27 September 2013
No. 1590

69th Governing Board Meeting
Science and institutional health, stronger partnerships, and funding stability recognized

The ICRISAT Governing Board with the Management Group and Research Committee at the 69th GB meeting in ICRISAT headquarters, Patancheru. Photo: ICRISAT

The ICRISAT Governing Board, through the decades, has been a constant source of guidance and encouragement fueling the enthusiasm of a highly dedicated ICRISAT team in a journey through change, growth, stronger partnerships, global recognition, and enhanced agricultural impacts for the benefit of the dryland poor of the world.

Ensuring a stable, increasing and continuous funding base through an innovative marketing strategy, a stronger and more dynamic agricultural research-for-development partnership, a strong institutional foundation in terms of integrative science and a healthy and complementary working relationship among programs, high staff morale – all these were recognized during the 69th Governing Board (GB) meeting held at the ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru on 23-26 September.

A highlight of the week-long event was the launch of EXPLOREit, a new way of making ICRISAT’s valuable agricultural research, knowledge and information accessible across the globe, with the ultimate goal to ensure that open access to information contributes to greater food security and improved livelihoods, especially in the dryland tropics.

The Board meeting commenced with a visit to fields and laboratories at the headquarters. Commending the Institute for its strong integrative science, the Board expressed great appreciation of the tour to the various demo fields and the Center of Excellence in Genomics, the Village Dynamics Studies Knowledge Bank, and the Center of Excellence on ICT in Agriculture – highlighting a good balance between social sciences, ICT, and the biological sciences.

The 69th Board meeting in session.
ICAR Director General and Board Vice Chair S Ayyappan (left) with Board Chair, Dr N Poole.

The series of committee meetings set the stage for the Governing Board’s plenary meeting on 26 September, where the Institute’s enhanced commitment and efforts in maintaining science and institutional vigor, financial strength and stability, staff morale and development, and excellent management were lauded.

In his report to the Board, Director General William D. Dar emphasized that ICRISAT’s financial health is strong and stable, with the full cost recovery system fully implemented at all locations, enhanced efforts to maximize returns on investments, and the full implementation of an innovative marketing plan that involves the entire Institute and makes resource mobilization everyone’s concern.

Dr Dar also updated the Board on the overall achievements of the Institute, topped by its lead role in implementing the CGIAR Research Programs on Grain Legumes and on Dryland Cereals. With the recent appointments of Dr Noel Ellis as Director of Grain Legumes and Dr Shoba Sivasankar as Director of Dryland Cereals, work plans of the two Programs are being implemented according to schedule. To move the activities forward, the Board approved that management actively prepare for the next phase proposals for the two Programs.

In response to concerns that GMOs and genebank responsibilities are important issues to institutions like ICRISAT which help governments formulate their own policy statements, the Board advocated a strong scientific position on the matter, consistent with the policy document on GMOs being firmed up by the CGIAR Consortium Board.

The Board also approved the 2014 total operating expenditure of US$ 78.364 M, emphasizing and recognizing the strong and stable financial health of the Institute.

Other decisions made by the Board included: for the management in consultation with internal auditors to develop a due diligence mechanism for ICRISAT partners; to adopt recommendations of the Centre Commissioned External Reviews (CCER) panel on Investment Policy and Exchange Risk Management Policy; and adopt the ICRISAT Policy on Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Procedures.

The GB Program Committee meeting.

Capping the decisions made by the Board were: the renewal of membership of Dr Debbie Delmer as Board member and as the next Program Committee Chair; and the appointment of Dr Chandra Madramootoo as the Board Chair effective at the start of the April 2014 GB meeting.

Finally, in recognition of his excellent contributions and committed and dedicated services and scientific leadership over the years, the Board authorized the appointment of Dr CLL Gowda as Deputy Director General for Research effective 27 September until his successor is appointed by the new Director General in 2015.

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“EXPLOREit” gets ICRISAT’s science to the public

A new concept for information management developed by ICRISAT, gives the public a unique opportunity to explore and benefit from publicly-funded global agricultural research, knowledge and information.

EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT (exploreit.icrisat.org) breaks information barriers by making large volumes of agricultural scientific knowledge and information easily accessible by the public. EXPLOREit was launched on 25 September as one of the highlights of the 69th Governing Board meeting held at the ICRISAT headquarters.

“We are doubly excited – not only have we given easier access to all of ICRISAT’s 40 years of scientific research through EXPLOREit, but we have achieved this through the MultiProfiler concept, a revolutionary way of making information accessible,” said Dr William D. Dar, ICRISAT Director General.

“We found that typical websites are too restrictive in giving access to information, and do not present the information in ways that are easy for people to view the detail of the content. ICRISAT’s new MultiProfiler concept provides information through multiple navigations and creates easy to view profiles on the subject areas,” explained Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT Director of Strategic Marketing and Communication.

“Sharing publicly-funded agricultural information in the most accessible way is critically important to achieve our agricultural development goals of reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources,” stressed Dr Dar. “ICRISAT is leading this growing global movement, and commits to playing a dynamic role in the process of mainstreaming open access to information through EXPLOREit.”

(L-R) Ms J Kane-Potaka and Dr WD Dar (speaking) at the launch of EXPLOREit. Photo: ICRISAT

EXPLOREit is now to become the main source of ICRISAT’s scientific information, with profiles of all topics, systems, crops, locations and resources where it works.

EXPLOREit reflects our commitment to make ICRISAT’s scientific information available to the public,” said Dr Nigel Poole, ICRISAT Board Chair. “It sets a new standard for sharing of information, and therefore promotes collaboration. To achieve this, ICRISAT has made a momentous leap in its use of technology with EXPLOREit – a dynamic site that feeds information from databases using tags and harvests information from other websites,” he added.

In today’s world, where the value of information increases with the number of people sharing it, EXPLOREit speeds up ICRISAT’s journey of transformation as an open access organization, with the ultimate goal to ensure that broader access to agricultural research, knowledge and information contributes to greater food security and improved livelihoods, especially in developing countries.


The MultiProfiler concept used to develop EXPLOREit firstly identifies categories by which people come looking for information. This forms the basis of the multiple navigations as each category has its own navigation and tabs with information. The information can be repeated within any or all categories if relevant. For ICRISAT, it was identified that people come looking for information based on the following categories: topics (e.g. nutrition or climate change), specific crops, geographic location, type of farming system, or resource type (e.g. publications or data). Sub-categories/subject areas are then identified and profiles created for each. So if ICRISAT has a publication, data set or video about chickpea being used to cope with climate change in East Africa, this same information will automatically feed and be displayed in all three profiles – chickpea, climate change and East Africa.

Despite building such a complex architecture consisting of the most recent technology and modern modular/distributed processes, ICRISAT has been able to balance this with the need for a simple, user friendly and attractive look to EXPLOREit.

For more information on EXPLOREit and the MultiProfiler concept, see exploreit.icrisat.org/about. Some other features of EXPLOREit include: a “Convert profile to PDF” on each profile which places all the content of that profile onto a PDF document for further use; the ability to subscribe to latest updates by individual subject area; and social media sharing options.

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The 69th Governing Board visit to fields and laboratories

