Strike Turns Farmer into Dairy Feed Businessman

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, January 26, 2015

The seemingly sleepy village at the end of the road is not so sleepy after all. Guagadia village in Odisha produced an overnight entrepreneur, one who had never imagined he would ever do anything beyond feeding his dairy cattle, milking them and selling the milk to the local dairy board, Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation (OMFED). But all that changed when workers of the OMFED feed supplier went on strike. Wondering “How am I going to feed my cows?” farmer Kishore Kumar adapted and rose to the occasion.Dairy  feed businessman

Driven by his desperation, Kumar reached out to the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) for help. To address the plight of the farmers, CSISA-ILRI organized a training workshop on concentrate feed in Bhubaneshwar. Four days later, Kumar was making his own concentrate feed and was self-sufficient.

The training program he attended entitled, ‘Crop Residue-Based Feeding Strategies to Improve Milk Production of Dairy Animals,’ covered feeding chopped rice straw supplementation with mineral mixture and self-preparation of concentrate feed. Participants were taught how to mix the balanced concentrate feed, how to chop straw and soak it to feed the cattle as well as entrepreneurship skills. The program reiterated the importance of using locally available materials – that can either be found on their own farms, purchased from neighbors or local markets.

In three months, Kumar emerged as an entrepreneur not only making feed for his own cattle but also selling the surplus to villagers that lacked the resources to do so themselves. His customers now span six neighboring villages. These fellow farmers have grown to appreciate the consistency of the feed Kumar supplies and have told him that they would be willing to pay even a higher amount but not to compromise on the feed quality.

Kumar is grateful for the support he received from CSISA and acknowledges the training program that gave him skills to last for a lifetime. From his increased earnings he has already bought sacks, a weighing machine and a sealing machine for the feed – to ensure he sells the right quantities and of the best quality. He even took a loan with a local financial institution for buying a tractor to carry the rice straw from the fields and the ingredients bought from local markets. He recognises he became a businessman out of necessity, but says he is committed to make the most of it and is working hard to grow his newfound business.

Q&A with Mugalodi Ramesha: Developing Better Rice

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 22, 2014

Better riceMugalodi Ramesha is Irrigated Rice Breeder, IRRI and CSISA Objective 3 Leader. He has more than two decades of experience developing high yielding varieties with better grain quality, resistance to biotic stresses, better adaptability to puddle transplanted and dry direct seeded conditions in South Asia. He has developed and released two rice hybrids and three varieties for different states of India, published more than 60 research papers and been recognized through multiple awards.
 
In this article, he offers his personal insights on some of the most pressing issues concerning rice breeding today:

How does rice breeding help ensure food security in South Asia?

Sustainable, more profitable and viable methods of rice cultivation can help ensure food security in Asia. Degradation of natural resources, decreasing availability of labor and water, deteriorating soil health and water quality, ever-changing climatic conditions, reduced profitability of rice cultivation, lack of interest in agriculture by the rural youth, inadequate minimum support price and inefficient procurement of the produce are some of the major constraints for improving rice productivity and production in South Asia. Rice breeding helps produce improved varieties and hybrids with high yield potential, region-specific grain quality traits, biotic and abiotic stress-tolerance and suitability for different cropping systems. When coupled with better management practices, rice breeding can significantly improve the profitability of rice cultivation for farmers.

What are some of the key challenges for development and use of hybrid rice in India?

There is no doubt that hybrid rice can boost yield and enhance efforts to achieve food security. One of the key challenges is a moderate level (12 to 15 percent) of heterosis in present day hybrids. Achieving only moderate levels of outbreeding enhancement is not sufficient to make it attractive for farmers and hence, the magnitude of heterosis must be enhanced to at least 25 percent. Other challenges include development of region-specific long-duration hybrids with abiotic- and biotic-stress-tolerance and desirable grain quality traits as per consumer preference in different market segments. We must also work towards reducing the cost of hybrid seeds by increasing the seed-yield in hybrid rice seed production plots.

How does CSISA’s work on rice breeding address these challenges?

Mugalodi Ramesha

Mugalodi Ramesha

CSISA’s work on development of parental lines of hybrids, new varieties, the popularization of private-bred hybrids and varieties for different methods of crop establishment under various cropping systems have all resulted in enhanced system productivity, thereby increasing the profitability of various agricultural enterprises for farmers in South Asia.

How can new improved varieties reach farmers more quickly?

The answer to expediting the current lengthy process of variety release lies not in changing one particular aspect alone but in addressing a variety of factors together. First, the breeding programs need to be market-driven and should be accelerated through the careful blending of molecular and conventional breeding tools; second, by efficient and quick product testing and release policies; third, through aggressive seed production and distribution systems; and finally, in effective technology transfer by various stakeholders. A combined improvement on all these fronts is essential to reduce the time taken between the official release of a new variety and its eventual adoption by farmers.

Can you highlight some outcomes of CSISA’s rice breeding work?

CSISA has developed an array of new breeding lines with high genetic yield potential, region-specific grain quality traits, adaptability to water-saving technologies, improved plant-type features suitable for different methods of crop establishment, biotic-stress-tolerance and reproductive-stage heat-tolerance. These have been shared with the national agriculture research and extension systems (NARES) and many of these elite breeding lines are currently in advanced stages of testing in multi-location trials at state and national levels. The genetic yield potential of four elite varieties (NSIC Rc82, NSIC Rc158, NSIC Rc222, and NSIC Rc238) and three mega varieties of India (Swarna, Samba Mahsuri and MTU1010) is being enhanced by incorporating three cloned genes, for high grain number (Gn1a), bigger panicle size (Spl14) and strong culm (SCM2). Many promising entries for direct-seeded rice have been identified in Nepal and Bangladesh. Out of 60 rice entries tested during the 2014 dry season under machine-sown dry direct-seeded rice, 15 entries recorded more than 7.5 tons/ha. Besides assisting the strengthening of NARES breeding programs for accelerated product development, CSISA has also contributed to their regular breeding programs with new breeding lines with novel traits such as phosphorous uptake, anaerobic germination, and better plant architecture.

Read the Q&A with Arun Joshi on Developing Better Wheat

Q&A with Arun Joshi: Developing Better Wheat

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 22, 2014

CISSA-MI_Barisal

Arun Kumar Joshi is Principal Scientist, Global Wheat Program, CIMMYT and CSISA Objective 4 Leader. Based in Kathmandu, Nepal, he is a Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and also of DAAD Germany. He has facilitated development of around three dozen wheat varieties and made numerous contributions to disease resistance, heat and drought tolerance and biofortification in South Asia. He has been awarded the Jeanie Borlaug Laube Women in Triticum Mentor Award 2014 from Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, Cornell, USA.
 
In this article, he offers his personal insights on some of the most pressing issues concerning wheat breeding today:

How does wheat breeding help ensure food security in South Asia? 

