Weeding Out Yield Losses in South Asia

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 18, 2017

Weed infestation is among the primary barriers to achieving the full yield potential of crops, including improved cultivars, in South Asia. According to Virender Kumar, Senior Scientist – Weed Science, International Rice Research Institute, “Unlike insects and disease where effects are more often immediately evident in the field, weeds are like a slow poison, working unseen in the background. Weeds are endemic to agricultural fields, have received relatively less attention from farmers, and are difficult to react to.”

Studies have shown that yield losses due to weeds can range from 15 to 90 percent in Bangladesh (Mamun et al. 1990, 1993, 2013*; Mazid et al. 2001*; Rashid et al. 2012). In India, studies (Rao and Chauhan, 2015; Milberg and Hallgren, 2003) have shown approximately 33 percent yield losses were attributed to weeds, followed by insect pests at 26 percent and diseases at 20 percent. Specifically for rice, 15 percent of losses in transplanted rice were attributed to weeds, as were 30 percent of losses in direct seeded rice. The situation worsens for rice cultivated in upland ecologies, such as Mayurbhanj district in Odisha. Here, 45 percent, or higher, of yield losses have been attributed to weeds.

In the geographies where the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is active, effective, accessible and affordable weed management tools are needed as manual hand-weeding still dominates and weeds continue to be poorly controlled. In southern Bangladesh, the Indian states of Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, and the Terai region of Nepal, herbicide use remains very low and herbicide markets are only at a nascent stage of development. Increasing labor out-migration and the resulting rise in wages is expected to eventually drive up herbicide demand in these regions, but imprecisely or incorrectly applying herbicides is not the answer.

Farmers often lack knowledge on safe and integrated weed management practices. Therefore, all across South Asia, CSISA has adopted a new approach to safe and efficient use of herbicides, with the major focus still on the agronomic management of weeds. CSISA research results show that the integration of new classes of safe and effective herbicides with other cultural practices, supported by hand and mechanical weeding, resulted in up to 25 and 29 percent increase in grain yields in Odisha and Bihar, respectively, for transplanted rice and a reduction in weed control costs compared to farmers’ current practices. This method of integrated weed management (IWM) addresses labor bottlenecks in intensive rice-based systems and is also an important enabling factor for the adoption of sustainable intensification technologies such as direct-seeded rice and zero-tillage wheat.

“Most rice farming in South Asia is subject to water shortages, imbalanced fertilizer use and increased frequency of extreme weather, which allow complex weed flora to dominate and weeds to triumph in the face of crop–weed competition. We’re trying to move from conventional to new systems, to reduced water consumption and tillage. Naturally, this means we’re going to see even more weeds,” said Kumar, who also leads CSISA’s work on IWM. By undertaking collaborative applied research and creating business intelligence with national agricultural research and extension systems and private sector partners, CSISA hopes to help build a critical mass of IWM adopters in these regions. CSISA is working on demonstrating the efficacy of new molecule combinations for the control of complex weed flora, facilitating market development of new molecule combinations, and on promoting other non-chemical options such as dust mulching, fallows management, better land preparation, cropping system intensification and mechanical weeding.

In Bangladesh, by partnering with the Agricultural Input Retailers Network, CSISA has leveraged an existing platform of private sector agricultural input dealers to ensure its practical lessons on implementing IWM reach nearly 25,000 farmers this year alone. Approximately 800 input dealers underwent training on IWM conducted jointly by CSISA, Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute. Sajedul Islam, an agricultural input dealer from Jhenaidah district, said, “The method of calibrating the herbicide sprayer is a new and useful aspect of herbicide use, which I have learned from this training. I am now capable of doing the calibration myself and shall be able to pass this knowledge to farmers, which will help reduce their risk from improper herbicide use.” The other participants, like Islam, are naturally motivated to help disseminate these lessons to a much larger audience since it would directly benefit their businesses.

CSISA is working to create a similar network in India as well. A consultation organized in Odisha in January, for example, brought together representatives of major herbicide companies, research organizations, sprayer manufacturers, NGOs, dealers/retailers and service providers. By providing these organizations a common platform to share their knowledge and pool their resources, CSISA hopes to build a robust platform that will ensure its message on IWM reaches farmers quickly.

This article is authored by Anurag Ajay, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, CIMMYT-India and M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.


*Mamun, A. A. 1990. Weeds and their control: A review of weed research in Bangladesh. Agricultural and Rural Development in Bangladesh. Japan Intl. Co-operation Agency, Dhaka, Bangladesh. JSARD. 19: 45-72.

*Mamun, A.A., S.M.R. Karim., M. Behum., M.I. Uddin., and M.A. Rahman. 1993. Weed survey in different crops under three agro-ecological zones of Bangladesh. BAURESS Prog. Report. 8: 41-51.

*Mamun, M.A.A.,   R. Shultana., M.M.  Rana., and A.J. Mridha. 2013.  Economic threshold density of multi species weed for direct seeded rice. Asian J. Agril. Rural Develo. 8: 523-531.

*Mazid, M.A., M.A. Jabbar., C.R. Riches., E.J.Z. Robinson., M. Mortimer., and L.J. Wade. 2001. Weed management implications of introducing dry-seeding of rice in the Barind Tract of Bangladesh. In: Brighton Crop Protection Conference, 13–15 November 2001. 211–216 pp.

Scientists Trained to Fight Wheat Blast in South Asia

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 18, 2017

Last year, the devastating disease wheat blast was observed in South Asia for the first time. Caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype Triticum (MoT) and first discovered in Paraná State, Brazil, in the mid-1980s, blast constitutes a major constraint to wheat production in South America. The sudden appearance of a highly virulent MoT strain in Bangladesh presents a serious threat to food and income security in South Asia, home to 300 million undernourished people and whose inhabitants consume over 100 million tons of wheat each year. Last year, blast caused considerable production losses in Bangladesh. Approximately 15,000 hectares in the south-western and southern districts of Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Jessore, Jheneidah, Barisal and Bhola experienced crop losses due to blast.  Average yield loss was estimated at 25-30 percent, but in severely infected fields, the entire crop was lost.

Actively responding to this problem, the Ministry of Agriculture formed a task force through the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council to suggest recommendations to mitigate wheat blast. Recommendations included a combination of integrated pest management and the development and adoption of resistant cultivars and agronomic methods. A fact sheet with recommendations prepared by the task force was distributed among farmers to raise awareness on how to manage wheat blast. In combating the disease, it is paramount that scientists and extension personnel are adequately trained to assess and manage blast.

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in partnership with national and international partners, organized a 12-day training on “Taking Action to Mitigate the Threat of Wheat Blast in South Asia: Disease Surveillance and Monitoring Skills” in February in Bangladesh. Experts from CIMMYT, the CGIAR research program on wheat, Cornell University and Kansas State University facilitated the training, in addition to scientists from Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and Bangladesh Agricultural University, for 40 wheat pathologists and agronomists from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.

The training focused on providing participants information about the science and practical constraints in designing and conducting a disease survey, obtaining and analyzing the results and formulating the interpretation. In-depth classroom and lab sessions were held at BARI’s Wheat Research Center in Dinajpur followed by week-long practical surveillance exercises in farmers’ fields throughout all major wheat growing areas of Bangladesh, and sessions on molecular analysis of wheat blast at BARI in Gazipur. “This training will increase the capacity of Bangladesh and neighboring country scientists, thereby strengthening research on wheat blast and monitoring disease through intensive surveillance,” said Md. Fazle Wahid Khondaker, Additional Secretary (Research), Ministry of Agriculture, at the inaugural session.

The training was funded by BARI, CIMMYT, CSISA, Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project led by Cornell University and Kansas State University and Australian Center for International Agricultural Research.

