16 May 2014
No. 1623


Farmers on a journey to share new agri-ventures to boost Indian agriculture

NAIP farmer beneficiaries shared their success stories with fellow farmers to promote new technologies and agri-ventures during the start of the Krishi Parivartan Yatra at ICRISAT. Photo: ICRISAT

A train journey to promote cross learning among farmers across India was kick-started by ICRISAT with its hosting of the first of five Agro-tech and business opportunities expos to take place in five cities traversing through Hyderabad, Nagpur, Bhopal, Mathura and New Delhi.

Krishi Parivartan Yatra (meaning, a journey of agricultural transformation) took 50 farmers and entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the World Bank-funded National Agriculture Innovation Project (NAIP) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), on a five-city tour to share new technologies and agri-ventures with fellow farmers.

The first expo held at ICRISAT on 11 May showcased the best of innovations and enterprises developed through NAIP. Parallel sessions and discussions were held, where NAIP farmer beneficiaries shared their success stories with about 200 farmers and entrepreneurs and promoted the tremendous potential of agribusiness in boosting the transformation of Indian agriculture. The train journey was then flagged from the ICRISAT headquarters in Hyderabad for the five-city tour.

“Innovation in agriculture is widely considered as the key to achieve food security. To actualize this vast untapped potential of Indian agriculture, this Krishi Parivartan Yatra is being organized to bring to the fore, the unlimited opportunities that agriculture and agribusiness offer,” said Dr D Rama Rao, National Director, NAIP at the inaugural session of the Yatra.

“We believe smallholder farming in the drylands can be prosperous. And that is why we are engaged in promoting entrepreneurship and agribusiness among the rural communities” said Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Strategic Marketing and Communication Director, representing ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar.

Mr SM Karuppanchetty delivering his address in the presence of other dignitaries. Photo: ICRISAT

“ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program has supported more than 200 agribusiness ventures and benefited over 500,000 farmers in Andhra Pradesh and neighboring states. We have identified and supported some very good innovative products and technologies and taken them to the market. The Krishi Parivartan Yatra supports our goal to bring together the best of agri-ventures and enterprises to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said Mr SM Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer, ICRISAT-ABI.

The train journey, along with the just concluded Agri-Biz Idol Camps held in various cities on 5-9 May to reach out to the youth and start-up entrepreneurs, will culminate in the Agri-Innovation Conclave on 18-19 May in New Delhi. The conclave aims to bring together agribusiness experts, professionals, and other stakeholders from across the country, on a common platform to share NAIP’s success and conceive path breaking ideas for strengthening the future of agribusiness in India.

NAIP-ICAR has embarked on this unique initiative to promote awareness on the potential opportunities in agri-business, nurture agri-innovators for future generations, and promote the various business incubation services offered by NAIP’s Business Planning and Development (BPD) units. The BPDs which primarily act as agriculture incubation centers help start-ups or entrepreneurs foraying into agribusiness to flourish by providing comprehensive business solutions.

Over the last five years, 22 agribusiness incubators (BPDs) have been set up throughout India in agricultural universities and research institutes by NAIP-ICAR with  support and mentoring by ICRISAT-ABI. The success has led to ICRISAT and ICAR sharing their expertise across the continents to Africa, to coordinate the setting up of food business incubators and food technology laboratories in 10 African countries.

Ms J Kane-Potaka and Dr DR Rao of NAIP flagging off the Krishi Parivartan Yatra at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: R Showkat, ICRISAT
There was an active participation from women farmers at the event. Photo: ICRISAT

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Hybrid pigeonpea technology gives bumper yield to farmers

Dr R Varshney flanked by Drs Dhanalakshmi and Sameer Kumar, speaking at the review meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Farmers cultivating ICRISAT’s pigeonpea hybrids reported significant increases in yields, with the medium duration hybrids grown by farmers in five states in India giving 30-35% higher yields compared to local varieties. This was despite facing challenges such as resource scarcity, climate change and degradation of soil fertility in the five states.

