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. 

Precision Broadcasters: Innovations in Fertilizer Application

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

Bardiya Earthway Spreader

Purna Bahadur Sahi, 42, lives and farms in Neulapur, Bardiya district. Sahi used to practice conventional techniques in his fields, which generally did not involve chemical fertilizers. One day, he visited CSISA’s wheat plots in Sirkoiya during a farmers’ field day.  During the visit, he came to know that soil needs balanced fertilizers just like people need food. He also witnessed a demonstration of the precision broadcaster (Earthway Spreader 2750). He was intrigued by the little red bag which had a very simple mechanism and could be used with a little practice. Sahi brought himself a broadcaster from Tharu Agrovet, Bhurigaun.

Sahi says, “Earlier I applied little amount (less than 40 percent of recommended dose) of fertilizers to my wheat. Seeing the wheat fields during the farmers’ field day, I felt I should use recommended dose of fertilizers in my fields too.” CSISA provided Sahi a training regarding the use of the Earthway Spreader and fertilizer dosages for various crops. Sahi then used the precision broadcaster on 13 Bighas (approximately 8.67 hectares) of wheat to broadcast urea. Neighboring farmers were skeptical, but once Sahi was in action, other were intrigued by the spreader, seeing the efficient application of fertilizer. Soon, his neighbors came asking for the bag to use in their own fields.

Purna Bahadur Sahi using the spreader for fertilizer application.

Purna Bahadur Sahi using the spreader for fertilizer application.

However, it was not easy for some of his neighbors. Some had fertilizer landing on their feet and some had accidentally broadcast their fertilizer outside of their field boundary. Sahi decided to teach them the proper way to use it, which he learned from CSISA. Sahi says, “They did not know the proper balance between walking and cranking speed, resulting in loss of valuable fertilizer. Some went all the way to the end of the field, which spread fertilizers 3 meters outside the field. After learning the right technique, they were doing fine. ”

Sahi says that the zipper on top of the bag does not let the fertilizer spill out, or let water in. He adds, “Urea is evenly spread in the fields and crop establishment is even. The spreader applies urea 4 meters on both sides and I don’t have to reach the end of the field boundary to apply fertilizer.”

“It took me 1 hour to fertilize 0.5 Bighas (0.33 hectares) of wheat. I fertilized a total of 13 Bighas (8.67 hectares), which took me approximately 26 hours. I completed the fertilization in a week, working around 3.5 hours per day. In contrast, when I compared with my neighbor who practiced hand broadcasting, he took 66 hours to fertilize the same field (during a different season) at the rate of 2.5 hours for 0.5 Bighas (0.33 hectares),” shares Sahi.

This article is authored by Anil Khadka, Research Associate, CIMMYT.

Transforming Fallows: Line Sowing Facilitates Cropping Diversification in Odisha

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

line sown mung

Rice is the major crop for most farmers in Odisha during the kharif (monsoon) season. However, due to a lack of adequate irrigation facilities, nearly 84 percent of the arable farmland (4.7 million hectares) remains fallow in the ensuing rabi (winter) season.

According to Vivek Kumar, Specialist (Agriculture Research and Development), IRRI, “As much as 95 percent of all farmland in Bhadrak District remains fallow in the rabi season. Some parts of the district are serviceable by canal irrigation, but the canals have been dry for nearly 6 years.”

Fallows present a considerable opportunity for cropping system intensification and diversification in Odisha. CSISA, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Government of Odisha, is promoting mechanized line sowing of short duration crops such as pulses (green gram and black gram) and oilseeds (sunflower). Sowing with a seed drill allows for residual soil moisture and nutrients to be utilized for the rabi crop and consequently helps optimize the use of available land resources. This year alone, the machine has helped convert 22 and 20 hectares of previously fallow land in Nimapara and Gop blocks of Puri District, respectively.

Another advantage of the seed drill is that it can help reduce the cost of cultivation, making a rabi crop more viable for farmers. “The government introduced a buyback scheme for sunflower in one block of Bhadrak a few years ago to motivate farmers, but the cost of cultivation was still too high for it to be worthwhile,” informs Kumar. Sowing sunflower by dibbling requires 12-15 laborers and a similar number for earthing up and weeding.

He adds, “In January this year, with technical assistance from CSISA, farmers in Bhadrak used a seed drill to plant sunflower, the first time this has ever been done in Odisha. Sowing with the seed drill eliminated the labor requirement for dibbling. Since it sows the crop in lines with adequate spacing, it also made it possible to use a power weeder, which is both cheap and efficient.”

Farmer Pradeep Kumar (left) on his line sown sunflower field. Photo: Ashwamegh Banerjee/CIMMYT.

Farmer Pradeep Kumar (left) on his line sown sunflower field. Photo: Ashwamegh Banerjee/CIMMYT.

