30 Oct 2015
No. 1699




Drylands get greener with low-cost agri interventions and shared resources in Andhra Pradesh, India

Mr Tippeswamy in his pigeonpea field showing robust crop growth with soil test-based
balanced fertilization. Photo: G Chander, ICRISAT

Farmers in the drylands of Andhra Pradesh, who previously struggled to sustain their groundnut and pigeonpea crops during long dry spells, are now witnessing an increase in food grain production by 30 to 40% and fodder production by 10% to 30%. They are also raising mango plantations and growing vegetables. This has been possible through low-cost agricultural interventions such as building farm ponds and replenishing degraded soils with micro and secondary nutrients and sharing of farm resources such as machinery and pasture lands.

These learnings were shared at field days that had Innovation Platform experts interacting with about 300 farmers (100 were women) from the Dryland Systems (DS) sites in Anantapur and Kurnool that receive only about 540 mm of annual ra infall. The topics discussed included water conservation, soil health, gender mainstreaming, fodder promotion, small-scale vegetable cultivation, managing common lands and mechanization.

Soil health

Mr Govindraj, a farmer, shared how he spends a little amount on micro and secondary nutrients and saves cost on extra use of nitrogen and phosphatic fertilizers and is able to get higher yields. Also by recycling farm waste, farmers are not only cutting on the cost of chemical fertilizers but are also improving soil health and crop yield.

It is critical to address soil needs for building a strong foundation for dryland systems because with passage of time and mismanagement of soil resources, the number of deficient nutrients increases (see table).

Water conservation

Ms Kamalamma working on her kitchen garden. Photo: G Chander, ICRISAT

Farmers Ms Hemlatha and Mr Ramanjeyulu shared how a micro-catchment scale low-cost cement-lined farm pond in a fellow farmer’s field has empowered them to effectively cope with the long dry spells while enhancing risk-taking abilities to intensify and diversify the production system.

The farm pond demonstrations during 2014 and 2015 facilitated 10 participating farmers in DS sites to diversify into raising mango plantations and vegetable gardens, and protect crops like groundnut and pigeonpea during long dry spells. Dr Girish Chander, Senior scientist – Natural Resource Management, ICRISAT, said that the construction of a small farm pond (10 m × 10 m × 2.5 m) with about one-centimeter thick concrete lining costs only $300 and is an effective scalable technology for storing water even in red soil with a high percolation rate.

Water conservation in individual farm ponds can change the face of dryland production systems and smallholder livelihoods, said Dr Y Reddy of AF Ecology Centre (AFEC).

Shared resources and gender mainstreaming

Farmers visit a low-cost individual farm pond in Mallapuram, Andhra Pradesh. photo: Y Swamy Reddy

Gender mainstreaming initiatives are an important component in DS sites. Livestock-related activities, which are mainly in the domain of women, are being strengthened by addressing fodder scarcity and promoting high-yielding nutritious varieties of annual sorghum and horse gram and perennial (Napier) grasses on individual farmer’s fields and also on common property lands in villages.

Promotion of kitchen gardens is also facilitating women to enhance income while improving family nutrition. All women participating in the field days expressed their willingness to undertake demos during the postrainy season.

To reduce drudgery, machine hiring centers are being promoted at the village level on sharing basis, said
Dr S Reddy of Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU). Farmers participating in the trials vouch that mechanization is enabling timely sowing for harnessing proper moisture and resulting in less cost, less labor, uniform distance between plants and better pods in groundnut.

The field days were held on 14 and 15 October. Innovation Platform experts from Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU); AF Ecology Centre (AFEC); Rural Studies Development Society (RSDS); Community Organising for Rural Upliftment Society (CORUS) and ICRISAT interacted with farmers. The learnings from on-farm research for development at DS action sites and farmers experience clearly showed that system-context scalable technologies are needed to develop productive and resilient dryland systems.


Project: Integrated Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Systems

Investor: CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems

Partners: ICRISAT, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU); AF Ecology Centre (AFEC); Rural Studies Development Society (RSDS); Community Organising for  Rural Upliftment Society (CORUS)

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Reverse tenancy: A re-emerging trend in dryland agricultural areas of southern India

Reverse tenancy – where poorer household land owners rent out land to richer tenants – is re-emerging as an economic phenomenon in the dryland agricultural areas of southern India, according to a study based on VDSA data. This is the opposite of the usual practice where larger landholders rent out part of their land to those who have little or no land themselves.

The short term benefit in this arrangement to small landowners (owning land up to 1.0 ha) or functionally landless households (ie, those households with less than 0.5 ha of land) is usually an exchange of cash or a share of the production of the crop by the tenants. However in the longer term this trend has been shown to exacerbate the income-generating potential of many of the smaller landholders. Thus the poorer sections of these rural communities are unable to increase their household incomes and move out of the poverty trap.

“We cannot say this is a socially desirable condition – because very often these smaller landholders do not have bargaining power and therefore can’t benefit from the increased income resulting from this arrangement,” says Dr Uttam Deb, Principal Scientist, Economics, RP-Markets, Institutions and Policies, ICRISAT.

VDSA research

The findings on reverse tenancy were revealed in a study based on household level data collected in six villages participating in the Village Dynamic Studies program in Telangana and Maharashtra between 2007 and 2013. The six villages comprise Aurepalle and Dokur villages in Mahbubnagar district of Telangana; Shirapur and Kalman villages in Solapur district, Kanzara and Kinkhed villages in Akola district in Maharashtra. An earlier study along the same lines was also done in these villages between 1975 to 1978.