South Asia faces multiple challenges in future wheat production, including heat stress, dwindling water supplies for irrigation, changes in urbanization patterns and a growing threat of increased virulent diseases such as wheat rusts (yellow, brown and black) and leaf blight.

Wheat breeding has played a major role in ensuring food security and combating these challenges by developing agronomically superior cultivars with good quality traits and genetic resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The Green Revolution came about due to the release of dwarf, photo-insensitive, nitrogen-responsive varieties and some of the most important gains have been sustained by the continued release of improved varieties and the associated support of agronomy, policy and socio-economic factors.

While many smallholders throughout South Asia benefited from the introduction of first-generation Green Revolution cultivars that replaced lower-yielding landraces, the adoption of second and third-generation cultivars has led to ongoing improvements in wheat production. Wheat production in India in the last five years (2009-14) increased from 80 to 96 million tons, in Pakistan from 21 to 25 million tons, in Nepal from 1.3 to 1.9 million tons and in Bangladesh from 0.84 to 1.37 million tons.

What is Ug99? Can you put into perspective the magnitude of the challenge stem rust diseases pose for food security? 

Ug99 is a race of stem or black rust caused by Puccinia graminis f. sp. Tritici. It was first identified in Uganda in 1999 and has since spread to other countries in East Africa and to Sudan, Yemen and Iran. At the time of discovery, nearly 80-90 percent of wheat cultivars in the world were susceptible to this race. Thanks to strong collaborative work with the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and various national agricultural research systems (NARS), wheat breeders and other relevant stakeholders managed to develop and disseminate Ug99-resistant wheat varieties, keeping the disease in check.

However, there is no scope for complacency. Given certain conditions, Ug99 threatens to spread to other wheat-producing regions of Africa and Asia and potentially the entire world. The threat is particularly acute in South Asia, which produces 20 percent of the world’s wheat. Other rusts are also equally potent. Recently, for example, yellow rust has become extremely threatening for India, Pakistan and Nepal.

Stem rust has been known to be a constant threat causing severe losses to wheat production worldwide. It has remained in control for the last three decades only through the use of genetic resistance in semidwarf cultivars. This is a significant reason why resistance-breeding programs must continue.

Arun Joshi

Arun Joshi

How can wheat breeding help smallholder farmers in South Asia mitigate the effects of problems such as scanty rainfall, increasing temperatures, salt-affected soils and increasing incidence of diseases?

A critical factor in the Green Revolution’s success was that new varieties were broadly adapted to the resource-poor environments prevalent in South Asia and they performed well under abiotic stresses such as heat, drought (exacerbated by limited irrigation) and variable fertilizer doses. An aggressive strategy to develop and disseminate stress-tolerant cultivars in farmers’ fields is an important response to abiotic stress in South Asia as resource-poor farmers cannot afford to use many other control measures. Stress-tolerant varieties combat multiple problems and hence can be very useful for farmers.

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 and are often considered by commercial producers as the most environment-friendly and profitable responses to disease as well. 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, farmer can save this cost as the rust resistance in wheat is embedded in the seed.

How can new improved varieties reach farmers more quickly?

Two systems of germplasm dissemination and adoption are found in South Asia – formal (organized) and informal (unorganized). Modern crop varieties are the backbone of the formal seed industry, which is almost equally shared by public and private sectors. The private sector takes more interest in cross-pollinated and low-bulk crops, in which hybrids are common. NARS plays a major role in germplasm conservation, variety development and in generating appropriate technologies to utilize the yield potential of new varieties. New varieties are passed through a series of evaluation and release tests before farmers can access them.

Although new improved varieties developed by NARS should be multiplied and made available to farmers in the shortest possible time so they can realize the benefits, in practice, weak extension and seed distribution systems often slow the distribution of new varieties to farmers. As a result, more than 80 percent of all seed in South Asia is saved by farmers and it can be even higher for self-pollinating crops such as wheat. In some regions such as the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains of India, the availability of experienced seed growers, supported by either the public or private sector, is far lower than in the north-western plains.

The options for improving germplasm dissemination and adoption in India include: strengthening the public and private sectors through vigorous policy planning and implementation and promoting participatory research. Indian research centers already work on this model with partners (including CIMMYT) and it has so far proven quite successful. Anticipating the advantages of working in a participatory mode, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research made it mandatory for all research centers receiving support under the National Seeds Project to actively engage in participatory seed production since 2003. This path can be used effectively for quick dissemination of superior varieties in areas characterized by weaker linkages.

Another approach being used for rapid multiplication and distribution include pre-release seed multiplication whilst candidate resistant lines are being tested in national evaluation trials and farmers’ participatory selection approaches. This pre-release multiplication was successfully used in Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan for faster dissemination of Ug99-resistant varieties as part of a US Agency for International Development seed project from 2009-2012.

Can you tell us more about CSISA’s work on wheat breeding?

One of CSISA’s objectives is to develop high-yielding, heat and water-stress-tolerant and disease-resistant wheat varieties for current and future cereal and mixed crop-livestock systems. To this end, we have produced a series of new varieties and ensure their multiplication and dissemination. For instance, in the last year alone, 12 wheat varieties were released for different environments and management conditions of South Asia. In addition, 10 varieties were identified for release in different environments of South Asia. Seed growers and farmers’ groups continued seed dissemination of superior lines produced by CSISA over the last five years and as a result, according to breeder seed indent and production figures, CSISA-bred lines now cover 18 percent of the wheat production area in India, 24 percent in Nepal and 34 percent in Bangladesh.

Can you highlight additional impacts of CSISA’s wheat breeding work?

Considerable spillover effects have also been achieved on account of CSISA’s work on wheat breeding. One of the most tangible spillover output of our wheat breeding work occurred on August 13 this year, when the Government of Bhutan officially released two new improved wheat varieties (Bajosokhaka and Gumasokhaka) from CIMMYT. This is the first release of any wheat variety in Bhutan in two decades. On average, both varieties yielded 50 percent higher than the most popular variety (Sonalika) in three years of multi-location testing in Bhutan. Both varieties are believed to have water-stress-tolerance and good resistance to yellow rust.

Further, two wheat varieties from Punjab (PBW 621, PBW 644) that were released for the northwestern plains zone have been widely adopted Bihar. Also, CSISA-bred wheat varieties in Bangladesh have spread to new areas in southern Bangladesh, benefitting nearly 10,000 farm families.

Read the Q&A with Mugalodi Ramesha on Developing Better Rice

Improved Cattle Feed Provides New Business Opportunities for Farmers in Bihar

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, Uncategorized, December 22, 2014

Ram nandan_SStory (2)Ram Nandan Prasad, a dairy farmer in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, was convinced that his 19–20 crossbred dairy cattle could yield more milk than they were producing. So, he fed them concentrates available in the local market and ensured high levels of hygiene. Yet, the average yield per cow was just 15–20 liters per day.

