A consortium led by ICARDA is helping to revitalize agriculture in the eight countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. Research will focus on five broad areas: food security in the context of climate change, mountain agriculture, high-value crops, wheat-based farming systems, and conservation agriculture methods to control land degradation. Scientists and administrators from national research programs, universities and international research centers came together for two meetings in Georgia last month. At the first meeting, scientists from ICARDA and national research centers discussed workplans and budgets for next year. The second meeting involved the full range of stakeholders, including CGIAR Centers and other consortium partners. It helped define longer-term research priorities, and the roles of each partner in the consortium.
Starting next year, a series of impact assessment studies will be conducted, to measure how the consortium’s work has helped improve food security and livelihoods in the region.
China’s national agricultural research system – the world’s largest – is expanding collaboration with ICARDA. A new Center of Excellence for Dryland Agriculture was inaugurated in Beijing last month. It will be managed jointly by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, ICARDA and ICRISAT. Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, visited three key research centers in China – the Institute of Crop Sciences, Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, and the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences – to discuss research plans for the new Center of Excellence.
Following these meetings, ICARDA scientists and their Chinese counterparts are developing plans for collaborative research programs, exchange of research staff, and training programs for young Chinese scientists. Research programs will be developed in several areas: plant breeding (barley, wheat and faba bean), control of Hessian fly and other insect pests, rust diseases in cereals, water management for dry areas, rangeland management, and sheep and goat husbandry methods.
The first Scientific Conference of the United Nations Conference to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this month, in conjunction with the UNCCD Conference of Parties. The conference focused on methods to monitor and measure desertification and degradation. The delegates agreed on the need to focus not only on the symptoms of degradation but also the underlying causes; and to identify indicators that are broad enough to cover complex ecosystems yet simple enough to track. Ultimately, the aim of monitoring is to better understand ecological processes, and provide policy makers with information and technology options to prevent degradation.
ICARDA Director General Dr Mahmoud Solh is chairman of Dryland Science for Development, a research consortium that provides technical support to the UNCCD. In his keynote presentation at the Scientific Conference, he stressed the opportunities for partnerships between the many agencies involved in natural resources research, and the need to share skills and resources more effectively.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA, the development arm of the Japanese Government) and ICARDA have signed a 5-year agreement to train researchers from Afghanistan. Fourteen training courses will be organized at ICARDA’s headquarters, on seed production, crop production and livestock.
The new project builds on previous successes, and a long history of collaboration. To date, 482 researchers from 29 developing countries have been trained through JICA-funded projects in Syria and Iraq. With JICA’s support, ICARDA and other partners have organized workshops for researchers and extension staff from 18 countries. Japanese funding for research – in addition to training – has helped improve rural welfare and livelihoods in dry areas worldwide.
Cutting-edge research by ICARDA, Montana State University, USA, and INRA-Avignon, France, is studying the role of plant-associated bacteria in producing rain. Some kinds of bacteria have the ability to create ‘ice nuclei’ that catalyze the formation of raindrops. ICARDA scientists have already confirmed the presence of such bacteria at the ICARDA farm in Syria. The study will now examine how different crop species and land management practices influence the microclimate near the plant canopy – and therefore the abundance and variety of these bacteria. The results will help understand the potential impact of cropping practices on rainfall patterns in Mediterranean agro-ecological zones. Ultimately, the team hopes to identify dryland crops that could serve as sources of biological ice nucleators.
Co-published with CABI International, UK. A comprehensive reference, co-authored by 75 scientists from 16 countries. The editors include William Erskine, formerly ICARDA’s Deputy Director General – Research, and Ashutosh Sarker, lentil breeder and Coordinator of ICARDA’s South Asia Regional Program. The book contains 26 papers on a range of subjects: origins and domestication of lentil, genetic diversity, production (agronomy, pest and disease management), processing and use. It also discusses lentil research programs in several countries, with detailed case studies of impacts in Bangladesh and Ethiopia.
ICARDA is working with the French Initiative for International Agricultural Research to develop and promote Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods in the Mediterranean region. Earlier this month, scientists from six countries – Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, France – joined ICARDA experts at a workshop to discuss research priorities and to plan two new projects: a large-scale IPM program for Mediterranean countries, and a research-for-development network to share IPM findings and expertise across the region.
Thirty-two years of ICARDA research is available online. Our online document repository contains over 6000 publications of various kinds, journal papers, research reports, conference proceedings, books, magazine articles and others. It covers a range of subjects: crop improvement, biotechnology, water and land management, livestock, rangelands, economics, gender… just about everything relating to agriculture, rural livelihoods and development. The online repository is a valuable resource not only for scientists and policy makers but also for anyone trying to disseminate information to farmers, or build public awareness on development issues. Links to full-text versions are available, free of charge, to all our research partners worldwide.