Wheat Research Initiative launched in India
- Sunday, 28 February 2010 11:07
NEW DELHI, INDIA – THE CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme'S (GCP) Research Initiative (RI) on wheat in India was officially launched on 22 February 2010 at the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences in New Delhi, India. The two-day launch meeting was hosted by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI).
“This is a welcome and important initiative for India,” remarked Dr Swapan Datta (pictured left), Deputy Director General (Crop Improvement), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
“This RI will spur increased collaboration,” observed Dr Jean-Marcel Ribaut, GCP Director. He continued, “India has a community of outstanding scientists and Indian partners are critical for GCP’s success in Phase II. We are counting on this support and are privileged to have ICAR as one of the founding members of the GCP Consortium.”
The promises of Phase II
He explained that GCP Phase II will see more and more projects led by country programme partners, with CGIAR Centres and developed-country programme partners taking a back seat as mentors and collaborators, and not direct project leaders. For the wheat RI in India, this redefined partnership – which also includes the Plant Breeding Institute of the University of Sydney, Australia, and CIMMYT – is also reflected in the project budget, with 80–90 percent of the funds going directly to partners in India.
GCP Phase II promises to be much more exciting and engaging for country programmes, Dr Datta noted. He added that the greater focus and independence in Phase II and the Programme’s investments in molecular breeding, all provide fertile ground for more rewarding partnerships based on mutual interests. Taking the seven RIs as a whole, GCP Phase II prioritises crops that are also important for India, and ICAR is actively seeking alliances in international agriculture, particularly in molecular breeding.
Dr NK Singh, Principal Scientist at the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology agreed. “A new wind is blowing at ICAR, and this wheat project is very timely. We are very interested in partnerships with international players.”
Prof GK Gupta stressed the importance of coordination and collaboration. “A coordination mechanism is needed in India, to maximise complementarities and synergies,” he said. Prof Gupta is a veteran in the field, and has worked on wheat for 40 years now. Prof Gupta is leading a complementary initiative on drought improvement for wheat supported by India’s Department of Biotechnology.
Dr HS Gupta (pictured right), Director, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), concurred on the need to avoid duplication and therefore make the best use of the scarce resources available. He stressed the importance of breeding for drought, and for cooperation: “We must coordinate, communicate and complement one another. Researchers should not work in isolation. Drought is a great problem, further compounded by a rise in temperature, and this is a much-needed research initiative.” he said. He also re-affirmed IARI’s full cooperation: “We have committed our best scientists for this work and they will deliver their best,” he added.
The project plan will be revisited to clarify the roles and expectations of the different partners working on GCP’s wheat Research Initiative in India. This wheat RI brings together five institutes in India, with Dr KV Prabhu of IARI (pictured left) as the project leader. As a result of discussions on the first day of the workshop, the Agharkar Research Institute in Pune is the newest partner. Located in a hotter region than the other research sites, Pune brings an additional seven degrees of cropping season temperature, which will enrich the heat tolerance study and database. Other partners are Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology and Punjab Agricultural University.
All the RIs will have a strong molecular breeding component to be supported by GCP’s Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP), which incorporates a Genetic Resources Support Service (GRSS). “Each RI is different in terms of the opportunities, risks and impact,” clarified Dr Ribaut. For India, given the local support, infrastructure and competencies, he was optimistic that the wheat RI would succeed and have great impact on the numerous smallholder wheat farmers. “This project presents a rare mix of low risk and high-potential impact,” he added.
In his closing remarks, Dr Ribaut said that this was an important initiative for GCP to demonstrate that molecular breeding can increase the efficiency of breeding and have impact on crop productivity in developing countries. The GCP management has high expectations and is committed to help the initiative succeed. He commended and thanked the India team for taking on the challenge and urged the team to communicate constantly with GCP management – not just on the good news, but also the bad news for prompt remedial action.
“GCP will not be disappointed and we will deliver on expectations,” assured Dr Prabhu, reiterating the support for, and commitment to, this project both by IARI and ICAR.
The India wheat RI team, pictured here with Dr Swapan Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Improvement), ICAR, (2nd row 4th left), and Dr HS Gupta, Director, IARI (1st row, 3rd left), and GCP staff.
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