ICARDA launched a Global Pulses Research Platform near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, India, on 24th February, to increase the region’s pulses production significantly and reduce dependencies on imports. The Platform was inaugurated by the guest of honor, Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, World Food Prize laureate and renowned agricultural scientist. The platform is managed by ICARDA in partnership with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the State Government, and the Government of India.
In India and South Asia, pulses have traditionally been a major and often the only source of affordable protein and vital nutrients for the poor and malnourished population. Currently, India is facing soaring prices in pulses as it is increasingly becoming dependent on expensive pulse imports, which reached 4.4 million tons in 2014-2015 – up by 29 percent over the previous year – according to the India Pulses and Grains Association.
“The establishment of the Platform and its collaborative research with ICARDA, ICAR institutes and State Agricultural Universities will certainly contribute to closing the gap between India’s demand and supply of pulses,” said Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, the newly appointed Director General of ICAR at the official inauguration of the Global Pulses Research Platform. “The South Asia region as a whole will profit from its research products and innovations,” he added.
“Key strategies of the research platform are to benefit pulse producers while enhancing nutritional security and sustainability of cropping systems,” stated Dr. Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA’s Director General. “The platform will not only invest in the necessary research for new pulse technologies but also build the capacity of local scientists, extension workers and farmers.”
Dr. Solh referred to pulses as “climate smart crops”, as they contribute positively to soil health, are quick maturing and could be viewed as a catch crop thereby enhancing crop intensification of cereal and rice based systems. Pulses would need an enabling policy environment to meet the current and future challenges as their consumption is estimated to increase by 23% in the next 15 years. “The establishment of the Global Pulses Research Platform is a step in the right direction. ICARDA is proud to conduct its research with partner organizations from CGIAR, in particular ICRISAT and the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes,” Dr. Solh concluded.
The Global Pulses Research Platform is spread over 71 hectares of experimental farmland and equipped with supportive high-quality research facilities. A major research focus is tapping rice fallows to grow higher yielding, early maturing pulse varieties of lentil, chickpea and grass pea. In India, some 11.7 million hectares land is left fallow every year for up to six months after the rice harvest, of which pulses can be successfully produced on about 3.0 million hectares. Grown in rice and rice-wheat systems, pulses are sustainably increasing cropping intensity, generating additional revenue for farmers and ensuring nutrition security for families.
The improved lentil varieties are also offering higher concentration of iron (25%) and zinc (60%) to address widespread nutritional deficiencies and are well adapted to machine harvesting.
The platform in India complements ICARDA’s crop research facilities in Morocco and Ethiopia, putting pulses research on an accelerated track for the developing world. In addition, the platform provides another research site for the evaluation of durum and winter wheat and barley all of which are becoming key cereal crops in India.
ICARDA’s platform is in lock-step with the UN’s declaration of 2016 as the International Year of the Pulses aiming to promote pulses production and consumption the world over, particularly in developing countries. With a multitude of benefits, pulses address both malnourishment and soil degradation – the major challenges facing countries in Asia and Africa. .
(On Flickr: Inauguration and platform photos)
For more information, please contact Andrea Gros, ICARDA Head of Communication at email@example.com