Posts Tagged ‘Wheat’

Building Wheat’s Resilience to Heat in South Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zero-Till Wheat Raises Farmers’ Incomes in Eastern India, Research Shows

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, October 1, 2015

Farmer with wheat harvestIn a study published last month in Food Security, CIMMYT researchers reported that wheat farmers’ total annual income increased by 6% on average with the introduction of zero tillage (ZT) in Bihar. While studies done in the past in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) have shown ZT impacts in field trials or controlled environments, this research is believed to be the first that studied actual impacts in farmers’ fields.

ZT allows direct planting of wheat without plowing, sowing seeds directly into residues of the previous crop on the soil surface, thus saving irrigation water, increasing soil organic matter and suppressing weeds.

“We found that the prevailing ZT practice, without full residue retention, used by farmers in Bihar has led to an average yield gain of 498 kilogram per hectare (19%) over conventional tillage wheat, which is in contrast to the results of a recent global meta-analysis” says Alwin Keil, Senior Agricultural Economist, CIMMYT and the lead author of this study.

The global meta-analysis published last year compared crop yields in ZT and conventionally tilled production systems across 48 crops in 63 countries. It reported that ZT is only profitable in rainfed systems and when it is combined with full residue retention and crop rotation. “However, in Bihar, marginal and resource-poor farmers cannot afford to leave the full residue in the field as they use the rice straw to feed their livestock,” says Keil.

According to Keil, the divergent findings of the meta-analysis may be caused by the fact that most of the reviewed studies were conducted in moderate climatic zones (U.S., Canada, Europe, China) and results were aggregated across various crops.

Bringing a Wheat Revolution to Eastern India

Compared to the prosperous northwestern states, the eastern IGP is characterized by pervasive poverty and high population density, and its resource-poor farmers are more prone to the risks of climate change. Bihar has the lowest wheat yields in the IGP with an average of 2.14 tons per hectare.

To feed a growing wheat-consuming population, Bihar currently imports wheat largely from Punjab, where yields have stagnated over the last five years due to an over-exploitation of resources, especially water.

While ZT is widespread on the mechanized farms of Punjab and Haryana, seat of the first Green Revolution in India, farmers in the eastern IGP are yet to benefit. “There is also evidence that the positive effect of ZT is larger in areas with low agricultural productivity (generally low yields, such as Bihar) than in areas with higher productivity (such as Punjab, for instance),” remarks Keil.

Increasing Access among Smallholders

The study concludes that ZT users reap substantial benefits, and that this technology could help close the growing yield gap between production and consumption of wheat in Bihar. A 19% yield increase would translate into a production increase of 950,000 MT, which exceeds the total wheat imports into Bihar (868,000 MT in 2011).

However, with low ownership of tractors and ZT drills, large-scale adoption of ZT in eastern India hinges on an expansion of the network of service providers, who can custom-hire these kinds of services to smallholder farmers.

With public and private sector partners, the CIMMYT-led Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has supported the development of ZT service providers among tractor owners by facilitating the purchase of ZT drills and providing technical trainings and know-how since 2009. Consequently, the number of ZT service providers in Bihar increased from 17 in 2011 to 1,624 in 2014, servicing a total of approximately 44,700 acres.

“Furthermore, we found that only 32% of non-users of ZT in our sample were aware of the technology. Hence, increasing the number of service providers to enhance farmers’ access to ZT has to go hand-in-hand with large-scale information campaigns to raise their awareness of the technology,” says Keil.

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

Public Harvesting Boosts Farmers’ Confidence in Modern Agricultural Practices in Bihar, India

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, July 15, 2015

Public harvestingBased on studies conducted by CSISA in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, early sowing of wheat – between 1 and 15 November – in combination with zero tillage and improved wheat varieties can help combat the negative impacts of terminal heat during the wheat maturing stage and increase yields. To demonstrate the benefits of early wheat sowing, CSISA in collaboration with the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh Departments of Agriculture organized public wheat harvesting events this year in Buxar and Sant Kabir Nagar districts, respectively.

“Such demonstrations help create confidence not only among farmers but also among scientists, many of whom still hesitate to change previous recommendations and adopt new practices,” says R.K. Malik, CIMMYT Senior Agronomist and CSISA Objective 1 leader. Traditionally, farmers in this region have been planting wheat after 15 November, or even in early December, which makes the crop vulnerable to rising temperatures. CSISA studies have shown that productivity progressively declines from >5.0 to less than 2.5 t/ha when planting is shifted from the first half of November to the last half of December.

In 2013, Bihar Department of Agriculture modified its official advisory to farmers to promote early wheat sowing and zero tillage technology based on evidence-based advocacy by CSISA. “It’s important to show the profitability and advantages of early sowing at the field-level in order to accelerate its adoption rate,” Malik added. CSISA’s field survey in 2013-14 indicated that more than 120,000 ha of wheat now benefit from timely planting in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh.

In Buxar, the public harvest was organized in Kanouli village, on a plot where wheat was sown on 4 November last year using zero tillage technology. The grain yield of wheat recorded from this plot was 6.25 t/ha, which participating farmers noted was the highest wheat yield they have ever seen. Similarly, the plot in Daryiabad village of Sant Kabir Nagar, sown on 13 November, also recorded a high yield of 6.12 t/ha, prompting farmers to share that average yields recorded under conventional tillage technologies have only been 4-4.5 t/ha.

Ram Awadh Chaudhary, a 50-year-old farmer and service provider from Pokharbinda village, Maharajganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh achieved yields of 6.5 t/ha last year and 6.0 t/ha this year after adopting early sowing and zero tillage. These yields are comparable to those of Punjab and Haryana and help reinforce farmers’ belief in new methods to improve productivity, according to Chaudhary.

With support from CSISA, Chaudhary has expanded his custom hire services into zero tillage, rotavating, laser land leveling, straw reaping and rice shelling. Across Bihar and EUP in 2013-14, an estimated 50,000 hectares of zero tillage wheat was sown by CSISA-supported service providers, reflecting an area increase of 42 percent over 2012-13.

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


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