08 Jan 2016
No. 1709

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ICRISAT takes on new approaches for how corporate websites are used

ICRISAT has re-conceptualized the use of its website and for the start of 2016 made its final launch. ICRISAT now has two corporate websites – one specifically designed for its scientific information (EXPLOREit.icrisat.org) and one that focuses on the big global issues we are working with partners (icrisat.org).

ICRISAT.org includes:

Dedicated sections to each of our “mission” areas:

  • poverty and hunger
  • malnutrition
  • environmental degradation
  • gender
  • climate change

A collated list and description of “proven technologies” So if you are looking for technologies that are science backed and ready for wider adoption these are listed here.

Research facilities and services” section to highlight the research facilities available in all our sites that can be capitalized on by national systems and other researchers.
We have made a major effort to raise the voices of our partners.

This include three newly launched initiatives:

  • 100 Voices – with video interviews on topical issues
  • Take 2 – video highlights of science seminars
  • Partners Voices – views from partners on their area of expertise

We also have a new impacts section summarizing many of our key impacts. Later we plan to add a centre wide dashboard collating these impacts.
You will also notice more use of short videos to better communicate the messages.

Our scientific site, http://EXPLOREit.icrisat.org provides profiles and data on all the major geographic locations, topics, crops and systems we work on. It also provides access to all our resources such as data, publications, stories, videos and photos.

More new concepts are in the pipeline for the website and we will keep you updated. We also welcome your feedback.

Watch Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, talk about new approaches to conceptualizing websites.


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The Pulse of the Drylands

As the world adapts to climate change, crops once termed ‘orphan crops’ are now attracting attention, especially dryland pulses like pigeonpea and chickpea that have been ICRISAT’s mandate crops for more than four decades.

These climate-smart crops help the smallholder farmers in arid and semi-arid regions of the world withstand weather variability, require less water, enrich the soil and are packed with nutrition. These crops provide more nutrition per drop not only for humans and livestock but for soils as well through their nitrogen-fixing properties. Over the years, ICRISAT and its partners have selectively enhanced pulse productivity through the application of modern breeding and screening techniques to increase resilience and nutrition, and to develop modern varieties and their associated production practices.

Pulses are what we call Smart Food – good for you, good for the planet and good for the smallholder farmer. Pulses like chickpea and pigeonpea will contribute towards the new Sustainable Development Goals to reduce poverty and hunger, improve health and gender equity, promote responsible consumption and help adapt to climate change.   

Why pulses are climate smart

Survive weather fluctuations: Pulses like chickpea can withstand temperatures in desert-like regions that experience significant difference in day and night temperatures; pigeonpea crops destroyed by unseasonal rain have the potential for a second flush to produce a good harvest.

Improves soil health: Pulses enrich soils by fixing nitrogen and also increase soil microbe diversity. The leaf droppings provide green manure and in severely eroded soils these crops help conserve top soil and rejuvenate degraded land.

Efficient use of water: In many parts of Africa and India, chickpea is planted during the dry season in dried-up farm ponds or rice fallows and the crop survives on residual soil moisture. Pigeonpea is sown mainly as a rainy-season crop and grown to maturity in the subsequent dry season on residual soil moisture.

More nutrition per drop: In a country like India, pulses play an important role as they are the main source of dietary protein. The protein in one glass of pulses equals that in two glasses of milk. Chickpea has the highest protein bioavailabilty among pulses. The high dietary fiber in pulses lowers risk of diabetes, heart ailments and gastrointestinal diseases. Pulses also provide substantial amounts of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) such as Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc.

Chickpea and pigeonpea are great sources of iron, manganese and zinc and can play a key role in countering iron deficiency anemia – a serious health issue that ranges from 50-70% in women and children, with pregnant women being the most susceptible.

Diverse food basket and extra income: Pulses are ideal for on-farm diversification. As an intercrop with cereals and other crops, pulses bring in extra income for farmers and at the same time increase the yield of the main crop. In Kade, Ghana, pigeonpea in the cropping cycle resulted in over 100% increase in maize grain yield. Crop rotation not only enriches the soil for the following crop but also makes profitable use of land that might have otherwise been left fallow.

