented a paper on “Why plants need zinc”, highlighting the importance of zinc in many enzymes involved in metabolic processes and brain development in human beings. Scientists from the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Directorates of Oilseeds, Pulses and Rice, National Institute of Nutrition, Harvest Plus, Department of Agriculture, India Zinc Program of the International Zinc Association, and ICRISAT participated actively in the presentations.

Farmers had a number of queries on the presentations and had the opportunity to interact with the scientists. The farmers also visited field experiments and other facilities on the campus. In a separate interaction between scientists, research and development gaps were identified and it was agreed to develop a framework to address human nutrition through holistic development of soil, plant and animal nutrition. One hundred and seventy farmers and thirty three scientists, extension officials and private company representatives participated in this event.

Participants of the Zinc Field Day at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Modern genomics for greater crop productivity and nutritional security

Dr WD Dar delivering his inaugural address at the training course on Modern genomics for crop improvement held at ICRISAT headquarters. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

“Today, about 70% of the food-insecure population lives in developing countries, mostly as small-scale and subsistence farmers. To achieve global food security, the development of crop varieties that produce high yields in harsh climatic conditions will be a key strategy,” said Director General  William Dar, inaugurating  the 10th course on “Modern genomics for crop improvement” being held at the ICRISAT headquarters from 22 July to 9 August.

“Plant breeders can apply genomics tools for developing superior varieties in order to ensure increase in productivity and nutritional and food security,” added Dr Dar, underlining the importance of capacity building in modern genomic tools.

Welcoming the participants, Acting Deputy Director General for Research, Dr CLL Gowda, said, “Our success will be measured by the success of our partners. Therefore, it is important to empower our partners in modern science tools.”

Dr Stefania Grando, Research Program Director - Dryland Cereals, highlighted the importance of the training course and underlined how modern genomics tools need to be part of national crop breeding programs.

Course coordinator and Director, Centre of Excellence in Genomics, Dr Rajeev Varshney, introduced the course: “This training course will not train participants in data generation, instead, it will offer hands-on-training in data analysis for leading modern genomics and breeding approaches, namely marker-assisted backcrossing, marker-assisted recurrent selection, genomic selection, genotyping-by-sequencing and genome-wide association studies.”

The course is being attended by 30 participants from 15 countries namely, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, Egypt, Philippines, Brazil and India. It is jointly sponsored by ICRISAT for its partners in the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals and CGIAR Research Program on GrainLegumes, and by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India for NARS partners from India.

Participants of the training program. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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ICRISAT Nigeria trains women groundnut oil processors

A woman processor trying her hand at the oil milling machine.
Photo: H Ajeigbe, ICRISAT

Time and labor consuming farm activities are the bane of every farmer. Hence new technologies that can eliminate drudgery as well as reduce costs and boost production are always welcome.

ICRISAT Kano in Nigeria, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMA&RD), Abuja, conducted a training workshop for 25 women processors and 7 men artisans on 8 July on the use and maintenance of one such technology, the small-scale groundnut oil milling machine fabricated by Eng. Wada Dandago.

Welcoming the participants, ICRISAT’s Country Representative for Nigeria and System Agronomist Hakeem Ajeigbe announced that ICRISAT is close to signing an agreement with FMA&RD to promote groundnut value chain development in the country. He emphasized the need to bring together input suppliers, producers, processors, marketers, and consumers supported by machine fabricators, adding that the training was a step towards reducing time wasted in processing, increasing production, encouraging manufacturers to come up with more high-tech machines to make processing more affordable, and linking processors with manufacturers.

Eng. Dandago demonstrated the machine’s use and gave maintenance and troubleshooting tips. He said that it would take about 10-15 minutes to extract the oil with the machine compared to two hours by manual extraction. The machine costs about N70,000 (US$443) and its spare parts are easily available since they are fabricated locally.

An artisan demonstrates how to handle the machine.
Photo: H Ehidiamhen, FMA&RD

It was agreed that more farmers and processors should be made aware of the use and availability of the new machine. Two women groups deposited an advance towards the purchase of the machine while others promised to source funds for the same. The Head of the Department of Tsanyawa Local Government Area said arrangements are being made to purchase 20 machines to be distributed to women groups in the area and requested ICRISAT to assist with training.

Among those who attended the training were Henry A Ehidiamhen (Senior Agricultural Officer), Groundnut Value Chain, FMA&RD; Head of Department of Agriculture of Tsanyawa Local Government Area, Kano State; Hasfat S Ibrahim, leader of the Gurum Women Groundnut Processors; and Hajia Maimuna Mohammed El-Labib representing the Women Farmer Advancement Network.

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Protocols for regional integrated climate change assessment in AgMIP Project reviewed and refined

Releasing the “Handbook of climate change and agroecosystems” at the workshop. Photo: SV Prasadrao, ICRISAT

The South Asia Regional Project mid-term workshop carried out as part of the project on “Enhancing capacities of AgMIP South Asia regional projects through capacity building activities and knowledge sharing platforms” held in Kathmandu, Nepal on 22-26 July, was an exercise in reviewing the progress made and in building cohesiveness within and among regional AgMIP teams.

