21 February 2014
No. 1611


DG William Dar receives FABA award for transformational leadership in agriculture

“I dedicate this award to the smallholder farmers of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” a humble Dr Dar said in his acceptance speech at the event. In the picture with Dr Dar is Nobel Laureate and eminent German virologist Dr Harald zur Hausen. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

In recognition of his relentless efforts to improve the livelihoods of poor smallholder farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, Dr William Dar, ICRISAT Director General, was conferred the prestigious Federation of Asian Biotech Associations (FABA) Special Award 2014.

Dr Dar was chosen by a team of global experts to receive this honor for his notable contributions to science and sustainable agriculture, and his transformational leadership at ICRISAT that turned the institute into a forward-looking global center of excellence. His institutional innovations in agricultural biotechnology, genomics, and agribusiness incubation and in fostering public-private partnerships, guided by the strategic framework of Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD), have led to significant impacts in the dryland tropics of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The award was presented to Dr Dar by Nobel Laureate and eminent German virologist Dr Harald zur Hausen, during the Valedictory Ceremony of the BioAsia 2014 on 19 February at the Hyderabad International Convention Center.

“I dedicate this award to the smallholder farmers of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” Dr Dar said in his acceptance speech at the event.

“I have been ICRISAT’s servant-leader for the last 14 years, during which we have strived to translate high-end science into development and economic opportunities for smallholder farmers. In the past few years, we have also elevated the game of agribusiness science. Almost 75% of the hybrid products of crops such as sorghum, millet and pigeonpea in the Indian market are coming from ICRISAT germplasm and breeding materials. At ICRISAT, we reinvent ourselves and innovate to efficiently contribute to the economic prosperity of smallholder farmers,”  Dr Dar added.

ICRISAT is currently mentoring and handholding 200 agribusinesses throughout India with support from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). While the success rate of agribusiness incubation across the world remains at 20%, ICRISAT has managed to succeed to the level of 80%.

(From L-R) Dr J Ranjan, Dr KJ Chowdhry, Mr KP Chandra, Dr HZ Hausen, Dr Dar, Dr M Rao and Dr PV Appaji launching a publication at the event.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Sharing valuable insights with the dignitaries and participants at the event, Dr Dar said, “India, in order to be the global leader, must invest in and strengthen genome science in terms of agriculture.  This will help improve the health and living standards of the poor people and feed the country’s growing population.” ICRISAT is a global leader in genomic science in agriculture, currently leading the genome sequencing of pigeonpea, chickpea and pearl millet.

The ‘FABA Special Award’ was instituted in 2010, to recognize and honor eminent personalities for their significant contributions to biotechnology and life sciences. FABA is a non-profit registered organization under the Indian Societies Act, formed in 2005 with the objective of creating a common platform for development of biotechnology across the globe, particularly in the Asian countries. BioAsia: The Global Biobusiness Forum is an annual international event offering a platform for convergence of business leaders, policy makers and investors.

Among the other dignitaries who graced the occasion included: Dr Mahendra Rao, Director of NIH Center for Regenerative Medicine under the US Department of Health and Human Services; Mr K Pradeep Chandra, Principal Secretary, Department of Industries, Government of Andhra Pradesh (AP); Dr Jayesh Ranjan, Vice-Chairman & Managing Director of AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation Limited; Dr Khalid Javaid Chowdhry, President, FABA Pakistan; and Dr PV Appaji, Director General, Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (PHARMEXCIL), Hyderabad.

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Pearl millet variety Hashaki 1 released in Uzbekistan

An open-pollinated pearl millet variety Hashaki 1 was officially released by the State Varietal Commission of Agricultural Crops for cultivation in Uzbekistan. This marks the first ever official release of a pearl millet variety in the country.

The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) has been working in collaboration with ICRISAT to introduce breeding materials and germplasm of sorghum and pearl millet for crop diversification under saline field conditions in Western Asia and Northern Africa (WANA), and Central Asia (CA) regions.

The tall version of a pearl millet B-composite of mid-late maturity and having long and thick panicles, designated as High-Head Volume B-Composite-Tall (HHVBC-Tall), has consistently performed well, both in the WANA and CA regions in multilocation trials conducted since 2004.

Selection within HHVBC-Tall by scientists at the Uzbek Scientific Research Corn Station, Tashkent, led to the development of an open-pollinated variety Hashaki 1.

This collaborative activity has been undertaken under the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals.

