Public and private partners join forces to mitigate voracious pest.
Hundreds of agricultural professionals in Bangladesh were trained in the latest fall armyworm management strategies as part of a new project that will strengthen efforts against this threat to farmers’ income, food security, and health. The new project, Fighting Back Against Fall Armyworm, is supported by USAID and the University of Michigan.
As part of the project, last November over 450 representatives from government, nonprofits and the private sector participated in three-day training to learn how to identify, monitor and apply integrated pest management approaches.
Fall armyworm presents an important threat to farmers’ income, food security and livelihoods as it continues to spread across the country, in addition to health risks if toxic insecticides are indiscriminately used, said Tim Krupnik, senior scientist and agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). It is anticipated the course participants will pass on knowledge about the pest and appropriate control practices to around 30,000 farmers in their respective localities.
“Participants were selected for their ability to reliably extend the strategies that can be sustainably implemented by maize farmers across the country,” explained Krupnik. “The immersive training saw participants on their hands and knees learning how to scout, monitor and collect data on fall armyworm,” he said. “They were also trained in alternatives to toxic chemical pesticides, and how and when to make decisions on biological control with parasitoids, bio-pesticides, and low-toxicity chemical pesticide use.”
Following its ferocious spread across Africa from the Americas, fall armyworm first attacked farms in Bangladesh during the winter 2018-2019 season. Combined with highly apparent damage to leaves, its resilience to most chemical control methods has panicked farmers and led researchers to promote integrated pest management strategies.
In this context, the 22-month Fighting Back Against Fall Armyworm project will build the capacity of the public and private sector for effective fall armyworm mitigation.
The hungry caterpillar feeds on more than 80 plant species, but its preferred host is maize — a crop whose acreage is expanding faster than any other cereal in Bangladesh. The pest presents a peculiar challenge as it can disperse over 200 kilometers during its adult stage, laying thousands of eggs along its way.
Once settled on a plant, larvae burrow inside maize whorls or hide under leaves, where they are partially protected from pesticides. In a bid to limit fall armyworm damage, farmers’ indiscriminate application of highly toxic and inappropriate insecticides can encourage the pest to develop resistance, while also presenting important risks to beneficial insects, farmers, and the environment.
Reaching every corner of the country
As part of the project, CIMMYT researchers supported Bangladesh’s national Fall Armyworm Task Force to develop an online resource to map the spread of fall armyworm. Scientists are working with the Ministry of Agriculture to digitally collect real-time incidents of its spread to build evidence and gain further insight into the pest.
“Working with farmers and agricultural agencies to collect information on pest population and incidence will assist agricultural development planners, extension agents, and farmers to make informed management decisions,” said Krupnik, who is leading the project.
A key objective is to support national partners to develop educational strategies to facilitate sustainable pest control while also addressing institutional issues needed for efficient response.
“In particular, the Government of Bangladesh has been extremely responsive about the fall armyworm infestation and outbreak. It developed and distributed two fact sheets — the first of which was done before fall armyworm arrived — in addition to arranging workshops throughout the country. Initiatives have been taken for quick registration of microbial pesticides and seed treatments,” commented Syed Nurul Alam, Entomologist and Senior Consultant with CIMMYT.
“It is imperative that governmental extension agents are educated on sustainable ways to control the pest. In general, it is important to advise against the indiscriminate use of pesticides without first implementing alternative control measures, as this pest can build a resistance rendering many chemicals poorly effective,” Krupnik pointed out.
To this end, the project also consciously engages members of the private sector — including pesticide and seed companies as well as agricultural dealers — to ensure they are able to best advise farmers on the nature of the pest and suggest sustainable and long-term solutions. To date, the project has advised over 755 agricultural dealers operating in impacted areas of Bangladesh, with another 1,000 being trained in January 2020.
Project researchers are also working alongside the private sector to trial seed treatment and biologically-based methods of pest control. Biocontrol sees researchers identify, release, and manage natural predators and parasitoids to the fall armyworm, while targeted and biologically-based pesticides are significantly less of a health risk for farmers, while also being effective.
The 22-month project, funded by USAID, has 6 key objectives:
- Develop educational materials to aid in reaching audiences with information to improve understanding and management of fall armyworm.
- Assist the Department of Agricultural Extension in deploying awareness raising and training campaigns.
- Prepare the private sector for appropriate fall armyworm response.
- Standing task force supported.
- Generate data and evidence to guide integrated fall armyworm management.
The Fighting Back Against Fall Armyworm in Bangladesh project is aligned with Michigan State University’s Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) program, which supports the long-term training of agricultural researchers in USAID’s Feed the Future priority countries.
To achieve synergies and scale, the project will also be supported in part by in-kind staff time and activities, through linkages to the third phase of the USAID-supported Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT). CSISA and CIMMYT staff work very closely with Bangladesh’s Department of Agricultural Extension and the Bangladesh Maize and Wheat Research Institute (BWMRI) in addition to other partners under the Ministry of Agriculture.
Author: Matthew O’Leary
Also available in CIMMYT’s site: https://www.cimmyt.org/news/new-project-strengthens-capacity-to-fight-fall-armyworm-in-bangladesh/
Farmers around the world face consistent threat from crop pests, such as wheat blast disease that attacks maturing grains causing them to shrivel and reduce farmers’ yields. But new advances in technology and modeling are making it easier to identify, prevent and control these diseases.
Outbreaks of wheat blast in South Asia – a region where people consume over 100 million tons of wheat each year – have an enhanced impact on food stability and income security. In 2016, wheat blast struck South Asia unexpectedly, with crop losses in Bangladesh averaging 25 to 30 percent, threatening progress in the region’s food security efforts. Estimates are that blast could reduce wheat production by up to 85 million tons in Bangladesh, equivalent to $13 million in foregone farmers’ profits each year when outbreak occurs.
That’s why there’s optimism from farmers and scientists alike about a new digital early warning system that integrates mathematical models that, when combined with weather forecasts, can simulate disease growth and risks to forewarn against potential wheat blast outbreaks. With three years of data recorded, the system, which was originally piloted in Brazil where wheat blast has been a concern for several decades, is now being rolled out across Bangladesh to deliver real-time disease updates to extension workers and smallholder farmers via SMS and voice message.
“Through collaborative research we have established a model to identify areas at risk of wheat blast infection with five days advanced warning,” said Timothy J. Krupnik, senior scientist and systems agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT). “It can provide Bangladesh’s 1.2 million wheat farmers a head start against this disease.”
This data-driven early warning system analyzes environmental conditions for potential disease development in crucial wheat growing areas of Bangladesh and Brazil. Through this information, the system generates forecast maps and automatic advice for farmers of where and when infection is most likely to strike.