 This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.

Ensuring Access to Finance for Faster Technology Adoption in Northern Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 18, 2017

Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) Phase III in Bangladesh, led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and implemented jointly with International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has finalized a series of joint venture agreements with Eco Social Development Organization (ESDO) and Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS), key microfinance institutions in northern Bangladesh. The partnerships will help ensure timely access to finance for local service providers in Thakurgaon and Dinajpur districts, and provide a much-needed ‘shot in the arm’ for adoption of scale-appropriate mechanization among smallholder farmers in the area.

A local service provider signs necessary documents for obtaining funds to buy an agricultural machine.

These recent agreements result from the groundwork already laid out by CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI), a complementary investment to the larger, regional project that is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future – the U.S. Government’s initiative to address global hunger and food security. CSISA-MI’s overarching goal is to reach a tipping point – 15 percent of the total potential beneficiary base of local service providers and farmers in the Feed the Future zone – at which point a spontaneous private sector-led uptake is expected to take place.

CSISA-MI has been forging critical linkages in southern Bangladesh through, among others, public-private partnerships and by piloting self-sustaining business models. This approach follows an innovative private sector engagement model to create value chains that can and will continue to deploy equipment on a continued basis, ensuring long-term replication of the project’s scaling efforts.

Through joint venture agreements, CSISA-MI’s implementing partner iDE has so far established linkages with a number of established and emerging machinery manufacturers and importers, such as Advanced Chemical Industries, Rangpur Foundry Limited Group, and Janata Engineering. These enterprises and their service provider clients have invested their own funds towards the purchase, import, distribution, and marketing of equipment and use of machinery services – contributing an estimated value addition to the project of US$ 1.6 million.

A joint venture agreement is signed by Action in Development (AiD) and iDE.

As the spread of agricultural machines grows in Bangladesh, the need for access to affordable rural finance grows as well. This is an especially pertinent challenge for service providers, whose potential for increased earnings depends largely on their ability to purchase relevant agricultural machines. Therefore, CSISA Phase III is replicating the successful joint venture agreement model to forge partnerships with microfinance institutions that will help ensure that farmers in the North interested in purchasing relevant machinery can do so. Under this modality CSISA, through the microfinance institutions, has helped create a total credit availability of approximately US$ 90,000 for service providers to purchase machines.

CSISA Phase III has recently completed an orientation session for TMSS staff to iron-out the details of the joint venture agreement, to apprise them of technical issues commonly faced by service providers, and to familiarize them with technologies supported by the project. A similar exercise is planned for ESDO in the near future.

This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh and Abir Ahmed Chowdhury, Officer-Communications, iDE.

Expanding High Value and Premium Quality Rice in Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 1, 2016

Securing a high and stable income from farming despite rising cultivation costs is a common challenge for smallholder farmers. This is certainly true in Bangladesh’s Feed the Future (FtF) zone, where rapidly increasing labor wages and input costs are making rice cultivation less profitable and less attractive for farmers.

Bangladesh rice farmers currently grow more than 70 premium quality rice (PQR) varieties, which are characterized by long, slender and fine grains; may or may not have an aroma; and command a higher price than other, popular rice varieties. PQR varieties have a 20–60 percent price advantage and 50 percent higher profit over other rice varieties, indicating that there could be significant interest in expanded production. The total demand for PQR is growing at 5 percent per year because of rising per capita income, leading to increased consumption of PQR, urbanization, growth of modern food supply chains (supermarkets), and growing investment of private companies in the rice value chains.

A farmer (center) receives seeds of BRRI dhan34 in Jessore District.

A farmer (center) receives seeds of BRRI dhan34 in Jessore District.

A diagnostic study conducted by CSISA found that the popular PQR variety, BRRI dhan34, had an average yield of 3.6 tons per hectare and farmers earned a net profit of US$ 570 per hectare – approximately 55 percent more than what they would earn from the popular non-PQR variety, Swarna. Higher profitability and growth in demand demonstrates considerable potential for expansion in the FtF zone, where PQR currently accounts for a mere 10 percent of the total rice area.

Increased PQR cultivation is also likely to create additional employment for the more than 4,000 rice mills operating in the FtF zone. The study identified that due to a shortage in supply of PQR, these mills remain underutilized for the better part of the year. Initial discussions with millers and traders has revealed a strong willingness to be linked directly with farmers growing these varieties.

The study identified low yield, a risk of blast damage, unavailability of seeds and poor knowledge of production practices as the major constraints to PQR expansion. To overcome these challenges, CSISA is developing training and extension materials for the Department of Agriculture Extension, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, NGOs, development partners and agro-input dealers. In addition, CSISA is also facilitating PQR seed supply for nursery entrepreneurs and farmer groups.

In Jessore and Jhenaidah districts, for example, CSISA distributed 375 kg seed of BRRI dhan34, which is not commonly cultivated in the region, to 150 farmers during the current aman season. CSISA has also distributed 850 guides on better-bet PQR agronomy and conducted 36 adaptive trials across three hubs to evaluate the yield performance of eight PQR varieties to identify the varieties that fit best in specific locations, and those with the highest yields.

During the 2016-17 boro season, CSISA is targeting a distribution of 6 tons of PQR seeds at 50 percent cost and distribution of 65,000 copies of knowledge materials (through its partners) to catalyze cultivation in new locations. This will not only increase awareness and knowledge among farmers, but also improve the availability of PQR seeds for farmer-to-farmer dissemination.

Healthy Rice Seedlings for Improved Livelihoods

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, Uncategorized, December 1, 2016

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Low-cost interventions to promote healthy rice seedlings scaled-out in Bangladesh

Rice nurseries are an important, but often underappreciated, component of a successful agronomic production cycle. How a rice crop is managed in its early stages influences performance and yield later. For example, it is very important to transplant healthy seedlings at an appropriate time to get optimum yield. However, in the absence of proper nursery management and supervision, many farmers obtain suboptimal yields.

As a common practice in South Asia, rice seedlings are grown in nurseries on flat seedbeds, and are then transplanted manually into puddled soil. In Bangladesh, transplanted rice covers around 85 percent of the total rice area. In the aman (wet) season, farmers start preparing rice nurseries after the onset of the monsoon in mid-June and usually transplant more than 30-day old seedlings from mid-July to August. While in the boro (dry) season, farmers start preparing rice nurseries in  late-November and usually transplant more than 40-day old seedlings from early-January to early-February.

Many Bangladeshi farmers are knowledge-, labor- or resource-constrained and do not follow  optimal nursery management practices. Farmers practice less productive methods, such as not making drainage channels in seedbeds, not removing half-filled or empty seeds, not treating seeds with chemicals to reduce the risk of insect and disease infestation at the later stages of crop growth, using unnecessarily large volumes of seeds, not applying farmyard manure and or optimal doses of fertilizers while preparing land for seedbeds, and transplanting old or thin seedlings.

The use of old and unhealthy seedlings has a huge economic cost. Studies have shown that the use of old and unhealthy seedlings can cause more than 10 percent yield loss in rice. This means that scaling the adoption of young and healthy seedlings in at least half of Bangladesh’s 11.7 million hectares rice area could produce an additional 2.5 million tons of paddy per year, which would contribute an additional US$ 680 million to the national economy, and potentially improving the food security of millions of poor Bangladeshis. This would make a huge positive socioeconomic impact for the country and it is achievable by rolling-out some simple interventions.

