06 September 2013
No. 1587

Global scientific deliberation on genetic and crop management approaches to fight drought

The ICRISAT delegation attending the InterDrought-IV Conference in Perth, Australia, at the exhibit booth of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and on Dryland Cereals. Photo: ICRISAT

Great advances have been made in recent years in understanding the molecular basis of plant responses and plant tolerance to drought stress. However, there is a huge gap in the application of knowledge towards solving issues at the farm level in order to advance practical solutions to drought-prone farming. The InterDrought IV conference held in Perth, Australia on 2-6 September offered a unique and timely platform for deliberation among disciplines in public and private research sectors to meet this gap.

ICRISAT made a strong scientific presence at the InterDrought IV conference, with a delegation of scientists and researchers presenting scientific and technological innovations and applications to crop improvement and crop management under drought-prone agriculture.

InterDrought IV, hosted by Murdoch University with multi-sponsorships globally led by the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) and the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), was especially concerned with the poorer developing countries that face an increasing problem of food production with less water and under increasingly drought-prone conditions. A number of world renowned speakers presented their scientific achievements at the conference, with a range of themes addressed throughout the program.

Members of the ICRISAT delegation, while each presenting their respective scientific innovations, spoke collectively of the Institute’s priority to find ways to help extricate vulnerable drought-prone communities out of hunger and poverty using science-based solutions and pro-poor approaches to drought adaptation.

(L - R) Dr Roberto Tuberosa, Conference Chair, International Organizing Committee, ID-IV, University of Bologna; Dr RK Varshney, Designated Chair, Indian Organizing Committee, ID-V; and Dr M Cakir at the conference. Photo: ICRISAT

Leading the ICRISAT delegation was Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Director, Research Program – Grain Legumes (RP-GL), also a member of the Program Committee of the conference. In his paper on “Genomics-assisted breeding for drought tolerance of chickpea,” he highlighted the importance of using genomics in developing superior lines with enhanced drought tolerance of chickpea, a major grain legume crop for the poor. Dr Vincent Vadez, Assistant Director, Research Program – Dryland Cereals (RP-DC), presented a paper on “Transpiration efficiency: New insights on an old story,” stressing the importance of producing more food per unit of water through transpiration efficiency or the genetic component of water-use efficiency in different crops.

Dr Jana Kholova of RP-DC, spoke on “Modelling traits related to stay-green phenotype in post-rainy season sorghum,” while Dr Manish Roorkiwal of RP-GL, presented a paper on “Genetic architecture of drought and heat tolerance in chickpea through genome-wide and candidate gene-based association mapping.”

Complementing ICRISAT’s active participation at the InterDrought IV, the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals – both led by the Institute – were featured as exhibitors at the venue. The Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals double booth served as an effective platform for active interaction and engagement among ICRISAT staff, partners and conference participants.

(L - R) Dr Omid Ansari, Project Manager, GRDC; Dr V Vadez; Dr Jean-Marcel Ribaut, Director, GCP; Dr Mehmet Cakir, Chair of Local Organizing Committee, Murdoch University; Ms CP Bejosano; and Dr RK Varshney. Photo: ICRISAT

The exhibition mapped out the importance of the two CGIAR Research Programs in combating poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the drylands. Supervised and managed during the five-day conference by Ms Cristina P Bejosano, Strategic Marketing and Communication (SMC), the exhibition was initiated by Dr Stefania Grando, Director, RP-DC (also a member of the International Organizing Committee of the conference), with strong support from Dr Noel Ellis, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes, Dr Sobhana Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals and Dr Varshney.

Banking on ICRISAT’s work in coping with drought in agriculture particularly in the semi-arid tropic regions of the world, and with its strong research for development partnerships and alliance worldwide and international visibility of research work, Dr Varshney was selected, after winning the bid, to host the next InterDrought conference on behalf of ICRISAT and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). InterDrought I (ID-1)was organized in 1995 in France, ID-II in 2005 in Italy, ID-III in China in 2009 and ID-IV in Australia in 2013. ID-V is envisioned to be organized in Hyderabad some time in 2016 or 2017. It will be a great honor not only for ICRISAT or ICAR but for India as well to host this prestigious conference.