These were shared during the Review Meeting on Hybrid Pigeonpea Seed Production, which brought together 50 smallholder farmers and seed producers at the ICRISAT headquarters on 14 May, to formulate a road map on the expansion of pigeonpea hybrid production in India.

During the meeting, Dr Rajeev Varshney, ICRISAT Research Program Director - Grain Legumes, recognized the role of the private sector in promoting hybrids to smallholder farming communities. He added that the purity kit developed by the Centre of Excellence in Genomics, and made available by ICRISAT in public domain will be very useful to maintain genetic purity of pigeonpea hybrids.

Mr Aziz, a former employee of ICRISAT, has been growing pigeonpea hybrids for the last two years in Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh. He related that while his neighbor’s pigeonpea crop, which was of the local variety, was completely infested by wilt, his field planted to pigeonpea hybrid did not show any incidence of wilt.

Mr Kadam, a farmer from Amravati district of Maharashtra, said that he was extremely happy with the returns he got from hybrid seed production and that the profit he gained had encouraged more farmers from his village to switch to pigeonpea hybrids.

Dr Dhanalakshmi, Program Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (agricultural extension center), Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, emphasized that to enhance productivity, which is very low in this state, hybrids are the best choice.

Mr Ravinder Raj, District Manager, Andhra Pradesh State Seed Corporation, congratulated ICRISAT scientists for developing the pigeonpea hybrid technology and agreed to extend all possible support in promoting the hybrids in Andhra Pradesh.

Dr Bijendra Pal, Deputy Director, Bio-Seed Research India, announced the launch of ICPH 2671 hybrid seeds for commercial marketing. This private company will market hybrid seeds sufficient for 20,000 ha (about 49,000 acres).

Dr Hari Baptiwale, Deputy Director, Agricultural Technology Management Agency, was impressed with the performance of ICPH 2740 in the farmers’ fields and said that the company would now introduce the hybrid in about 1,000 ha (2,400 acres) in different blocks of Amravati, Maharashtra.

Dr CV Sameer Kumar, ICRISAT Pigeonpea Breeder, explained about the performance of ICPH 2740, anticipating an expansion in cropped area by 300,000 ha in 2016. He, along with Ch Ravinder Reddy, C Sudhakar, MV Nagesh Kumar and Mr R V Kumar, presented and discussed the pigeonpea hybrid (ICPH 2740 and ICPH 2671) seed production technology, to promote large-scale production among farmers in the five states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

Participants of the meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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DG speaks on better and effective pest management

Dr Dar with past and present officials of PMCP at its 45th anniversary and annual scientific conference.

“We must examine how science can be used to raise agricultural productivity without the associated ecological costs. One of the practical means of increasing crop production is to minimize pest-associated losses, currently estimated at 14% of the total agricultural production, and valued at US$243 billion annually. There are additional costs in the form of pesticides applied for pest control, currently valued at US$10 billion annually,” said Dr William D. Dar, ICRISAT Director General.

He was speaking at the 45th anniversary and annual scientific conference of the Pest Management Council of the Philippines with the theme “Harnessing plant science, biotechnology, and organic approaches for better and effective pest management.” The conference was held on 6-9 May at Cebu City, Philippines.

To avoid the ill-effects of pesticides like pest resistance, adverse effects on beneficial organisms, pesticide residues in food and food products, and environmental pollution, Dr Dar suggested: “Natural enemies, bio-pesticides, natural plant products, and pest-resistant varieties offer potentially safe methods of managing insect pests. Unlike synthetic pesticides, some of these technologies have the advantage of replicating themselves or their effect in the field, and thus, have a cumulative effect on pest populations.” He added that cultural control can also be used by adjusting sowing time, planting density, nutrient management, field sanitation, intercropping, and crop rotations.

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Passing the Torch: New Country Representative for Zimbabwe

At a simple ceremony held on 5 May, Dr Andre van Rooyen handed over the leadership baton for ICRISAT Zimbabwe to Dr Kizito Mazvimavi. Present at the ceremony were Dr Moses Siambi, Director, ICRISAT Eastern and Southern Africa, and all the staff members of the Bulawayo, Zimbabwe team.

