Posts Tagged ‘India-news’

Sprinting Towards Better Machinery Design

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

India is the industrial powerhouse of South Asia, with a large agricultural machinery industry that, most notably, sells huge numbers of good quality, low-cost four-wheel tractors. Indian machinery manufacturers are well placed to expand and diversify their markets into other South Asian nations, not only for four-wheel tractors, but also for two-wheel tractors and their specialized implements, including planters and seeders.

To address the need for better two-wheel tractor attachments such as seeder-planters and reapers in Nepal, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided funding to the Cereal Systems Initiative in South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), to work with Indian manufacturers of two-wheel tractor attachments to better tailor their designs to the needs of small-scale farmers. Noting that two-wheel tractor owners have not adopted existing models of seeder-planters on a wide scale anywhere in the world, CSISA conducted a series of ‘Design Sprints’ in India that helped manufacturers of two-wheel tractor seed drills and planters tweak and modify their machinery designs to better suit the needs of small-scale farmers, including in Nepal’s hill and Terai ecologies.

A ‘Design Sprint’ at National Agro in Ludhiana, Punjab, going well into the evening due to lively debates and discussions.

During a series of three- to five-day Design Sprints, CSISA provided seed drill manufacturers with technical feedback on their current designs and facilitated discussions about the merits and demerits of various seed drills currently available in the market (worldwide there are over 40 design offerings from the private and public sector). Groups considered various incremental changes to their existing models, as well as entirely new designs that would be more relevant for, and commercially attractive to, small-scale two-wheel tractor owners, farmers and service providers.

After a series of visits by CSISA in 2016, the Design Sprints began in earnest in early 2017. The Sprints will accelerate the prototyping, testing and ‘getting to market’ of at least three new models of two-wheel tractor planters from Khedut Agro and Dharti Agro, both located in Rajkot, Gujarat, and National Agro in Ludhiana, Punjab. CSISA wanted to give the manufacturers’ designers wide creative berth to be as innovative as possible in solving existing agronomic and ergonomic limitations faced by their current offerings. Therefore, CSISA provided only a few stipulations – any new design should aim to:

  • Follow basic norms in seed drill design, including basic agronomic and conservation agriculture norms
  • Cost less than the current offerings
  • Be lighter weight than their existing designs
  • Fit easily on the two-wheel tractors that are prevalent in Nepal and Bangladesh (and many places in India)
  • Be driven safely and comfortably on the road so that service providers can move quickly between jobs (farmers’ fields).

New Dharti prototype for lightweight, road transportable, two-wheel tractor planter-seeder that emerged from the Design Sprint.

These conditions were derived from years of feedback received by CSISA about farmers’ experiences with various two-wheel tractor seed drills. Farmers conveyed that although many drills were agronomically sound in the field, they were ergonomically problematic for the operator, and too expensive for many small-scale two-wheel tractor service providers.

The three manufacturers have nearly completed their prototypes, and the next stage will involve CSISA facilitating several prototypes from each manufacturer to be tested and, if necessary, refined in Nepal by the Nepal Agricultural Research Center. Ultimately, USAID and CSISA aim to utilize the knowledge and knowhow of the Indian agricultural machinery industry to enable two-wheel tractor-based farmers to enjoy the same economic and agronomic benefits of increased input productivity from mechanized line sowing of seed and banding of fertilizer that four-wheel tractor-based farmers now enjoy in South Asia.

This article is authored by Scott E. Justice, Agricultural Mechanization Specialist, CIMMYT-Nepal.

Weeding Out Yield Losses in South Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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. 

Cross-Learning to Strengthen Agricultural Extension in South Asia

Posted on Bangladesh-news, India-news, Nepal-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, July 8, 2015

MEAS Group PhotoIn June, CSISA led a 10-member delegation of senior officials from National Agriculture Research and Extension Systems (NARES) from Bangladesh, India and Nepal to Washington, DC for a meeting with the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS), followed by a workshop entitled, ‘Strengthening Agricultural Research, Extension, and Input Markets in South Asia: Evidence from Regional and Global Practice,’ organized by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). MEAS, a USAID-funded initiative, helps to define and disseminate good practice strategies and approaches to establishing efficient, effective and financially sustainable rural extension and advisory service systems in selected countries.

The visit provided an opportunity to all the participants, working in close collaboration with National Agricultural Research Systems and International Agricultural Research Systems (IARS), to exchange ideas based on their diverse experiences of implementing extension services in different parts of the world. The theory of change model was highlighted during the deliberations for improving the performance of workforces in research-for-development in South Asia.

The workshop looked at addressing multiple questions that will help improve extension systems in South Asia. Are extension programs cost-effective in South Asia? Can new approaches empower smallholder farmers, particularly women? What performance indicators can researchers use to determine whether programs are successful? How can policies encourage farmers to adopt new technologies and practices without exhausting limited development funds?

Among a variety of other topics, participants discussed the effectiveness of subsidies to promote farmers’ adoption of agricultural inputs. Madhur Gautam, lead economist in Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank, noted that the purported benefits only accrue under certain circumstances. Subsidies often remain in place long after their positive impacts have diminished, diverting scarce resources from other potential investments that may yield greater long-term returns, such as agricultural R&D and rural infrastructure.