“By using the seed drill for planting sunflower on 4 hectares, I’ve saved more than US$ 150 in labor costs. What would’ve taken me 20 days, I could complete in just 2 days,” says farmer Pradeep Kumar Behera from Palikri Village. Behera also used a power weeder for weeding and earthing up, which took just 1 day instead of 4 and cost only a fraction of the manual alternative.

In the case of pulses, while the establishment costs with a seed drill remain comparable, its yields are much higher than that of conventional farming.

Traditionally, farmers growing green gram and black gram would hand broadcast the seeds and till their fields before and after sowing. “The conventional method only yielded 0.27-0.54 tons per hectare of green gram, which I would then sell for US$ 682 per ton,” shares Lingaraj Ratha from Srikanthapur Village in Puri district, who owns 0.80 hectare of land.

At a mass crop cutting event organized by CSISA in Puri District this month, farmers who used a seed drill for sowing green gram with basal application of DAP recorded yields of  up to 1.4 tons per hectare using the variety TARM 1. Farmer Ganesh Kandi, from Alasankha Village, who tried line sowing of green gram on his land for the first time says, “If my crop is good then I’ll grow green gram with the seed drill every year during rabi season.”

This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CIMMYT. With additional inputs from Narayan Banik, Specialist Agricultural Research and Development, IRRI and Anurag Ajay, Assistant Research Associate, CIMMYT.

The Delivery of Change

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

Dariabad

Dariabad, a small village in eastern Uttar Pradesh, is an example of changing rural India. Farmers in this village are fast replacing their old farming practices with modern technologies to overcome growing water and labor constraints. In just two years, the area under zero tillage in this village has expanded from less than 1 hectare to more than 112 hectares and many farmers are now earning more using new agricultural methods.

Dariabad was selected to participate in the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) in 2013-14, wherein each season farmers from selected villages receive support from the Government through the Department of Agriculture (DoA) to take up line sowing of crops and are provided seed and subsidies on machines such as the zero till seed drill. However, a lack of local know-how on zero tillage machinery operation and calibration meant farmers in the village could not take full advantage of the subsidy scheme.

A single demonstration on line sown wheat under zero tillage by CSISA led to the creation of six service providers in Dariabad and an increase in area under zero tillage by more than 60 hectares in 2014. Line-sown seeds not only reduced the seed and labor requirement but also enabled mechanized weeding, better moisture control, uniform germination and better yields.

Farmer Harun Ali shares, “I had never heard of line sowing, zero tillage or direct seeded rice before. The demonstration organized in my village convinced me of the technology’s benefits but, since I own less than 1 hectare land I could not purchase a tractor.”

CSISA connected Ali to a local service provider who charged him US$ 24 to sow zero till wheat on his entire land. Ali says, “This service is saving me money since sowing used to cost me US$ 48 and took a lot more time. I will definitely use a service provider again.”

“There is a  disconnect between different players in the delivery process, which is often why scaling-out of technologies has been staggered,” highlighted R.K. Malik, CSISA India Coordinator. “To change this, CSISA has been creating a network of service providers and linking them directly with farmers, input dealers and the DoA, just as it did in the case of Dariabad village.”

Farmer Afaq Ahmad on his zero till wheat field. Photo: Ajay Pundir/CIMMYT.

Farmer Afaq Ahmad on his zero till wheat field. Photo: Ajay Pundir/CIMMYT.

In collaboration with the Block Technology Manager, CSISA organized a demonstration on zero tillage wheat. The wheat was sown on 0.71 hectares of local farmer Afaq Ahmad’s land by Siraj Khan, a service provider from neighboring Karma Khan Village.

“When the Block Technology Manager told me about the scheme, I agreed to try the zero tillage machine on a small plot first. I was willing to try it out because I’d heard Khan had a good yield the previous year,” says Ahmad. Pleased with his improved yield of 4 tons per hectare, Ahmad purchased his own zero tillage machine the following season and used it to plant 6 hectares of direct seeded rice. He also offered it as a service to other farmers.

Ahmad earned US$ 5,263 from farming and an additional US$ 752 from offering zero tillage service to other farmers. The same year, seeing Ahmad’s success, demand for zero tillage in the village became so high that six other farmers also purchased the machine for service provision.

As Khan points out, “Every farmer cannot afford every machine. If a service provider is available at the village level, they too can benefit by availing his services on custom hiring basis.” This year, 15 farmers in Dariabad recorded an average wheat yield of 4.6 tons per hectare and even the most humble of the seven service providers has been able to supplement their farming income by an additional US$ 300.

This article is authored by Ajay Pundir, Scientist, CIMMYT and Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CIMMYT.

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.

CSISA Expands Domain of Registered Maize Hybrids in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, April 10, 2016

Dhangadhi MaizeCSISA is collaborating with national partners in Nepal to support the domain expansion of registered maize hybrids, helping increase maize productivity in the country.

Maize is the second most important food crop in Nepal, after rice. It contributes approximately 25 percent of Nepal’s food basket and occupies around 26 percent of the total cropped area. Maize productivity at 2.3 tons per hectare in Nepal is still quite low compared to the global average of 5.5 tons per hectare.