A variety of improved rice nursery management options are available for Bangladeshi farmers, including seed treatment before sowing (to reduce the potential for diseases), adopting optimal sowing dates for different cultivars in different environments, planting in the correct seed densities, using balanced organic and inorganic fertilizers, and following optimal transplanting age and density. The latter is particularly important for avoiding transplanting shock, which in addition to causing yield losses can also result in delayed crop maturity and harvests, and can further delay the sowing of the subsequent boro crop, in the case of monsoon aman rice. However, majority of farmers are not using these improved options because of knwoledge gap or lack of resources.

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A trader sells his rice seedlings at a ‘haat bazaar’ or open air-market in Bangladesh. In Faridpur District, approximately 10 such markets are convened in the aman season where 15-20 traders, coming from different locations, buy and sell seedlings. Photo: Humnath Bhandari/IRRI

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA)  is playing a catalytic role to scale out healthy rice seedlings in the Feed the Future Zone in Bangladesh. Working collaboratively with the Department Agricultural Extension, NGOs, development projects, input dealers, farmer groups and lead farmers, CSISA has focused on a two-pronged approach to scale-out the use of healthy rice seedlings. First, targeting individual rice farmers to  produce  and use  healthy rice seedlings through better nursery management practices. Second, targeting rice nursery entrepreneurs for large-scale production and supply of healthy seedlings in the market alongside income generation through rural enterprise creation.

A diagnostic survey has indicated significant potential to promote improved rice nurseries management practices for production and use of healthy rice seedlings in FtF zone, especially when these messages are deployed at a large scale by development partners and livelihood initiatives, and by linking entrepreneurs to markets. However, the interventions cannot be scaled-out in the tidal flood prone areas of Barisal Hub and the submergence prone areas of Faridpur Hub.

Through mass-media campaigns such as showing a video and distributing leaflets to farmers, training  lead farmers and farmer groups on  ideal rice nursery technologies, training  rice nursery entrepreneurs and input dealers on production and marketing of healthy seedlings, and conducting training of trainers workshops for extension agents of  government and NGO, CSISA has supported large-scale awareness and adoption of healthy rice seedlings among farmers across Faridpur, Jessore, and Barisal Hubs in this year. In 2016 aman season alone, CSISA, working together with partners, showed a video to more than 23,200 farmers, distributed leaflets to 650 farmers, initiated eight new community-based nurseries, trained 20 rice nursery entrepreneurs, and conducted training of traniers workshop to 80 extension agents. These activities will continue and expand in coming seasons.

This article is authored by Humnath Bhandari, Agricultural Economist, International Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh.

Bringing Fallows into Cultivation in Southern Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, August 4, 2016

Surface irrigation

South Asia’s increasing population, movement out of poverty, and changing dietary preferences indicate that food demand is likely to continue increasing. Since the 1960s, however, the average increase in staple crop yields has been negligible, while farm area per capita has shrunk by 63 percent to approximately 0.1 hectare per person. As most arable farmland is already cultivated, how can farmers increase the production of staple foods, including rice, wheat and maize?

Sustainable intensification (SI), a guiding principle behind the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia’s (CSISA) interventions, helps increase productivity by maximizing resource use efficiency while minimizing environmental tradeoffs. SI often involves increasing the number of crops grown per year on the same land, thereby raising the yield per unit of area-time, while minimizing land expansion. However, to get more productivity out of the same land, farmers need access to irrigation. In southern Bangladesh, where CSISA works, farmers have traditionally relied on rainfed cultivation, so overcoming moisture constraints during the dry season has become an imminent challenge.

The Government of Bangladesh recently adopted a policy calling for investment of over US$ 7 billion to support agricultural development in southern Bangladesh. Of these funds, US$ 500 million is to be allocated for surface water irrigation to transition farmers from monsoon rice-fallow or rainfed systems into intensified double cropping systems. However, precise geospatial assessments of where freshwater flows are most prominent and where viable fallow and rainfed cropland is most common have been unavailable. CSISA has helped to fill the gap by analyzing remotely sensed data and yields measured from over 1,600 farmers for 33,750 square kilometers of the Feed the Future (FtF) zone in southwestern Bangladesh.

Modeled results describing the potential contribution of surface water irrigated winter rice, wheat and maize to national aggregate production in Bangladesh.

Modeled results describing the potential contribution of surface water irrigated winter rice, wheat and maize to national aggregate production in Bangladesh (click to enlarge).

The result is an initial scientific estimation of the extent of fallow and rainfed cropland that can be brought under cereal production during the dry season using surface water irrigation. Findings indicate substantial scope for surface water irrigation to intensify cropping, even in the face of soil and water salinity constraints. A total of  20,800 and 103,000 hectares of fallow and rainfed cropped land, respectively, that can be placed under reliable surface water irrigation. Although the potential for winter rice production appears to be more limited than anticipated, projections of dry season cultivation of wheat or maize result show significant potential for production increases, with important implications for national food security. These crops also address income generation constraints while minimizing water pumping and withdrawals, helping to minimize environmental risks.

Building on this work, CSISA has undertaken a convening role with NARES, government and private sector partners to discuss policy and market interventions that can lay the foundations for an environment to enable both surface water irrigation and rainfed legume crop intensification in the FtF zone.

Balancing Risks and Benefits
Winter rice cultivation helped Bangladesh increase its total rice production from 18.3 million tons in 1991 to 33.8 million tons in 2013, but at the cost of exploitation of groundwater in particular environments in northern Bangladesh resulting from unrestrained shallow tube well installation. CSISA’s interventions on cropping intensification in southern Bangladesh look beyond surface water irrigation to ensure long-term environmental sustainability. While research results support the targeted use of surface water irrigation alongside improved water governance measures, CSISA continues to explore more viable crop diversification options.
Recommended Reading: What Contribution Can Surface Water Irrigation Make to Crop Intensification in Bangladesh’s Feed the Future Zone? 

This article is authored by Timothy J. Krupnik, CIMMYT Systems Agronomist and Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Catalyzing Change in South Asia’s Rice-Based Systems

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, August 4, 2016

Rice catalyze

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) operates in areas with high concentrations of rural poverty, in the Eastern Indo Gangetic Plans of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, where smallholder farmers are most vulnerable to the risks of increasingly erratic weather patterns. It is pertinent to note that the productivity of rice-based systems in these locations continue to be marred by a vast array of issues including, but not limited to, various biotic and abiotic stresses, irregular rains, outdated agronomic techniques, limited infrastructure, poor weed management practices, a lack of quality inputs and their timely availability.

Sub-par market infrastructure development and extension services coupled with a landscape dominated by resource-poor, smallholder farmers have so far prevented large scale adoption of mechanization and access to new knowledge, technologies and quality seed. Since there is virtually no scope for expanding the area under agriculture, as yield gaps close, future advances in production must come from systems intensification – growing more crops per year. A recent CSISA study, for example, indicates substantial scope for surface water irrigation to intensify cropping on fallow and rainfed cropped land in Southern Bangladesh.

Improved and easy to implement weed management is also a crucial strategy to facilitate sustainable intensification transitions in rice especially for technologies such as dry direct seeded rice (DSR), with average yield gaps due to farmers’ current practices in Bangladesh estimated at 1 ton per hectare. Studies in the northwest region of the country show that private dealers dominate the input channels in villages with a share of 96 percent of the fertilizer and pesticide markets. CSISA will utilize such input dealer networks to disseminate simple and actionable guides as well as provide experiential training to the dealers and retailers.

In India, where farmers’ use of recommendations from agro-advisory systems remains limited, CSISA is leveraging crop modeling and remote sensing informatics to improve the quality of irrigation scheduling recommendations for rice. Using geoinformatics, CSISA has also been able to more accurately gauge local farmers’ needs and respond accordingly. For example, in Odisha, it enabled the identification of districts most prone to flooding and hence ill-suited for DSR. Farmers in those areas are encouraged to use mechanical transplanting, which can substantially increase profitability in the double-rice systems prevalent in Odisha and which is beneficial for subsequent crops.