“The model was originally developed in Brazil, but we have worked closely with collaborators from Brazil and the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) and Department of Agricultural Extension to develop a warning system positioned for use by extension workers and farmers,” Krupnik said.
Currently, farmers are advised to apply fungicides on a calendar-based preventative basis. This is costly and can have negative environmental effects. Instead, the early warning system pushes advice to extension agents and farmers, indicating when disease control is really needed.
“Our hope is that it will help reduce unnecessary fungicide use while assuring that farmers can implement cost-effective and resilient practices to overcome wheat blast risks” Krupnik said.
The importance of collaboration
With limited information on wheat blast, Krupnik initiated a collaboration with agricultural researchers in Brazil – where the disease originated in 1985. Professor Jose Mauricio Fernandes, a crop pathologist from Embrapa, and Mr. Felipe de Vargas, a computer scientist, with Universidade de Passo Fundo, were familiar with wheat blast and had already developed an initial mathematical model of disease development. The team collaborated to transfer the model to South Asia and build it into a more comprehensive and location-explicit early warning system.
“We improved preliminary modelling framework to manage data requirements to predict the time and location of blast outbreaks in Bangladesh, Brazil, and beyond,” Fernandes said. “I am excited to see how it increases farmers’ resilience to disease risks in Bangladesh.”
The team plan to adapt the system to help manage other pests threatening farmers in Feed the Future countries, including initial efforts in Nepal where a complementary UK Aid investment through the Asia Regional Resilience to a Changing Climate (ARRCC) is supporting CIMMYT to scale-out the model and to include wheat rust disease early warnings.
Author: Matthew O’Leary, CIMMYT
These efforts were supported by the USAID funded Climate Services for Resilient Development Project (CSRD) in South Asia, the USAID/Feed the Future and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), and by the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.
Wheat blast is a fast-acting and devastating fungal disease that threatens food safety and security in the Americas and South Asia.
First officially identified in Brazil in 1984, the disease is widespread in South American wheat fields, affecting as much as 3 million hectares in the early 1990s.
In 2016, it crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and Bangladesh suffered a severe outbreak. Bangladesh released a blast-resistant wheat variety—developed with breeding lines from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)—in 2017, but the country and region remain extremely vulnerable.
The continued spread of blast in South Asia—where more than 100 million tons of wheat are consumed each year—could be devastating.
Researchers with the CIMMYT-led and USAID-supported Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and Climate Services for Resilient Development (CSRD) projects partner with national researchers and meteorological agencies on ways to work towards solutions to mitigate the threat of wheat blast and increase the resilience of smallholder farmers in the region. These include agronomic methods and early warning systems so farmers can prepare for and reduce the impact of wheat blast.
This series of infographics shows how wheat blast spreads, its potential effect on wheat production in South Asia and ways farmers can manage it.
CIMMYT and its partners work to mitigate wheat blast through projects supported by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), CGIAR Research Program on WHEAT, and the CGIAR Platform on Big Data.
See more on wheat blast here: https://www.cimmyt.org/wheat-blast/
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), in collaboration with the Bangladeshi NGO Agricultural Advisory Society (AAS), recently conducted video showings of yield-enhancing practices such as healthy rice seedling production and early wheat sowing throughout southern Bangladesh. Early wheat sowing and healthy rice seedlings are both key sustainable intensification practices in Bangladesh as early sowing helps wheat avoid terminal heat, which decreases yield, and the use of healthy seedlings ensures the rice crop has a strong start.
These shows were watched by a total of 110,825 farmers in 16 districts, including Jashore, Faridpur and Barishal, between October and December 2018.
Earlier CSISA had used video-based messaging as a tool to increase uptake of sustainable intensification practices, and it proved to be a reliable extension tool. A follow-up study of CSISA’s 2012 and 2015 screenings of agricultural production videos showed that of the 17,736 farmers who attended the video shows and training sessions, approximately 51% continued to use better-bet agronomic management techniques to grow healthy rice seedlings on 4,700 hectares in the winter (boro) season.Many of the farmers also carried forward the practices they learned from the video shows into the 2018 monsoon (aman) season, which resulted in 9,616 hectares being brought under healthy rice seedling practices.
CSISA’s survey results showed that adoption of healthy rice seedling growing techniques can be sustained if they are easily implemented, effective and productivity enhancing. At least 99% of the farmers who took part in the survey continued to use at least one practice, and others continued to implement a combination of new healthy rice seedling practices.
After the video screenings, audiences participated in question and answer sessions. During these interactions, farmers asked the organizers to clarify points that were unclear or to describe the benefits and costs of adopting new methods. Participants also shared other opinions or ideas that would increase the overall yield of rice and wheat.
The videos will be uploaded on CSISA’s website and those of its local partners, as well as on social media. This will help farmers who were unable to participate in the screenings easily access the videos through their mobile phones from anywhere in Bangladesh. Similar video showings are planned for the coming rabi season of 2019/20 to achieve an even wider reach.
Authors: Sultana Jahan, Mustafa Kamal, Harun-Ar-Rashid and M. Shahidul Haque Khan (CIMMYT)
CSISA is collaborating with the Wheat Research Centre (WRC) of the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) to develop a model for identifying wheat blast resistant varieties and approaches to mitigate the disease. In 2017, a blast resistant, zinc-enriched variety, BARI Gom 33, was released. This variety was validated in last year’s blast-affected farmers’ fields, and field days were organized to demonstrate its resistance to farmers, government organizations, NGOs and private sector companies. Most field day participants indicated that they liked BARI Gom 33, and farmers were advised to preserve its seed.
This important research came about through multi-party collaboration. Activities were supported by CSISA through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Research was facilitated by the USAID Mission in Bangladesh with the support of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research by leveraging the capacity of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) through a project titled “Identification of sources of resistance to wheat blast and their deployment in wheat varieties adapted to Bangladesh.”
The first-ever outbreak of wheat blast outside South America, where it was first reported, was recorded in Bangladesh in February 2016. This is a fearsome fungal disease caused by Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype Triticum (MoT), that now affects over 15,000 hectares in seven southwestern and southern districts of Bangladesh. The estimated average yield loss is 25–30%, but in severely infected fields, total losses have also been observed.
The Ministry of Agriculture of Bangladesh officially announced the presence of wheat blast on 27 March 2016, and formed a technical sub-committee including CIMMYT to create an action plan to mitigate the disease.