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New varieties of groundnut and pearl millet released for the dry savanna regions of Nigeria

A local farmer with his pearl millet harvest. Photo: ICRISAT

The National Variety Release Committee of Nigeria has approved the release of two new groundnut varieties and one of pearl millet developed by ICRISAT and its partners for commercial cultivation in Nigeria. 

Groundnut varieties SAMNUT 25 (ICGX-SM 00020/5/P10) and SAMNUT 26 (ICGX-SM 00018/5/P15/P2) were recommended and released, based on their good performance across the targeted production environments in Nigeria with regards to pod and haulm yields, resistance to the groundnut rosette disease, early crop maturity, high nutritional qualities, and wide acceptability by the local farmers.

The two varieties originated from F5 aphid resistance x groundnut rosette virus resistance nursery with breeding lines provided by ICRISAT Mali from ICRISAT Malawi in 2006, as part of a total of 140 breeding lines supplied to the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) at Zaria, Nigeria. With financial support under the Tropical Legumes II (TL II) project, IAR Zaria scientists evaluated lines of groundnut in collaboration with ICRISAT and other National Agricultural Research System partners in the country.

ICRISAT and its partners are also making continuous efforts to develop pearl millet varieties suitable to the Northern Sudan and savanna regions of Nigeria which have been suffering from drought. 

The Lake Chad Research Institute in collaboration with ICRISAT obtained 360 pearl millet breeding materials made of landraces and improved varieties from ICRISAT Niamey through the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) project, and evaluated and characterized agronomic and yield-related traits for each ecological zone in the 2006 rainy season.

Selected lines were subsequently evaluated through the ICRISAT-led HOPE project in farmer-participatory variety selection.

Based on the performance of pearl millet variety PEO5984 in both on-station and on-farm multilocation trials, farmers preference and profitability over local varieties under the same agronomic practices, the Government of Nigeria recently approved the release of PEO5984 as LCICMV-4 otherwise nicknamed “Jira ne” in Hausa language. 

The early-maturing variety PEO5984 has an average yield of 2,263kg/ha, indicating a yield advantage of about 29% over the local variety. This will boost millet production especially in marginal areas of Nigeria where maize or sorghum cannot produce any significant yield due to drought.

The TL II project is being implemented under the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes, while the HOPE project is under the CGIAR Research program on Dryland Cereals. Both projects are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Farmers examining a groundnut farm cultivating new varieties. Photo: ICRISAT

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Bhoochetana program maps out the way forward

Participants of the ‘Annual Review and Planning Workshop for Bhoochetana and Bhoochetana plus’. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

More than 300 farmers, farm facilitators and stakeholders from 30 districts of Karnataka, India came together to map out strategies to increase the adoption and area coverage of the Bhoochetana program under the Government of Karnataka (GoK) and ICRISAT initiatives. In a review and planning meeting held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 5-8 February, participants brainstormed on the progress made so far, roadblocks and the way forward. 

The Bhoochetana program in Karnataka is a scientific research for development undertaken on a large scale. In the first four years of implementation, the program reached 3 million farmers, increasing crop yields across 30 districts by 23-66% as compared to farmers’ practice primarily through the adoption of soil-test-based nutrient management recommendations along with quality seeds of high-yielding cultivars, and soil and water conservation measures. In the years 2011 and 2012, the combined gross value of increased agricultural production in the state was US$ 234 million, despite the fact that 2012 was a drought year with 26% deficit rains in the state.

ICRISAT Director General, Dr William Dar, in his inaugural message, acknowledged that the success of the program in Karnataka was largely due to the teamwork and partnership with the state’s Department of Agriculture along with the strong political will of high-level policymakers. He further appreciated the team work by the eight CGIAR centers and The World Vegetable Center involved in Bhoochetana plus for coming together to help smallholder farmers in the state, which is a unique model to improve livelihoods of farmers. He also highlighted the need to capitalize on the impacts of the first phase in implementing Bhoochetana II (mission program) to reach out to more farmers, and to come up with more systems improvements through Bhoochetana plus (GoK-CGIAR initiative) in order to harness full benefits of the programs.

In his inaugural address, Mr Kaushik Mukherjee, Chief Secretary, GoK, urged scientists and farmers to adopt a holistic approach to farming system, and to consider smallholder farmers’ need-based technology options.

An overview of the programs, highlighting the achievements of covering a gross area of about 7 million ha in five years with increased productivity of various crops benefitting millions of farmers, was presented by Dr Suhas Wani, Acting Research Program Director, Resilient Dryland Systems.

Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General - Research, while acknowledging the efforts of GoK, emphasized on the need to strengthen the partnership to upscale the strategy for greater impacts under the programs. 

Among other dignitaries from GoK present at the event were: Mr GVK Rau, Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner; Mr Bharatlal Meena, Principal Secretary, Agriculture; and Mr Subodh Yadav, Commissioner, Agriculture.

The participants were organized into eight major theme-wise groups to discuss and deliberate on the issues of capacity building of farm facilitators, enhancing awareness and publicity, input mobilization and quality monitoring and availability, innovative monitoring and evaluation, documentation and reporting, enhancing involvement of women and youth in Bhoochetana, improving convergence in the districts, and strengthening sustainable extension through ICT and public-private partnership and convergence.

The event was jointly organized by the Bhoochetana Team of ICRISAT and the Department of Agriculture, GoK. The programs are being undertaken under the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, and funded by the Government of Karnataka.

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Post-rainy sorghum improvement program showcased at field day

Participants visiting a field on the ICRISAT campus.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Post-rainy sorghum, once considered to be a subsistence crop in the semi-arid tropics of South Asia, is now yielding marketable surpluses of quality grain and fodder which are helping farmers realize higher prices for their products. The current market price of post-rainy sorghum is among the highest in food grains.

To showcase the diversity in the post-rainy sorghum material bred for various traits and nuances through ICRISAT’s sorghum improvement program, a field day was organized at the ICRISAT headquarters on 17-18 February. A total of 23 public sector and 15 private sector scientists took part in the event.

Director General Dr William Dar, in his inaugural message, urged sorghum scientists to diversify sorghum-based products to create market demand, and effectively communicate information on improved products and technologies developed through research partnerships to smallholder farmers. “Only then can we be able to arrest the decline in sorghum cultivation area and make it a more competitive crop to benefit the smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics,” Dr Dar said.

Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General - Research also called on the sorghum scientists to develop game-changing products and technologies.

Drs Trushar Shah, Scientist (Bioinformatics) and Ashok Kumar, Senior Scientist (Sorghum Breeding), presented a brief account of the post-rainy sorghum crop and the changing scenario in the light of interventions under HOPE project.

All the participants visited the fields on the ICRISAT campus to see the best material under demonstration for various traits. While appreciating the progress in enhancing genetic diversity in the post-rainy sorghum materials and in the development of improved varieties, hybrid parents and hybrids, the participants asked for increasing restoration ability in hybrids and for developing mechanical harvesters to cope with labor shortages during harvesting.

This activity was carried out through the HOPE project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals.

(Left) A scientist examining post-rainy sorghum. (Right) ICRISAT staff giving participants a tour of the sorghum fields on the ICRISAT campus. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals elects first chair of Independent Advisory Committee

Members of the IAC (From L-R): Drs R S Mahala, Eric Danquah, P Langridge, Margaret Smith, Ivan Rwomushana, and Greg Edmeades.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr Peter Langridge, Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Australian Center for Plant Functional Genomics, has been elected as chair of the Independent Advisory Committee (IAC) of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals, which met for the first time on 15 February at the ICRISAT headquarters.

Dr Langridge is also on the Advisory Boards of the US Triticeae CAP and the Canadian Triticum Advancement thorough Genomics programs. He is chair of the IBERS Science & Impact Advisory Board at Aberystwth, UK and of the Scientific Board of the International Wheat Initiative. He has also supervised over 50 PhD students to completion.

The Independent Advisory Committee (IAC) is part of the governance and management structure of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals. The committee provides independent orientation in prioritizing research for development strategies, activities and resource allocation of the research program.

The committee will provide written reports to the ICRISAT (the Lead Center) Governing Board, and the Research Management Committee which will be part of the annual evaluation of the research program.

The members of the IAC include Drs Margaret Smith, Director Assoc Acad, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences - Cornell University, Greg Edmeades, Independent Consultant from New Zealand and RS Mahala of Pioneer Overseas Corporation, Indian branch. Drs Eric Danquah, Director, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) and Ivan Rwomushana, Program Manager, Staple Crops Programme, the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) represent the sub-regional organizations from the focus regions of the program.

The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals started officially on 1 July 2012, and the committee was put in place in August 2013 when Dr Shoba Sivasankar assumed responsibility as its Director.

Dr Langridge’s address

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External Review Panel on IMOD implementation at ICRISAT headquarters

The Center Commissioned External Review (CCER) panel on Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) implementation is now at the ICRISAT headquarters after completing their review in Eastern and Southern Africa and West and Central Africa. The panel comprising of Dr SS Acharya, India; Dr AA Fall, Senegal; and Ms Grace Ngungi (Kenya) will be here until 28 February.