CSISA Impacts over the Years
 - Sales of hybrid rice in Bihar increased by 500 tons in 2015 over 2014, with an estimated area expansion of 33,000 hectares.
 - The number of CSISA-supported farmers practicing mechanical transplanting of rice in Odisha increased from 40 in 2013 to 2,000 in 2015.
 - In Bangladesh, more than 900 mechanical rice seeders have been sold by private sector partners since October, 2015
 - In Bangladesh, between 2010 and 2015, more than a million farmers benefitted from rice varieties with abiotic stress tolerance (salinity, flooding and drought) or high yield potential distributed CSISA.
 - Out of 60 rice entries tested by CSISA in India during the 2014 dry season under machine sown dry direct-seeded rice, 15 entries recorded more than 7.5 tons per hectare.

Across the three countries, CSISA’s interventions are grouped into three thematic areas: innovation towards impact – reducing risk for intensification and adding value to extension systems; systemic change towards impact – building partnerships and scaling pathways, and; achieving critical impact at scale – mainstreaming innovations by creating a critical mass of early adopters. Under each of these themes, CSISA conducts business diagnostics, trainings and mentoring to service providers, develops and disseminates communications material on better-bet agronomy, and conducts on-farm verification trials of production practices to reduce risk and ensure reliable rice production. Additionally, the project will employ a ‘training of trainers’ model to build capacity of NARES partners, NGOs and women’s self-help groups and their federations to ensure interventions are replicated beyond the project lifecycle. Altogether, these interventions will not only help increase yields and profitability of rice farming in South Asia, but also create business opportunities for women and youth in agriculture.

Enabling Environment

CSISA’s policy interventions prioritize scaling up work with national partners to address policy constraints in target geographies. Planned activities on seed systems and markets will focus on communicating policy reform options for state-led seed market interventions and the tradeoffs between promoting short-term varietal replacement and long-term seed market development. While activities on scale-appropriate mechanization will emphasize the design of policy incentives and investment strategies, such as targeted subsidies, which encourage the development of necessary localized commercial markets. Lastly, CSISA will support policy reforms to promote balanced fertilizer use through improved understanding of the costs, benefits, fiscal burdens, sustainability and effectiveness of various public programs.

Over the past years 7 years, CSISA has forged strong partnerships including with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Nepal Agricultural Research Council and state agriculture universities. These partnerships continue to advance research-based recommendations for basic rice agronomy and application of precision approaches to weed, water and nutrient management, including decision frameworks for intensification.

Priority Interventions for Kharif 2016
1. Integrated weed management to facilitate sustainable intensification transitions in rice
2. Building precision nutrient management approaches around established and emerging scaling pathways
3. Deployment of better-bet agronomic messaging through input dealer networks and development partners
4. Promoting direct dry-seeded rice sowing to address labor and energy constraints to precision rice establishment
5. Production and use of healthy rice seedlings through training of individual farmers, farmer groups, service providers and nursery enterprises; engagement with partners to take this to scale
6. Rice fallows development in coastal Bangladesh and the state of Odisha in India
7. Providing timely and actionable advice on yield-enhancing irrigation scheduling for rice
8. Increasing the capacity of NARES to conduct participatory science and technology evaluations in Bangladesh and India.

This article is authored by Sudhanshu Singh, IRRI Senior Scientist and Rainfed Lowland Agronomist, South Asia.

Mitigating Wheat Blast in Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News & Announcements, August 3, 2016

Wheat Blast or Magnaporthe oryzae, pathotype Triticum (synonym Pyricularia oryzae) is a potentially devastating fungal disease that reduces yields by shriveling grain or by leaving spikes completely empty. Better known as a pathogen of rice, where it attacks the leaves, the fungus strikes also the heads of wheat, which are difficult for fungicides to reach. First sighted in Brazil in 1985, the disease is widespread in South American wheat fields, affecting as many as 3 million hectares in the early 1990s and seriously limiting the potential for wheat cropping on the region’s vast savannas.

Photo: Etienne Duveiller/CIMMYT

Photo: Etienne Duveiller/CIMMYT

Blast was reported in Bangladesh during the winter cropping season of 2015-16, shortly after crop flowering. This marks the first time it has been observed in South Asia. The disease appears to have spread because of high base temperatures with sudden rain events and associated wind patterns that favored spore distribution. Over the past season, it has reportedly affected more than 15,000 hectares – roughly 16 percent of the country’s wheat area – resulting in a yield reduction of approximately 30 percent in the country’s Feed the Future (FtF) zone.

Thirty years of research in Latin America has resulted in some wheat cultivars that are tolerant to blast, but little tolerance has been observed in currently-grown South Asian wheat varieties. With the emergence of wheat blast in Bangladesh, and adjacent areas in India and Nepal similarly experiencing relatively warm and wet winters, wheat researchers must identify sources of resistance and develop resistant varieties, elucidate the epidemiology of the disease and find optimal control practices.

Control Measures

The CIMMYT-led Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has been quick to respond to the threat in Bangladesh, assisting government partners to first identify blast in farmers’ fields and conducting risk assessment exercises with NARES partners to more accurately gauge the nature and extent of the threat.

Working with the Wheat Research Center (WRC) of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, diseased wheat plants were collected at the early onset of the disease. Samples sent to the Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit laboratory in the US for characterization confirmed Magnaporthe oryzae by molecular analysis.

Outbreaks of diseases are a function of having a susceptible host (in this case wheat), the pathogen and a conducive climatic environment. “Wheat blast is not a new disease. This means we can use past experience and knowledge from Latin America to prevent further damage in Bangladesh and the region,” says Arun K. Joshi, CIMMYT India Country Representative. In collaboration with the Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology, CSISA is using applied research to investigate the potential threat for the spread of blast given available climatic data from the Bangladesh Meteorological Service.

Initial efforts have resulted in an index that can be used to predict the risk of blast outbreak for areas where wheat is grown. CSISA is now further strengthening this analysis using gridded data from global atmospheric circulation models and historical weather data to create a robust decision support tool to assess the risk for continued blast infection.

While this vulnerability analysis will inform policy and government actions in support of wheat farmers coping with blast, CSISA is simultaneously working with WRC to develop scalable agronomic management interventions that can be easily deployed to suppress blast. Planned activities, commencing in the 2016-17 rabi wheat season, include:

  1. Spatially explicit crop cuts in farmers’ fields to better understand farmers’ management practices and monitor the status of seed infection.
  2. Trials examining genotype by environment by management effects on yield and blast infection with advanced lines expected to provide the best control against blast.
  3. Trials validating the performance of seed treatments and fungicides.
  4. Surveys of non-crop refugium (non-crop host grasses) outside of farmers’ fields to assess options for management of non-rabi season blast refugia.
Regional Consultation on Wheat Blast

In collaboration with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and Wheat Research Center, CIMMYT organized a two-day regional consultation workshop mitigating the threat of wheat blast in Bangladesh and beyond. The consultation brought together leading research scientists from South Asia, Latin America, Europe and the US to discuss findings of the Bangladesh Emergency Task Force and develop a shared roadmap to best address the threat. It was supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the U.S. Agency for International Development and was held in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Recommended Reading: CIMMYT Briefing on Wheat Blast

This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Accelerating Adoption of Direct Seeded Rice in Bangladesh and Nepal

Posted on Bangladesh-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, August 3, 2016

Promoting DSR

Seasonal scarcity of agricultural labor is one of the biggest challenges to the viability and profitability of agriculture in South Asia. This is especially true for rice farmers whose primary method of crop establishment is transplanting rice seedlings into fields that have been repeatedly tilled. Labor constraints mean sowing and transplanting are often delayed, resulting in yield losses. “Despite offering a package of lunch, snacks, dinner and US$ 4 per day, we cannot find many takers,” says Bhabhisara Giri, a farmer from Bardiya district in Nepal.

