Several new projects were launched in 2012, to optimize and scale out supplemental irrigation, water harvesting, integrated watershed development and other approaches to increase water productivity. A project, funded by the Coca Cola Foundation and UNDP will scale out low-cost treatment methods to re-use graywater for irrigation. A new project in Iran’s Karkheh river basin, funded through the national budget, will focus on water productivity, water allocations (policy and institutions) and agricultural value chains. The AFESD-funded Water Benchmarks Project will continue to be a major activity in 2013. Research will be implemented at nine sites – primary benchmark sites in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, and six satellite sites in other countries – to scale out technologies tested and piloted in previous phases. The Water and Livelihoods Initiative, which currently covers seven countries, will expand to Tunisia in 2013. Three priorities for future research: groundwater (modeling and monitoring of shallow aquifers), integrated water and land management in sub-Saharan Africa, and soil fertility management.
Experimental trials at ICARDA’s principal research station at Tel Hadya have been harvested, and data are being analyzed. Several genotypes combine high yield potential with broad-spectrum disease resistance, drought tolerance, good grain quality and other traits. Nurseries and other material for the coming planting season has been selected, tested for phytosanitary parameters, and packed, ready for shipment to national research centers worldwide.
Tel Hadya will continue to remain the main site for on-station trials, but increasingly, will be complemented by trials at national research stations in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, Uzbekistan and other countries. In the 2012-13 season, the 950-hectare research farm in Tel Hadya will be complemented by on-station and on-farm trials in countries across North Africa, Central, West and South Asia.
ICARDA has pioneered the ‘benchmark’ approach, where primary research is conducted at a site representative of a larger agro-ecology, supported by additional research at ‘satellite’ sites. This approach will be further strengthened, with the use of GIS and statistical tools to optimize site selection. Work on genotype x environment interactions will be scaled up, to use the vast data pool (over 30 years of multi-year, multi-environment trials) even more effectively. Wherever possible, research sites for new projects (including Dryland Systems) will overlap with current sites, so that the database is continuously enriched.
ICARDA’s genebank at Tel Hadya continues to expand its collections – which now include 141,300 accessions of crops and wild relatives. Germplasm collections in Algeria, Greece and Tunisia will be completed later this year, led by national research centers. The Tel Hadya genebank will continue to be the cornerstone of ICARDA’s conservation program. Simultaneously, new facilities (provided by national research programs) have been developed in Beirut, Morocco and Tunisia. As an added precaution, 97% of the active collection is safely duplicated in national and global genebanks.
Building on very successful work in West Asia, ICARDA and its partners are now scaling out conservation agriculture methods in other regions. Two new AusAID-ACIAR funded projects target Iraq (already operational) and North Africa (research planning completed, operations to begin next month). Another initiative targets Central Asia. Specially designed low-cost zero-till seeders have been distributed in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and will be available to farmers this planting season.
Iran’s ministry of agriculture has sought ICARDA’s technical support for a new 5-year government-funded project aiming to scale out conservation agriculture over 2 million hectares of rainfed drylands. Implementation will begin in 2013.
Technologies for forage and feed production and rangeland management are helping to create integrated crop-livestock-rangeland systems. Ongoing research is helping to develop guidelines (and suitable varieties) for dual-purpose wheat and barley. A new partnership on forage production with NCARE-Jordan began in 2012, and will involve on-station and on-farm experiments. The first trials will be planted in November. A four-year project in Afghanistan is expected to be approved for funding by ACIAR, with operations beginning in 2013. The project will examine new forage and fodder options, including seed production and the use of biotechnology applications.
ICARDA has significantly expanded its research team in Africa, in addition to ongoing work in West, Central and South Asia. Plans for 2013 include:
· Research on livestock value chains in Ethiopia, under the CRP ‘Milk, meat and fish’, including development of a toolkit for value chain assessment.
· Expansion of community-based breeding programs in Ethiopia, that have significantly improved flock genetic quality and other traits of indigenous sheep breeds.
· Training and dissemination to scale out a data recording and management system developed in collaboration with Embrapa-Brazil.
Two new USAID-funded projects on water policy, in Egypt and Jordan, will be launched later this year. They will examine how current policies shape farmers’ irrigation decisions, quantify the impacts on groundwater use, and identify opportunities for policy reform to encourage sustainable use of water.
In Iran, Jordan and Morocco, research on seed policies will begin in 2013 under the Wheat CRP. The aim is to identify policy and institutional options to strengthen seed cooperatives and other community-based channels to produce and distribute high-quality seed of improved varieties at affordable prices.
Value chain analysis is a key element in many ICARDA-led projects. Three new studies will begin in the next few months. A project in Iran, co-funded by the Iranian government, will examine value chains and policy options to improve farm profitability in the Karkheh river basin. A project in Iraq, co-funded by ACIAR, will explore ways to increase market opportunities for dairy sheep producers. Studies in Ethiopia, in partnership with ILRI, will examine value chains for sheep and goats, focusing on meat and dairy products.
ICARDA is playing a key role in new projects funded by the USAID Feed the Future Initiative, aiming to diversify crop-livestock systems in Ethiopia’s Bale highlands and elsewhere in Africa.
One Africa RISING project, implemented jointly by the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR) and ICARDA, is introducing improved varieties of faba bean, field pea, lentil and chickpea into traditional mixed farming systems. Nearly 350 pilot farmers in Sinana and Gasara districts are growing the new varieties. The project has also trained extension staff from five districts in tillage and crop management practices.
Project partners include Farm Africa, Agarfa and Sinana Agricultural Research Centres, and district- and zone-level agricultural offices. The project integrates multiple components: high-yielding, adapted varieties, crop management, integrated pest and disease management, seed production, storage and distribution systems, and training for farmers and extension staff.
Another Africa RISING project aims to develop technologies for livestock intensification in crop-livestock systems in Arsi, Bale and Horo Gudru Welega. The partners include EIAR, the Oromia Regional Agricultural Research Institute, Kulumsa, Sinana and Bako Agricultural Research Centers, ILRI and ICARDA.
Diagnostic studies have been completed in all target areas, to characterize farm households, identify constraints and potential solutions, and better understand livestock value chains. Farmers report that feed shortages are a major constraint. Several ICARDA technologies, successful in other countries, might provide solutions. These include crop residue management, introduction of fodder/forage crops, and improved feed formulations.