Project Details

Biofertilization and bioirrigation for sustainable mixed cropping of pigeonpea and finger millet

Duration: 21/Oct/2014 - 20/Oct/2017

Locations: Asia

Project contact: Dr Rajeev K Varshney (R.K.Varshney@CGIAR.ORG)

Donor: Government department -national- state or local,Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology (ISCB)- Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)-Switzerland

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes

The project envisages the development and implementation of an environmentally, economically and socially improved finger millet and pigeon pea intercropping system for arid/semi-arid zones, using bioinoculants and bio-irrigation.In terms of biotechnology, the project will combine the proven experience of partners of the previous ISCB biofertilizer network and that of new Indian and Swiss partners to use arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) as "biofertilizers". Central to the approach is a mixed cropping system of finger millet and pigeon pea, which will make optimal use of the biofertilizers by the allocation and re-distribution of water through hydraulic lift ("bioirrigation"). The principal output will be a "package" consisting of seeds for mixed-culture and compatible strains of biofertilizers of Indian origin, to be used by small-holder farms, especially in rainfed and saline fields in South India, where most of the current finger millet production takes place. In more detail, the "package" will be composed of polybags containing seeds of a pigeon pea cultivar suitable for transplantation, specifically selected to suit our proposed "bioirrigation" scheme, with an appropriate inoculum ofbiofertilizers, i.e., selected strains of AMF and PGPR; and seeds of a finger millet cultivar optimally suited for biofertilizer- and bioirrigation enhanced performance in mixed culture with pigeon pea. Our biotechnological "package" will be a ground-breaking tool for rainfed fields not only in India, but on a global scale. In terms of socio-economics, a market analysis of bio-inputs will serve to identify promising channels to produce and distribute the components of the "package". The project aims to apply and distribute the"package" for the mixed-cropping system at minimal cost to local farmers. Therefore,the project want to explore, in detail, the option of participatory "eco-enterprises" anchored in the local,industrial production by in-vitro root-organ culture (AMF) or by large fermenter units (PGPR) .Plant cultivars to be used will be selected and pre-tested in national breeding centres in the biotechnological part of the project, and subsequently multiplied for seed production locally. A baseline survey at farm level will provide information on the farming systems, seed systems, intercropping patterns, input procurement and innovation behaviour of farmers. This will serve to adapt and fine-tune the innovations to the needs and possibilities ofresource-poor farmers in the target areas. An end-line survey will allow to derive first informations on adoption and impact. Both surveys will feed into a crop production model. To substantiate the crop-production model and the participatory approach, we will perform a "life cycle assessment" to compare the efficiency of the suggested mixed-cropping scheme with conventional cropping systems, with respect to land occupation, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication, acidification and water use. Furthermore, assessment will be done for the profitability of our innovations based on the data in the field trials carried out by the biotechnology partners and on participatory on-farm trials. This will allow to target the "package" to areas and contexts that are most promising for its introduction and widespread adoption.

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