Growing demand from the poultry industry in Nepal cannot be met by the cultivation of open-pollinated seed varieties alone. As a result, higher-yielding hybrids have become increasingly popular among farmers because of their productivity, quality and profitability. However, most maize hybrids are only approved for sale and cultivation in the central and eastern Terai, east of the Narayani River. Farmers in many areas, especially in western Nepal, sometimes purchase non-approved hybrid seeds to meet market demand. These hybrid seeds are not registered at the Seed Quality Control Centre and are traded through informal channels.

With a potential risk of penalty from the government for violating the seed policy, traders have not distributed many high-performing hybrids, thereby restricting their local production, fair distribution and widespread availability, which otherwise could benefit many farmers in Nepal. It is estimated that annually about 2,500 tons of hybrid maize is grown in Nepal, of which only 1,000 tons are registered hybrids.

Catalyzing Change

In 2014 and 2015, CSISA and the National Maize Research Program (NMRP) partnered to evaluate maize hybrids in six additional districts (Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Surkhet and Dadeldhura) in western Nepal. Trials were conducted in the spring in the Terai and in the summer in the mid-hills and were monitored by a team of stakeholders from NMRP. The performance data for variety release and registration was shared with the National Seed Board (NSB).

Of the ten hybrids that were evaluated, four (TX 369, Bioseed 9220, Rajkumar and Nutan) were found agronomically superior, producing more than 6 tons per hectare, and having a tight husk cover and providing moderate resistance to northern leaf blight and grey leaf spot. In response to the evaluation results, the NSB has approved and registered four hybrid varieties for sale in the western region.

Highlighting the need to increase farmers’ access to registered hybrids, Dilaram Bhandari, member of NSB and Director, Crop Development Directorate, Department of Agriculture said, “We have to adopt this modality for other hybrids as well since new hybrids expand outside the recommendation domains quite frequently.”

This article is authored by Narayan Prasad Khanal, Research Associate, CIMMYT.

Long-term Production Systems Research Enables Development Opportunities

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, March 28, 2016

All too often the rewarding outcomes of agricultural research for enhancement of production systems are not realized: projects are terminated before components of the ‘production engine’ are in place and functioning. Consequently, productivity remains stagnant, as do rural livelihoods. An interesting exception is the USAID– and BMGF-funded CSISA initiative.

CSISA, implemented primarily by CIMMYT and IRRI with inputs from other CGIAR centers, has its roots in the former Rice/Wheat Consortium, a CGIAR eco-regional and system-wide research program that began in 1994 and continued for 20 years. In early 2015, I had the opportunity to lead an external evaluation of the CSISA initiative, which should now be seen as 30 years of continuous research-cum-development in three countries in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Here you can find the results of our review of the initiative’s work in agronomy, plant breeding, mechanization, irrigation efficiency, community empowerment, integrated crop, livestock and fish systems and more

A number of tangible outcomes are unfolding. For example, in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India, the planting date for wheat has been advanced to before November 15. This early planting enables wheat to escape very high pre-monsoon temperatures during grain-filling, significantly increasing wheat productivity. For this early planting, the monsoon rice must be harvested quickly and wheat immediately direct-seeded into the rice stubble. There is neither time nor need for re-plowing the soils. The research program, working with national partners, enabled the introduction of mechanized rice harvest and direct seeding of wheat using single-axle tractor-based technologies, including no-till seeders manufactured in China, Bangladesh and more recently in India.

Small farmers turned service providers not only more rapidly harvest rice with mechanization and then plant wheat on their own farms but also, using their equipment and knowledge, contract work for many other smallholder family farmers. These often young entrepreneurs are enabled and supported by private sector agro-dealers and frequently obtain subsidies from state and federal governments for first-time purchase of new equipment. The CSISA staff work closely with public and private sector personnel to create a shared vision among stakeholders. CSISA staff also train trainers to shape the enabling policies. Tangible adoption of such sustainable intensification is now found in the focal states in eastern India, Bangladesh, and the Terai zones of Nepal.

Much can be learned and borrowed from this long-term production systems research and applied in analogous agro-ecologies…

This article is an excerpt of a blog post on Agrilinks authored by Eric Kueneman, the Evaluation Team Lead for the Phase II Evaluation of CSISA. To read the full post, click here.

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.

Three Wise Men

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, January 28, 2016

India-Photo 1_farmers together E_0

By sowing wheat early, farmers in India are doubling production and avoiding crop failure resulting from earlier summers and higher temperatures.

Farmer Nathuni Singh is a man who speaks with wisdom. Though most would attribute this to his age—he is 74—Singh says that every farmer is forced to grow wise earlier than usual. “It’s the vagaries of nature that make a farmer learn the hard way,” he says. Singh began farming at age 28, soon after his father’s death, and since then has seen nature change course many times. “Nature has always been unpredictable. I have lost many of my crops to untimely rains and drought. But things have worsened in recent times. With every year, the sun seems to be getting hotter and harsher,” says Singh.