Over 200 delegates from different parts of the globe attended the InterDrought IV conference. Other participants from ICRISAT included Dr Hari Upadhyaya, and the following poster presenters: Pooran Gaur (Drought tolerant and high yielding breeding lines through marker-assisted breeding in chickpea); Rajeev Varshney (Genetic control of drought tolerance through meta-QTL analysis in peanut); Manish Roorkiwal (Deploying genomic selection in chickpea); Rachit Saxena (Functional validation of drought responsive genes in pigeonpea); Abirami Ramalingam (Protein expression in chickpea); Rajani Tirumalasetti (Yield response to drought under high and low nitrogen accumulation in groundnut); Deepa Jaganathan (SNP discovery in drought QTL region of chickpea); and Raju Pushpavalli (Effect of low relative humidity in chickpea at reproductive phase).

back to top Back to top

Exploring the dynamics of labour markets in South Asia

A session of the workshop in progress. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The research team at ICRISAT has undertaken studies in longitudinal changes in rural labour supply and demand and their impact on the agricultural sector, structural transformation in rural labour markets, trends in wage rates and ways to address issues related to educated rural youth in a historical perspective. Findings indicate that even though the share of the non-farm sector in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been swiftly increasing, the labor movement from agricultural to non-agricultural sectors has been very slow, and the labor force participation rates for women continue  to remain low.

However, of late greater rural-urban linkages, expansion of non-farm employment, migration and technological change in rural and agricultural sectors, farm mechanization, increase in labor productivity, implementation of the Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA Act) and an increased share of educated labor force has led to an increased dynamism in rural labor markets. This has the potential for income and employment expansion for the rural population within and outside the villages.

It was also revealed that young, educated and skilled workers are migrating to urban areas, leading to a wider gap in wage rates between rural and urban sectors and employment opportunities in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. As a result, poverty persists in many areas  of rural and agricultural sectors which have not benefited from these growing opportunities.

These were some of the findings discussed at a workshop on “Dynamics of labor market using household panel data of ICRISAT in South Asia - Appraisal of project progress and work plans” organized at ICRISAT headquarters on 29 August by the Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies (MIP).

Partners from the Institute of Human Development (IHD/New Delhi), Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR/New Delhi), National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD/Hyderabad), National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA/New Delhi) and Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC/Bangalore) presented their progress report for 2013 and work plan for 2014.

Dr MCS Bantilan, Director, Markets, Institutions and Policies, ICRISAT; Dr Alakh N Sharma, Director, IHD; Prof DN Reddy, National fellow, ICSSR and Dr Elumalai Kannan, ISEC  enhanced the deliberations and guided in the preparation of  work plans to formulate appropriate policy measures towards improving the welfare of labor in the farm and non-farm sectors. 

A Amarender Reddy, Nagaraj Nareppa and Anjani Kumar of ICRISAT served as discussants in the workshop, which formed part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets.

Participants of the meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

back to top Back to top

Mining and agriculture industries look for collaboration opportunities

A series of panels from mining and government – Rio Tinto, Citic Pacific, Alcoa Farmlands, Fortescue Metals Group, Department of Agriculture and Food (Western Australia) and Department of Minda and Petroleum (Western Australia) – presented their issues and approaches. Photo: Tilahun Amede, ICRISAT

Possibly for the first time ever, a forum was created to bring the mining and agriculture industries together to identify opportunities to collaborate. Held in Perth, Australia on 28 – 31 August, this initiative was the brainchild of The Crawford Fund which partnered with the Africa Australia Research Forum to host a ‘Mining, Agriculture and Development: Bread from Stones?’ conference, preceding the Africa Down Under mining conference.