An international consultative meeting was held in 2016 in Kathmandu, Nepal, and in 2017 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to plan short-, medium- and long-term strategies to mitigate the disease. International training courses for wheat scientists from India, Nepal and Bangladesh were organized at the Wheat Research Centre (WRC), Dinajpur, and the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Jashore, in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Field surveillance was conducted through CSISA in partnership with USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Recommendations were presented to farmers in a factsheet through government, NGO and private sector partners in 2017 and 2018. Recommendations included early seeding to help crops avoid high temperatures and early rains at heading, collection of seeds from blast-free areas, seed treatment, cultivation of resistant varieties, preventive foliar spray at heading and 12–15 days after heading, weed-free cultivation and rotation with non-wheat crops.
Wheat blast-affected areas in 2017 and 2018 shrank to only 22 and 16 ha with low, sporadic infection due to farmers adopting the recommendations and climate conditions that were less favorable for blast spread. However, trace infection was found in three new areas in 2017 and two new areas in 2018, outside districts infected in previous years. This indicates the ongoing spread of the disease and its adaptability to new environments, underscoring the potential for its spread. Symptoms of wheat blast infection were also found on Digitaria, Eleusine indica, and Panicum repens, common weed species found throughout Bangladesh, but research is underway to confirm whether spores from these species can infect wheat and vice versa.
WRC and BARI, in collaboration with CIMMYT, will undertake a seed production program in farmers’ fields in the coming season and will distribute the seed to farmers.
Wheat blast surveillance work was conducted in 2017 and 2018, and laboratory confirmation is underway at WRC/BARI laboratories, with the support of CSISA. Blast mitigation trials have continued in 2018 at a hot spot in RARS, Jashore. Out of 25 advanced lines, 7 were found to be resistant (<10% disease index). Out of 408 germplasm lines, seven (including Borlaug 100) had zero disease index and 164 were resistant (<10% disease index). A seeding experiment showed that there was no disease in six new varieties, including susceptible BARI Gom 26, which were sown on 25 November and 5 December. However, on BARI Gom 26 planted on 4 January, seeding disease severity was >85%. The effectiveness of seed treatments and foliar spray fungicides was confirmed by the 2018 results.
Author: Dr. Dinabandhu Pandit, Sarah Sayeed Gazi and M. Shahidul Haque Khan
To promote awareness about raising healthy rice seedlings, CSISA developed a dynamic solution – it introduced seedbed technology, an innovative technique for raising seedlings. Rice farmers in Bangladesh have long employed traditional methods to grow transplanted rice. They often use inferior quality seed and high seed rates that negatively affect the quality of seedlings. These seeds are susceptible to disease and contribute to lower yields. To reduce the yield gap, CSISA began raising awareness about healthy seedlings by promoting the use of seedbed technology.
Seedbed technology has considerable advantages. It facilitates better seed management and ensures quality seedlings. Growing healthy rice seedlings can increase effective tillering, which enhances yield up to 10%. Stronger seedlings have better disease resistance, which benefits farmers.
CSISA typically raises awareness among farmers through five major activities – using mass media, distributing booklets on techniques for raising healthy rice seedlings, hands-on training of trainers on healthy rice seedling production methods, encouraging young entrepreneurs to start seedling businesses to grow and sell healthy rice seedlings to farmers, and scaling-out healthy seedling raising practices through networks of development partners.
CSISA developed a short 10-minute farmer-friendly video in Bangladesh on practices for raising healthy rice seedlings in the 2016–17 winter Boro and summer Aman seasons. It partnered with a national NGO, the Agricultural Advisory Society, to carry out 498 video showings during the 2016–17 winter season and at 265 events during the 2017 summer season for farmers in open-air public gathering places, community centers and markets across Jessore and Faridpur Hubs. A total of 37,117 viewers were registered in the winter season and 17,736 in the summer season. Taking into account unregistered audience members, the total number of farmer/viewers was estimated at approximately 110,000 across both seasons.
Informative booklets on the subject were developed and distributed by CSISA to 1,500 field-level master trainers of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) and 33,000 farmers through 3,000 input dealers in the Feed the Future zone. In total, 612 block-level DAE staff and 80 NGO field workers were trained on healthy rice seedling raising practices.
Through CSISA’s initiatives, 41 entrepreneurs who were already running seedling businesses and six new entrepreneurs were trained on advanced healthy rice seedling agronomy and business management skills. In winter 2016-17, 95 community-based seedbeds were established across Jessore, Faridpur and Barisal Hubs by 1,092 farmers working with DAE and NGO partners.
However, funding shortfalls forced the suspension of these activities starting in the 2017–18 winter Boro rice season. CSISA conducted a follow-up survey of farmers, which revealed that farmers who had previously watched the videos had continued to adopt healthy rice seedling practices this year, even without CSISA’s intervention.
Survey results indicated that of the 17,736 farmers who viewed the video shown by CSISA and partners prior to the 2017 summer season, 51% continued to use healthy rice seedling practices to grow their crops in the 2017–18 winter season. The average size of plots where healthy rice seedlings were transplanted was 0.52 ha, indicating sustained adoption on more than 4,704 hectares in the Feed the Future zone.
CSISA-driven initiatives using videos and booklets have been tremendously impactful, as evidenced by the number of farmers who retained the core messages and continued to apply healthy rice seedling practices long after they viewed the video.
Author: Dr. M. Murshedul Alam, Sarah Sayeed Gazi and M. Shahidul Haque Khan
The custom hiring of labor- and cost-saving agricultural machinery services is increasingly common in South Asia. With agricultural machinery, gender gaps exist not only in the use of these technologies, but in farmers’ ability to rent and hire them.
To explore gender dynamics in emerging markets for agricultural machinery service-provision in Bangladesh, the Gender, Climate Change, and Nutrition Integration Initiative (led by IFPRI), CSISA and CSISA-MI partnered to conduct qualitative research in Faridpur and Jhenaidah districts in October–December 2017. The team interviewed husband and wife machine service providers, men and women who hire machines for their farms, women farmers in non-mechanized farming households, and CSISA staff and community leaders.
Researchers focused on machinery services for multi-crop reaper-harvesters, which enable farmers to rapidly cut crops during harvest. Service providers running reaper businesses often hire skilled machine operators to harvest farmers’ fields. Women and men in the study identified multiple benefits of hiring reaper services, including the reduction of drudgery, the ability to pay for services after receiving them (unlike when they hire laborers, whom they have to pay up front), the time saved during crop harvesting, and the cost savings associated with using a machine rather than laborers who need to be housed and fed.
Unfortunately, women were found to face multiple barriers to running reaper-based service provider businesses, including: cultural norms preventing them learning about machines from men, lack of capital for investing in machines, fewer connections to help them advertise machine services, an unwillingness among men to operate machines for women, and a lack of family and community support for women who want to work outside the home.