For Indian farmers like Singh, climate change has become a stark reality. The country today is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, an alarming statistic as 58 percent of India’s population depends directly on agriculture as its primary source of income. While USAID partners with India to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions using sustainable technologies over the long term, relief is needed right away for farmers.

In response, in 2009, USAID established the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) to help farmers adapt to climate change and rainfall variability. CSISA is a public-private partnership with Government of India research institutions and private sector partners, and is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).

“Even in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plains, one of the most fertile regions in the world, we saw farmers lose 25 percent of their crop harvest due to summers arriving ahead of schedule. Where summers previously didn’t begin until May, temperatures now reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of March,” says R. K. Malik, a CSISA senior agronomist.

To counter the impact of excessive and untimely heat due to climate change, CSISA began reaching out to wheat farmers in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, advising them to plant their wheat crop a month sooner than usual and without first tilling the land in the traditional way. “By sowing before Nov. 15 instead of the end of December, as is the practice in the region, the grain is able to fully develop before the heat wave arrives, which can cause the grain to shrink and lead to crop failure,” says Malik. However, this unique wheat sowing method found very few takers. “Initially, when we started in 2009, only four farmers agreed to plant their wheat early. One of them was Nathuni Singh,” Malik said.

Singh first heard about this new planting method when CSISA representatives came to his village of Devpokhar in eastern Uttar Pradesh to demonstrate how the technique can benefit poor farmers like him. Being the sole bread winner for his family of nine and having grown only 390 kilograms of wheat in the previous year—far below average—Singh was desperate for help. “The CSISA team gave me seeds and fertilizers, and guided me on when and how to sow the seeds without irrigating the land. They even assured me that, if the crop failed, they would repay me for the losses I bear,” he said.

For Ashwini Nayak and Ramawadh Chaudhary—two of the other four farmers who first adopted the early wheat sowing practice—it was the science behind the method that finally convinced them.

“Rice is a water-intensive crop. By planting wheat immediately after harvesting the rice, the wheat crop uses the remaining moisture present in the soil to develop. As a result, you not only save water but also the diesel cost required to run water pumps for plowing and irrigation,” explains Nayak, echoing the scientific tone of a CSISA officer.

Ramawadh Chaudhary in his field.

Ramawadh Chaudhary in his field.

But for the three farmers, the decision to move away from the traditional farming technique soon became an uneasy choice. “Everyone in the village used to laugh at us. They called us stupid because we planted our crops without tilling the land and before the season began,” says Chaudhary.

For Nayak, the lack of support from within his family further shattered his confidence: “My own younger brother joined the rest of the village in mocking me. But I always knew that, if there is no risk, there is no gain.”

And it was a risk that paid off for each of them.

“That year, from my 3-hectare farmland, I produced 881 kilograms of wheat, more than twice of what I had grown last year,” says Singh. “It was the first time in my life that I had harvested so much. I was happy beyond words.”

The three farmers not only managed to double their wheat production, but also saved additional expenses such as the cost of irrigation and ploughing. “I used to spend about rupees 30,000 ($470) on my 6-hectare farmland, which included the cost to hire a tractor for plowing the field and diesel for running the tractors. Now I’m saving all of this,” says Chaudhary, who last year bought 4 more hectares of farmland with the savings.

Today, over 620,000 farmers across the provinces of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar grow their wheat using CSISA’s early sowing method. “The farmers found that the technique increased their grain yield by 485 kilograms per hectare. In fact, compelled by our success, even the Bihar State Department of Agriculture now officially recommends wheat farmers to plant before Nov. 15,” says Ajay Kumar, an agricultural scientist working at CSISA’s eastern Uttar Pradesh hub.

Buoyed by its success in India, CSISA, in partnership with USAID, is introducing the practice to thousands of farmers in Nepal and Bangladesh. Singh is excited to hear his success story being replicated outside India’s borders. “At present, the high-quality wheat that I’m growing is being sent to farmers in neighboring states like Uttarakhand. Now my wheat will also travel to Nepal,” says a smiling Singh.

Meanwhile, at Singh’s newly constructed house, farmers from neighboring villages arrive almost every month to inquire about the early wheat sowing method and to learn from his success. “I first welcome them and give them tea and snacks because many come from very far places. I then take them to my farm to show them how the seed is planted and when to put the fertilizer,” says Singh.

After his one-hour training session, Singh offers his guests a glass of water and bids them farewell with the hope that the farmers he trained will also prosper like him. “There is an old saying that the one who feeds the hungry is equal to God. A farmer struggles against many uncertainties and toils every day in the fields so you and I can have food in our plates. He needs to be given the right support and made sure that he is not left alone to struggle,” adds Singh.

This article is authored by Neha Kathor for FrontLines, the news publication of USAID. 

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.