There is a strong demand for milk in the region where Prasad lives, for direct human consumption and for mixing in tea/coffee, making ice cream, sweets, curd and butter. Milk provides vital nutrients for the community, besides serving as an important source of income for producers. Prasad sells his milk to the Ganga Dairy, a local private corporation, as do a number of his fellow villagers.

Last year, Prasad participated in a farmers’ training program organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) under CSISA for members of the Hitkari Krishak Club, a local farmers’ association where Prasad serves as the secretary. In this training on ‘Crop Residue Based Feeding Strategies to Improve Milk Production of Dairy Animals,’ he learned that the potential average milk each cow can produce with improved feed is 30 liters.

Using the scientific formula taught during the program, Prasad prepared balanced concentrate feed from locally available ingredients for his dairy cattle and also adopted the use of green fodder. The results, he says, were remarkable. “Within two months the quantity and quality of milk drastically improved even though I was now feeding the cows a lesser amount of concentrates than before.”

Encouraged by this outcome, he increased his herd to 25 crossbred dairy cattle with milk yields incresead by 10-15%, milk fat and solids-not-fat (SNF) increased by 10-12% and 3-5%, respectively, and decreased concentrate consumption by 8-10% per cow. The increase in milk fat and SNF represents an improvement in the quality of milk, which results in higher price per liter of milk sold. For many of his fellow farmers, however, preparing the concentrate was time consuming and buying individual ingredients was expensive as most farmers keep only one or two cows. So, Prasad went a step further. He produced more concentrate than he required and sold the surplus to other farmers in his village at no profit, only charging an additional Rs. 1 ($0.02) as service charge.

Seeing this change in the level of milk production, farmers from other villages have become his customers as well. Today, Prasad manually prepares 25–30 tons per month, using 8 tons for his own herd and selling the rest. He also increased his land under green fodder so that he can sell that surplus as well. He is also assembling a tractor-driven grinding, milling and mixing machine to produce more concentrate to meet the demand of his growing new business.

Big Business in Mechanizing Small Farms

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, December 22, 2014

IMG_1362Barsaprasad Hembram, a maize farmer from Mayurbhanj district, Odisha, purchased a variety of modern farm machines this year by participating in a government scheme that gives farmers a 50 percent subsidy on tractors and seven auxiliary implements such as the seed drill. Today, Hembram uses his new farm equipment to provide agricultural custom-hire services to other like-minded farmers, charging $14.35 (Rs. 910) per hour for the tiller and $15.78 (Rs. 1,000) per hour for the Mould Board plow.

Not only does this service give Hembram additional income, it helps other smaller farmers who can’t afford to buy machines to reap the benefits of modern farming technologies. Hembram says, “Word got around about the success of my maize crop and more and more people became interested in using technologies such as the seed drill. Availability of labor is a huge challenge for all the farmers here so naturally they’re interested. I already have requests from five farmers to help with their fields next year.”

Hembram is a CSISA-supported service provider — or ‘change agent intermediary.’ By offering custom-hire agricultural machinery at relatively affordable rates, these service providers are bringing the benefits of modern agricultural mechanization even to the smallest farmers – in addition to serving as an important source of information on better-bet agronomic management. CSISA supports a network of more than 1,700 mechanized service providers across India.

Expanding Mechanization

With an increasing agricultural labor shortage in India, shifting to mechanical power seems like a logical response. Not only does mechanization support the optimal utilization of resources (e.g., land, labor, water) and expensive farm inputs, it also helps farmers save valuable time in completing a variety of operations. The judicious use of time, labor and resources can help facilitate sustainable intensification (e.g., multi-cropping) and the timely of planting of crops, which can give crops more time to mature and increase productivity. The use of scale-appropriate machinery can also help reduce drudgery.

The shortage of labor in Mayurbhanj is a challenge that farmer Sajit Kumar Mohanty is familiar with as well. He shares, “Most of the local labor is employed by brick kilns, making it nearly impossible for me to find the 20–30 people it would take to manually uproot and transplant rice seedlings for my field. Thanks to the machine transplanter, I can now manage the same task with just four people.” Farmer and service provider Kishore Kinkar Padiari says that in Bhadrak, Odisha, “Not only is labor expensive and hard to find, there is also no assurance that they will come exactly when you need them to, which can be of critical importance with the changing climate and shifting planting windows.”. Thanks to Padiari’s custom hire services farmers in his village now manage to plant more than 1 acre per day (0.40 hectare) with just three people using the machine transplanter for rice instead of the 20 people they previously needed at a cost of $3.47 (Rs. 220) per person. “Using this technology farmers also save nearly 10–15 kg seed per acre.”

Benefits for Smallholders

India has a large number of smallholder farmers who have landholdings of less than 2 hectares. The role of change agent intermediaries like Hembram and Padiari becomes even more significant in eastern India, where the average landholding size is decreasing and the procurement of machines individual farmers is often not economically feasible.

From this year, Padiari has also started renting out his laser land leveler and has already received requests to service more than 30 hectares. Sharing insights on the business of service provision, he adds, “I’m only charging Rs. 400–600 ($6.30–9.50) initially to build demand and in some cases I’ve only asked for the cost of the diesel. A lot of the farmers don’t know about these technologies so they are apprehensive in the beginning. But when they see results they’ll come back and even be willing to pay more.”

For technologies such as zero tillage (ZT), service providers provide crop establishment services to more than 20 households each — a core example of CSISA’s strategy for achieving sustainable intensification at scale through change agent intermediaries. Across Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, over 50,000 hectares of ZT wheat were sown by CSISA-supported service providers in 2013–14, reflecting an area increase of 42% over the previous year.

But the business of service provision is not for everyone, warns Vijay Kumar Singh from Vaishali, Bihar. “Most people with tractors don’t want to buy ZT machines because they can only make money from it once per field. The plow in comparison will be needed at least five to six times. I only bought the ZT machine because I have enough land of my own to use it on and not because I was dependent on using it as a source of income,” he explains. And perhaps rice farmer Tushar Ranjan Biswal from Bhadrak would agree.

Biswal approached CSISA to learn about technologies that could help him cultivate his 8.09 hectares of hereditary land that were lying fallow. “I’m ambitious and wanted to earn some money. I was told about the option of becoming a service provider and earning an extra income by renting out my machines to other farmers in the area. But I realized that I could make much more money by simply leasing their farms instead and am hence now cultivating a total area of nearly 80 acres (32.37 hectares).” Biswal does, however, invite farmers from neighboring villages to showcase the benefits of using more modern agricultural practices. He admits, “If it wasn’t for this technology, I could never have cultivated such a large piece of land.”