Dr van Rooyen welcomed Dr Mazvimavi back home and pledged his continued support to ICRISAT and this location in particular. “It is an honor for me to handover a location like this – one that is stable, sound, and with a group of people who are dedicated and committed to getting the job done,” Dr van Rooyen said.

Dr Moses Siambi delivering his address during the handing over ceremony at ICRISAT Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
Photo: S Sridharan, ICRISAT

Dr Siambi discussed the challenges of running an organization during Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. “What Andre has done in the last three years is greatly appreciated. It was a difficult time and it needed great wisdom to move us through,” he said.

In his first address to staff as country representative, Dr Mazvimavi said that he was humbled to return to his home with this new responsibility.

“I pay special homage to my predecessor who has committed himself to helping me. I plan to continue from where we have been. I will maintain the standards that Andre has left for us,” Dr Mazvimavi said.

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Chickpea genomics project review and planning meeting

Participants of the review and planning meeting at NIPGR. Photo: ICRISAT

Progress and achievements were assessed and future directions were mapped out at the fifth review and planning meeting of the project “Genomic Approaches for Stress Tolerant Chickpea.”

This project brings together Australian and Indian partners contributing distinct but complementary multidisciplinary strengths in physiology, molecular biology and breeding.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, ICRISAT Research Program Director – Grain Legumes and Project Coordinator, acknowledged the impressive progress of the different project activities by all partner organizations in India, congratulating the participants for their excellent work.

In India, the project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the framework of Australia-India Strategic Research Fund. Coordinated by ICRISAT, other partner organizations in India include the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), and Krishidhan Seeds Pvt Ltd. In Australia, it is being coordinated by the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG), and has eight partner organizations.

“We are thankful to DST, Government of India for funding this project thus giving us an opportunity to work with NIPGR and IARI on these exciting activities. We thank all project partners from India and Australia, especially ACPFG, for all their support and hard work,” Dr Varshney added.

He also discussed ICRISAT’s recently launched “3000 Chickpea Genome Sequencing Initiative,” an initiative to sequence the global chickpea collection to identify superior alleles and use them in breeding program for chickpea improvement.

The review and planning meeting was held at NIPGR, New Delhi on 6 May. Other participants of the meeting included: Drs Abhishek Rathore, Manish Roorkiwal, Mahendar Thudi, Gaurav Agarwal, Aamir W Khan and Deepa Jagannathan of ICRISAT; Dr Ch Bharadwaj,  Mr Shailesh Tripathi, Dr Sumit Singh and Ms Tripti Singhal of IARI; and Drs Mukesh Jain, Sabhyata Bhatia,
Rohini Garg and Vikash K Singh of NIPGR.

This project is being undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

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ICRISAT poster receives award at 7th Annual Asia Pacific Scientific Summit of Illumina

The poster titled ‘Pattern and trends in genome sequence diversity in selected set of elite cultivars of chickpea (Cicer arietinum)’ by Ms Anu Chitikineni, Manager, Center of Excellence in Genomics, received the poster prize at the 7th Annual Asia Pacific Scientific Summit of Illumina.

Ms Anu Chitikineni with the award-winning poster.

The poster presented the work on sequencing and analysis of 140 chickpea cultivars that includes 82 varieties released in India. Scientists from ICRISAT (Drs PM Gaur, M Roorkiwal, Dadu Doddamani and RK Varshney), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (Drs NP Singh, SK Chaturvedi, SK Datta) and Beijing Genomics Institute - Shenzhen (Drs Jianbo Jina, Gengyun Zhang, Jun Wang) also authored the poster. The work presented in the poster includes patterns and trends in the diversity at whole genome sequence levels in the selected set of 140 chickpea cultivars.

The Asia Pacific Scientific Summit is an annual event of Illumina, one of the biggest firms in the area of next generation sequencing, in which Illumina and its partners showcase new technologies and platforms for enhancing the speed and throughput of sequence data and their use in human health and agriculture.