Improving Public Policy Dimensions of Sustainable Intensification in South Asia

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

CSISA policyDespite continuous pessimistic murmurings, South Asia is not in the depths of a Malthusian crisis. While population growth rates are high, they are slowing. And although food staple yields are low relative to the rest of the world, they are still inching upwards. The dark and dreary picture of a hungry future may persist in our collective outlook for the future, but it won’t be for a lack of available food. In South Asia, hunger and malnutrition will remain the province of social and economic entitlements, gender relations, health and nutritional status and the quality of food.

But we shouldn’t be complacent. Achieving sustained yield growth requires continued investments in modern science, agricultural research and development and extension. And continued yield growth on a sustainable basis — growth without environmental degradation — is increasingly viewed by South Asian leaders, entrepreneurs and civil society as the only way forward.

Well-structured public policies can incentivize smallholder farmers, rural entrepreneurs and consumers toward choices that are more or less welfare-improving, yield-enhancing or environmentally sustainable. For example, a tax or fee for groundwater use can stem the excessive extraction of this scarce resource in regions where aquifers are already threatened by overexploitation. Conversely, tariffs and non-tariff barriers to the import of low-cost irrigation equipment can prevent widespread adoption of supplemental irrigation, as was the case in Bangladesh until the late 1980s.

Governments have a fairly wide range of policy tools at their disposal. They can enact laws, establish guidelines and regulations, invest in programs and projects, introduce or withdraw taxes and subsidies and set the rules for trade and investment. Each application of a policy tool is accompanied by resulting outcomes, trade-offs and possibly unintended consequences. CSISA’s greatest challenge has been to work with its partners and stakeholders to identify the appropriate policy tools with which to achieve the desired outcomes, while also being cognizant of the concurrent trade-offs and consequences.

CSISA’s policy work has aimed to develop a critical mass of research needed to promote an actionable and evidence-based agenda for improving public policies to address South Asia’s cereal systems. In doing so, CSISA has weighed in — through both scholarly research and outreach efforts — on several areas related to sustainable intensification of cereal systems in South Asia’s most risk-prone geographies.

For example, CSISA’s policy work has strengthened the quality of the debate and helped frame the ongoing contestation around seed systems development in the region. CSISA has helped policymakers identify key priorities amid all the noise accompanying the discourse about the proper role for state-owned enterprises in seed distribution in Bangladesh, the role of private and foreign direct investment in the seed market in Nepal and the future of genetically modified crops in India.

Similarly, CSISA’s policy work has tackled the question of input subsidies and their impact on sustainable intensification. Blanket subsidies on seed, machinery and equipment are common public interventions throughout the region, but, while they can be useful in encouraging new technologies and practices among smallholders, they often come at a high price: forgone spending on other development priorities, elite capture of the subsidies, distortion of input markets and crowding-out of private investment. For example, CSISA’s work on the economic and environmental trade-offs associated with poorly targeted subsidies for laser land levelers in eastern Uttar Pradesh provides state and local government with alternative strategies for improving the impact and lessening the damages caused by subsidies.

Finally, CSISA’s policy work has been striving to transform research and extension guidelines and recommendations from very linear and top-down models to something more nuanced — something more in tune with the precision and site-specificity required for sustainable intensification in the risk-prone geographies in which CSISA operates. CSISA efforts have highlighted the importance of recognizing heterogeneity within populations targeted for the dissemination of new cultivars, agricultural equipment and inputs, as well as the potential to use this heterogeneity to tailor interventions for greater efficacy.

CSISA research and outreach efforts have emphasized the potential for tailoring extension messages to female household members as a means of transmitting information to both men and women about new technologies. And CSISA efforts have drawn attention to the complexity of systems-based solutions for sustainable intensification and the opportunities to bring more smallholders on board through programs that tie public research and extension to private service providers, input suppliers, crop aggregators, community-based organizations and other market actors.

There is still a lot for CSISA to do to improve the policy environment for sustainable intensification in South Asia. New partners are needed, both to build a strong evidence base and to carry that evidence forward to government and corporate decision-makers. New audiences are needed to scrutinize and lend support to the social, economic and environmental goals of this work. And a clear understanding of the long-term nature of this engagement is needed to ensure that policy decisions in support of sustainable intensification have the desired impact and scale.

This article is authored by David Spielman, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Empowering Women Farmers through Participatory Research

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

Loktantrik Mahila samuhaCSISA has collaborated with a women farmers’ group in Bardiya district to collectively evaluate improved rice and lentil varieties and better bet agronomic practices. These trials have helped bring CSISA researchers closer to farmers’ needs and have led to increased adoption of new technologies by women farmers.

Loktantrik Mahila Krishak Samuha (Democratic Women Farmer Group) was formed in 2011 in the village of Neulapur in Bardiya district of Nepal to economically support poor women members and to improve their skills in new agricultural technologies. The group, with 33 active members, now has a savings fund of NRs 250,000 (US$ 2,500), and is able to make low-interest loans to members. Since 2013, CSISA-NP has been working with this group on research activities, trainings and demonstrations.