Protocols for regional integrated climate change assessments were reviewed and refined, and specific plans were developed to carry out integrated assessments during the project. Discussions were held with stakeholders on the integrated assessment and Representative Agricultural Pathways (RAPs) and decision frameworks.

During the workshop, the AgMIP leadership team reviewed the fast track site results and protocols for the regional integrated assessment among the teams, and set goals for a regional training program dubbed as “AgMIP Home Stretch Sprints”. On-going activities were reviewed, future work plans discussed, and the need for a project extension and talks with the donor was explored.

Sixty-eight participants from USA, Australia, France, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka took part in the deliberations. Stakeholders were invited for the first time to orient them on the project and explore the possibility of project outcomes contributing to policy recommendations to strengthen national agriculture development plans. Among the stakeholders who attended were the Deputy Director General (Education), Indian Council of Agricultural Research; progressive farmers from Pakistan; Chairman, Sugarcane Research Institute, Sri Lanka; Director General, Ministry of Sciences, Government of Nepal; and other officials and representatives from NGOs in Nepal.

The workshop was conducted by ICRISAT together with the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). 

A handbook on climate change and agroecosystems was also released during the workshop. A field trip-cum-exposure visit was organized to the Village Development Center of Chittalpole village in Bhaktapur district to familiarize the participants with local farming systems.

Among those who spoke during the workshop were Dileepkumar Guntuku and Peter Craufurd (ICRISAT); Cynthia Rosenzweig, Jim Jones, John Antle, Peter Thorburn and Carolyn Mutter (AgMIP Leadership Team); Arvind Kumar (ICAR); and Yubak Dhoj (Ministry of Sciences, Government of Nepal). Other participants from ICRISAT included Drs Chukka Srinivasa Rao, Sumanth Kumar, Nedumaran, Piara Singh, Mr Prasada Rao, and Mr Venkateswara Rao.

Participants of the AgMIP South Asia workshop held in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Photo: SV Prasadrao, ICRISAT

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Chinese delegation explores groundnut production opportunities in Malawi to benefit smallholder farmers

The Chinese delegation with ICRISAT
staff at Malawi. Photo: W Munthali, ICRISAT
Visitors touring a groundnut rosette screening plot at ICRISAT- Lilongwe. Photo: O Patrick, ICRISAT

A team of academics and engineers from the People’s Republic of China visited ICRISAT-Lilongwe in Malawi on 17 July for a briefing on the status of groundnut production in the country. The visit was on the request of the Office of the President, Government of Malawi, to ICRISAT and the Department of Agriculture, seeking to establish new partnerships to support extensive investments in groundnut production and processing for Malawi’s local and export markets.

The Chinese delegation was led by Mr Zeng Zhao Xiu, Manager, Flopower (Ningde) Industry Limited and Prof Tang Zhao Xiu of the Fujian Academy of Sciences, along with some businessmen.

The investment plan seeks to process up to 1 million tons of groundnuts, incrementally increasing it to 150 tons annually. Production would be based on a tripartite system involving smallholder farmers (for production), research and development partnerships between China and Malawi, and Flopower. According to the business proposal, the investment would expand opportunities for up to 10,000 people along the groundnut value chain.

The visitors met both the Legumes Program Team in ICRISAT Malawi, and among others discussed opportunities for supporting the investments. The discussions identified four ICRISAT-bred but locally released varieties in Malawi to support the new industry, to be evaluated under irrigation this winter season. The team also discussed opportunities for exploiting existing seed systems in the country as well as postharvest processing and storage technologies.

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Doctoral thesis on ICRISAT’s groundnut mini core collection wins 2012 Jawaharlal Nehru Outstanding Award

Dr G Mukri (left) receiving the award from Mr Tariq Anwar, Minister of State for Agriculture, Food Processing Industries, Government of India (far right). Also seen (2nd from right) is Dr S Ayyappan, Director General, ICAR. Photo: ICAR

A thesis titled “Genetic variability and mapping of nutritional quality traits in groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.)” submitted by Dr Ganapati Mukri, based on the groundnut mini core collection developed at ICRISAT, has bagged the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research in Agricultural and Allied Sciences. Instituted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, this prestigious award is meant exclusively for doctoral thesis related to agricultural sciences from an Indian University. Dr Mukri was working under the supervision of Drs HL Nadaf (UAS, Dharwad), Hari Upadhyaya (ICRISAT) and MVC Gowda (UAS, Dharwad).

Dr Mukri identified 18 accessions with higher nutritional traits such as protein content, oil content, oleic acid and oleic (O) to linoleic (L) acid ratio with superior agronomic traits in the groundnut mini core collection. On the basis of higher nutritional and agronomic traits, 11 diverse accessions of subsp. fastigiata and 10 of subsp. hypogaea were identified with more than two desirable trait combinations for use in groundnut breeding programs for genetic enhancement of nutritional traits. Dr Mukri constructed a linkage map for nutritional and oil quality traits using RILs of  TAG 24 X GPBD 4 developed at UAS, Dharwad.

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