The conventional practice is both cost and time intensive with farmers generally spending more than US$ 100 per hectare for wet tillage land preparation and manual transplanting. It also harms the environment, requiring a considerable amount of water and energy in the form of tractor fuel. Additionally, research conducted by CSISA shows that puddling degrades soil quality and causes adverse effects on successive winter crops.

Machine-sown dry direct seeded rice (DSR) on the other hand is a modern agricultural technology that allows rice seeds to be sown directly into non-puddled fields, foregoing the need to raise rice nurseries and transplant seedlings. DSR generally requires one or two passes of the machine and can also be practiced under zero-tillage, offering considerable time, cost and energy savings for farmers. As Kharka Pun, a farmer from Nepal’s Banke district who recently purchased a seed-cum-fertilizer drill points out, “For the first time in 20 years I didn’t have to puddle my field, prepare seedbeds or transplant seedlings.”

Despite these significant advantages, DSR’s uptake has been slow in Bangladesh and Nepal due, in part, to the fact that few farmers and service providers own seed drills. This scenario is changing through CSISA’s Mechanization and Irrigation (MI) programs that focus on improving accessibility and affordability of farm machines like seed drills.

In Bangladesh, CSISA-MI’s efforts have led to the commercialization of scale-appropriate seeders for the two-wheel tractor. More than 900 seeders have been sold by private sector partners since October, 2015. These efforts have received an additional boost from the Bangladeshi Government’s recent endorsement of policy priorities to expand semi-rainfed rice cultivation in the pre-monsoon season in response to mounting concerns over availability of irrigation water. CSISA estimates that approximately 101,000 hectares of conventionally transplanted pre-monsoon rice could be brought under DSR in the districts of Dinajpur and Jessore, where more than 400 two-wheel tractor-based direct sowing machines are in use by service providers and another 500 units are being imported by the project’s private sector partners.

CSISA is also collaborating with the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute and Department of Agricultural Extension to conduct service provider impact trainings, support DSR expansion through spatial analytics for technology targeting, aggregate farmer demand and raise awareness among emerging service providers. For service providers, DSR offers a promising opportunity to increase their earnings by adding an additional pre-monsoon crop.

In Nepal, to strengthen the value chain for DSR, CSISA has facilitated linkages between District Agriculture Development Offices, local machinery suppliers and service providers leading to the establishment of DSR on more than 200 hectares in the districts of Rupandehi and Nawalparasi this year. The technology is already becoming popular in the Mid-West districts of Banke and Bardiya where 105 hectares were brought under DSR during the monsoon season, a 90 percent increase over last year.

Targeting Early Adopters

Karka Pun implementing DSR on his field.

Kharka Pun implementing DSR on his field.

According to Anil Khadka, CIMMYT Research Associate, “Besides the ready availability of machinery, the success of DSR also depends on good crop establishment and proper weed control, which are often difficult in the monsoon season due to unpredictable rainfall patterns.” The selection of suitable land, deployment of trained service providers, timely crop establishment and utilization of integrated weed management practices are pivotal for reliably obtaining good yields with DSR.

For a technology that is drastically different from conventional practices, however, its success ultimately depends on a critical mass of first adopters. In Bangladesh’s Narail and Jhenaidah districts, CSISA’s demonstrations have motivated a group of 20 marginal farmers to become ambassadors for DSR, encouraging fellow farmers and working with DAE agents to promote pre-monsoon rice. CSISA also produced a radio jingle to spread awareness of the benefits of DSR in Western, Mid-Western and Far Western Terai districts of Nepal. The jingle was aired on popular FM radio stations at the start of the Kharif season for about three weeks with the name and contact number of service providers. These service providers have since confirmed receiving numerous phone calls from different parts of their districts.

This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Launch of New Geo-Informatics Tool

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, News & Announcements, June 20, 2016

CSISA recently launched the beta version of the Landscape-scale Crop Assessment Tool (LCAT), a geo-informatics technology that will help scientists to forecast crop yields and identify regions where conditions will support the adoption of specific technologies. Using geo-informatics, for example, CSISA has in the past been able to identify districts in Odisha most prone to flooding and categorize them as areas ill-suited for direct seeded rice. LCAT will provide a platform for extension professionals, policymakers and research scientists to leverage geo-informatics for better decision-making. The tool was developed for South Asia but can be used globally.

“In the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains, we promote early sowing of wheat, which is one of the most important adaptations to climate change. But we haven’t been able to accurately monitor and measure where it is being implemented and when,” explained Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT principal scientist and CSISA project leader. “In our line of work, it is crucial to understand where you’re making progress. While the data exists, it is often not integrated at the spatial level.”

Considerable environmental and man-made landscape diversity exists across South Asia. LCAT will help to analyze these landscapes and characterize large areas of land based on remote sensing data. It will serve two main purposes – to facilitate technology targeting and provide information such as crop status, phenology and yield goals to support crop management decisions.

“The first version of the tool uses datasets from CSISA sites in Bangladesh and India to characterize the existing cropland. However, the algorithms on which it is based are generic and can hence be applied to describe any dominant agricultural landscape across the globe,” said Balwinder Singh, CIMMYT crop simulation modeler. “Within CSISA, the tool will be used for specific applications extending to crop yield forecasting and monitoring, learning and evaluation.”

Participants in the LCAT training workshop in New Delhi, India.

Participants in the LCAT training workshop in New Delhi, India.

However, critical knowledge gaps between landscape-scale processes and technology targeting remain a challenge. To ensure policymakers and scientists are able to effectively collaborate in using this tool, a team of scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) visited New Delhi in May to conduct a training session on LCAT for CSISA staff and government partners from India and Bangladesh. The training not only demonstrated the tool’s beta version but also created greater understanding of its practical applications.

“If you’re a user of data, you spend 60 percent of your time just assembling data before analyzing it. We want to reduce that to 5 percent,” said Suresh Vannan, director of the ORNL Distributed Active Archive Center for Biogeochemical Dynamics and CCSI data theme leader.

LCAT is being developed in collaboration with ORNL and the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) Initiative. It is funded by CIMMYT as part of a five-year agreement with ORNL signed in 2014.

This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA. 

Video Project in Bangladesh Wins Award for Effective Farmer Communication

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, May 2, 2016

EVCOM AwardA collaborative video project aimed at raising farmers’ awareness of small-scale agricultural machinery, water, time, and labor saving crop management practices in South Asia has won the bronze prize in the Event and Visual Communication Association (EVCOM) 2016 Award for Communication Effectiveness at an event in London on April 28.

The EVCOM Screen Awards are among the most prestigious competitions in corporate film and visual communications. The award was jointly accepted by Agro-Insight, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Agricultural Advisory Society (AAS), and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

Paul Van Mele, director of Agro-Insight, praised the partnership between agricultural research organizations BARI and CIMMYT, video production company Agro-Insight and video distribution partner AAS.

“The EVCOM Award for Communication Effectiveness celebrates a unique partnership model whereby quality training videos far exceeded the impact that agricultural development projects usually have,” he said.

Greater Extension for Impact

“In population-dense South Asia, the sheer number of farmers makes it difficult to expand reach to raise awareness in rural areas,” said CIMMYT systems agronomist Tim Krupnik.  “Video is a great medium for extension if you want to make awareness spread like wildfire.”