Farmers’ Choice

Group members participated in CSISA’s evaluation of rice varieties, as well as trainings and demonstrations on rice production technologies and crop establishment methods. Among rice hybrids, the group members were able to choose from varieties such as DY 18, DY 69, Arieja and Prithivi due to their high yielding potential and fine grain quality. The women group members expressed a preference for fine grain rice varieties for home consumption and coarse grain varieties for selling in the market.

In the winter of 2013 and 2014, a large number of farmers from the group also participated in adaptive research trials on lentil varietal selection and different agronomic practices. The group preferred Khajura 2 (released), ILL 7723 (enriched with iron and zinc) and Black Masuro, but did not express a preference for the other varieties produced. The average yield of improved varieties of lentil is 1,200 kg per hectare in farmers’ fields, which is nearly 50 percent higher than the commonly used variety.  The group members also earned additional income by selling lentil seeds, which were produced from these new varieties.

CSISA also introduced the group members to direct seeded rice (DSR) technologies, using both four-wheel tractor seed drills and Chinese two-wheel tractor seed drills. DSR, a technology that can provide significant cost savings to smallholder farmers, can be particularly attractive when labor availability is constrained as it eliminates the need for nursery bed preparation, puddling and transplanting of seedlings into the main field. DSR also reduces water requirements, while still providing similar grain yields achieved with transplanted puddled rice.

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.

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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.

Farmers in Tamil Nadu Benefit from Better Information, Tools and Technology

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, Uncategorized, October 9, 2015

TN exit workshopIn the last five years, CSISA has reached over 25,000 farmers and has covered more than 70,000 acres through water- and labor-saving agricultural technologies in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, as reported during the CSISA Tamil Nadu Hub Celebration Workshop from 15-16 September in Thanjavur (participants of the workshop pictured above).

As part of CSISA, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) tested and scaled-out improved rice crop technologies and management practices including laser land leveling, mechanized dry direct seeding of rice, mechanical transplanting of rice, site-specific nutrient management and line sowing using a multicrop seeder under reduced-tillage conditions. These technologies are helping farmers reduce the cost of production and increase their income in Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts of the Cauvery Delta and the neighboring districts of Ramanathapuram and Sivagangai.

“Farmers can save water by 25–35 percent by not puddling the field and by using shorter-duration crops,” said R. Ganeshamoorthy, CSISA Tamil Nadu hub manager. “Farmers can save about 40 percent of labor because renting a farm machine is cheaper than hiring manual labor. The profit from the dry direct seeded rice is twice as much as that of conventional rice cultivation. Overall, farmers can increase their yields by 7–10 percent depending on the rice variety.”

Making Arid Lands Cultivable

Sivagangai and Ramanathapuram districts are two of the most arid areas in Tamil Nadu. With almost 73 percent of the population depending on agriculture, paddy is a staple crop grown only during the dry season (rabi), mainly under rainfed conditions, with seeds broadcasted before the rains. The practice of dry direct seeding of rice, which requires less water and labor, is helping transform uncultivable lands (geographically about 50 percent of the area) to productive agricultural areas in these districts.

The Reliance Foundation and CSISA have been working in partnership to convert dry tracts of lands from traditional broadcasted rice to dry direct seeded using a seed drill. As a result, 250 hectares in Sivagangai have already become cultivable and farmers’ groups have purchased 11 seed drills and are renting out the equipment to other farmers.

“Working together with several important organizations is key to the success of the widespread dissemination of these technologies in Tamil Nadu,” said Noel Magor, head of the Impact Acceleration Unit and Training Center at IRRI.  “In 2013, for example, the use of seed drill and land laser leveling machines was endorsed by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) while the Department of Agriculture (DoA) facilitated and provided some subsidy to purchase the machines for outscaling to the farmers.”

The Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, ITC Agribusiness division, Syngenta, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the Reliance Foundation are among several partners who supported the research, capacity-building and extension work for large-scale adoption of the technologies.

Less Fertilizers, More Profits

The Nutrient Manager for Rice (NMR), an ICT-based decision tool that gives real-time site-specific fertilizer recommendation, is helping farmers use less fertilizers as compared with farmers’ current practice, thus increasing their profits by US$ 67 per hectare on average. This tool, introduced by CSISA in the Cauvery delta, provides fertilizer guidelines matching the field-specific needs and conditions of a farmer, according to IRRI scientist P. Panneerselvam.

“Fertilizers are typically the second largest input cost in rice production,” said Panneerselvam. “Thus, Nutrient Manager for Rice is a welcome technology in Tamil Nadu.” NMR supports and complements the existing crop management advisory services of the state government.

Based on the information provided by farmers about their fields, Nutrient Manager recommends the ideal amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to be added at critical growth stages, while taking into account the amount of fertilizer the farmer prefers to use.