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Family farming and agricultural research for food security

Delegates of the AGRINATURA conference during a
storytelling session in Vienna. Photo: ICRISAT

Alliances between family farming and agricultural science research can transform world food systems in sustainable ways, and have a major impact on world food security.

In a conference organized by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, scientists from around the world gathered to discuss the contribution that agricultural research can make to family farming. The conference also discussed how research and higher education can become more effective in understanding and supporting these transformations.

Dr Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, ICRISAT Zimbabwe, participated in the conference as a storyteller during one of the innovative sessions. Dr Homann-Kee Tui described her experiences from the MOREP project in Mozambique that uses innovation platforms to make smallholder farming more resilient and profitable.

The conference was dynamic and innovative, making use of a mix of speeches, presentations and workshops, open space arrangements, storytelling in large and small groups, graphic design and live performance about transformative change. These techniques aimed to get people to discuss various success stories and analyze the underlying causes for the success.

Representatives from farmer organizations, civil  societies, private sector, national and international research organizations, and regional and global networks participated in the conference held on 5-8 May.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has designated the year 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), aiming to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing world attention on its significant role particularly in poverty reduction and food and nutritional security.

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Field visit and stakeholder meeting in Burkina Faso

Participants of the stakeholder meeting in Burkina Faso. Photo: Savadogo, ICRISAT

ICRISAT and the Institut de l’environnement et de recherches agricoles (INERA) in Burkina Faso organized a field visit and stakeholder meeting in the village of Tougou at about 25 km from Ouahigouya in Burkina Faso.

A total of 37 representatives from nongovernment organizations (NGOs), regional and local government, decentralized technical and extension services, technical support staff, cooperative and community-based organizations attended the half-day stakeholder meeting on 28 April. The objective of the meeting was to discuss constraints and opportunities related to agriculture in their villages. On 29 April, the participants went on a field visit to Filly, a site where the NGO Terre Verte (www.eauterreverdure.org) is experimenting with a novel integrated tree-crop-livestock management called “Sahelian Bocage”.

Earlier in January 2014 during the West and Central Africa regional planning meeting, it was agreed that an action site for joint research efforts among partners would be identified to ensure better results.

The Yatenga province in Burkina Faso, where the CGIAR Research Programs on Dryland Systems and on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security are based, was selected as the action site.

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Capacity building and scholarship opportunities for Philippine partners

MOU signing between ICRISAT and BSU on student/faculty scholarship. Photo: MG Mula, ICRISAT

In a recent series of capacity building activities in the Philippines, ICRISAT scientists fulfiled their commitment to help improve the knowledge and skills of agricultural researchers in the country.

A total of 48 participants from various regional offices of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and state universities and colleges attended the ‘Statistics Training Course on Agricultural Field Trial Designing and Analysis’ held at and co-sponsored by the Benguet State University (BSU) with ICRISAT, funded by the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR). Dr Abishek Rathore, Senior Scientist (Biometrics) served as the resource person, assisted by Ms Roma Das of ICRISAT and Mr Alex Arizabal of DA-BAR.

At the closing of the statistics training, the book WDD: Hinirang na Anak Ng Inang-Lupa (The Chosen Son of the Motherland) dedicated to Director General Dr William D. Dar was launched. The book is a collection of articles by various contributors – past and present officials and staff of BSU, and colleagues and friends, as a tribute to Dr Dar.

In another event, Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku, Global Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation, delivered a lecture on ‘BSU-ICRISAT partnership towards developing an ICT-oriented agricultural knowledge management platform for education-research-extension continuum’ highly attended by faculty and staff  of the university.

Also at BSU, the William D Dar - Ben D Ladilad (WDD-BDL) Student Scholarship Program was launched – a competitive program wherein scholars will have the opportunity to spend time with ICRISAT experts in India on their chosen field or discipline. Commission on Higher Education Regional Director, Ms Luisa S Valencia made a commitment to explore financial support to jumpstart the partnership.

The series of activities was coordinated by Dr Rosana P Mula, Coordinator, Learning Systems Unit, ICRISAT.

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