Based on the film “Save more, grow more, earn more,” produced in 2012 through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation– and the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), which also featured some field sites shown from ACIAR and U.S. Department of AgricultureCornell University funded partner projects, a suite of videos was translated into eight languages for farmers in Bangladesh, China, India, Iran and Nepal.

Harun-Ar Rashid, executive director of AAS commented that “our achievement was enormous.” Between 2012 and 2014, AAS and CIMMYT jointly organized 482 screenings for over 110,000 farmers in 482 villages in Bangladesh.

Israil Hossain, a leading agricultural engineer at BARI, commented that “now farmers are inspired, seeing the advantages for crop production, and use of machinery is increasing.”

Internationally, 1,500 DVD copies were distributed to farmer leaders and others such as two-wheel tractor operators, agricultural equipment and input dealers, community-based organizations, government services centers, NGOs and even tea stalls with televisions. Fifty eight million television viewers were reported in Bangladesh and over 100 million in India.

“The videos increased farmers’ awareness of the products of BARI’s research, which is a huge success,” explained Md. Rafiqul Islam Mondal, director general of BARI.

In order to meet food demands in South Asia by 2050, production of the major cereals rice, wheat and maize must each increase by about 1.1, 1.7 and 2.9 percent every year. However, cereal productivity gains in the region have slowed markedly, while resource degradation, declining labor availability, and climate change pose steep challenges to the sustainable intensification of cereal-based systems for improved food security and rural livelihoods.

The award-winning film can be viewed online here.

Seeder Sales Rise Sharply in Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 22, 2016

Mohammad AliOwing to the timely support that CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) provided to dealers, power tiller operated seeder (PTOS) sales in Bangladesh have sharply increased. Between October and December 2015, 245 service providers bought the PTOS, more than the last two years’ sales combined. These newly purchased seeders alone accounted for approximately 1,500 hectares of land covered by service providers during the last boro (dry) season – an indication that farmers and service providers alike see value in the technology. The project also tracked other enterprises that contributed to another 660 seeders being sold, which accounted for an additional land coverage of approximately 4,200 hectares.

To boost PTOS sales, CSISA-MI included agricultural machinery dealers in activities such as demonstrations, learning visits and potential buyers’ gatherings. Through such events, the dealers had an opportunity to identify potential customers and establish direct linkages with them.

According to Dinesh Chandra Majumder, a local machinery dealer, the increase in PTOS sales was foreseen. He explained, “CSISA-MI calculated the monetary benefit for farmers of using the PTOS and shared these calculations during their events and demonstrations.” Majumder used to be a mechanic in Tambolkhana Bazaar of Faridpur district. Last year, he participated in a CSISA-MI training for local mechanics and learned about the PTOS. With his interest piqued, Majumder participated in further demonstrations organized by CSISA-MI. Seeing the interest among farmers in the benefits of the technology, and among service providers to make money from it, he was convinced. He became the local dealer for RFL, an agricultural machinery importer and manufacturer.

Majumder said, “Last year alone I managed to sell 55 PTOS and 11 axial flow pumps. This brought me money and another dealership of ACI Motors Ltd. Thanks to CSISA-MI, PTOS dealers like me are more financially sound. And through us they are ensuring the machine’s benefits reach the farmers as well.”

Local farmer and service provider Mohammad Ali is one such beneficiary. He has 2 hectares of farmland and purchased a PTOS last year to complement the power tiller he already owned. With the PTOS he sowed wheat and jute on his land and also provided the machine as a service to his neighbors, covering an additional 10 hectares.

“I made enough profit with my new PTOS that I now plan to buy another power tiller and PTOS. Not only will I be able to provide support to other farmers, it will also make me rich,” said Ali. In addition to his own land, he expects to sow jute and onion on 14 hectares in the coming season as a service provider.

According to Ananda Kumer, Sub Assistant Agricultural Officer, Department of Agricultural Extension, Saltha, “Like many others in this area, Ali is a progressive farmer and a very active local service provider. By using modern agricultural technology he is able to improve his economic and social condition. CSISA-MI’s value chain activities are helping such farmers further develop their livelihoods.”

This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CSISA-MI and Md. Salahuddin, Officer, Business Facilitation, iDE. 

Partnerships with Private Machinery Manufacturers Support Market Expansion of Machinery in Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 22, 2016

Janata JVA

CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) recently signed a joint venture agreement with Janata Engineering, an agricultural machinery manufacturer and supplier, to provide marketing support for the power tiller mounted reaper in Faridpur, Madaripur, Bhola, Jhenaidah and Magura districts of Bangladesh.

As private sector companies are better positioned to enter new market segments with their own investments, CSISA-MI works with International Development Enterprises (iDE) to develop public-private partnerships and successful business models to ensure the scaling of sustainable intensification technologies.

So far, CSISA-MI has entered into joint venture agreements with various large machinery manufacturers and importers, including Advanced Chemical Industries, Rangpur Foundry Limited Group, The Metal (Pvt.) Ltd. and Chittagong Builders. These companies and their service provider clients have invested their own funds towards the purchase, import, distribution and marketing of equipment and use of machinery services, leveraging an additional value of more than US$ 1.7 million over-and-above project funds.

These private sector engagements are helping to develop self-sustaining value chains that will continue to deploy equipment beyond the project’s lifecycle. Through these partnerships, CSISA-MI aims to reach the ‘tipping point,’ which is 15 percent of the total potential beneficiary population in the Feed the Future zone, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Beyond this, a spontaneous private sector and market led uptake is expected to take place.

To achieve this tipping point, CSISA-MI is now also reaching out to smaller local enterprises, such as Janata Engineering, that have the potential to develop, produce and import agricultural machines but lack knowledge and marketing support to modify and sell new products that meet the local demand.

The collaboration with Janata Engineering will help develop a strong business model for its power tiller mounted reaper through their commercial distribution network and will strive to establish a profitable and sustainable supply chain, including after-sales service and better availability of spare parts.

With a focus on the testing of new products and the modification of existing machines, CSISA-MI will further draw upon its relationships with development, research and government organizations to transfer research and knowledge to Janata Engineering.

This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT.

CIMMYT Director General Visits CSISA

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 28, 2016

CIMMYT DG visits Nepal

Martin Kropff, Director General, CIMMYT, visited CSISA’s programs in India, Nepal and Bangladesh during February and March. While in India, Kropff visited the CSISA Research Platform at ICAR-RCER in Patna, Bihar, and saw how CSISA focuses on closing yield gaps in different cropping systems in Bihar and Eastern UP in collaboration with government partners and local stakeholders. He also interacted directly with women farmers and service providers to better understand CSISA’s model for scaling up technologies and generating impact on the ground, as well as ensuring that gains can be sustained beyond the project lifecycle.

R.K. Malik, Senior Agronomist, CIMMYT, described to Kropff three of CSISA’s largest impacts in India: (1) the widespread adoption of early wheat sowing; (2) timely seeding or transplanting of rice, use of rice hybrids and transplanting young seedlings by machine, thus vacating the rice field early to facilitate wheat sowing; and (3) the creation of a critical mass of 2,200 service providers, who have helped spread information and CSISA-supported technologies to smallholders across our target districts.

In Nepal, Kropff met with the Minister of Agricultural Development and the Secretary of Agriculture, as well as top officials, directors and scientists at the Nepal Agricultural Research Council to discuss areas of current and future collaboration. Much of the discussion focused on how to align programming and investment with Nepal’s new Agricultural Development Strategy, which prioritizes areas of investment in the country’s agriculture sector through 2025. Kropff also visited Nuwakot, a district benefitting from CSISA’s Earthquake Recovery Support Program, and learned about the distribution of minitillers – along with attachments and spare parts – as well as storage bags, handtools, and agronomic information. His time in Nepal concluded with a visit to Bhairahawa, where he met service providers who continued to provide custom-hire services to local farmers even after project support had concluded.

