ICARDA has been working with partners in Central Asia and the Caucasus since 1998. Partner countries are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia; and Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in the Caucasus.
The project partners have developed regional research priorities, focused on:
- Productivity of agricultural systems
- Natural resources conservation and management
- Genetic resources
- Socioeconomic and public policy research
The research in this region is done with a range of national partners, who share expertise and experience across countries in frequent interactions. They include national and international agricultural research institutions, farmers and farmers’ associations, development agencies, and universities.
Improving production systems
- Annually, about 5000 germplasm entries from 80 different nurseries of cereals, legumes, and forage crops are tested in the region. In all the eight CAC countries, new promising varieties have been identified, which are being used to improve local germplasm or for direct multiplication and release on farmers’ fields
- Thirteen promising varieties of winter wheat, nine varieties of barley, eight of chickpea, and four of lentil were released in the region
- Improved winter wheat varieties with resistance to yellow rust, the most devastating disease in the region, were identified, and varieties resistant stem rust (Ug99) are in advanced stage of testing
- Salt tolerant facultative wheat released in Uzbekistan is widely grown on medium level saline soil
- Planting chickpea prior to onset of winter, that produces up to 50% higher yield than traditional spring planting, has become possible through introduction of ICARDA bred cold tolerant varieties
- Safe crop diseases management methods helping to implement the biological control of insects, nematodes and weeds were introduced
- New salt-tolerant forage crops and integrated management approaches in salt-affected farming areas have been cultivated
- Several promising livestock management practices were evaluated, such as early weaning, early lambing, market-oriented lamb fattening, and milking Karakul and Sarajin ewes.
- Regional PGR strategy for Central Asia and the Caucasus was developed
- The Central Asia and Transcaucasus Network on Plant Genetic Resources (CATCN-PGR) was established
- Eight PGR working crop groups are established
- Genebanks were established or strengthened in the CAC countries.
Conserving and managing natural resources
Agro-ecological characterization has been completed for integrated research sites in Central Asia using geographic information system methods. New water saving and resource conserving agronomic practices, including new crop rotations, have been recommended in the region and crops such as chickpea, lentil, safflower, soybean, and buckwheat were introduced. Promising results have already been obtained from conservation tillage in irrigated agriculture. Shallow tillage, instead of deep plowing, proved useful and saves fuel.
Socioeconomic and public policy research
Socioeconomic analyses have been conducted on economic evaluation of new environmentally sustainable technologies, livelihoods surveys, value chain studies, and agricultural policy research.
- About 12,000 scientists and farmers from all CAC countries have so far benefited from training and other human resource development activities
- 450 researchers from the Region received short and long-term training
- More than 700 technical and popular publications were produced and disseminated among farmers and NARS partners
- Networks have been established for all ICARDA mandate crops
- Multilingual version of Graphical User Interface of CropSyst model was developed and successfully tested for different agro-ecological zones of Central Asia
- Emergency wheat seed supply was facilitated to ease the food crises in some of the CAC countries
- The establishment of a Regional Forum (CACAARI) was facilitated to foster research partnerships among NARS (www.cacaari.org).
Working with CGIAR partners
The contributions of ICARDA were essential in the development and impact of the CGIAR Program for Central Asia and the Caucasus, for which ICARDA is the convening center.
The efforts of all partners in the Program were praised by the CGIAR members in December 2008, when it was awarded the prestigious King Baudouin Science Award for Outstanding Partnership.
Climate change effects above the global average exacerbate the natural constraints throughout Central Asia and the Caucasus. Despite the large growth potential in agriculture characterized by high diversity and farming traditions, productivity is low.
Soils are often eroded and depleted of nutrients at a very large scale. Improving agricultural productivity, therefore, continues to be an urgent task for the national partners and the international research communities.
Pilot action sites were identified in Central Asia and the Caucasus where focused and integrated dryland systems research will be conducted.
This will allow multidisciplinary research teams from the different CGIAR Centers in the Region to work together in addressing the key development challenge of ensuring sustainable increases in the productivity of dryland agriculture.