First yield evaluation trial of MABC-derived groundnut lines (P Janila, R Varshney and H Upadhyaya). Combining disease resistance with early maturity is the most significant outcome of this targeted breeding approach. This is the first preliminary yield evaluation trial with the selected groundnut lines (2013 rainy season), along with the resistant check and parents.
  Yield maximization in pigeonpea through sustainable intensification (SP Wani, Gajanan and L Sawargaonkar). Pigeonpea yield maximization experiments are carried out using methods such as dibbling at wider spacings; transplanting pigeonpea seeds and wider spacing; and dry seedling at normal spacing as sole pigeonpea, and intercropped pigeonpea with soybean – to achieve high grain yields with high value, enabling farmers to shift from low input pigeonpea crops on poor soils to better soils with high inputs and high returns.
Multilocation trial of high biomass sorghum, rainy season 2013 (S Grando and P Srinivasa Rao). ICRISAT is leading the work program on “feedstock development and supply” to enhance biomass productivity of energy sorghum and pearl millet for high ethanol recovery to augment the national (India) ethanol blending program. Forty-six high biomass sorghum lines identified/developed at ICRISAT with partners in India are being evaluated for biomass production potential and quality.
VDSA Knowledge Bank (MCS Bantilan and team). This is a single source repository of long-term household survey data collected by ICRISAT since 1975 for six VLS villages in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra of India, and of all data collected through the VDSA project from 42 villages in India and Bangladesh (2009 onwards). Policy makers, researchers and users will be able to access reports on key indicators on rural and household economy and develop reports on various subjects of their own interest.
  Center of Excellence in ICT innovations for agriculture (G Dileepkumar and team). Modern day information and communication technology (ICT) can play a significant role in extension efforts with improved efficiency and real-time advice. To meet the challenge of providing smallholders in India and sub-Saharan Africa with information, ICRISAT opened a Center of Excellence in ICT innovations for agriculture to link research, extension and markets.
Center of Excellence in Genomics (R Varshney and team). With the objective of enhancing adoption of genomics-assisted breeding in crop improvement programs at ICRISAT and for NARS partners, ICRISAT’s Center of Excellence in Genomics is engaged in three main activities: applied genomics research, sequencing and molecular breeding; high quality marker genotyping services; and capacity building in modern genomics and molecular breeding.  

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Village Dynamics Studies project holds 4th Annual Review Meeting

Dr WD Dar delivering the inaugural address. Photo: ICRISAT

“Thirty seven years ago, the vision of the architects of the Village Level Studies (VLS), now known as the Village Dynamics Studies (VDS), was truly remarkable. Today, ICRISAT has broadened the area of this study to cover not just rainfed farming, but also irrigated crops like rice. We will continue to invest in this jewel of ICRISAT to enhance its relevance and include the new realities under the strategic framework of inclusive market-oriented development (IMOD),” said Director General William D. Dar.

Dr Dar was speaking at the inaugural session of the 4th Annual Review Meeting (ARM) of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Village Dynamics Studies in South Asia Project held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 18-19 September.

“Rainfed agriculture has many challenges and is not remunerative. We need to reinvent and re-engineer rainfed agriculture to make it profitable for smallholder farming. This will mean identifying options to make the rural economy viable and sustainable,” Dr Dar added.

The annual review meeting with the theme “Transformation of rural economies in South Asia: Insights from Village Dynamics Studies,” discussed the progress made and achievements in the collection, processing, and dissemination of data and research findings. Key research findings indicate that the rural economy has rapidly been transforming in South Asia with new technologies, policies and opportunities for higher employment and income. 

The VDSA project is being jointly implemented by ICRISAT, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), in partnership with national institutes in Bangladesh and India.

The meeting benefited from valuable comments and feedback from experts like Jim Ryan, former Director General of ICRISAT and leader of the first generation VLS; Hans Binswanger, a pioneer of the first generation VLS and Advisor, VDSA Project; MJ Bhende; MG Chandrakanth; and Impact assessment expert Jeff Davis. The online participation of the Gates foundation’s representative Tuu-Van Nguyen during several sessions was very useful in gleaning the donor’s perspective and feedback.

Among those who participated in the meeting were project advisors TS Walker and NS Jodha; project leaders MCS Bantilan (Research Program Director, Markets, Institutions and Policies) and Ramesh Chand (Director, NCAP); project coordinators Uttam Deb, Madhu Bhattarai, Anjani Kumar and P Parthasarathy Rao (ICRISAT) and Humnath Bhandari (IRRI) and project team members, some of whom presented papers. Project members and those from partner institutes (UAS Dharwad and UAS Bangalore) actively participated in the deliberations and discussions.

Also featured during the meeting was a discussion about the Village Dynamics Studies Knowledge Bank, which is in the final stages of development. The Knowledge Bank, once completed, will be a single source repository of household survey data collected by ICRISAT since 1975 from six village level study (VLS) villages in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, India, and of all the data collected through the Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) project from 42 villages in India and Bangladesh (2009 onwards).