With the use of NMR, farmers can save 15-20 percent of nitrogen, 36-42 percent of phosphorous and 28 percent of potassium compared with state fertilizer recommendation; and 33-42 percent phosphorous and 30 percent potassium compared with farmer’s practice. These were the results from an on-farm participatory research done from 2013 to 2015 in Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, and Nagapattinam districts in Tamil Nadu.

“Tamil Nadu is a major rice producing state in India with 1.9 million hectares under rice. The Cauvery delta contributes a substantial share to the state’s rice production,” said Panneerselvam. “Thus, helping farmers here will have an impact on the overall production of the country.”

Sustaining Impacts

Partner organizations such as TNAU and MSSRF have agreed to extend the research and development initiatives under CSISA, beyond the project life-cycle. “TNAU will take up the outscaling of key technologies under CSISA although the project has already ended,” said R. Rajendran, TNAU agronomist, who has been associated with CSISA for the last seven years.

“TNAU will continue by extending technologies such as improved dry seeded rice cultivation, nonpuddled machine rice transplanting and laser land leveling,” Rajendran said. “Also, the research initiatives conducted through CSISA will not stop. The research outcomes will be taken continually to the farmers with the support from the Government of Tamil Nadu and TNAU,” he added.

The Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute and the Soil and Water Management Research Institute will also continue to expand the adoption of the water- and labor-saving technologies in the Cauvery Delta and the entire rice-growing areas of Tamil Nadu.

“MSSRF is now extending the training to farmers after its staff members attended the season-long training on dry direct seeded rice,” said G. Sudhakar, scientist at MSSRF. The season-long training was piloted by CSISA where participants received hands-on training on all aspects of crop production and management — from sowing to grain storage — during the entire growing season.

The original version of this article appears in the IRRI News Bulletin.

Asia Wheat Breeders Develop Strategies to Face Future Threats

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 7, 2015

Wheat Breeders MeetingOver the past six years, wheat breeding for biotic and abiotic stress tolerance has gained momentum in South Asia through effective collaboration with national partners under the umbrella of CSISA, according to Arun Joshi, Principal Scientist, CIMMYT and CSISA Objective 4 Leader. Joshi said that new wheat varieties have been developed that have faster grain filling ability and can adapt to a range of sowing dates. “Improved networking with public and private sector seed hubs enabled faster inclusion of these new varieties in the seed dissemination chain,” added Joshi.

Fifty scientists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal assembled at Karnal, India on 2-3 September for the 7th Wheat Breeding Review meeting, reflecting the growing interest of the national agriculture research systems (NARS) in South Asia in genetic gains and CSISA’s seed dissemination work. In addition to assessing the broad framework of issues that currently concern wheat improvement, the meeting reviewed the progress of the 2014-15 cycle and established work plans for the coming crop cycle.

According to Indu Sharma, Director, Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, collaborative research with a regional perspective will be important to achieve food security and sustain farmers’ livelihoods in the future. While appreciating new research efforts, she highlighted that CSISA has played a critical role in wheat research focused on handling rust resistance and heat tolerance in South Asia.

Participating scientists from CIMMYT and national public partners discussed strategies to strengthen research on future threats such as wheat rusts, early and late heat stress and water scarcity. Wheat rusts have been known to be a constant threat causing severe losses to wheat production worldwide. “The threat from rusts is particularly acute in South Asia, which produces 20 percent of the world’s wheat. Recently, yellow rust has become extremely threatening for India, Pakistan and Nepal,” Joshi highlighted. CIMMYT’s resistance breeding programs continue to keep these diseases (including Ug99) in control, safeguarding farmers and their incomes.

According to Joshi, disease-resistant varieties are one of the most effective control strategies for most diseases of wheat grown by resource-poor farmers in the developing world. For a farmer, the cost of protecting 1 hectare of wheat against disease through the application of modern chemicals is estimated to be US$ 10-80 per hectare. With the use of disease-resistant varieties, farmers can save this cost as the rust resistance in wheat is embedded in the seed.

Various sessions reviewed progress and plans from 10 national research centers. After a gap of 20 years, the partnership between the Bhutanese national research program and CIMMYT has led to the release of three new wheat varieties, informed Sangay Tshewang, Wheat Co-ordinator, Renewable Natural Resources Research & Development Sub Centre, Tsirang, Bhutan during his presentation.  Enhancing the capacity of wheat scientists in the region and establishing linkages between breeders, seed producers and farmers featured among the other themes discussed during the meeting.

Looking ahead, many national scientists stressed that they would focus on increasing linkages and improving coordination between the national research programs, CIMMYT and other stakeholders in the seed business to create an enabling environment for faster release of new varieties to farmers and strengthened capacity to handle disease and climate change threats.

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

Building Wheat’s Resilience to Heat in South Asia

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 7, 2015

Wheat-heat-resilienceEnhancing the productivity of the rice-wheat cropping systems in the Indo-Gangetic Plains is essential for ensuring food security for more than 20 percent of the world’s population. Such enhancement is particularly important in the relatively impoverished and food insecure regions of eastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains, farmers must regularly contend with risks posed by high temperatures during the wheat grain filling period. These risks can reduce yields by more than 50 percent — even with good management. In addition, progressive climate change has already affected the region, making adaptation to heat stress an urgent near and longer-term priority for ensuring regional food security and climatic conditions are expected to worsen significantly in the coming decades.