In Bangladesh, Kropff visited demonstration and trial fields in Jessore and Dinajpur, discussing improved cropping systems and management practices with male and female farmers. He witnessed in CSISA-MI the power of working with the government and the private sector, particularly for the scaling of mechanization. His meetings with key officials at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council and Department of Agricultural Extension highlighted the importance of cooperation and coordination in CSISA’s work. The Minister for Agriculture, Motia Chowdhury, raised the issue of wheat diseases emerging in Bangladesh and Kropff assured support in response to this emerging concern. He also shared updates on CSISA’s work on production environments characterization using new GIS and remote sensing tools.

Reaping Benefits from Rice and Wheat

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, Uncategorized, December 21, 2015

Rafiqul LSP ReaperIn Kalukhali, Rajbari district, Bangladeshi farmers mostly cultivate paddy, which requires engaging a large labor force in order to harvest the crop. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, an experienced agricultural service provider, was keen to minimize labor expenses in order to accelerate his business profits. After seeing a reaper in the neighboring village that harvested the crop faster, thus helping in timely planting of the subsequent crop, he decided to purchase this new machine. Imported and marketed by ACI company, this machine was suitable for reaping wheat and Amon and Aush paddy.

“Initially, my family members were against the big investment of US$ 2,360 for purchasing this machine,” said Rafiqul.  “They told me this will be a costly deal,” he added. Previously, Rafiqul would hire 10 laborers for around two weeks to harvest 3.57 hectares of land, which used to cost him around US$ 1,300.

Despite facing resistance at home, Rafiqul bought the reaper anyway, and he didn’t regret it. Even after hiring a machine operator and purchasing fuel, Rafiqul could save around US$ 1,230 in labor costs from harvesting his land in less than two weeks. Additionally, he generated an income of US$ 76 by providing harvesting services to others for one more week.

“The demand for reaper services will increase in the dry season, and if weather conditions remain favorable, more than 20 hectares of land can be harvested by the machine,” said Mohammad Jahangir Jowarder, a reaper operator working with Rafiqul Islam.

The benefits extend beyond the farm and are helping make Rafiqul’s family life more comfortable.  “Earlier, during the harvest season I could not sleep more than three hours per night. I had to prepare at least four meals for ten laborers as well as dry, thresh, pack and store around 80 kg of paddy every day. But this time it’s different. I am able to rest in the evenings – first time in 30 years!” laughed Rafiqul’s wife Shirin Sultana, who originally opposed the decision to invest in the machine. So far, local service providers have supported more than 6,000 farmers with this machine covering 2,200 ha of farm land.

“The reaper is fast becoming popular among farmers. In short time, 55 local service providers have bought the reaper and harvested more than 2,000 hectares of land of more than 6,000 farmers,” said Subrata Chakrabarty, Project Manager, CSISA-MI. “It can be the most extensively used technology for rice and wheat harvesting in the next five years in Bangladesh,” he added.

Funded by USAID, the Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia – Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) Project – part of US President Obama’s Feed the Future (FtF) Initiative – is facilitating the market promotion of the reaper machine in collaboration with ACI. CSISA-MI seeks to transform agriculture in southern Bangladesh by unlocking the potential productivity of the region’s farmers during the dry season, while conserving the land’s ability to produce quality crops in the long term through surface water irrigation, efficient agricultural machinery and local service provision.

This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.

Supporting Sustainable and Scalable Changes in Cereal Systems in South Asia

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News & Announcements, December 16, 2015

Rice harvestThe rates of growth of staple crop yields in South Asia are insufficient to meet the projected demands in the region. With 40 percent of the world’s poor living in South Asia, the area composed of eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal has the largest concentration of impoverished and food insecure people worldwide. At the same time, issues of resource degradation, declining labor availability and climate change (frequent droughts and rising temperatures) pose considerable threats to increasing the productivity of farming systems and rural livelihoods. Thirty percent of South Asia’s wheat crop is likely to be lost due to higher temperatures by 2050, experts say.

“These ecologies are regionally important for several reasons,” said Andrew McDonald, Project Leader, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia, CIMMYT. “First, they have a higher density of rural poverty and food insecurity than any other region. Second, yield gaps for cereal staples are higher here than elsewhere in South Asia – highlighting the significant growth potential in agriculture.”

According to McDonald, there have been some successes due to increased investment and focus on intensification in these areas over the past 10 years. A CIMMYT-led initiative, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has contributed to major outcomes such as rapid uptake of early-planted wheat, the use of zero-tillage seed drills and long-duration, high-yielding wheat varieties in eastern India.

CSISA, in close collaboration with national partners, has been working in this region since 2009 to sustainably enhance the productivity of cereal-based cropping systems, as well as to improve the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.

“Climate-resilient practices are gaining confidence in the areas we are working. More than 500,000 farmers adopted components of the early rice-wheat cropping system in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh last year,” said R.K. Malik, Senior Agronomist, CIMMYT. “Early sowing can protect the crop from late-season heat damage and increase yields. It’s a non-cash input that even smallholders can benefit from and is one of the most important adaptations to climate change in this region.”

To increase the spread of these innovations and increase farmers’ access to modern farming technologies, CSISA is working to strengthen the network of service providers.

“This region has a large number of smallholder farmers and ownership of machines by smallholders is often not economically viable,” highlighted Malik. “In the Indian states of Bihar, Odisha and eastern Uttar Pradesh, CSISA has facilitated more than 1,900 progressive farmers to become local entrepreneurs through relevant skills, information and training during the last three years.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have recently approved phase III of CSISA, running from December 2015 to November 2020. Building on the momentum and achievements of phases I and II, phase III will work to scale up innovations, strengthen local capacity and expand markets to support the widespread adoption of climate-resilient agricultural technologies in partnership with the national and developmental partners and key private sector actors.

“CSISA has made its mark as a ‘big tent’ initiative that closes gaps between research and delivery, and takes a systems approach that will continue to be leveraged in phase III through strategic partnerships with national agricultural systems, extension systems and agricultural departments and with civil society and the private sector,” said McDonald.

CSISA is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and implemented jointly with the International Rice Research Institute and the International Food Policy Research Institute. The four primary outcomes of phase III focus on technology scaling, mainstreaming innovation into national systems, development of research-based products and reforming policies for faster technology adoption.

This article is authored by Anuradha Dhar, Communications Specialist, CSISA.

Photo Feature: Impacts of CSISA Phase II

Livestock and Livelihoods: Boosting Incomes and Productivity

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 16, 2015

harvesting grn fodder_origLivestock provides an important complement to cereal farming-based livelihoods in South Asia and can increase incomes for millions of crop-livestock farmers. In collaboration with other CSISA partners, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has been helping crop-livestock farmers to boost income and milk production by increasing the availability of fodder, promoting efficient use of cereal residues and improving the quality of supplementary feeds in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

ILRI applied the lessons learned during CSISA Phase I regarding multi-disciplinary R&D, working in innovation hubs, adapting technologies for new contexts and forming strategic partnerships in CSISA Phase II in order to intensify the uptake of locally adapted feed interventions and strengthen farmer linkages with input (including service) and output markets. ILRI explored business opportunities in CSISA’s new hub in Odisha, as well as new sites in Bihar, south-west Bangladesh and the far west of Nepal.

Crop-livestock Farmers Benefit from New Technologies

In Phase II, ILRI focused on technology development and adaptation, as well as capacity development among partners for the uptake and scaling out of proven technologies and best practices. Tangible impacts included higher milk yield (10-14 percent) and better milk quality (1-3 percent higher fat content), which translated into higher income from milk sales (additional US$ 50-150/animal/year) and/or reduction in feed costs (30 percent savings from less waste due to chopping, for example). The increased uptake of locally-adapted livestock feeding practices introduced by CSISA have contributed to improved livestock productivity.

cow pulling fodder

A cow pulling fodder.