Despite these gender-based constraints, many women still expressed interest in participating more or starting their own reaper service provision business. The following approaches can help close gender gaps in reaper-based business ownership: models that allow joint machine ownership and provide training to men and women equally; leveraging women’s networks to expand their potential client bases; well-targeted, smart subsidies that make machine procurement more accessible for women; encouraging savings and loan associations to provide credit to women; models of group-based machine ownership; mobile phone-based payment options for clients; and sensitizing men to women’s contributions to service provision businesses.
Clearly, women benefit from managing and sometimes owning machinery services, as well as from the direct and indirect consequences of hiring such services to harvest their crops. However, a number of technical, economic, and cultural barriers still constrain women’s full participation in these benefits. Initiatives that promote rural machinery services should more fully engage women as business owners and users of machinery to expand the benefits of these markets throughout South Asia and other farming geographies dominated by smallholders.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (CIMMYT) – In South Asia, the population is growing and land area for agricultural expansion is extremely limited. Increasing the productivity of already farmed land is the best way to attain food security.
In the northwestern Indo-Gangetic Plains, farmers use groundwater to irrigate their fields. This allows them to grow two or three crops on the same piece of land each year, generating a reliable source of food and income for farming families. But in the food-insecure lower Eastern Indo-Gangetic Plains in Bangladesh, farmers have lower investment capacities and are highly risk averse. Combined with environmental difficulties including ground water scarcity and soil and water salinity, cropping is often much less productive.
Could the use of available surface water for irrigation provide part of the solution to these problems? The government of Bangladesh has recently promoted the use of surface water irrigation for crop intensification. The concept is simple: by utilizing the country’s network of largely underutilized natural canals, farmers can theoretically establish at least two well-irrigated and higher-yielding crops per year. The potential for this approach to intensifying agriculture however has various limitations. High soil and water salinity, poor drainage and water logging threaten crop productivity. In addition, weakly developed markets, rural to urban out-migration, low tenancy issues and overall production risk limit farmers’ productivity. The systematic nature of these problems calls for new approaches to study how development investments can best be leveraged to overcome these complex challenges to increase cropping intensity.
Policy makers, development practitioners and agricultural scientists recently gathered to respond to these challenges at a workshop in Dhaka. They reviewed research results and discussed potential solutions to common limitations. Representatives from more than ten national research, extension, development and policy institutes participated. The CSISA-supported workshop however differed from conventional approaches to research for development in agriculture, in that it explicitly focused on interdisciplinary and systems analysis approaches to addressing these complex problems.
Systems analysis is the process of studying the individual parts and their integration into complex systems to identify ways in which more effective and efficient outcomes can be attained. This workshop focused on these approaches and highlighted new advances in mathematical modeling, geospatial systems analysis, and the use of systems approaches to farmer behavioral science.
Timothy J. Krupnik, Systems Agronomist at CIMMYT and CSISA Bangladesh country coordinator, gave an overview of a geospatial assessment of landscape-scale irrigated production potential in coastal Bangladesh to start the talks. For the first time in Bangladesh, research using cognitive mapping, a technique developed in cognitive and behavioral science that can be used to model farmers’ perceptions of their farming systems, and opportunities for development interventions to overcome constraints to intensified cropping, was described. This work was conducted by Jacqueline Halbrendt and presented by Lenora Ditzler, both with the Wageningen University.
“This research and policy dialogue workshop brought new ideas of farming systems and research, and has shown new and valuable tools to analyze complex problems and give insights into how to prioritize development options,” said Executive Director of the Krishi Gobeshona Foundation, Wais Kabir.
Workshop participants also discussed how to prioritize future development interventions, including how to apply a new online tool that can be used to target irrigation scheme planning, which arose from the work presented by Krupnik. Based on the results of these integrated agronomic and socioeconomic systems analyses, participants also learned how canal dredging, drainage, micro-finance, extension and market development must be integrated to achieve increases in cropping intensity in southern Bangladesh.
Mohammad Saidur Rahman, Assistant Professor, Seed Science and Technology department at Bangladesh Agriculture University, also said he appreciated the meeting’s focus on new methods. He indicated that systems analysis can be applied not only to questions on cropping intensification in Bangladesh, but to other crucial problems in agricultural development across South Asia.
The workshop was organized by the Enhancing the Effectiveness of Systems Analysis Tools to Support Learning and Innovation in Multi-stakeholder Platforms (ESAP) project, an initiative funded by the MAIZE CRP through the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and supported in Bangladesh through the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). ESAP is implemented by Wageningen University’s Farming Systems Ecology group and the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).
by Shahidul Haque Khan / December 4, 2017
DHAKA, Bangladesh (CSISA) – The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), in collaboration with the Agricultural Advisory Society (AAS), is scaling out a campaign in Bangladesh to increase farmers’ knowledge and skills on quality rice seedling production.
Reaching the vast number of individuals of rural Bangladesh’s huge farmer population presents a formidable challenge to the agricultural extension system’s capacity. The diversity and geographic spread of Bangladesh’s farmers also challenge extensions’ ability to link farmers with innovative and locally relevant agricultural research findings.
CSISA has launched a partnership with the AAS, an NGO, to help disseminate agricultural research and extension messages to large numbers of farming villages, highlighting locally relevant sustainable intensification technologies.
In 2012, CSISA and AAS teamed up to field test an initiative to use videos to spread agricultural information. CSISA and AAS organised 482 screenings of the Bangla language video ‘Save more, grow more, earn more,’ which introduces farmers to small-scale agricultural machinery that can be attached to two-wheeled tractors. These implements seed and fertilize crops in a way that saves fuel and labour, allowing farmers to profit while reducing irrigation requirements.
Groups of volunteers in over 300 communities distributed over 3,000 DVDs across Bangladesh and the video aired 12 times on the national station, Bangladesh Television, which resulted in a viewership of 28 million.
The initiative was so successful that it earned the prestigious international Access Agriculture Award for the use of training videos for farmer outreach in 2015.
Based on this experience, CSISA and AAS worked together this year to use video shows to increase farmers’ knowledge and skills on quality rice seedling production. The team screened ‘Healthy Rice Seedlings’ in 11 districts within Southern Bangladesh during May-July, reaching an audience of at least 23,970 people.
“Video-based material is very important for agricultural extension,” said Rezaul Karim Siddique, the director of this video production. “[Videos] create awareness among farmers about new technologies, disseminate scientific knowledge to marginalized people and areas, and can reduce knowledge gaps in agricultural production.”
