International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

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ICRISAT Field.jpg
Motto Science with a Human Face
Formation 1972
Type Public
Key people
David Bergvinson
Parent organisation

ICRISAT Director General's Journal

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is an international organisation which conducts agricultural research for rural development, headquartered in Patancheru (Hyderabad, Telangana, India) with several regional centers (Bamako (Mali), Nairobi (Kenya)) and research stations (Niamey (Niger), Kano (Nigeria), Lilongwe (Malawi), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)). It was founded in 1972 by a consortium of organisations convened by the Ford and the Rockefeller Foundations. Its charter was signed by the FAO and the UNDP.

Since its inception, host country India has granted a special status to ICRISAT as a UN Organisation operating in the Indian territory making it eligible for special immunities and tax privileges.

ICRISAT is managed by a full-time Director General functioning under the overall guidance of an international Governing Board. The current Director General is Dr. David Bergvinson. The current chair of the Board is Prof Chandra Madramootoo.[1][2]

The Agro-Eco Region: The Semi-Arid Tropics[edit]

Purple Rumped Sunbird in the ICRISAT fields

The semi-arid tropics (SAT) region is characterised by highly variable, low-to-medium rainfall and poor soils, further characterised by lack of irrigation. In general, the historical average annual rainfall in the SAT is below 700 mm. In agricultural policy terms, this region is considered to be a less favored area (LFA).[3]

Research strategy[edit]

ICRISAT adopts Integrated genetic and natural resources management as its overarching research strategy. The aim is to combine tested methods of crop commodity research with well established practices in research in natural resources management. The original goal was to use crop improvement research as the basis to improve food availability in drought-prone areas of the tropics. In the last ten years, ICRISAT research, especially in India, China, the Philippines and Vietnam, has tended to emphasise creation and sustenance of rural livelihoods in addition to releasing crop varieties that yield better.[4]

Mandate crops[edit]

Pearl millet seed production plots at ICRISAT (Patancheru, India), the panicles covered in parchment paper bags to ensure self-pollination in this normally mainly cross-pollinating crop (February 2013).

ICRISAT performs crop improvement research, using conventional as well as methods derived from biotechnology, on the following crops: Chickpea,[5] Pigeonpea,[6] Groundnut[7] Pearl millet[8] Sorghum[9] Finger Millet,[10] and Small millets.

Research themes and Gene Bank[edit]

ICRISAT conducts its research under four themes: Agro-ecosystems development, Harnessing plant biotechnology and bioinformatics, Crop improvement and management, and Institutions, Markets, policy and Impacts

The ICRISAT Genebank serves as a repository for the collection of germplasm of the six mandate crops[11]sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut; and five small millets – foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet, proso millet and barnyard millet. The collection has over 119,700 germplasm accessions assembled from 144 countries. Several landraces now conserved in the ICRISAT genebank have disappeared from their natural habitats in Africa and Asia.[12]

Innovations and Impact of ICRISAT Crop Improvement Research[edit]

Most of ICRISAT’s crop improvement research is directed at LFAs, At an aggregate level, there is evidence from India that crop improvement research is having favorable productivity and poverty impacts in many LFAs.

Based on an econometric analysis of time-series data for three different types of agricultural areas (irrigated,high-potential rainfed, and low-potential rainfed), non-ICRISAT experts found more favorable marginal returns (measured as Indian rupees of agricultural production per additional hectare planted to modern varieties) for crop improvement research in low-potential rainfed areas than in either high-potential rainfed areas or irrigated areas. Moreover, additional crop research investment in low potential rainfed areas lifts more people out of poverty than in the other two types of areas.[13]

They found that ICRISAT-improved chickpea varieties have been widely adopted in a poor tribal area in Gujarat, India, with favorable impacts on yields, unit production costs, and net returns per hectare. ICRISAT’s package of improved groundnut varieties grown in combination with improved agronomy practices is another example of a commodity- improvement program that has paid off handsomely in an LFA – in this case the semi-arid tropical areas of Central India.

Two major science-based breakthroughs attributed to crop improvement research at ICRISAT relate to Pearl Millet and Pigeonpea. A team of researchers at ICRISAT have released the first-ever, public sector-bred marker-assisted hybrid pearl millet, HHB 67. This was released in India in 2006. It is assessed to have superior agronomic performance and improved tolerance to terminal drought.[14] The first-ever release of a hybrid pigeonpea by ICRISAT researchers has been reported in 2008[15]

Information Products and Services[edit]

ICRISAT formally adopted an Open Access policy for its research publications in 2009. It is among a small number of agricultural research organisations to do so. As of June 2010, about 3000 publications are available.

DBT-ICRISAT Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops[edit]

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is collaborated with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, to establish a DBT-ICRISAT Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC) at ICRISAT’s global headquarters at Patancheru, near Hyderabad in India.

According to the Director General of ICRISAT, David Bergvinson, the PTTC will strengthen transgenic research for crop improvement by providing a platform, building synergies among institutions. ICRISAT will continue to harness transgenic research to solve problems that cannot be solved through conventional breeding.[16]

ICRISAT Scientists[edit]

Rajeev Kumar Varshney

See also[edit]