Category Archives: Headquarters

From genebank to farmer’s hands


Viewing pre-breeding of crops with Dr Shivali Sharma

Last week I viewed the pre-breeding lines of chickpea, pigeon pea and groundnut at ICRISAT with senior scientist in genetic resources, Dr Shivali Sharma.  The lines were produced by crossing some of the unique resources from ICRISAT’s genebank to build varieties resistant to the pests, diseases and environmental stresses that farmers’ face.

It was great to see what Shivali has been doing as I did similar research while developing insect resistant maize at CIMMYT some years ago.  She showed me lines that are being especially selected and bred to resist:

  • Late leaf spot in groundnut;
  • Ascochyta blight and Botrytis grey mould in chickpea; and
  • Pod borer in pigeon pea

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Building the skills of the next generation

Peter Carberry portrait shotAs David is on leave I have been selected to contribute a guest entry in his journal.  Since starting as Deputy Director General at ICRISAT on the same day, 4th January this year, I have worked very closely with David and I am really happy to talk about one of our focus areas – providing learning opportunities for students.

Right now on ICRISAT campus in Hyderabad, we have 105 post-graduate scholars, research fellows and interns (48 women and 57 men), with 52 completing their PhDs. Whilst the majority are Indians, we also have participants from Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Philippines, Singapore, Tanzania, Uganda and United States.

Our most recent PhD graduates from ICRISAT’s entomology unit, who presented seminars last week, include Ms Shaila, now senior research fellow at Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Ms Pavani who will advise farmers as research associate with Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Wyra village Telangana, and ICRISAT research fellow Md Riazaddin.

Cornell students

Under-graduate students from Cornell University, USA

We are currently hosting various under-graduate students from US universities, including Iowa State University, and most recently Cornell University (at left) through the Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative. Four Princeton University students are with the International Water Management Institute team. Read more

Getting up to speed on local rice research

I had the privilege of visiting and engaging with researchers at the Indian Institute of Rice Research in Hyderabad last week.

It was a great opportunity to see the exciting rice science being conducted, but also the focused commitment of IIRR Director, Dr. V Ravindra Babu, to demand-driven innovation to ensure the science of IIRR is focused on addressing the pressing needs of smallholder rice farmers.

Approximately 45 scientists toured with me and Dr Babu to see field experiments on climate change, low soil fertility, integrated pest and disease management and the application of molecular markers to support variety development. I was interested to see IIRR being a key partner in grants I managed while at the Gates Foundation; these include Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia, Cereal System Initiative for South Asia, C4-Rice and Green Super Rice.

IIRR entomologists Drs Gururaj Katti and Chitra Shanker

IIRR entomologists Drs Gururaj Katti and Chitra Shanker

In the field I saw trials of rice grown with a border crop of flowers to support bio-control agents and potentially reduce pesticide use in stem borer control.  I was told rice farmers now contend with to up to 15 pests – while there were only three when the Institute first started in 1965! This is the result of crop intensification, climate change and increased global food movement. Read more

Exciting partnership with Ramoji Group

ICRISAT is embarking on a unique partnership – a first I expect for the CGIAR. We are joining hands with Ramoji Group, owners of the largest film studio in the world, 12 television stations, India’s largest regional language newspaper, and many other media outlets.

Ramoji Group plans to create the first ever 24-hour TV station in the world that is dedicated to farmers and interactive with farmers. They are also planning an ‘edutainment’ park dedicated to agriculture at Ramoji Film City, located not far from ICRISAT’s doorstep, in Anajpur village, Hayathnagar Mandal in Hyderabad.

Our team brainstorming ideas with Mr Ramoji Rao

Our team brainstorming ideas with Mr Ramoji Rao

This week I had a very inspiring meeting with Mr Ramoji Rao. He has achieved success in the media and entertainment industry having broken away from his family’s tradition of farming for many generations.   So he feels a personal need to reach out to farmers and help.  “It is a dream at the moment for farming to be profitable and this needs to be our vision,” he said Read more


Demand-driven innovation key to fighting poverty in the drylands

Dr David Bergvinson, new ICRISAT Director General, addressing senior management, scientists and staff at the ICRISAT global headquarters in Hyderabad, India, and virtually, at various ICRISAT locations in Africa. (Photo: PS Rao/ICRISAT)

“Inclusive and demand-driven innovation is the key to fighting poverty, eradicating hunger and malnutrition, and providing environmentally sustainable solutions to the most pressing challenges faced by smallholder farmers in the drylands.” This was according to Dr David Bergvinson, as he assumed office as Director General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) for a five-year term effective 1 January 2015. Continue reading