Another challenge according to Parmanand Pandey from Samastipur, Bihar is that parts for machines aren’t always readily available, which means that if a machine needs to be repaired, it will become unavailable for that entire cropping season. But why, then, did he become a service provider with the zero tillage machine for wheat, bed planter for maize and machine transplanter for rice? “You cannot always think in terms of cost and profit. Mechanization is also about risk mitigation. With a single machine I can cover 35 acres (14.16 hectares) while with a plow I cannot. More and more people are realizing this every year and so every year my business is increasing.”

Partnering for Progress

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 15, 2014

 

601814_2866010629163_1615225722_nOne of the biggest challenges for women farmers in Odisha is to gain recognition as farmers and not just laborers. For most development agencies working in the state’s agriculture sector, the word farmer is synonymous with a man. Women farmers, especially those in the state’s tribal regions, remain unnoticed. Flying under the radar, women miss out on valuable opportunities to use and learn new technologies that can help reduce their drudgery. Besides, most agricultural machines are designed with the assumption that men will be the end users, so even when women access to these machines, they sometimes find the machines cumbersome or unusable. Numerous complementary schemes introduced to benefit farmers also often fail to recognize women’s needs and circumstances; the Kisan Credit Card, for example, is allotted based on land patta (legal record of rights), but women mostly do not have land in their name.

Fostering Community Support

Against this backdrop, PRADAN is working with women to make collectives or self-help groups (SHGs) that foster the unity and support of their peers to address different life and livelihood issues such as gender, sanitation and agriculture. Besides sharing relevant success stories and examples, the group also helps women prepare seasonal agricultural plans; understand the importance of different inputs like seed, fertilizer and irrigation; access loans from the SHG/bank; connect with different government departments and provide the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful.

PRADAN also helps women identify the major drudgery-prone agricultural activities and gain access to relevant drudgery-reducing technologies, as well as access improved technologies to store their produce and establish the necessary market linkages to sell it. The objective is to involve women from the start of planning to the sale of the crop.

To achieve this goal PRADAN partners with local women’s federations, such as Sampurna and Swayamsiddha, who serve as the main grassroots-level partners who facilitate the actual social mobilization and technology adoption process among community members. Eventually, PRADAN will remove itself from this equation after having equipped the women with the tools to have greater control over their own agricultural decisions, activities and investments.

A Common Goal

As an example, PRADAN has been working with 37 households and three women’s SHGs in the remote forested village of Kanthikana in Jashipur block for the last six years. The major livelihood activities in the village, which is dominated by the Santhal tribe, are the collection of non-timber forest products and agriculture. This year, while planning their agriculture and other livelihood-supporting activities in their respective SHGs, it emerged that women had expanded the area under agriculture and had introduced new crops into their cropping systems. The SHGs provided financial credit to the women but they needed proper technological support in order to manage larger-scale cropping.

With support from PRADAN and CSISA, the women’s groups planted maize using garden seeders on 10 acres, undertook line sowing of rice in 5 acres, introduced sahbhagi dhan (a rice variety) to all families in the SHGs and facilitated three families to use manual spreaders for seed and fertilizer application. These interventions also allowed women to take up off-season vegetables like tomatoes and other creepers on 6 acres of land. As a result, all 37 families learnt new technologies and women were able to lead on these efforts, receiving direct training and sharing their knowledge with family members.

This collaboration is an example of how PRADAN and CSISA, together with local federations, are supporting women in agriculture by introducing relevant innovative technologies and practices and educating women on modern practices like zero tillage, seed-cum-fertilizer drills, timely application of herbicides and appropriate-scale mechanization. Participating women attained higher yields, reduced their drudgery and established themselves as successful farmers.

The article is authored by Satish Patnaik, Team Coordinator (Mayurbhanj, Odisha) for PRADAN, a national level Civil Society Organization working in seven Indian states with around 3,00,000 women (where each woman represents one family) with a vision of a just and equitable society with change in human conditions. In Odisha, PRADAN through its 52 executives, is working in six districts – namely Kandhamal, Rayagada, Koraput, Kalahandi, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj – with 55,000 poor families.

Production to Processing: Season-Long Training Started in Tamil Nadu

Posted on India-news, December 14, 2014

Season-long trainingMechanized rice production, including mechanized drill seeding, has the potential to improve yields and reduce labor demand in Tamil Nadu. Because mechanized rice production involves a relatively knowledge-intensive set of practices, extension agents involved in providing support and information must receive proper training. Capacity building efforts for state extension agents are often insufficient and existing training programs sometimes suffer from being either too theoretical or narrowly focused on a small window of the cropping cycle.

To provide a comprehensive and hands-on training experience and to build capacity within the state extension system, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) and CSISA are piloting a season-long training course at the Needamangalam Krishi Vigyan Kendra (farm science center) in Thiruvarur District. The training will cover all aspects of growing drill-seeded rice (DSR). Course materials have been fine-tuned and adapted to the specific conditions of Tamil Nadu in a joint workshop by TNAU and CSISA staff.

The training program covers 13 major steps for successful rice production, from crop planning to milling to processing. The course is composed of 10 training days spread across the production cycle of rice and includes classroom sessions as well as practical exercises and applications in the field.

The beginning of the curriculum includes an overview of rice ecosystems, rice morphology and the cropping calendar, followed by a field-based introduction to laser land leveling. Subsequent modules focus on land preparation, farm power and tractor operation and maintenance and are followed by exercises on crop planning, financial management and matching equipment to farm size. Students will then prepare land for DSR. The next steps include practical exercises on seed quality measurement, seed drill calibration and sowing. This will be followed by lessons and exercises on weed and water management and population maintenance. The emergence of the crop will be monitored, emerging weeds identified and the post-emergency herbicide applied. The next training day will focus on nutrient management of rice with an introduction to the nutrient requirements and deficiency symptoms of rice, site-specific nutrient management, Leaf Color Chart and Nutrient Manager. Additional lessons cover insects, rodents and diseases in rice and their control, pesticide safety, knapsack sprayer use, etc. Harvest day will see students taking yield measurements, harvesting, threshing and drying rice. Practical exercises on assessing grain quality will be done with the IRRI Rice Quality Assessment Kit. The course will culminate on 29 January 2015 with an excursion to a modern rice mill after lessons on rice storage, milling and processing as well as a practical introduction to the ‘Superbag’ and ‘Cocoon’ as hermetic storage systems.

As a next step, CSISA also plans to introduce the season-long training concept in Odisha with a focus on mechanical transplanting of rice.