In South Asia, subsidies were largely successful at addressing market failures during the early days of the Green Revolution. Yet market conditions in the region have improved considerably, and policymakers need to adapt their policies and investments accordingly.

Based on the discussions during the visit, specific issues were identified for further action and brainstorming to streamline research in the delivery process of agricultural technologies in South Asia. These issues included:

  • IFPRI workshopThe organization and structure of extension systems, as well as the constraints to their functioning, and changes needed to create improved and market-focused extension services by Krishi Vigyan Kendras (agriculture science center) in India and other extension agencies in South Asia
  • The capacity of extension agencies to conduct trainings in a participatory manner with local contextual training material
  • Ways to improve implementation monitoring and impact evaluation
  • How local service providers could be strengthened through better linkages and communication in order to provide decentralized extension services
  • How to make systems more equitable by linking gender and nutrition across extension programs and organizations.

Further, participants and their respective organizations from each country (Bangladesh, India and Nepal) will work with CSISA partners to focus on local research agendas in extension and innovations.

A team of seven participants from India was led by Dr. Ashok Kumar Singh, Deputy Director General (Agriculture Extension), Indian Council of Agriculture Research. Bangladesh was represented by Dr. Mohammad Zakir Hasnat, Agriculture Information Service and Sheikh Md. Nazim Uddin from Department of Agriculture Extension. From Nepal, Dr. Rajendra Adhikari, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agricultural Development, participated.

In addition, the delegation toured the US Capitol building and met with Senator Mark Warner, head of the Indian Caucus in the US Senate.

Source: Excerpts from the summary of the workshop are posted on the IFPRI website. To read the full summary of the workshop, click here.

Improving food security: Women start collective maize farming in tribal Odisha

Posted on News & Announcements, December 19, 2013

Women farmers in the tribal villages of Odisha, eastern India, are increasing their yields through the use of hybrid seed varieties, new technologies and better agriculture practices with training and support from the CSISA project and the Odisha agricultural department. Johar Jaher Ayo SHGBadbil Rengalsahi is a remote, tribal village in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha with high poverty and low literacy rates. The village is home to 40 tribal families who mostly farm for a living. They usually grow local varieties of maize in home gardens for household consumption and sell the little surplus as green cobs in the local market. Yields are often low because farmers use unimproved varieties and traditional sowing methods and lack information about good agronomic practices, especially weed and nutrient management. Maize cake is a common breakfast and snack for children in the area, and low maize production often means they receive less food. However, this situation could soon improve thanks to women self-help groups (SHGs) like Johar Jaher Ayo. It started when a team from CSISA and state agricultural officers met with 11 women from the Johar SHG, who learned about new technologies and improved varieties. “Members were initially hesitant about growing maize with these new methods, but after learning about the benefits they decided to grow a collective test plot of maize on one hectare of fallow land,” said CSISA agricultural specialist Nabakishore Parida. The farmers bought hybrid maize seed and fertilizer using their collected savings “corpus fund” from the Large Sized Multipurpose Cooperative Society (LAMP) of the government of Odisha and plowed the field with tractors instead of the traditional wood plow. CSISA team members provided the seed-cumfertilizer multi-crop planter with an inclined plate seed metering system. The planter — commonly called a “seed drill”— helps achieve optimum plant populations and higher fertilizer efficiency by seeding in lines at a precise depth and spacing and placing fertilizer below the seeds. “The women farmers usually don’t get the right information at the right time,” Parida said. “CSISA trained them on better agronomy practices such as nutrient management and timely weed control.”Children enjoying Maize cake in badbil The women farmers are delighted with the results; their production has almost doubled this year compared to the previous year. “The work burden of these women has been reduced with the use of the seed drill,” said Kuni Murmu, president of Johar SHG.“Since women mostly do the sowing and fertilizer application with country plows, it used to take up a lot of our time.” In addition to harvesting a ton of green maize for use by their families and relatives, they have earned net profits of US $240 by selling surplus green maize and maize grain, and were even able to share green ears with neighbors. Concerned about more than financial profits, the women farmers were pleased that they could provide nutritious food for their children during the “lean” food season from August to October, when grain stores from the previous cropping season have been used up. Three women SHGs in Matiagarh village of Mayurbhanj have successfully adopted collective maize cultivation with support from CSISA. They took a fallow and bushy four-hectare plot on lease from the village landlord and used a seed-cumfertilizer multi-crop planter provided by CSISA to line sow. Site-specific nutrient management trials were also established to raise local awareness regarding the nutrient status of the soils and the benefits of balanced fertilization. “Line sowing with a seed drill has reduced our sowing cost and we could cover more area in short period,” said Babirani Sethi from Swarnalaxmi SHG. With good harvests this year, the Swarnlaxmi, Dhabaleswari and Mangala SHGs have earned respective profits of US $167 from 0.4 hectares (ha) of maize, US $242 for 0.8 ha and US $400 from 1 ha.