Now, over 205,000 farmers have seen CSISA-related videos in the target area in Bangladesh.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and implemented jointly with the International Food Policy Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (CSISA) – The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) recently organized field demonstrations to show how using direct-seeded rice (DSR) instead of transplanting rice crops not only minimizes water use but also reduces production cost and increases profitability. This event created significant awareness of, and interest in, DSR technologies among policymakers and farmers.
Bangladesh has attained self-sufficiency in rice production, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). In 2015–16, rice occupied 74% of the country’s total cropped area, 15.44 million hectares, and total paddy (rough rice) production was 52 million tons.
Sustaining rice self-sufficiency will require the country to produce about 20 percent more, or 10 million more tons of paddy, by 2025 to feed the expected population of 169 million people. This increase must occur despite the steady decline in cultivated land area, reduction in availability of groundwater, declining profitability and increasingly erratic climate.
In Bangladesh, rice grows throughout the year in three seasons popularly known as Aus (March–July), Aman (June–November) and Boro (November–May), with the majority of production occurring in the Boro season. Rice in Aus and Aman is mainly rainfed but fully irrigated during Boro. More than 80% of irrigated areas rely on groundwater, which is decreasing over time due to unregulated use, leading to a lack of irrigation water at the end of the Boro season across a large part of the country and driving up irrigation costs, reducing the profitability of Boro rice.
Diversifying cropping and production systems with nutritious and low water crops would save groundwater, but could reduce the total volume of rice production. To minimize rice shortages, previously uncultivated areas during Aus and Aman seasons may need to be cultivated.
Considering the important contribution of Aus rice to Bangladesh’s rice production levels, CSISA began testing mechanized DSR during the 2016 Aus season on 17 hectares in the United States Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future Zone in southern Bangladesh.
Based on the successful results of the use of this technology, CSISA began an awareness campaign for farmers, stakeholders and policymakers. High-level officials of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) visited the DSR fields and exchanged ideas with farmers.
The promotion of mechanized Aus DSR directly supports the government priority to increase Aus cultivation and farm mechanization. Both public and private organizations have shown significant interest in Aus DSR and a willingness to work with CSISA.
CSISA has therefore targeted this region for DSR rice in Aus season where over 400 two-wheel tractor-based direct sowing machines are currently in use by service providers, and another 500 units are shipping to Bangladesh from CSISA partner RFL, an agricultural machinery importer and manufacturer.
CSISA will work with BRRI, DAE, non-government organizations and machinery dealers to further raise awareness of DSR technology, aggregate farmer demand for emerging service providers, and scale out the technology. CSISA will facilitate market linkages to ensure quality inputs, particularly seeds and herbicides and with millers and traders to help farmers sell their rice.
The wider dissemination and adoption of DSR in Aus will save water use, reduce labor requirements, lower production cost, and increase the profitability of rice farming.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and implemented jointly with the International Food Policy Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute.
This article was authored by M. Murshedul Alam, Sharif Ahmed and Humnath Bhandari
Photos credit: Md. Khairul Islam Rony
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.
Last year, the devastating disease wheat blast was observed in South Asia for the first time. Caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype Triticum (MoT) and first discovered in Paraná State, Brazil, in the mid-1980s, blast constitutes a major constraint to wheat production in South America. The sudden appearance of a highly virulent MoT strain in Bangladesh presents a serious threat to food and income security in South Asia, home to 300 million undernourished people and whose inhabitants consume over 100 million tons of wheat each year. Last year, blast caused considerable production losses in Bangladesh. Approximately 15,000 hectares in the south-western and southern districts of Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Jessore, Jheneidah, Barisal and Bhola experienced crop losses due to blast. Average yield loss was estimated at 25-30 percent, but in severely infected fields, the entire crop was lost.
Actively responding to this problem, the Ministry of Agriculture formed a task force through the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council to suggest recommendations to mitigate wheat blast. Recommendations included a combination of integrated pest management and the development and adoption of resistant cultivars and agronomic methods. A fact sheet with recommendations prepared by the task force was distributed among farmers to raise awareness on how to manage wheat blast. In combating the disease, it is paramount that scientists and extension personnel are adequately trained to assess and manage blast.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in partnership with national and international partners, organized a 12-day training on “Taking Action to Mitigate the Threat of Wheat Blast in South Asia: Disease Surveillance and Monitoring Skills” in February in Bangladesh. Experts from CIMMYT, the CGIAR research program on wheat, Cornell University and Kansas State University facilitated the training, in addition to scientists from Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and Bangladesh Agricultural University, for 40 wheat pathologists and agronomists from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.
The training focused on providing participants information about the science and practical constraints in designing and conducting a disease survey, obtaining and analyzing the results and formulating the interpretation. In-depth classroom and lab sessions were held at BARI’s Wheat Research Center in Dinajpur followed by week-long practical surveillance exercises in farmers’ fields throughout all major wheat growing areas of Bangladesh, and sessions on molecular analysis of wheat blast at BARI in Gazipur. “This training will increase the capacity of Bangladesh and neighboring country scientists, thereby strengthening research on wheat blast and monitoring disease through intensive surveillance,” said Md. Fazle Wahid Khondaker, Additional Secretary (Research), Ministry of Agriculture, at the inaugural session.
The training was funded by BARI, CIMMYT, CSISA, Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project led by Cornell University and Kansas State University and Australian Center for International Agricultural Research.
This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.
Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) Phase III in Bangladesh, led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and implemented jointly with International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has finalized a series of joint venture agreements with Eco Social Development Organization (ESDO) and Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS), key microfinance institutions in northern Bangladesh. The partnerships will help ensure timely access to finance for local service providers in Thakurgaon and Dinajpur districts, and provide a much-needed ‘shot in the arm’ for adoption of scale-appropriate mechanization among smallholder farmers in the area.
These recent agreements result from the groundwork already laid out by CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI), a complementary investment to the larger, regional project that is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future – the U.S. Government’s initiative to address global hunger and food security. CSISA-MI’s overarching goal is to reach a tipping point – 15 percent of the total potential beneficiary base of local service providers and farmers in the Feed the Future zone – at which point a spontaneous private sector-led uptake is expected to take place.
CSISA-MI has been forging critical linkages in southern Bangladesh through, among others, public-private partnerships and by piloting self-sustaining business models. This approach follows an innovative private sector engagement model to create value chains that can and will continue to deploy equipment on a continued basis, ensuring long-term replication of the project’s scaling efforts.
Through joint venture agreements, CSISA-MI’s implementing partner iDE has so far established linkages with a number of established and emerging machinery manufacturers and importers, such as Advanced Chemical Industries, Rangpur Foundry Limited Group, and Janata Engineering. These enterprises and their service provider clients have invested their own funds towards the purchase, import, distribution, and marketing of equipment and use of machinery services – contributing an estimated value addition to the project of US$ 1.6 million.
