USAID supports project to apply genomics research to pigeonpea improvement

Releasing the ICRISAT-USAID project document during the project launch at Patancheru.

In the fight against poverty and hunger amid the threat of climate change, highly nutritious and drought-tolerant crops are the best bets for smallholder farmers. To assist pigeonpea breeders develop such improved cultivars more efficiently using genomic tools, a three-year, US$2-million pigeonpea molecular breeding project was launched on 30 January at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

The project “Pigeonpea Improvement using Molecular Breeding” supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) India Mission will be implemented by ICRISAT along with the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi; the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Raichur, Karnataka; Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Hyderabad; and other partners in India and Africa.

“I am very pleased to announce this new partnership between the Governments of India and the United States, and ICRISAT – a partnership that will take new studies in pigeonpea genomics to the next stage of scientific research. This collaboration will improve the agricultural productivity of pigeonpea, a main source of protein for more than a billion people in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean,” said Ms Elizabeth Warfield, Deputy Mission Director, USAID, New Delhi during the project launch.

Acknowledging USAID’s commitment to the project, Director General William Dar said, “USAID has always been an advocate of the agricultural research-for-development continuum. Thus, this project has a research component in Phase I and an application component in Phase II. This project is another testament to USAID’s commitment to improve the lot of resource-poor farmers particularly in the pigeonpea growing countries of the world.”

“Under the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Grain Legumes led by ICRISAT along with other CGIAR Consortium members and program as well as national partners, genomics research will play a crucial role in speeding up the development of improved varieties for smallholder farmer crops such as pigeonpea,” he added.

Dr Swapan Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science), ICAR said, “We are very excited to see the launch of this USAID project.” Speaking on the occasion, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Project Coordinator and Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics, said the primary objective of the project was to translate genome information into the farmers’ fields. “The project team is quite confident and looks forward to working with different partners and stakeholders in enhancing pigeonpea crop productivity to ensure food security in India and generate more incomes for farmers in Africa,” he added.

The project launch meeting brought together about 70 delegates from India, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi and private sectors.

Source: ICRISAT Happenings