Breaking Ground – Women Farmers in the Hills of Nepal Benefit from Scale-Appropriate Mechanization

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, December 11, 2014

Laxmi Khadka is a progressive farmer based in Nepal’s Dadeldhura district. She lives with her husband, two sons and daughter. Their farm is a mixed crop – livestock enterprise where they cultivate upland rice, wheat, maize and vegetables. In the mid-hills of Nepal, seasonal and semi-permanent male outmigration occurs at one of the highest rates in the world, which creates labor bottlenecks that erode profitability and compromise the timing of key agricultural operations.

Learning How to operate Minitiller_GangaAt present, Laxmi spends most of her time tending to her agricultural fields and livestock and struggles to balance her farm work with the needs of her family. Across the mid-hills, the burden of farm management is falling increasingly on women household members like Laxmi who stay behind. Further, the number of bullocks has declined precipitously, which also delays key farm operations like ploughing. For both reasons, the niche for scale-appropriate mechanization is strong but beyond the reach and current experience of most farmers.

In Laxmi’s community, CSISA introduced the mini tiller as a low-cost option for rural traction and identified a group-based service provision model to recoup costs and share the technology across the village. Although initially apprehensive, community members quickly realized that the mini tiller saves time and money and Laxmi observed she was able to plant her maize with the onset of spring rains as she didn’t need to wait to hire labor or bullocks.

“From now on, we will not have to depend on the men for ploughing,” said Laxmi.

Farmers observed that it can be difficult to carry the mini tiller from one terrace to another, especially when terraces are at different heights and separated by bunds. These small problems have been solved through the collective action of the group with 2–3 farmers coordinating planting and machinery transportation from field-to-field. Farmers have also learned that operation of the mini tiller is relatively easy with most women trained in the technology by CSISA expressing and demonstrating confidence in its operation.

With timely planting assured with the mini tiller, Laxmi was also eager to evaluate additional productivity-enhancing technologies and planted maize hybrids for the first time in 2014. Her productivity levels tripled from 2013 and she produced a marketable surplus (30% of production) that was an important source of income for her family.

A Bottomless Basket or a Basket of Food?

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, December 11, 2014

The US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Dan Mozena, noted that Bangladesh has left behind the label of a bottomless basket – as former US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger once called it – and is showing improvement in many aspects, especially in the field of agriculture. He was impressed to see the change in harvesting methods among farmers of Fulbaria village in Mirpur upazila (sub-district) of Kushtia, Bangladesh.

CSISA MIInvited by the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in May to visit the Go Green Project of Hridoye Maati o Manush Program (soil and men in heart), Ambassador Mozena made use of the occasion to also visit the CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) project, which is partnered with DAE. At the CSISA-MI project site in Fulbaria village, Ambassador Mozena witnessed a demonstration of one of the newest agri-technologies in Bangladesh – the reaper machine. As part of the CSISA-MI promoted agri-machineries, the reaper allows rapid harvesting and subsequent replanting of the next crop within the recommended planting window. It also allows farmers to save money on labor, the prices of which tend to increase drastically during harvest season, while freeing up time for other activities. In addition to DAEas the public sector partner, CSISA-MI has also partnered with machine manufacturer ACI to import and sell the reaper in Bangladesh.

The ambassador was pleased to see that farmer Abdur Rahman hired the services of Md. Rabiul Islam, a local service provider (LSP) to use the reaper for harvesting his rice field. Rabiul informed Ambassador Mozena that the cost of the ACI reaper is BDT 1,85,000 (US$ 2,370), adding that the utilization of the machine has proven to be profitable. “Earlier, I had to engage four day-laborers at a price of BDT 1,200 (US$ 15.49) per bigha (0.06 hectares) of land, but now with the reaper I only spend BDT 600 (US$ 7.74) per bigha.”

Responding to the ambassador’s query on how much he was charging farmers for the services of his reaper, Rabiul said, “I charge BDT 600 (US$7.74) per bigha and my cost to run the machine is only BDT 100 (US$ 1.29).” The reaper now provides Rabiul a valuable additional source of income to supplement his earnings from the power tiller, pump and small amount of land.

The ambassador noted that the use of the reaper has reduced the harvesting cost for the farmers and also benefits the service providers. Congratulating CSISA-MI for its efforts in promoting modern agricultural technologies, hesaid, “The farmers are changing their practices and along with them the country is changing and advancing. This Bangladesh is not a bottomless basket; this is a basket overflowing with food.”

Launched in Bangladesh in 2013 under US President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative, 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.

Improved Hybrid Maize Cultivation Enhances Productivity and Food Security for Tribal Farmers in Odisha

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 9, 2014

Hybrid maize

Of the 437,000 hectares of cultivated land in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, nearly 50 percent is classified as upland area. The district’s plateau region, which holds the major share of this upland area remains fallow throughout the year. Some farmers grow short duration paddy during the rainy season every alternate year, but the output remains very low. The tribal farmers growing maize have also met with little success. Without the proper support and guidance on good agronomic practices, the yields are as low as 1.5 tons to 2 tons per hectare.

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has been working with tribal farmers to help them overcome these challenges by promoting adoption of low-cost, best-bet agronomic practices that increase productivity and reduce cost of cultivation besides also establishing market linkages with appropriate buyers to help increase their net profit.

Chaitanya majhi (1)

Chaitanya Majhi

Exponential gains
For the last 10 years, 41-year-old Chaitanya Majhi, a physically disadvantaged tribal farmer from Kasipal village, has grown maize on 1.5 acres of land using traditional agricultural practices. Last year, Majhi only managed to earn a net profit of Rs. 13,000 (US$ 210) having invested Rs. 8,000 (US$ 129). Majhi’s field had poor plant population since he used a country plow for sowing, did not account for appropriate spacing, practiced poor nutrient management and wasn’t aware of proper weed management techniques.

This year, however, he received training and assistance from CSISA to cultivate hybrid maize on the same patch of land using modern agronomic practices. He sowed in a line using a seed drill and at the right time, used herbicides and applied fertilizers at the right time and in the right amount. Instead of the standard 1 ton per acre that he was accustomed to, Majhi’s field this year produced 2.2 tons per acre. So, with an investment of Rs. 15,750 (US$ 254) he was able to earn a net profit of Rs. 56,800 (US$ 917) – by doubling his investment he has more than quadrupled his income. Majhi is definitely convinced but seeing his success other farmers in his village are also keen to adopt modern maize cultivation practices next season.

Recognizing potential
In a village not too far from Majhi’s, a women’s self-help group (SHG) is also convinced.

The 12 women that comprise the Jay Maa Ambica SHG from Nua-Deogaon village used to rely on work through an intermediary for the local Anganwadi center (government run pre-schools) to supplement their existing incomes. But when that intermediary left, the group lost this valuable source of additional income with which they could more effectively support their families.

Initially when CSISA suggested that they try collective maize farming on the 5 acres of land that their members owned they weren’t entirely convinced – not least because this land had not been cultivated in the last five years. But with a little motivation, and a lot of their own determination, they agreed. After land preparation using a tractor, they purchased 40 kg of hybrid maize seed from the state’s Department of Agriculture, which they sowed in a line using a seed drill provided by CSISA.