Under the CSISA umbrella, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in close collaboration with the national wheat programs in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, has released new wheat varieties with higher yield potential, which perform well even in the stress-prone areas of the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains.

Nevertheless, the long-term solution to heat stress cannot be found in any single technology; it must draw from several approaches, including adjustments to management practices, genetic advances, efficient irrigation technologies and mechanization.

CSISA efforts have identified timely wheat planting as the most important contemporary determinant of wheat yields in farm fields across the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains. In 2009, CSISA began to promote early sowing of wheat to combat the negative effects of rising temperatures.

Due to ingrained habits in places like the eastern Indian state of Bihar, few farmers were initially willing to sow their wheat in early November, even on a trial basis. Through community-based evaluations and collaborative research trials with partners such as the Research Complex for the eastern region, CSISA has built a compelling body of evidence for the importance of early planting. As a result, public perception and official recommendations have changed, resulting in more than 600,000 farmers planting wheat earlier in the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

CSISA has also worked to expand access to sustainable intensification technologies that facilitate early planting methods, such as zero tillage. With assistance from CSISA, more than 1,600 entrepreneurs are currently providing zero tillage services to over 100,000 households in eastern India and farmers have achieved significant wheat yield gains (20 percent) and cost savings ($100 per hectare).

With USAID’s Feed the Future support, CSISA pursues climate-smart strategies that are profitable today and fully supported by the public and private sectors to help farmers in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains build toward a more food secure future.

This article is authored by Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT Cropping Systems Agronomist and CSISA Project Leader. It was originally published in the Feed the Future Newsletter.  

Building National Capacity on Conservation Agriculture in India

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 5, 2015

Estimates show that as of 2013, nearly 1.5 million hectares of arable cropland in India have been brought under conservation agriculture (CA)-based practices. Outside of northwest India, however, the concept remains relatively unfamiliar to farmers and extension personnel. Against that backdrop, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) conducted an intensive training program on CA from 2-11 September for researchers from the national agricultural research and extension system (NARES).

Organized at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI) in Karnal, Haryana, the training focused on developing resilient systems through CA-based management practices. The objective was to train researchers to accelerate farming system adaptation to climate risks through CA-based best-bet management practices that reduce vulnerability. A total of 18 researchers participated in the training, which was inaugurated by Gurbachan Singh, Chairman, Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB), New Delhi.

Participants received hands-on-training on CA technologies and visited various participatory and strategic trials during the program.

Participants received hands-on-training on CA technologies and visited various participatory and strategic trials during the program.

Singh highlighted the importance of the program saying that CA can improve the productivity and profitability of India’s cropping systems under aberrant weather situations in different agro-climatic zones of the country to sustain food security, while maintaining and improving the quality of the natural resource base. Globally, the positive impact of CA-based techniques on natural resources, climate change adaptation and mitigation have been widely acknowledged. In India, realizing the importance of CA, more strategic research on precise nutrient application, water, cultivars and weed management has been initiated only in the recent past.

The training highlighted first-hand experiences and insights from scientists who had implemented various aspects of CA in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP). As Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT Cropping Systems Agronomist and CSISA project leader, pointed out, “The continuous cultivation of rice-wheat cropping systems for almost five decades in the IGP has considerably degraded natural resources such as water, soil, climate and biodiversity.” According to D.K. Sharma, Director, CSSRI, “CA has the potential to check the process of resalinization of north-western IGP by reducing the evaporative losses from the soil surface and its emphasis on stopping residue burning.”

In his presentation, R.K. Malik, CIMMYT Senior Agronomist and CSISA Objective 1 leader, focused on the need to design resource use-efficient, diversified and resilient cropping systems as an alternative to intensive rice-wheat systems. He further highlighted the issues of groundwater depletion, declining soil health associated with multiple nutrient deficiencies, pest outbreaks and shift in weed flora. On the other hand, M.L. Jat, CIMMYT Senior Scientist, stressed upon how the convergence of technologies has helped make climate-smart agriculture a reality that helps safeguard farming systems from weather abnormalities.

Praising the training program, Rameshwar Singh, Project Director, Directorate of Knowledge Management, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, stated that it was a unique opportunity for the scientific community working in the area of natural resource management. The program included hands-on training on numerous technologies such as the laser land leveler, turbo seeder, multi-crop planter and mechanical transplanter. Participants further benefited from visits to participatory and strategic trials and agricultural implements’ manufacturing sites.

This article is authored by H.S. Jat, Senior Scientist, CIMMYT; P.C. Sharma, Principal Scientist, ICAR-CSSRI, Karnal; and Kiranjot Kaur, Consultant, CIMMYT.


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