Monday, 8 June 2009

ICRISAT develops climate change ready varieties

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 6: When the world gets warmer with climate change, the dryland tracts will become even drier making it more difficult for the farmers to grow crops in this region.

The improved crops developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and its partners, are able to withstand severe droughts, tolerate higher temperatures and mature early, enabling the farmers to be ready to meet the challenges of climate change.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the current research strategy at the Institute is to improve the heat-tolerance and drought-resistance qualities of ICRISAT’s mandate crops.

“As the world celebrates the Environment Day, we at ICRISAT, along with our NARS partners, strengthen our efforts to develop crop varieties that will overcome the adversities of climate change, and thereby reinforce the food and income security for the poor in the developing countries,” said Dr Dar.

ICRISAT’s research is focused on crops that are important for the livelihoods of the people in the dryland areas. They are pearl millet, sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut. These crops have several natural evolutionary advantages for the global warming scenarios.

Both pearl millet and sorghum have high levels of salinity tolerance, and hence are better adapted to areas that are becoming saline due to global warming. Some of the pearl millet varieties and hybrids, developed from ICRISAT’s germplasm, are able to flower and set seeds at temperatures more than 42 degrees centigrade, in areas such as Western Rajasthan and Gujarat in India. Improved sorghum lines have also been developed that are capable of producing good yields in temperatures of 42 degrees C, and have stay-green traits that can enhance terminal drought tolerance.

Short-duration groundnut varieties such as ICGV 91114 have good levels of drought tolerance, and are already replacing more susceptible older varieties. For chickpea, ICRISAT has developed extra-early (85 to 90 days to maturity) and super-early (75 to 80 days) varieties that can escape terminal drought. More recently, ICRISAT researchers have identified chickpea lines that have high levels of heat tolerance, which will enable them to be grown in areas with higher temperatures during heat-sensitive pod filling stage.

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