As the spread of agricultural machines grows in Bangladesh, the need for access to affordable rural finance grows as well. This is an especially pertinent challenge for service providers, whose potential for increased earnings depends largely on their ability to purchase relevant agricultural machines. Therefore, CSISA Phase III is replicating the successful joint venture agreement model to forge partnerships with microfinance institutions that will help ensure that farmers in the North interested in purchasing relevant machinery can do so. Under this modality CSISA, through the microfinance institutions, has helped create a total credit availability of approximately US$ 90,000 for service providers to purchase machines.
CSISA Phase III has recently completed an orientation session for TMSS staff to iron-out the details of the joint venture agreement, to apprise them of technical issues commonly faced by service providers, and to familiarize them with technologies supported by the project. A similar exercise is planned for ESDO in the near future.
This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh and Abir Ahmed Chowdhury, Officer-Communications, iDE.
Securing a high and stable income from farming despite rising cultivation costs is a common challenge for smallholder farmers. This is certainly true in Bangladesh’s Feed the Future (FtF) zone, where rapidly increasing labor wages and input costs are making rice cultivation less profitable and less attractive for farmers.
Bangladesh rice farmers currently grow more than 70 premium quality rice (PQR) varieties, which are characterized by long, slender and fine grains; may or may not have an aroma; and command a higher price than other, popular rice varieties. PQR varieties have a 20–60 percent price advantage and 50 percent higher profit over other rice varieties, indicating that there could be significant interest in expanded production. The total demand for PQR is growing at 5 percent per year because of rising per capita income, leading to increased consumption of PQR, urbanization, growth of modern food supply chains (supermarkets), and growing investment of private companies in the rice value chains.
A diagnostic study conducted by CSISA found that the popular PQR variety, BRRI dhan34, had an average yield of 3.6 tons per hectare and farmers earned a net profit of US$ 570 per hectare – approximately 55 percent more than what they would earn from the popular non-PQR variety, Swarna. Higher profitability and growth in demand demonstrates considerable potential for expansion in the FtF zone, where PQR currently accounts for a mere 10 percent of the total rice area.
Increased PQR cultivation is also likely to create additional employment for the more than 4,000 rice mills operating in the FtF zone. The study identified that due to a shortage in supply of PQR, these mills remain underutilized for the better part of the year. Initial discussions with millers and traders has revealed a strong willingness to be linked directly with farmers growing these varieties.
The study identified low yield, a risk of blast damage, unavailability of seeds and poor knowledge of production practices as the major constraints to PQR expansion. To overcome these challenges, CSISA is developing training and extension materials for the Department of Agriculture Extension, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, NGOs, development partners and agro-input dealers. In addition, CSISA is also facilitating PQR seed supply for nursery entrepreneurs and farmer groups.
In Jessore and Jhenaidah districts, for example, CSISA distributed 375 kg seed of BRRI dhan34, which is not commonly cultivated in the region, to 150 farmers during the current aman season. CSISA has also distributed 850 guides on better-bet PQR agronomy and conducted 36 adaptive trials across three hubs to evaluate the yield performance of eight PQR varieties to identify the varieties that fit best in specific locations, and those with the highest yields.
During the 2016-17 boro season, CSISA is targeting a distribution of 6 tons of PQR seeds at 50 percent cost and distribution of 65,000 copies of knowledge materials (through its partners) to catalyze cultivation in new locations. This will not only increase awareness and knowledge among farmers, but also improve the availability of PQR seeds for farmer-to-farmer dissemination.
Low-cost interventions to promote healthy rice seedlings scaled-out in Bangladesh
Rice nurseries are an important, but often underappreciated, component of a successful agronomic production cycle. How a rice crop is managed in its early stages influences performance and yield later. For example, it is very important to transplant healthy seedlings at an appropriate time to get optimum yield. However, in the absence of proper nursery management and supervision, many farmers obtain suboptimal yields.
As a common practice in South Asia, rice seedlings are grown in nurseries on flat seedbeds, and are then transplanted manually into puddled soil. In Bangladesh, transplanted rice covers around 85 percent of the total rice area. In the aman (wet) season, farmers start preparing rice nurseries after the onset of the monsoon in mid-June and usually transplant more than 30-day old seedlings from mid-July to August. While in the boro (dry) season, farmers start preparing rice nurseries in late-November and usually transplant more than 40-day old seedlings from early-January to early-February.
Many Bangladeshi farmers are knowledge-, labor- or resource-constrained and do not follow optimal nursery management practices. Farmers practice less productive methods, such as not making drainage channels in seedbeds, not removing half-filled or empty seeds, not treating seeds with chemicals to reduce the risk of insect and disease infestation at the later stages of crop growth, using unnecessarily large volumes of seeds, not applying farmyard manure and or optimal doses of fertilizers while preparing land for seedbeds, and transplanting old or thin seedlings.
The use of old and unhealthy seedlings has a huge economic cost. Studies have shown that the use of old and unhealthy seedlings can cause more than 10 percent yield loss in rice. This means that scaling the adoption of young and healthy seedlings in at least half of Bangladesh’s 11.7 million hectares rice area could produce an additional 2.5 million tons of paddy per year, which would contribute an additional US$ 680 million to the national economy, and potentially improving the food security of millions of poor Bangladeshis. This would make a huge positive socioeconomic impact for the country and it is achievable by rolling-out some simple interventions.
A variety of improved rice nursery management options are available for Bangladeshi farmers, including seed treatment before sowing (to reduce the potential for diseases), adopting optimal sowing dates for different cultivars in different environments, planting in the correct seed densities, using balanced organic and inorganic fertilizers, and following optimal transplanting age and density. The latter is particularly important for avoiding transplanting shock, which in addition to causing yield losses can also result in delayed crop maturity and harvests, and can further delay the sowing of the subsequent boro crop, in the case of monsoon aman rice. However, majority of farmers are not using these improved options because of knwoledge gap or lack of resources.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) is playing a catalytic role to scale out healthy rice seedlings in the Feed the Future Zone in Bangladesh. Working collaboratively with the Department Agricultural Extension, NGOs, development projects, input dealers, farmer groups and lead farmers, CSISA has focused on a two-pronged approach to scale-out the use of healthy rice seedlings. First, targeting individual rice farmers to produce and use healthy rice seedlings through better nursery management practices. Second, targeting rice nursery entrepreneurs for large-scale production and supply of healthy seedlings in the market alongside income generation through rural enterprise creation.