The mining companies were very frank in noting that their sole focus is to maximize returns to their stakeholders. Inputting to local communities through Corporate Social Responsibility is only undertaken where there is direct benefit to the mining company. Typically, the mining companies contributed to local infrastructure, health and education of local communities where they are located and sometimes some agriculture but typically vegetable farming to supply their procurement needs for feeding their staff.

Dr F Waliyar (right) discussing challenges in Africa with Hon Dr Florence Chenoweth, Africa Prize Winner and Minister for Agriculture in the Republic of Liberia. Photo: SP Wani, ICRISAT
His Excellency Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana and Chairman of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (right) with Ms J Kane-Potaka, discussing how African governments need assistance in negotiating with mining companies. Photo: SP Wani, ICRISAT

The conferences were attended by agricultural research institutes, development donors, mining companies and government. ICRISAT was the only CGIAR Centre to attend, identifying a need to ensure poor smallholder farmers in the remote areas where the mines typically locate, benefit sustainably.

ICRISAT was represented at the conference by Dr Farid Waliyar, Regional Director for West and Central Africa; Dr Moses Siambi,  Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa; Dr Suhas P Wani, Assistant Research Program Director & Principal Scientist (Watersheds) and Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director, Strategic Marketing and Communication.

(L-R) Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa with Drs F Waliyar, SP Wani and M Siambi. Photo: ICRISAT
A panel discussion in progress at the conference. Photo: SP Wani, ICRISAT

back to top Back to top

Australian Indo Strategic Research Fund project on chickpea reviewed at Perth, Australia

((Left) Participants of the project meeting. (Right) Drs RK Varshney and PM Gaur at the experimental fields of the project in Western Australia, Perth. Photos: UWA

The 2nd international bilateral meeting of the project “Genomic approaches for stress tolerant chickpea” was held in Perth on 30 and 31 August to review the progress made and devise work plans for the future.

Dr Rajeev Varshney (Project Coordinator, India) and Dr Tim Sutton (Project Coordinator, Australia) gave their respective project overviews and moderated discussions on future work plans. The team members from each institute made presentations on progress made and work plans.

The project activities are on track and both coordinators were satisfied with the progress made at each center. They emphasized the need to  strengthen Indo-Australian collaboration by enhancing student exchanges and with periodical discussions. This was followed by a field trip to Cunderdin (Western Australia) and glasshouse experiments at The University of Western Australia on 1 September.

It was decided that the next international bilateral meeting will be held in India during 2014.

Among the others who attented the meeting were Drs Pooran Gaur, Hari Upadhyaya, Abhishek Rathore, Rachit Saxena, Manish Roorkiwal and  Deepa Jagannathan (ICRISAT); Ch Bharadwaj (IARI); Mukesh Jain and Sabhyata Bhatia (NIPGR); team members from ACPFG/ University of Adelaide; University of Queensland; The University of Western Australia; RMIT/ University of Melbourne and South Australian Research & Development Institute (SARDI).

Dr R Varshney with Dr Tim Colmer (left) and Dr Kadambot Siddique (right) in a greenhouse at UWA. Photo: UWA

The project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India for partners in India and the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Government of Australia for partners in Australia.

During his visit, Dr Varshney also had the opportunity to explore further opportunities of collaboration with the University of Western Australia. He visited greenhouse and laboratory facilities and had extensive discussions with several scientists.  

Dr Varshney, who is an Adjunct Professor at UWA, delivered “The Bayliss Seminar” on “Genomes and genomics-assisted breeding in semi-arid tropic legume crops”, jointly organized by the School of Plant Biology and ARC Centre of Plant Energy Biology. In addition, he held discussions with Dr Kadambot Siddique, Hackett Professor of Agriculture, Chair and Director, The UWA Institute of Agriculture; Tim Colmer, Winthorp Professor and Head of School of Plant Biology; and Dr Ian Small, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology for possible collaborations between UWA and ICRISAT.