Diversified uses: Chickpea green leaves are used as a leafy vegetable that is superior to spinach and cabbage in terms of mineral content. The green immature seed is used as a snack or vegetable. Selling green grains is highly profitable as these are sold at a higher price than dry grains. The split dry seed and its flour are used in a variety of food preparations.

Pigeonpea also lends itself to various uses. The leaves and forage are high in protein and are largely used as fodder. The stalks are used for fencing, thatching and preparation of baskets. They make for excellent firewood as the calorific value of stalks is about half that of the same weight of coal. It is also used as a shade crop in cocoa and vanilla plantations in Nigeria and South Asia respectively.


ICRISAT works with partners along the whole value chain of pulses in an integrated manner to create a win-win situation for the farmer, consumer and the planet. This is in keeping with our belief that all people have a right to nutritious food and better livelihood and also in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

ICRISAT is making tremendous progress in modernizing and leveraging tools to better utilize genetic diversity. After publishing the genome sequence of chickpea and pigeonoea in Nature Biotechnology in 2012 and 2013, respectively, we are working on completing the resequencing of 3,000 chickpea accessions to better utilize the rich genetic diversity that exists within these crops. While over hundred varieties have been released with partners using traditional breeding tools, we have embarked recently on forward breeding that involves utilization of a select set of markers to accelerate the incorporation of traits that are important for farmers to manage climate change and improve nutritional security.

ICRISAT and partners have been successful in developing cultivars that are high-yielding, drought tolerant, disease resistant, short duration (as short as 75-80 days) lines and hybrids custom-made for specific regions of the world based on the preferences of farmers and consumers.

Currently research is focused on developing climate-smart cultivars suitable for mechanical harvesting, inter-cropping with cereals and able to improve soil health. We currently use less than 2% of the existing genetic diversity in chickpea and pigeonpea. Hence, there exists tremendous potential to increase the productivity and resilience of these crops using modern tools to expand the use of natural diversity in gene banks.

On-farm practices like intercropping of cereals with pulses and crop rotation to improve soils and increase yields have been tested on farmers’ fields with positive results. Farmers are also introduced to ridge planting and broadbed furrows to better manage water and soil. In the case of pigeonpea, ratooning techniques to support zero tillage have been developed to minimize soil erosion under increased incidences of intense rainfall events.

Working along the value chain

The holistic approach of ICRISAT (see diagram) shows how we work along the whole value chain of pulses. Crosscutting issues such as empowering women and youth and mainstreaming nutrition will ensure pulses contribute significantly towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

A few examples to illustrate how we work

Analyzing key problems and opportunities helps create win-win situations for farmers. The expansion of chickpea growing areas by as much as 80% in the rice fallows of Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh, has benefited smallholder farmers. Pigeonpea used as land cover to manage soil and water in China helped reverse soil erosion and land degradation and at the same time provided quality fodder for cattle.

In North Malawi, crop improvement and seed access transformed the lives of smallholder farmers. Farmers who grew high-yielding certified seeds of new varieties helped build up a robust seed distribution system. Farmers in Southeast Asia, especially women, demonstrated how diversifying farms and adopting best management practices resulted in increased incomes. Intercropping with pulses, planting improved cultivars, practicing ridge cultivation, integrated pest management, fodder production for livestock, forming self-help groups for raising finances and trainings on improved farm practices and seed storage helped women in these regions improve their incomes, self-confidence and control over household assets.

Introducing processing and facilitating market access in Rajasthan, India, helped women generate more income. Split pigeonpea (dal) fetches a higher income and is part of the staple diet in many Asian countries. Women’s groups were provided dal mills and trained to operate the machines. The dal sold in local markets helped double their profit. The sale of husk as fodder and pigeonpea stalks as fuel helped them earn an additional US$ 308 per ha. Seeing the revenues, many young women in the village were willing to take up pigeonpea cultivation and operate dal mills.

Driving market development plays a crucial role in making agriculture profitable. To understand legume value chains in Tanzania, a pigeonpea value chain assessment survey revealed that Tanzania is now the fourth largest supplier in the world . Besides being an important cash crop for Tanzanian farmers, it is also widely consumed and thus, contributes to improving nutrition security. The incorporation of improved varieties and management practices was reported to almost quadruple revenue from pigeonpea production.