A diagnostic survey has indicated significant potential to promote improved rice nurseries management practices for production and use of healthy rice seedlings in FtF zone, especially when these messages are deployed at a large scale by development partners and livelihood initiatives, and by linking entrepreneurs to markets. However, the interventions cannot be scaled-out in the tidal flood prone areas of Barisal Hub and the submergence prone areas of Faridpur Hub.
Through mass-media campaigns such as showing a video and distributing leaflets to farmers, training lead farmers and farmer groups on ideal rice nursery technologies, training rice nursery entrepreneurs and input dealers on production and marketing of healthy seedlings, and conducting training of trainers workshops for extension agents of government and NGO, CSISA has supported large-scale awareness and adoption of healthy rice seedlings among farmers across Faridpur, Jessore, and Barisal Hubs in this year. In 2016 aman season alone, CSISA, working together with partners, showed a video to more than 23,200 farmers, distributed leaflets to 650 farmers, initiated eight new community-based nurseries, trained 20 rice nursery entrepreneurs, and conducted training of traniers workshop to 80 extension agents. These activities will continue and expand in coming seasons.
This article is authored by Humnath Bhandari, Agricultural Economist, International Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh.
South Asia’s increasing population, movement out of poverty, and changing dietary preferences indicate that food demand is likely to continue increasing. Since the 1960s, however, the average increase in staple crop yields has been negligible, while farm area per capita has shrunk by 63 percent to approximately 0.1 hectare per person. As most arable farmland is already cultivated, how can farmers increase the production of staple foods, including rice, wheat and maize?
Sustainable intensification (SI), a guiding principle behind the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia’s (CSISA) interventions, helps increase productivity by maximizing resource use efficiency while minimizing environmental tradeoffs. SI often involves increasing the number of crops grown per year on the same land, thereby raising the yield per unit of area-time, while minimizing land expansion. However, to get more productivity out of the same land, farmers need access to irrigation. In southern Bangladesh, where CSISA works, farmers have traditionally relied on rainfed cultivation, so overcoming moisture constraints during the dry season has become an imminent challenge.
The Government of Bangladesh recently adopted a policy calling for investment of over US$ 7 billion to support agricultural development in southern Bangladesh. Of these funds, US$ 500 million is to be allocated for surface water irrigation to transition farmers from monsoon rice-fallow or rainfed systems into intensified double cropping systems. However, precise geospatial assessments of where freshwater flows are most prominent and where viable fallow and rainfed cropland is most common have been unavailable. CSISA has helped to fill the gap by analyzing remotely sensed data and yields measured from over 1,600 farmers for 33,750 square kilometers of the Feed the Future (FtF) zone in southwestern Bangladesh.
The result is an initial scientific estimation of the extent of fallow and rainfed cropland that can be brought under cereal production during the dry season using surface water irrigation. Findings indicate substantial scope for surface water irrigation to intensify cropping, even in the face of soil and water salinity constraints. A total of 20,800 and 103,000 hectares of fallow and rainfed cropped land, respectively, that can be placed under reliable surface water irrigation. Although the potential for winter rice production appears to be more limited than anticipated, projections of dry season cultivation of wheat or maize result show significant potential for production increases, with important implications for national food security. These crops also address income generation constraints while minimizing water pumping and withdrawals, helping to minimize environmental risks.
Building on this work, CSISA has undertaken a convening role with NARES, government and private sector partners to discuss policy and market interventions that can lay the foundations for an environment to enable both surface water irrigation and rainfed legume crop intensification in the FtF zone.
Balancing Risks and Benefits Winter rice cultivation helped Bangladesh increase its total rice production from 18.3 million tons in 1991 to 33.8 million tons in 2013, but at the cost of exploitation of groundwater in particular environments in northern Bangladesh resulting from unrestrained shallow tube well installation. CSISA’s interventions on cropping intensification in southern Bangladesh look beyond surface water irrigation to ensure long-term environmental sustainability. While research results support the targeted use of surface water irrigation alongside improved water governance measures, CSISA continues to explore more viable crop diversification options.
Recommended Reading: What Contribution Can Surface Water Irrigation Make to Crop Intensification in Bangladesh’s Feed the Future Zone?
This article is authored by Timothy J. Krupnik, CIMMYT Systems Agronomist and Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) operates in areas with high concentrations of rural poverty, in the Eastern Indo Gangetic Plans of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, where smallholder farmers are most vulnerable to the risks of increasingly erratic weather patterns. It is pertinent to note that the productivity of rice-based systems in these locations continue to be marred by a vast array of issues including, but not limited to, various biotic and abiotic stresses, irregular rains, outdated agronomic techniques, limited infrastructure, poor weed management practices, a lack of quality inputs and their timely availability.
Sub-par market infrastructure development and extension services coupled with a landscape dominated by resource-poor, smallholder farmers have so far prevented large scale adoption of mechanization and access to new knowledge, technologies and quality seed. Since there is virtually no scope for expanding the area under agriculture, as yield gaps close, future advances in production must come from systems intensification – growing more crops per year. A recent CSISA study, for example, indicates substantial scope for surface water irrigation to intensify cropping on fallow and rainfed cropped land in Southern Bangladesh.
Improved and easy to implement weed management is also a crucial strategy to facilitate sustainable intensification transitions in rice especially for technologies such as dry direct seeded rice (DSR), with average yield gaps due to farmers’ current practices in Bangladesh estimated at 1 ton per hectare. Studies in the northwest region of the country show that private dealers dominate the input channels in villages with a share of 96 percent of the fertilizer and pesticide markets. CSISA will utilize such input dealer networks to disseminate simple and actionable guides as well as provide experiential training to the dealers and retailers.
In India, where farmers’ use of recommendations from agro-advisory systems remains limited, CSISA is leveraging crop modeling and remote sensing informatics to improve the quality of irrigation scheduling recommendations for rice. Using geoinformatics, CSISA has also been able to more accurately gauge local farmers’ needs and respond accordingly. For example, in Odisha, it enabled the identification of districts most prone to flooding and hence ill-suited for DSR. Farmers in those areas are encouraged to use mechanical transplanting, which can substantially increase profitability in the double-rice systems prevalent in Odisha and which is beneficial for subsequent crops.
CSISA Impacts over the Years - Sales of hybrid rice in Bihar increased by 500 tons in 2015 over 2014, with an estimated area expansion of 33,000 hectares. - The number of CSISA-supported farmers practicing mechanical transplanting of rice in Odisha increased from 40 in 2013 to 2,000 in 2015. - In Bangladesh, more than 900 mechanical rice seeders have been sold by private sector partners since October, 2015 - In Bangladesh, between 2010 and 2015, more than a million farmers benefitted from rice varieties with abiotic stress tolerance (salinity, flooding and drought) or high yield potential distributed CSISA. - Out of 60 rice entries tested by CSISA in India during the 2014 dry season under machine sown dry direct-seeded rice, 15 entries recorded more than 7.5 tons per hectare.