Today, it’s hard for them to imagine how they could ever have been apprehensive. Their investment of Rs. 34,000 (US$ 549) has been already recovered from the sale of 35 quintals of green cob. They’re looking now to earn an extra Rs. 60,000 (US$ 969) by selling 50 quintals of dry grain. And that’s not even their total produce. Beside the financial gains they have achieved, their families have also consumed nearly 5 quintals of the maize during the rainy season – an especially critical time in the region when food security is threatened. Further, these women farmers have also utilized the maize straw as feed for their cattle.

It’s not surprising that other women SHGs and their fellow villagers are now asking them a lot of questions on how they too could practice collective maize farming next season.

Seeder Fertilizer Drill Securing Market in Barisal, Bangladesh

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News & Announcements, August 21, 2014

Seeder Fertilizer Drill in Barisal, Bangladesh

The local service providers of Barisal are thrilled with the seeder fertilizer drill (SFD) marketed and sold by the agricultural retailer RFL, one of the private sector partners of CSISA-MI. Compared to a traditional power tiller, this two wheel tractor attachment can be used to seed and fertilize in lines while preparing land. With minor modification, it can also be used for conservation agriculture based crop management, which lowers production costs, conserves soil moisture and can help boost yields. Using SFD results in per hectare savings of around 30 percent in fuel, US$168 in cost and about 60 hours in labor.

Strip tillage is a conservation system that results in reduced tillage, improved soil moisture and cost savings for farmers, by tilling only small strips of land into which seed and fertilizer are placed. When practiced in the long term, these methods can improve soil quality.

Since CSISA-MI started in July 2013, 57 local service providers have adopted the SFD, which is also known as a power tiller operated seeder (PTOS) mostly in Rajbari, Faridpur and Patuakhali districts. These LSPs have cultivated 132 hectares of land for over 205 farmers so far, mostly for wheat, pulses, sunflowers, mung beans and maize.

“One pass with an SFD is enough, whereas at least three pass is required with traditional power tiller,” shared farmer and service provider Rezaul Karim Pannu from Patuakhali district. “We are hopeful to have 300 kilograms more mung bean per hectare this season.”

According to RFL’s dealers, who are marketing the SFD, the machine’s prospects in Bangladesh are good. Md. Muzahidul Islam, proprietor of New Islam Enterprise and a RFL dealer, said, “although this is a very new technology in the country, it will have a great effect in our agricultural sector due to its traits of time and cost savings, as well as increase in production.”

To read CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation Newsletter, click here

Mainstreaming Machine Transplanting and Direct Seeded Rice in Bihar

Posted on India-news, August 8, 2014

Bihar Department of Agriculture (DOA) has included machine transplanting under non puddled condition (MTNPR) and direct dry seeded rice (DSR) in the road map of Kharif Production Activities 2014. This is largely due to CSISA’s efforts to promote the rice establishment methods (MTNPR, DSR and community nursery) and get these technologies mainstreamed through the state agriculture department in Bihar.

Bihar agriculture department's road map of Kharif Production Activities 2014

Bihar agriculture department’s road map of Kharif Production Activities 2014

CSISA has been engaging and participating in a series of planning meetings with DOA for scaling-up of these technologies in the state. At a meeting organized by Bihar Agricultural Management and Extension Training Institute (BAMETI) and chaired by Vivek Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary, Agriculture, CSISA presented data on success of these technologies in different clusters for Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh and expressed the need to expand these technologies.

Labor scarcity during rice transplanting remains a serious challenge in Bihar and has started affecting the state’s existing labour-intensive System Rice Intensification (SRI) program. Better bet agronomic practices, like SRI, can be expanded more efficiently by machine transplanting rather than manual transplanting.

“This is an important step directed at improvement in cropping system productivity and mechanization of rice cultivation in Bihar. If the extension process capitalizes on this, it will lead to a long-term gain for sustainable intensification (SI) of the cropping system in Bihar”, said R.K. Malik, the leader of CSISA’s Objective 1 and the Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh hub manager.

Wants to Work for Greater Participation of Women Scientists in Wheat Research, says CSISA Fellowship Recipient

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, August 7, 2014

At the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) 2014 Technical Workshop in Obregón, Mexico, Dr. Chhavi Tiwari received the ‘Women in Triticum Award 2014.’ Tiwari was a recipient of the CIMMYT-CSISA Research Fellowship in 2010 and has been actively engaged in wheat research for the past nine years, targeting the crucial wheat concerns of the Eastern Gangetic Plains of India, particularly the heat stress and micronutrient deficiency in the region.

The Women in Triticum Award, established in 2010, provides professional development opportunities for women working in wheat during the early stages of their career.​ The award is named after Jeanie Borlaug Laube, daughter of Nobel Laureate Dr.​ Norman E.​ Borlaug.​

Dr. Chhavi Tiwari receives Women in Triticum award from Dr. Jeanie Borlaug Laube. Photo: Kat Coldren, BGRI

Dr. Chhavi Tiwari receives Women in Triticum award from Dr. Jeanie Borlaug Laube.
Photo: Kat Coldren, BGRI

Pleased with this opportunity, Tiwari feels it will help her to “contribute to enhanced wheat production and improve the socio-economic status of resource poor farmers.” Chhavi received her Ph.D. (Agriculture) in Genetics and Plant Breeding from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 2012. Currently she is working as a Research Associate in the HarvestPlus Wheat project at BHU, India.

Tiwari said that the CSISA Fellowship and guidance from CIMMYT scientist Dr. Arun Joshi during her PhD helped her to find pragmatic solutions for heat stress in wheat in South Asia. It also provided her with a platform to travel and meet with international scientists and helped to improve her research knowledge base.

Tiwari plans further work to enhance Zinc and Iron, crucial micronutrients  in wheat and hopes “her strategies for meaningful research in wheat will ensure both food and nutritional security as well help in social upliftment of women.”

Watch the video: BGRI Women in Triticum Award Ceremony 2014

Improving Women Farmer’s Access to Agricultural Information and Training in India

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, August 7, 2014

DSC_0107

On a hot summer day in the Muzaffarpur District of Bihar State, India, 345 women farmers gathered to talk about the challenges they face in agriculture with a visiting team from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. During the event, which was organized by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), one woman said, “Brothers, if you are farmers, so are we.” The group responded with loud claps and whistles. The women then discussed their day-to-day issues and shared their enthusiasm to learn about new agricultural technologies and management practices.