Working hand-in-hand with local governments, public and private sector

Decreasing amounts of pulses on farmers’ and consumers’ plates is a cause for concern in developing countries. In India, pulses are in short supply resulting in rising prices. Achieving self-sufficiency in pulses production is a priority of the Indian government, and ICRISAT along with partners have responded with a detailed plan for increasing pulse production to 30 million tons by 2020.

ICRISAT works together with local governments in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, national agricultural research systems, agricultural universities, international and national donor agencies, agribusiness entrepreneurs and private agribusiness companies to empower farmers through demand-driven science and innovation.
In the countries that ICRISAT is working in, country strategies have been drawn up to optimize pulse productivity and profitability for smallholder farmers, especially the dryland tropics where the impact of weather variability is most acute. For us, demand-driven innovation is the driving force to realize the full potential of pulses to achieve nutritional security while staying within the ecological boundaries of the planet through more nutrition per drop.


The article will be published in a booklet for the IYP Signature titled “The Pulse Conclave” in Jaipur.

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Promising groundnut lines identified in six Indian states

Monitoring of MABC trials at Agricultural Research Station, Kadiri, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Photo: Dr KSS Naik

Groundnut lines with improved resistance to rust and late leaf spot disease coupled with high pod yield were identified in six major groundnut growing states in India.

These lines were identified after multi-location trials in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The lines gave a higher pod yield compared to recurrent parents and checks under rainfed and irrigated conditions.

The introgression lines were developed using marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) approach to improve foliar fungal disease resistance in three popular groundnut varieties, TAG 24, JL 24 and ICGV 91114. A major quantitative trait locus (QTL) explaining >80% phenotypic variation (PV) for rust resistance was introgressed successfully from the donor parent GPBD-4  to the above mentioned three popular varieties. Later trait mapping studies indicated that the same QTL also controls approximately 60% of PV late leaf spot resistance as well. A total of 57 promising introgression lines containing the above mentioned QTL region have been tested in multiple locations.

At Dharwad in Karnataka, a foliar fungal disease hotspot in India, introgression lines recorded higher pod yield over the state check varieties, GPBD-4 and G 2-52 under both, irrigated and rainfed conditions. Selected introgression lines recorded up to 6.8 tons per hectare pod yield, 26% higher than GPBD-4 (5.4 tons per hectare) and 46% over
G 2-52 (4.8 tons per hectare) under irrigated conditions. Under rainfed conditions, introgression lines recorded up to 5.8 tons per hectare pod yield, which is 29% higher than GPBD-4 (4.1 tons per hectare) and 40% over G 2-52 (3.6 tons per hectare) under rainfed conditions.

Dr AL Rathnakumar, Principal Investigator, suggested that each center can identify and recommend two or three best performing introgression lines for national testing under the All India Coordinated Research Project on Groundnut (AICRP-G) in 2016. He said that simultaneous inclusion of identified lines for state testing will enable fast-tracking the release process. Based on the results obtained from different centers, it was noted that the identified introgression lines can be categorized into early maturity (95-105 days) and medium maturity (105-115 days) groups.

Dr T Radhakrishnan, Director, Indian Council of Agricultural Research-Directorate of Groundnut Research, (ICAR-DGR) congratulated the project team for their efforts. The project review meeting held on 16 December at DGR-Junagadh, Gujarat was attended by Dr T Radhakrishnan, Dr AL Rathnakumar, Dr D Narendra Kumar and Dr PP Thirumalaiswamy from ICAR-DGR; Dr N Premalatha and Dr S Sundaravadana, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU); Dr HL Nadaf, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Dharwad); Dr S Patil and Dr MP Deshmukh, Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeet (MPKV), Dr KSS Naik and Dr K Vemana, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU); Dr P Janila and Dr Manish Pandey, ICRISAT. 


Project: Multi-location Evaluation of MABC Derived Disease Resistant Groundnut Lines

Investor: CRP-Grain Legumes Competitive Grants Scheme.

Partners: Indian Council of Agricultural Research-Directorate of Groundnut Research (ICAR-DGR), Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS-Dharwad), Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU) and ICRISAT.

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes

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New publications

Biological and biochemical characterization of isolates of Helicoverpa armigera Nucleopolyhedrovirus [HaNPV] from different geographic locations of India.