Across the three countries, CSISA’s interventions are grouped into three thematic areas: innovation towards impact – reducing risk for intensification and adding value to extension systems; systemic change towards impact – building partnerships and scaling pathways, and; achieving critical impact at scale – mainstreaming innovations by creating a critical mass of early adopters. Under each of these themes, CSISA conducts business diagnostics, trainings and mentoring to service providers, develops and disseminates communications material on better-bet agronomy, and conducts on-farm verification trials of production practices to reduce risk and ensure reliable rice production. Additionally, the project will employ a ‘training of trainers’ model to build capacity of NARES partners, NGOs and women’s self-help groups and their federations to ensure interventions are replicated beyond the project lifecycle. Altogether, these interventions will not only help increase yields and profitability of rice farming in South Asia, but also create business opportunities for women and youth in agriculture.
CSISA’s policy interventions prioritize scaling up work with national partners to address policy constraints in target geographies. Planned activities on seed systems and markets will focus on communicating policy reform options for state-led seed market interventions and the tradeoffs between promoting short-term varietal replacement and long-term seed market development. While activities on scale-appropriate mechanization will emphasize the design of policy incentives and investment strategies, such as targeted subsidies, which encourage the development of necessary localized commercial markets. Lastly, CSISA will support policy reforms to promote balanced fertilizer use through improved understanding of the costs, benefits, fiscal burdens, sustainability and effectiveness of various public programs.
Over the past years 7 years, CSISA has forged strong partnerships including with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Nepal Agricultural Research Council and state agriculture universities. These partnerships continue to advance research-based recommendations for basic rice agronomy and application of precision approaches to weed, water and nutrient management, including decision frameworks for intensification.
Priority Interventions for Kharif 2016 1. Integrated weed management to facilitate sustainable intensification transitions in rice 2. Building precision nutrient management approaches around established and emerging scaling pathways 3. Deployment of better-bet agronomic messaging through input dealer networks and development partners 4. Promoting direct dry-seeded rice sowing to address labor and energy constraints to precision rice establishment 5. Production and use of healthy rice seedlings through training of individual farmers, farmer groups, service providers and nursery enterprises; engagement with partners to take this to scale 6. Rice fallows development in coastal Bangladesh and the state of Odisha in India 7. Providing timely and actionable advice on yield-enhancing irrigation scheduling for rice 8. Increasing the capacity of NARES to conduct participatory science and technology evaluations in Bangladesh and India.
This article is authored by Sudhanshu Singh, IRRI Senior Scientist and Rainfed Lowland Agronomist, South Asia.
Wheat Blast or Magnaporthe oryzae, pathotype Triticum (synonym Pyricularia oryzae) is a potentially devastating fungal disease that reduces yields by shriveling grain or by leaving spikes completely empty. Better known as a pathogen of rice, where it attacks the leaves, the fungus strikes also the heads of wheat, which are difficult for fungicides to reach. First sighted in Brazil in 1985, the disease is widespread in South American wheat fields, affecting as many as 3 million hectares in the early 1990s and seriously limiting the potential for wheat cropping on the region’s vast savannas.
Blast was reported in Bangladesh during the winter cropping season of 2015-16, shortly after crop flowering. This marks the first time it has been observed in South Asia. The disease appears to have spread because of high base temperatures with sudden rain events and associated wind patterns that favored spore distribution. Over the past season, it has reportedly affected more than 15,000 hectares – roughly 16 percent of the country’s wheat area – resulting in a yield reduction of approximately 30 percent in the country’s Feed the Future (FtF) zone.
Thirty years of research in Latin America has resulted in some wheat cultivars that are tolerant to blast, but little tolerance has been observed in currently-grown South Asian wheat varieties. With the emergence of wheat blast in Bangladesh, and adjacent areas in India and Nepal similarly experiencing relatively warm and wet winters, wheat researchers must identify sources of resistance and develop resistant varieties, elucidate the epidemiology of the disease and find optimal control practices.
The CIMMYT-led Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) has been quick to respond to the threat in Bangladesh, assisting government partners to first identify blast in farmers’ fields and conducting risk assessment exercises with NARES partners to more accurately gauge the nature and extent of the threat.
Working with the Wheat Research Center (WRC) of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, diseased wheat plants were collected at the early onset of the disease. Samples sent to the Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit laboratory in the US for characterization confirmed Magnaporthe oryzae by molecular analysis.
Outbreaks of diseases are a function of having a susceptible host (in this case wheat), the pathogen and a conducive climatic environment. “Wheat blast is not a new disease. This means we can use past experience and knowledge from Latin America to prevent further damage in Bangladesh and the region,” says Arun K. Joshi, CIMMYT India Country Representative. In collaboration with the Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology, CSISA is using applied research to investigate the potential threat for the spread of blast given available climatic data from the Bangladesh Meteorological Service.
Initial efforts have resulted in an index that can be used to predict the risk of blast outbreak for areas where wheat is grown. CSISA is now further strengthening this analysis using gridded data from global atmospheric circulation models and historical weather data to create a robust decision support tool to assess the risk for continued blast infection.
While this vulnerability analysis will inform policy and government actions in support of wheat farmers coping with blast, CSISA is simultaneously working with WRC to develop scalable agronomic management interventions that can be easily deployed to suppress blast. Planned activities, commencing in the 2016-17 rabi wheat season, include:
- Spatially explicit crop cuts in farmers’ fields to better understand farmers’ management practices and monitor the status of seed infection.
- Trials examining genotype by environment by management effects on yield and blast infection with advanced lines expected to provide the best control against blast.
- Trials validating the performance of seed treatments and fungicides.
- Surveys of non-crop refugium (non-crop host grasses) outside of farmers’ fields to assess options for management of non-rabi season blast refugia.
Regional Consultation on Wheat Blast In collaboration with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and Wheat Research Center, CIMMYT organized a two-day regional consultation workshop mitigating the threat of wheat blast in Bangladesh and beyond. The consultation brought together leading research scientists from South Asia, Latin America, Europe and the US to discuss findings of the Bangladesh Emergency Task Force and develop a shared roadmap to best address the threat. It was supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the U.S. Agency for International Development and was held in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Recommended Reading: CIMMYT Briefing on Wheat Blast
This article is authored by Ashwamegh Banerjee, Assistant Communications Specialist, CSISA.