Participants of the meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Farmers identify biomass sorghum and pearl millet cultivars at multilocation trial sites in Madhya Pradesh, India

Farmers at the multilocation trial site in Gwalior.
Farmers selecting pearl millet hybrids in Morena.

The Indo-US Consortium for the Sustainable Advanced Ligno-cellulosic Biofuel Systems (SLABS) aims to develop and optimize selected biomass feedstock (high biomass and BMR varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, bamboo and switch grass) based advanced biofuel value chains. This calls for improving sorghum and pearl millet productivity in the marginal lands of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, India, where the identification of locally-adapted high biomass sorghum and pearl millet cultivars and their spread to large areas is crucial.

Towards this goal, multilocation trials of biomass sorghum and pearl millet were conducted at five locations (Gwalior, Lahar, Morena, Khargone and Dewas) by the Rajamata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (RVSKVV) with the technical support of ICRISAT and the Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR). Farmers’ interaction days were organized on 11-13 September at Gwalior, Morena, and Khargone and Dewas jointly by RVSKVV, local NGOs and ICRISAT.

In Gwalior, farmers were curious about improved biomass cultivars and the price they could obtain on the sorghum and pearl millet stover. They selected tall early-flowering sorghum entries like ICSSH 28, CSH 13, ICSV 93046 and Gird 12.

Dr P Srinivasa Rao, Senior Scientist (Sorghum Breeding) explained the relevance of the project and how it could offer fuel security and income opportunities for smallholder farmers if the identified cultivars are grown on a large scale by farmers. Dr SS Tomar, Director of Extension Services highlighted the KVKs role in the project and assured support to the project activities.

At KVK-Morena, a traditional pearl millet growing region of the State, about 20 farmers were exposed to single cross pearl millet hybrids, top cross hybrids and populations. They participated in the selection process and showed a preference for dual-purpose materials like ICMA 03222 X IP 6140, ICMA 00999 X 16943 and ICMA 01888 X 17015.

The farmers-scientists interaction at KVK-Khargone was facilitated by the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), where Dr P Srinivasa Rao inaugurated the one-day Kisan Ghosti (farmer gathering) and spoke on the relevance of biomass and grain for improving income opportunities. Farmers were enthusiastic about growing biomass lines in large areas provided they are supplied improved seed before the start of the 2013 rainy season. The farmers showed a preference for biomass and grain yielding lines to meet fodder and food demand. The genotypes selected were ICSSH 28, Sel B, ICSV 25233, gird 12 and MP II.

At Dewas, about 100 farmers from far-flung villages attended the program and selected Sel B, CSH 24 MF and MP I after observing the performance of the genotypes.

At the end of the interaction, Dr Srinivasa Rao assured the farmers that seed of selected materials would be supplied before the 2013 rainy season to take up sowing in 10 ha in each cluster, with the support of RVSKVV and DSR.

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ICRISAT participates in Agriculture Leadership Summit

(L-R) Garry de la Pomerai, Director, Soluzion Early Warning Systems & LLC, UAE; Dr RK Varshney; Prof KV Thomas, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution; and Dr KL Chadha, President, The Horticulture Society of India at the summit.

The 6th Agriculture Leadership Summit, with the theme “Technology, Trade and Food Security,” held extensive deliberations on the current status of national and international agriculture and ways of devising new strategies to improve agriculture. Dr Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, represented Director General William D. Dar to the event, delivering a presentation on “Technological revolution in crop genetics and breeding for enhancing agricultural crop productivity”.

The summit was held concurrently with the Leadership Awards and the release of the Agriculture Year Book 2013 in New Delhi on 19-20 September. Among the noted participants at the summit were Prof MS Swaminathan and Dr KL Chadda; Government of India’s Minister of Textiles, Mr KS Rao, and Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Professor KV Thomas; Mr Islam Siddiqui, US Chief Agriculture Negotiator; Senior Central and State Government officials; and farmers.

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