Dr Deb is lead author of a report utilizing this VDSA data entitled Revisiting Tenancy and Agricultural Productivity in Southern India. “What we have seen in this study is that compared to the mid-70s reverse tenancy has increased in three of the villages – Aurepalle, Dokur and Kanzara – and these villages are more prone to production risks as they  are more susceptible to the effects of drought. There is also a lack of income diversity opportunities in these areas,” he said.

In the other three villages – Kinkhed, Shirapur and Kalman – reverse tenancy has reduced over the same period.   Researchers found that this was due to the introduction of irrigation through canals and drip and sprinkler irrigation. Shirapur and Kalman villagers also benefited through diversified economic growth which helped increase household income during the study period.

Reverse tenancy is linked with lack of access to critical production inputs (such as bullocks/tractors), production risk, lack of viable employment and income opportunity for smallholder farmers and functionally landless households.

Solutions to the problem of reverse tenancy

ICRISAT can play a role in reducing reverse tenancy in dryland agriculture areas by assisting in reducing production risk either through the development and introduction of drought-resistant crop varieties or through fostering the availability of supplementary irrigation. Custom hiring services for some critical inputs such as bullocks for land levelling or tractors for tillage, along with access to credit facilities and more diversified employment opportunities are also required.

Reference: ‘Revisiting Tenancy and Agricultural Productivity in Southern India: Insights from Longitudinal Household Surveys’ by Uttam Deb, Soumitra Pramanik, Patan Elias Khan and Cynthia Bantilan; Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). http://oar.icrisat.org/9009/

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Management and prevention of aflatoxin contamination captures the attention of farmers

Mr Dembélé, (extreme right) explaining improved groundnut
production technologies to participants on a field visit to
Sanambele village. photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Technologies developed to prevent or reduce on-farm aflatoxin contamination captured the attention of farmers who attended a farmers’ exchange field visit for upscaling groundnut technologies in Mali.

Participants were also oriented on groundnut improvement on-station activities at ICRISAT-Mali which included breeding trials, seed production and aflatoxin management field trials. Short and medium duration varieties resistant to abiotic and biotic stresses that help cope with climate change were shown to the farmers. An on-farm visit was hosted by a groundnut women farmers’ group in Bougoula and Sanambele villages (near Bamako).

The farmers’ exchange field visit was organized by the Research Program on Grain Legumes from 18-19 September as part of the USAID-funded project for upscaling groundnut technologies in Mali. A total of 51 farmers comprising 19 women attended the program representing 36 villages from Mopti, Kayes, Koulikoro and Sikasso, the four target regions of the project. The exchange visit was coordinated by Dr Ayoni Ogunbayo, Country Project Manager, ICRISAT, for the USAID funded up-scaling project.

On-station visits and on-farm activities were facilitated by Dr Haile Desmae, groundnut breeder and the groundnut improvement program scientific officers Mr Dekoro Dembele and Ms Keita Djeneba Konate. Dr Hippolyte Affognon, Senior Project Manager/Technology Uptake Specialist, ICRISAT, addressed the inaugural session.

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Field day in Niger draws attention to challenges posed by climate change

Photo: DA Malan, INRAN

‘Challenges of Sahelian agriculture in the context of climate change’ was the theme of a field day conducted in Guessel village in Niger. At the opening ceremony, his Excellency Maidagai Alambey, State Minister of Agriculture, spoke of the work being done by the government of Niger, through the 3N initiative ‘Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens’ in the area of climate-smart agriculture. The field day was jointly organized by the National Institute for Agricultural Research of Niger (INRAN), the Institute de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and ICRISAT.

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Three new seminars in the Take 2 series.

What are we learning from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in rice?


The Essential Roles of Agricultural Technology and International Trade in Future Food Security: Lessons for India


Systems genetics in crop breeding: applying an eQTL bioinformatics pipeline in Galaxy to the grey leaf spot-maize pathosystem

Prof Susan McCouch, Barbara McClintock Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University, USA   Dr Robert L Thompson, Visiting Scholar-Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies,  Johns Hopkins University, USA   Dr Dave Berger, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Read more: http://www.icrisat.org/icrisat-take2.htm

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New publication

Tolerant pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum(L.) R. Br.) varieties to low soil P have higher transpiration efficiency and lower flowering delay than sensitive ones

Authors: Beggi F, Falalou H, Buerkert A and Vadez V

Published: 2015. Plant and Soil, 389 (1): pp. 89-108

Abstract: In the West African Sahel low soil phosphorus (P) and unpredictable rainfall are major interacting constraints to growth and grain yield of pearl millet. Investigating the relationship between transpiration and final yield under the combined effect of water and
P stress is fundamental to understand the underlying mechanisms of tolerance and improve breeding programs. Two lysimeter trials were conducted which showed that pearl millet plants tolerant to low P were more resistant to the delay of flowering caused by low P soil and they presented higher transpiration efficiency (TE). The pattern of transpiration was important to cope with terminal water stress under different levels of P availability. Higher transpiration after anthesis, resulting from conservative water mechanism pre-anthesis (higher TE) and possibly by a shorter delay in flowering under low soil P, enhanced grain yield. http://oar.icrisat.org/8995/ 

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