It is relatively uncommon to see women in rural India – where gender discrimination runs deep and women often are not empowered to speak or make decisions – talk openly and passionately about their lives. The farmers who attended the CSISA meeting are members of the new initiative, Kisan Sakhi, meaning “a woman farmer friend,” jointly started by CSISA and the Bihar Mahila Samakya, an Indian government program on women’s equality.

Women work extensively on farms across India – participating in sowing, weeding and harvesting – and are responsible for managing farm work and household chores. However, their contribution in agriculture remains largely unseen and unacknowledged. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, women account for 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries and produce 60 percent of the food, yet compared with men farmers most women don’t have land rights or equal access to education or training.

Kisan Sakhi aims to empower women farmers in Bihar by disseminating new climate-resilient and sustainable farming technologies and practices that will reduce women’s drudgery and bridge the gender gap in agriculture. FAO estimates that the productivity gains from ensuring equal access to fertilizer, technology and tools could raise the total agricultural output in developing countries and reduce the number of hungry people.

“In spite of doing all kinds of work in the field, I never got the respect as a farmer that men farmers would get,” said Sumintra Devi, who is now a member of Kisan Sakhi. She is being introduced to new technologies and management practices such as improved weed management, maize intercropping, intensification of cropping systems with summer green gram, machine transplanting of rice under non-puddled conditions and nursery management.

“We have discussions with the group members during which they identify the training needs and practices they would like to adopt,” said 20140606_122152CSISA gender specialist Sugandha Munshi. In one such discussion, the women mentioned the painful and tedious process of shelling maize by hand. CSISA organized training that demonstrated post-harvest technologies such as a hand-powered maize sheller and “super bags” for effective grain storage.

Six geographical areas – Aurai, Bandra, Bochaha, Gai Ghat, Kudhni and Musahri – in Muzaffarpur District have been identified for the pilot work. “Women farmers recognize that receiving information and skill is more important than short-term monetary support from a project,” said R.K. Malik, the leader of CSISA’s Objective 1 and the Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh hub manager.

CSISA has also started helping women farmers to become entrepreneurs. As part of Kisan Sakhi, four women self-help groups in the Bandra area are pooling resources to buy a rice-transplanting machine, which will help them to earn income by offering custom-hire services. “It is part of a major shift in perception of participating women groups. CSISA and its partnership with the government of Bihar now see an opportunity to involve women for adoption of new technologies and facilitate them to become service providers,” said Malik.

Mahfuza Finds New Respect from Her Family and Community

Posted on Bangladesh-news, News - Homepage, July 21, 2014

Mahfuza transformed her underutilized homestead pond and dike into a productive and profitable farm. Now her husband and village community see her with new respect.

“I was never seen as an income earner; rather, I was thought to be a person who loves to look after her family, cook food and take care of livestock, which amounted to my prime responsibilities,” says Mahfuza Rahman, a farmer from Akain village in Faridpur district, Bangladesh. “Now I feel proud of my success in aquaculture and vegetable production in my homestead and pond dike.”Photo-Mahfuza-Faridpur

Mahfuza’s story began when she met with WorldFish staff working in her village for the USAID funded CSISA in Bangladesh in 2012. The project was offering training on household based pond aquaculture and vegetable farming for homestead gardens and pond dikes. Knowing she had the resources within her reach, Mahfuza was interested  in the project training to help improve the productivity of the 15 decimal pond attached to her homestead.

Mahfuza’s husband is involved in other agricultural activities and is a painter in the town. He accepted her desire to improve the productivity of their homestead pond, but with some scepticism. “My husband initially did not really trust my ability, but now he is very delighted in my efforts and outcomes,” she explained. With his support, she registered with the CSISA-BD project and began attending training sessions with 24 women from her village.

During the training she learned new farming and pond management techniques including the importance of producing nutrient-rich foods, such as orange sweet potatoes and mola, a nutritious small fish. The women learned how to cultivate mola together with carp, and how to grow orange sweet potatoes with a wide range of other vegetables along the banks of their ponds.

After applying these new technologies for 10 months, with the help of her husband (who mainly supported her with finance, input access and marketing), Mahfuza produced 223 kilograms (kg) of carp and 26 kg of mola. The yield was enough to both feed her family of five and fetch BDT 15,700 (USD 204) in sales at the local market.

“I never generated more than 165kg of fish from this pond for the last five years, but she almost doubled the production within a year,” said Mahfuza’s husband, Ershadur Rahman. “In the past, we had to consume fish irregularly – no more than – once a week, and that too was mainly bought from the local market. However, this year, raising mola facilitated frequent consumption from our own pond,” he adds.

Mahfuza’s involvement in a non-traditional job outside of her role as a housewife helped to boost her confidence and her husband’s belief in her.

“Despite my impressive success, my husband wouldn’t allow me to join a workshop alone in the district and accompanied me,” explains Mahfuza. “However, when I explained my experience with full proficiency to an audience of about 150 at a farmers’ field day, he was very impressed. Since then, he never insists on accompanying me to any meetings or workshops,” she said.

Mahfuza’s success has been recognized throughout the community, and many people, especially women, often come to her and request her support.

Story by: Rupan Kumar Basak, Md. Ershadul Islam and Afrina Choudhury

Read more success stories of women farmers in Bangladesh

Watch Video: Fish for food, food for fish

 

CSISA Promotes Maize Triple Cropping in Nepal

Posted on Nepal-news, News - Homepage, June 11, 2014

Nepali woman farmer in her maize fieldIn the western Terai plain of Nepal, farmers typically grow no more than two crops per year and there is a spring fallow period in between winter crop harvesting and rice planting that remains fallow. This fallow period is particularly long in areas where potato is cultivated.

At places where irrigation water is available and timely harvest of the winter crop takes place, maize can be grown and marketed either as ‘green cob’ for the fresh market or, in some cases, grown to maturity to produce dry grain. Since no crops are displaced when a farmer transitions from double to triple cropping systems, the income generated by this third season is purely profit. Nevertheless, cropping in this period is uncommon and better-bet management recommendations for promising crops like maize are lacking.

Starting in 2013, CSISA-Nepal initiated a series of participatory research trials in farmer’s fields to determine optimum management practices for maize in order to encourage triple cropping and to generate income. On-farm trials demonstrate that spring maize can be immensely remunerative, with returns exceeding $1,000/ha.

However, profitability is highly dependent on irrigation investments and farmers can incur losses with excess application of irrigation water. Returns are also highly dependent on the selection of the right cultivar, with maximum profits declining to less than $50/ha with open-pollinated varieties.

In addition to sound agronomic advice, expansion of spring maize area in the Nepali Terai will be bolstered by closer linkages between maize processing mills and small famers as well as the introduction of labor saving technologies such as maize shellers to reduce drudgery. CSISA is working with the KISAN project to commercialize small-scale machinery and to improve linkages between farmers and markets.