At the headquarters, they had extensive discussions with Director General Dr William Dar on the IMOD framework, and interacted with Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General – Research, and other ICRISAT senior and middle management staff, including all Research Program Directors and the CGIAR Research Program Directors and their teams on the IMOD implementation and their road map.

The panel members also held meetings with key stakeholders including, Dr A Padmaraju, Vice Chancellor, Acharya N G Ranga Agriculture University; Officials of the Directorate of Sorghum Research, the Indian Society of Agriculture marketing, and the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture. They also visited the farmers’ fields and the Adarsha Watershed in Kothapally, India.

The team toured Nandyal and Kurnool regions in Andhra Pradesh where they interacted with senior scientists from the Regional Agricultural Research Station and farmers, to understand and assess the growth of chickpea cultivation and crop marketing.

ICRISAT’s Mr M Srinivas Rao, Specialist (Markets, Research and Innovation), accompanied the CCER Panel to all these meetings and field visits. Ms Reema Nanavaty, Director of SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), Gujarat, is the Key Resource Person to the panel.

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ICRISAT shares impact assessment initiatives to support international agricultural research funding decisions

Dr Bantilan speaking at the AARES conference. Photo: ICRISAT
Dr Bantilan in a deliberation with other experts and
ICRISAT former Director General, Dr Jim Ryan (leftmost). Photo: ICRISAT

ICRISAT’s priority setting and impact assessment research initiatives, particularly its unified theoretical framework for ex-ante and ex-post impact assessment, were presented by a team of ICRISAT scientists at the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (AARES) Conference 2014 held in Port Macquarie, Australia on 4-7 February.

Focusing on economic analysis that supports strategic research choices to boost international agricultural research funding decisions, the ICRISAT team led the session on ‘Research and Development Impact Analysis’. Deliberations revolved around new methods and applications such as international research spillover impacts, importance of estimation methods and techniques in the application of Geographic Information System (GIS), adoption and adaptive capacity parameters, transaction costs in research for development (R4D) and extension using multi-commodity systems.

Applications illustrated ex-post and ex-ante impact assessment linkages, linking priorities with resource allocation, and exogenous versus endogenous adoption and adaptation, poverty issues and other indicators in impact assessment.

The team first outlined ICRISAT’s unified theoretical framework for ex-ante and ex-post impact assessment, followed by detailed presentations on various topics, with Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Research Program Director – Markets, Institutions and Policies (MIP) discussing the feedback loops between the ex-ante and ex-post assessments at ICRISAT.

The ICRISAT team, composed of scientists from the Research Program – MIP and the Impact Assessment Office, also took the opportunity to meet some distinguished and well-known experts in the field, particularly ICRISAT former Director General, Dr Jim Ryan and ICRISAT’s advisor on impact assessment, Dr Jeff Davis. On the sidelines of the conference critical interactions brought significant progress to ensure the finalization of the book ‘Decision Support for International Agricultural Research: Linking Impact and Spillover Assessments to Priority Setting’ in 2014.

Besides the impact assessment and priority setting deliberations, the team also had the opportunity to share other important dimensions of their work. Presentations by the team included insights from the ICRISAT Village-Level Studies, particularly on village development pathways, employment guarantee scheme and determinants of farm households’ adaptive capacity.

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ICRISAT participates in India’s biggest national agricultural fair

Farmers at the ICRISAT stall. Photo: ICRISAT

Joining in the celebration of the great contributions of farmers to India’s economy, ICRISAT showcased its research programs and activities and displayed seeds of improved cultivars of its crops at the ‘Krishi Vasant 2014’. This is the National Agricultural Fair-cum-Exhibition organized at the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur, Maharashtra on February 9-13.

The Agri Expo event witnessed the participation of thousands of farmers from across the country. Over 800 stalls were set up by participants including ICRISAT, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), various international research institutes, state agricultural universities, regional agricultural colleges, and private sector seed companies. 

The event was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, India, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and the state government of Maharashtra. It was inaugurated by Honorable President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee.

Visitors to the ICRISAT stall were keen on knowing more about improved cultivars and high-yielding varieties of pigeonpea, groundnut and chickpea; and efficient natural resource (soil, water and nutrient) management for productivity enhancement. Information materials on integrated watershed management, Bhoochetana program, and vermi-composting printed in the local languagewere distributed among farmers.

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