Some of the areas of possible collaboration could be in the development of double haploid technology in grain legumes (especially chickpea), and comprehensive analysis of mitochondrial genomes of pigeonpea for associating genes with cytoplasmic male sterility in pigeonpea.

back to top Back to top

Capacity building for micronutrient analysis

Participants of the training held in Ludhiana, Punjab. Photo: ICRISAT

A two-day training program on micronutrient analysis was held at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana on 26-27 August, wherein 33 technicians and scientists from 13 organizations participated. 

Following welcome remarks by Dr RK Gumber, Head, Department of Plant Breeding, and the Chairman’s remarks by Dr JS Dhiman, Additional Director of Research, PAU, Dr KN Rai from ICRISAT briefed the group on the meeting’s background and Dr Kuldeep Singh from Punjab Agricultural University spoke on the lectures and practicals.

Dr James Stangoulish and Dr Georgia Guild from Flinders University, Australia, were the resource persons for the training on X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF). Drs JS Manchanda and Dhanwinder Singh (PAU) were the resource persons for Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectroscopy (ICP) and Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) methods.  

HarvestPlus has supported the installation of XRF facilities at ICRISAT, PAU, Directorate of Wheat Research (Karnal), Banaras Hindu University (Varanasi), and the Directorate of Rice Research (Hyderabad). Following the training program, Drs Stangoulish and Guild travelled to these research centers to check the laboratory facilities, functioning of the machines and further standardize them for iron and zinc analyses using “glass standards”.

The training was organized by ICRISAT and HarvestPlus which is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.

back to top Back to top

Workshop on e-Extension strategies for knowledge sharing held

Participants of the workshop. Photo: Photo: D Venkat, ICRISAT

A two-day workshop on e-Extension strategies for knowledge sharing was organized for the second batch of Extension Officers from Rubber Board on 3-4 September at the ICRISAT headquarters. Supported by the Government of India’s Rubber Board, the training attended by 30 participants from different regional offices of Rubber Boards from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, was intended to update extension personnel on the different Information and Communication Technology initiatives in agriculture, including those developed at ICRISAT. 

Ms Rosana Mula welcomed the participants on behalf of Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) and Mr Richard Burgos read out the message on behalf of Director General William Dar.

Among those who spoke were Dr Rasheed Sulaiman, Director, Centre for Research on Innovation and Science Policy; Dr VP Sharma, Director (IT), National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management; Dr Arun Kumar, Scientist, Directorate of Rice Research; Dr Gopalakrishna, All India Radio, Hyderabad; and Dr NT Yaduraju and Mr Sumanth Kumar from ICRISAT. This was followed by a demonstration of Agropedia and vKVK and hands on training on vKVK by Dr Kiran Yadav with Ms Prerana.

Building on this, the Rubber Board is proposing to forge a long-term partnership with ICRISAT in the area of application of ICT in knowledge sharing.

back to top Back to top

South Asian region Dryland Systems Research Program work plan meeting held in Kathmandu, Nepal

(left) ICRISAT’s gender expert Dr Chanda Goodrich (far right) interacting with Dr William Payne (ICARDA), Director, Dryland Systems Research Program. (Right) Participants of the meeting.

A two-day South Asia work-plan meeting, as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, was organized by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and ICRISAT in Kathmandu, Nepal on 27 and 28 August. The launch meeting of the Research Program held in May had come up with the idea of Intermediate Development Outcomes to augment the overall planning and implementation of the program which requires a systematic clustering of activities.

With just a few months left to start implementing activities for 2014, early participatory planning, prioritization of activities and allocation of tasks across implementing partners is important. Hence the main purpose of the work plan meeting was to ensure that the high level activities are populated into the right Intermediate Development Outcomes; verify the on-going and reported activities (for 2013) in terms of their relevance, importance and contribution to IDOs; propose activities for 2014; and identify cross-cutting themes and  create more synergy among the CGIAR and other partners working within and across regions.

About 44 participants from national research programs, non-government organizations, CGIAR centres [International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), ICARDA, ICRISAT, International Potato Centre (CIP), Bioversity International and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)] were represented at the meeting.

back to top Back to top