 

Best Bets for the Wheat Season in Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, June 11, 2014

At the end of the Rabi 2013-14 wheat season, CSISA’s hubs in Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh demonstrated the impact of better agronomy Public Harvestingmanagement by organising public wheat harvesting events to showcase the yield advantages of early wheat sowing in combination with zero tillage and new wheat varieties.

Most of these events were organised from 4- 11April and were attended by farmers and officials from the Departments of Agriculture (DoA) in Bihar and Eastern UP. Wheat was harvested from large plot sizes ranging between 1 and 3 acres. These events help in engaging grassroots workers such as block agriculture officers, subject matter specialists and farm advisors (Krishi Salahakars), to show them the virtues of better bet agronomy. They also help to persuade the district agriculture officers and joint directors of agriculture to make the case to policymakers that early sowing and zero tillage of wheat should be accelerated.

Wheat yields harvested from five sites in Eastern UP (Harpur, Pokharbinda, East Champaran, Hasanpur Pipra and Devpokhar) were 6.0, 6.5, 6.5, 6.0 and 6.7tonnes/ha, respectively. The impressive yields from wheat harvested from six sites in Bihar (Begahi, Matlupur, Manda, Naola, Hanspur and Rajapur villages) were 6.4, 5.8, 6.2, 6.8, 5.7 and 6.0 tonnes/ha, respectively. Out of 11 public harvesting events, the grain yield with best management averaged around 6.0 tonnes/ha. All fields where these events were organised were sown between 31st October and 15th November, were planted using zero tillage technology and long duration varieties were planted, with focus on HD 2967, which is a newly released variety. Better bet agronomic management was followed.

After watching the crop harvest taking place in Rajapur village (Buxor, Bihar), farmers said “this crop is as good as in Punjab.” After completing the harvest in Naola village (Begusarai, Bihar), the combine harvester operator described it as “the best field he ever harvested in the area.”

Wheat crops sown early appear to hold advantages in the number of tillers and number of grains per ear head, and were physiologically mature at the start of terminal heat. The crop seemed to withstand the adverse effect of a sudden rise in temperature starting from 27th March this year. CSISA’s experience is that even if the grain yield stays statistically similar, the sowing done after 15 November is vulnerable to the vagaries of terminal heat.

CSISA is aiming to develop consensus among extension agencies around the need for early wheat sowing under zero tillage, which could be the engine of yield growth in Bihar and Eastern UP. With consistently higher yields under these management practices than under conventional (late sowing) practices, CSISA believes that the area under early sowing and zero tillage will keep rising and farmers and their wheat yields will benefit.

Designing Solutions to Improve Delivery of High-Yielding Varieties to Farmers in Eastern India

Posted on India-news, News & Announcements, June 2, 2014

Expanding the role of agricultural extension and advisory services will help promoting new varieties to farmers Photo: Ashok Rai/CSISA

Expanding the role of agricultural extension and advisory services would help promote new varieties to farmers Photo: Ashok Rai/CSISA

Seed Scenario

In recent decades, a large number of rice and wheat varieties have been released in India, which have the potential to significantly increase agricultural productivity and reduce rural poverty. However, most small-scale and poor farmers in eastern India do not have access to new generations of modern rice and wheat varieties that can tolerate flooding or are resistant to pests and diseases, and give higher yields.

Seed replacement rates in key crops like rice and wheat are extremely low in eastern India, which can be attributed to many factors. Farmers are not aware of the potential of new varieties; lack of proper seed storage infrastructure to maintain good quality; poor linkages among government, private sector and farmers to provide seeds in a timely manner and a lack of a policy environment that will support faster adoption of new varieties.

“Some of the concerns that need to be addressed in this sector include why farmers are still buying old (but popular) varieties from the market, how to ensure that more farmers can access seed markets and how to bridge the gap between demand and supply,” said Takashi Yamano, Senior Scientist and Agricultural Economist, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), highlighting the scope and purpose of the meeting entitled, ‘Seed Summit for Enhancing the Seed Supply Chain in Eastern India’, organized by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on 14-15 May in Patna, Bihar. The event touched on topics such as better-targeted subsidies on seeds, improved storage infrastructure, the policy environment and stronger extension systems to increase farmers’ accessibility and adoption of improved seed varieties.

More than 60 seed experts from the government, research and private sectors identified the challenges in the seed value chain and discussed actionable solutions that will improve the delivery of improved rice and wheat varieties to farmers in eastern India.

The event was divided into several plenary and group discussion sessions that focused on strengthening the financial capacity and marketing

Seed Summit: Aiming to enhance seed supply chain in Eastern India

Seed Summit: Aiming to enhance seed supply chain in Eastern India

skills of rural seed dealers and input retailers, expanding the role of agricultural extension and advisory services, leveraging civil society — farmers’ associations, community groups and non-governmental organizations — to help promote new varieties and encouraging greater engagement from India’s vibrant private sector in the region’s seed markets.

David Spielman, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said, “India is the fifth largest seed market in the world, growing at 12 percent annually.” He underscored the gaps in the policy environment of India’s seed market and how public and private sectors need to work together for farmers’ benefits.

“There is a need for better decision-making tools – better data, information and analysis at a strategic level to improve seed systems and markets in Asia. Greater investments in the research systems and improved market surveillance to identify and prosecute fraudulent seed production are also required,” Spielman added.

Vilas Tonapi, Principal Scientist (Seed Science and Technology), Indian Agricultural Research Institute, promoted alternative seed system models – individual farmer as a seed bank, village-based seed banks and self-help group-based small scale seed enterprises – to provide local platforms that farmers can easily access to buy improved seeds. Tonapi also emphasized the importance of public-private collaborations to make available appropriate varieties at the right place and time, in sufficient quantity and good quality.

Looking Forward

The last session at the summit discussed the priorities for a future action plan in the Indian seed sector, especially in the eastern states. Participants highlighted the role of local seed dealers and the need for workable business models to expand the use of varieties. Defining which varieties are old and which are not is equally important. Participants also explored strategies to prioritize breeding, enhance varietal turnover and market development for the procurement of open pollinated varieties and hybrids.

Four main priorities came up at the end of the deliberations that will be critical going forward. Extension systems should be restructured and revived. Effective seed subsidy programs should be designed that are based on evidence, are cost-effective and are better targeted to reach poor farmers. Mechanization of the seed sector should be promoted with the introduction of mobile seed treatment units and seed weighing machines. Demonstrations of new varieties and new farm technologies should be promoted through progressive and innovative farmers.

Sain Dass, Indian Maize Development Association President, said, “Proper infrastructure, local production and sale to ensure timely availability, better extension services and more demonstrations to increase farmers’ awareness will help enhance the seed supply chain in eastern India.”

Read media coverage of the Seed Summit

View photos from the Seed Summit

Watch video: Using Super Bag for Better Storage of Seeds

 


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