Authors: Sireesha K, Sreedhar Kumar CH, Ranga Rao GV and Lava Kumar P

Published: 2015. Indian Journal of Plant Protection, 43 (03). pp. 305-311.

Abstract: Six strains of HaNPV collected from different places of India were compared for their biological and biochemical characteristics. Based on the bioassay tests against second and third instar larvae of Helicoverpa armigera the order of activity in increasing order is UASD-HaNPV< AK-HaNPV<TN-HaNPV<PAU-HaNPV<GAUHaNPV< ICRISAT-HaNPV and no correlation was drawn between biological and biochemical characteristics. Electron microscopic observations of polyhedra, alkali disrupted polyhedra during purification and nucleocapsids are also presented. http://oar.icrisat.org/9197/

Proteomics and Metabolomics: Two Emerging Areas for Legume Improvement

Authors: Ramalingam A, Kudapa H, Pazhamala LT, Weckwerth W and Varshney RK

Published: 2015.  Frontiers in Plant Science, 6 (1116). 01-21.

Abstract: Crop legumes such as chickpea, common bean, cowpea, peanut, pigeonpea, soybean, etc. are important sources of nutrition and contribute to a significant amount of biological nitrogen fixation (>20 million tons of fixed nitrogen) in agriculture. However, the production of legumes is constrained due to abiotic and biotic stresses. It is therefore imperative to understand the molecular mechanisms of plant response to different stresses and identify key candidate genes regulating tolerance which can be deployed in breeding programs. The information obtained from transcriptomics has facilitated the identification of candidate genes for the given trait of interest and utilizing them in crop breeding programs to improve stress tolerance. Functional genomics involving various proteomics and metabolomics approaches have also been found useful to unravel different pathways related to plant and seed development as well as symbiosis. In this review, several studies on proteomics and metabolomics in model and crop legumes have been discussed. Additionally, applications of advanced proteomics and metabolomics approaches have also been included in this review for future applications in legume research. The integration of these “omics” approaches will greatly support the identification of accurate biomarkers in legume smart breeding programs. http://oar.icrisat.org/9201/

Evaluating Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Potential of Conservation Agriculture in Semi-arid Tropics of Southern India

Authors: Jat RA, Wani SP, Pathak P, Singh P, Sahrawat KL, Chander G and Sudi RS

Published: 2015. British Journal of Environment and Climate Change, 05 (04). pp. 324-338.

Abstract: As climate change related rainfall and temperature variability is being increasingly experienced in the SAT regions, climate change mitigation and adaptation potential of Conservation Agriculture (CA) was assessed by studying effects of minimum tillage (MT) and residue management practices on rain water use efficiency (RWUE), soil moisture, runoff, energy use and carbon dioxide emission in two maize-legume cropping systems. The study showed that CA, when adopted by following good agricultural practices and refined to suit the local conditions, could emerge as sustainable production system for climate change mitigation and adaptation of dryland cropping systems in semi-arid tropics of southern India. http://oar.icrisat.org/9203/

Sensitivity of Livestock Production to Climatic Variability Under Indian Drylands and Future Perspective

Authors: Kumar S, Raju BMK, Ramarao CA and Ramilan T

Published: 2015. Current Agriculture Research Journal, 03 (02). pp. 142-149.

Abstract: The paper attempts to analyze the sensitivity of livestock productivity in rainfed regions to climatic variability, significance of climate change with respect to Indian livestock and mitigation options and leverage points in such a scenario. The sensitivity of livestock productivity was examined by using district level data of milk productivity of cows and buffaloes for the year 1992 and 1997 for 100 districts which was regressed on important weather variables. The analysis shows that weather variables like rainfall and temperature do significantly influence the milk productivity of animals in rainfed regions. Based on analysis and stakeholders consultation the paper suggests appropriate adaptation strategies particularly focusing on mitigating feed scarcity situations arising due to climatic variability. http://oar.icrisat.org/9199

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Reader’s Comment

It is a well-known fact that sharing experiences of the peers in their own fields instill greater confidence in the validity of the outcomes, given the similarity of resources and skills compare to showcasing achievements at a research station. Thereby, technologies and practices gain wider acceptance and adoption.

ICRISAT’s initiative in this regard is commendable; I think ICRISAT should replicate the learning and adoption process at other locations but only when success is assured.

Mr DS Bisht, ICRISAT alumni