In Bihar, 1,500 farmers across six districts (Samastipur, Muzzafarpur, Begusarai, Vaishali, Ara and Patna) have adopted urea-treated maize stover as feed, and self-prepared balanced concentrate feed and mineral mixture as feed supplements to basal diets of their dairy cows. In Odisha, around 1,200 farmers across three districts (Puri, Bhadrak and Mayurbanj) have adopted chopped straw and fodder grass as essential diets of their dairy cows, supplemented with improved concentrated feed and mineral mixture.

In Bangladesh, 150 farmers have adopted maize stover as feed and over 1,500 farmers have been practicing mechanical chopping of crop residues, of which two out of every three is female. In Nepal, 700 farmers (in five village development committees) have adopted chopped straw as basal diet supplemented with self-prepared balanced concentrate feed and mineral mixture, an increase from 10 percent (pre-CSISA interventions) to 40 percent among farmers inside and outside CSISA’s farmer-group collaborators.

Easily Available High-Quality, Chopped Fodder

The increased availability of high-quality chopped fodder reflects the emergence of derived demand for complementary inputs and services to sustain the adoption of new feed technologies and best practices. Through various trainings and capacity-strengthening activities, auxiliary service enterprises were developed, revealing the entrepreneurial tendencies of our collaborators, expanding their livelihood opportunities in the process. For example, eight local service providers (LSPs) in Bihar and five LSPs in Odisha have been established for preparing balanced concentrate feed, while 12 LSPs have been established in Bangladesh to provide straw chopping services in response to increased demand for chopped straw and fodder.

In addition, two fodder markets in Shanerhat and Pirgong in Bangladesh’s Rangpur district were established in collaboration with local partners to serve increased demand for fodder, which have made fodder easily accessible and widely available while providing income-generating opportunities for fodder growers. With the introduction of fodder crops and forages as part of a basket of feeding options, farmers in CSISA sites were able to expand their feed resource base, helping them mitigate productivity constraints arising from seasonal variability and the generally low quality of available feeds.

This article is authored by Lucy Lapar, Senior Scientist and Agricultural Economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Initiative to Broaden Farmer Knowledge through Video Receives Award

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 16, 2015

BD video screeningHow can agricultural research organizations rapidly and effectively reach large numbers of farmers with messages on improving crop productivity? The overwhelming number of farmers in rural Bangladesh presents formidable challenges to turning research into impact through agricultural extension and farmer training. Through CSISA, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Bangladesh and Agricultural Advisory Society (AAS), an NGO, have worked to overcome this challenge through the use of rural village and television video screenings. This initiative was recently awarded the prestigious international Access Agriculture Award for the use of training videos for farmer outreach in 2015. The Video Outreach award is awarded each year to organizations that show exceptional and inspiring use of video to reach farmers and improve their livelihoods by supplying relevant and entertaining training messages in local languages.

Between 2012 and 2014, CIMMYT-Bangladesh and AAS jointly organised 482 screenings of the Bangla language video ‘Save more, grow more, earn more’ that introduces farmers to the use of small-scale agricultural machinery, which can be attached to two-wheeled tractors for seeding and fertilizing crops in a way that saves fuel and labour, allowing farmers to profit more while reducing irrigation requirements.

DSC_0272

Timothy Krupnik and Harun-ar-Rashid with the Access Agriculture Video Outreach Award.

“Our goal was to create wide-scale farmer knowledge of, and demand for, innovative machinery appropriate for the small-scale of farmers’ fields in Bangladesh, while introducing technological options that could allow farmers to conserve important agricultural resources,” said Timothy J. Krupnik, CIMMYT Systems Agronomist. “And by strategically partnering with AAS, we overcame the problem of extension by scaling-up the video’s training messages through entertaining formats that farmers enjoy.”

Harun-Ar-Rashid, Executive Director of AAS said, “The purpose of the video screening organized by the volunteers was to create large-scale farmers awareness and motivation on mechanical planting of various crops through using community-based approaches and strategies along with the full participation of the relevant private sector players and our achievement has been enormous.”

Filmed and produced by Agro-Insight in consultation with CIMMYT and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, use of the video for farmer outreach was done as part of the USAID- and Bill & Melinda Gates-funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), with screenings held throughout Bangladesh’s Feed the Future zone. Locations included farmers’ fields, markets, schools, community centres, tea stalls and in total, over 110,000 farmers saw the videos in rural village showings.

‘Save more, grow more, earn more’ was also aired by the popular television program, Mati-O-Manush, on BTV 12 times, resulting in a documented viewership of 28 million people nationwide. An additional 3,000 DVDs were distributed by 20 groups of volunteer organizations, including the Department of Agricultural Extension, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, and local NGO and CBOs, who independently organized screenings. Follow-up research indicating each volunteer reached 180 people each. Similar organizations were engaged by AAS to facilitate additional volunteer showings in 332 communities in 11 districts across south-west Bangladesh. These efforts were documented in a scientific research paper, published in the international peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, that analyzed the effectiveness of volunteer groups to distribute videos to larger audiences of farmers.

The award was declared and handed over to the recipient organizations on 12 November in Nairobi, Kenya, in Eastern Africa. To watch the Access Agriculture Video Award Ceremony online, click here.

This article is authored by Mohammad Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT Bangladesh.

Watch: Save more, grow more, earn more

Farmers Choosing Value over Tradition in Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 11, 2015

“Since my childhood I have been fascinated by machines and always look for ways to improve efficiency of my farming operations,” says 82 year-old farmer, Md. Abdur Rahman from Jessore district in southern Bangladesh. After attending a machinery demonstration event by CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) this year, Rahman started using the seeder fertilizer drill (SFD).

 “I came to know about seeder fertilizer drill, which could be attached to my existing two-wheel tractor and can simultaneously till, seed and fertilize in line with greater precision and saves energy,” adds Rahman. His excitement is shared by farmers in the district, who are adopting new agricultural machines to generate more profit.

Md. Abdur Rahman with his SFD. Photo: Mia Kelly-Johnson/CSISA-MI

Md. Abdur Rahman with his SFD. Photo: Mia Kelly-Johnson/CSISA-MI

Through CSISA-MI, resource-conserving and labor saving farm machines such as axial flow pumps, seeder fertilizer drills, rice transplanters and reapers have been introduced in southern Bangladesh. As part of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative, the program works in collaboration with private sector and government (Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and the Department of Agricultural Extension) partners to expand sustainable intensification, reduce fallow areas, increase farm incomes and help solve agriculture labor crisis.

“Last season, I saved over US $25 and hope to save the same amount in this season by tilling, seeding, fertilizing and leveling my land with this seeder machine,” says Rahman, who bought the SFD for US $458 and works with his nephew to operate this machine on his farm. He also plans to start an SFD service business in his area from this coming dry season. He will charge US $25 per acre and hopes to cover 30 acres, which will give him a revenue of US $770 for tilling and seeding.

Rahman likes to work on machines and has worked with the CSISA-MI team to improve his machine performance by modifying the metal work under the seed box, preventing dirt from clogging and infiltrating the seed box during use. “With this machine, you can do a number of things at one go and so you are saving your money, time and reducing intervals between crops.  In agriculture if you can save time, you can maximize production as well as increase cropping intensity that will earn additional income,” says Rahman to other farmers in the area, who are eager to adopt the SFD after seeing Rahman’s profit.

This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CSISA-MI.