You are here: Home News Scientists harness nature to fight hunger, poverty
Scientists harness nature to fight hunger, poverty

Oct 19, 2012

Scientists at ICRISAT have developed resistant varieties of food crops by incorporating traits of traditional varieties.

Biological diversity has been and continues to be the foundation for agricultural research for food security and poverty reduction across the world, says William Dar, Director General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad.

ICRISAT highlighted examples illustrating the use and value of agro-biodiversity in the fight against hunger and poverty, and its impact on the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers particularly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa at the 11th Conference of Parties (COP11) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), underway in Hyderabad, India.

Dar says that a major part of ICRISAT’s 40 years of research-for-development work has much to do with generating benefits for the poor from agro-biodiversity. ICRISAT’s Genebank is considered a treasure trove of genetically-diverse types of its five focus crops (pearl millet, sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut) that can be used in plant breeding to improve crop productivity and crop tolerance/resistance to diseases, insects and environmental stresses.

Another example is the downy-mildew resistant pearl millet. Downy mildew is a fungal disease that thrives in moist climates and can result in massive crop damage with farmers often losing half of their yields.

ICRISAT scientists found mildew resistance in local farmer-evolved varieties from Africa and Asia and have incorporated this trait into the high-yielding varieties they have developed. This has been a mainstay of research around pearl millet hybrid selection.

According to most conservative estimates, annual benefit of the downy mildew resistant variety in India is around US$200 million. William Dar argues that this illustrates its crucial impact in terms of improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Besides, such research also helps reduce production costs for the poorest farmers across the semi-arid regions of the world as the crops demand less agro-chemicals to ward off pests and diseases.

An early-maturing groundnut variety produced by ICRISAT is greatly appreciated by poor farmers in India’s Anantapur district –  the largest groundnut growing district in the world –  as it enables them harvest food and receive income sooner. More importantly, it helps them escape droughts.

Similarly, early-maturing chickpeas are having a major impact in Ethiopia, India and Myanmar, an ICRISAT press release says. Benefits to Ethiopia alone over the period 2001-2030 are projected to be worth US$111 million. The land area sown to chickpea in Myanmar, and also the grain yields per unit land area both doubled during 2001-2009.  In Andhra Pradesh state, India, the early-maturing varieties stimulated a five-fold increase in sown area plus a 2.4-fold increase in yield over the same period.

Most Read
Most Shared
You May Like

7th National CR Sammelan 2019



Jobs at OneWorld









Global Goals 2030
OneWorld South Asia Group of Websites