PROGRESS IN FP3: Integrated Farm and Household Management – 2021

This Flagship has been addressing biotic stresses through reducing agro-chemical inputs in controlling pests and diseases by tailoring their management options for better efficacy using bio-agents or a combination of agro-chemicals (CAI 21 and BCA 698) and bio-agents (CAI 21 and BCA 698). The work on characterizing virulence of downy mildew (DM) and blast pathogens of pearl millet, screening large number of lines in various locations, monitoring of fall army worm (FAW) by using pheromone traps, and evaluation of newer molecules and bio-pesticides against FAW in sorghum and screening of sorghum lines was continued. On the biological control, the recovery of an exotic hymenopteran parasitoid Therophilus javanus (which meanwhile has been renamed by taxonomists to Liragathis javana) both in Burkina Faso and Niger, albeit in a few locations only. This recovery is very comforting since it is the first evidence that this biocontrol agent can survive the long dry season under very harsh conditions in Sahelian environments. Further releases were carried out with a total of 37,000 individuals released in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria. Two high impact factor articles related to these activities were published in early 2021 (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88644-3; https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ento-021220-084539).

Characterization of secondary metabolite(s) from Streptomyces sp. (Streptomyces albus (CAI-17 and KAI-27), Streptomyces griseus (KAI-26 and MMA-32) and Streptomyces cavourensis (SAI-13)) for soil borne diseases of sorghum (Macrophomina phaseolina) indicated that these strains have the potential for biological control of charcoal rot disease in sorghum. A DM nursery consisting of 36 test entries including a susceptible check was evaluated during rainy season of 2021 at eight locations provided by private sector partners The pathogen population at several locations in India including Aurangabad appeared to be more virulent (35 entries exhibited >5% DM incidence), followed by the pathogen population at Alwar (33 entries with >5% DM incidence), and Ahmedabad (24 entries with >5% DM incidence), while the pathogen population at Aligarh was least virulent with only three entry showing >5% DM incidence. On-farm surveys were conducted during the rainy season of 2021 in the Gujrat state of India to monitor DM incidence and blast severity in pearl millet hybrids grown by farmers and isolates for virulence diversity studies collected. A total of 21 fields in 9 talukas of 4 districts in India including Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Banaskantha and Mehsana were surveyed where DM was observed in 13 of the 21 fields with very low incidence (1-2%).

On farm releases of the parasitoid Telenomus remus led to 90-92% egg parasitism of FAW in sorghum and maize fields, thereby confirming the effectiveness of T. remus as a biological control agent for augmentative biological control of FAW. From 100 sorghum cultivars screened under artificial infestation for resistance to FAW, 10 were found to be resistant to FAW with some exhibiting both non-preference and antibiosis resistance mechanism. The flower-bud thrips resistant cowpea lines showed a high and positive correlation between early and late flowering with low damage by thrips, thereby confirming that these phenological traits allowed these resistant lines to escape from pest damage. The purple coloration in some genotypes can be explained by the presence of biochemical compounds (anthocyanins and flavonoids) that have been reported to confer antibiosis to insect pests. The high heritability value (>94%), implies that this trait is heritable which can be used as a selection criterion for developing resistance to flower thrips in cowpea.

A loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assay for visual detection of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. ciceris (FOC) was developed. Results obtained with LAMP and hydroxynaphthol blue (HNB) were confirmed when LAMP products were subjected to gel electrophoresis. This assay does not require specialized equipment, and hence can be used in the field for rapid detection of FOC which can be combined with HNB as a simple, rapid, sensitive, and specific tool. Besides, from the 34 pigeonpea lines tested for multiple disease resistance to phytophthora blight, fusarium wilt and sterility mosaic disease, 10 lines were found to be resistant to all three diseases. These lines have now been included in AICRP-pigeonpea (IVT trials) and evaluated at major pigeonpea growing regions (locations) in India. Data received from three locations indicated that, after two years of evaluation, two lines, ICPLs 20124 and 99048 were found moderately resistant (<20% disease incidence) to phytophthora blight at Sehore, and one-line ICPL 99004 was found moderately resistant (<20% disease incidence) to phytophthora blight at Pantnagar and Varanasi.

For the abiotic stresses, compost generated with two of the three cellulose degrading microbes (Aspergillus awamori and Bacillus subtilis ATCC 6633) already reported to decompose sorghum bagasse was found to solubilize phosphorus, thereby enhancing plant growth under field conditions. Three strains of Streptomyces griseus (CAI-24, CAI-121 and CAI-127) and one strain each of Streptomyces africanus (KAI-32) and Streptomyces coelicolor (KAI-90) were found to be effective biocontrol agents against Fusarium wilt, and as plant growth-promoters (PGP) in chickpea. This was pursued by assessing the combined effect of these Streptomyces strains as a consortium for their biocontrol potential against fusarium wilt and PGP in chickpea. Based on their compatibility, biocontrol ability and PGP performance, two consortia were assembled; consortium-1 having all the five strains of Streptomyces sp. and consortium-2 having the two promising strains (CAI-127 and KAI-32). Under greenhouse conditions, consortium-1 and consortium-2 were found to reduce the fusarium wilt disease incidence by 54%. To 96% and promoted plant growth for all measured parameters. This study had demonstrated that the selected consortium of Streptomyces spp. has a great potential for biological control of fusarium wilt disease and PGP in chickpea.

Sustainable intensification systems with diversified crop combinations including intercropping maize, sorghum and millet with cowpea, groundnut, soybean and pigeonpea, agroforestry systems consisting of Faidherbia albida trees, and millet and groundnuts. This also comprised rotation sequences including maize following soybean or cowpea and cowpea following maize or soybean and doubled-up legume systems that capitalize on the synergies between and among crops and systems in Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Senegal. Resilient and high-yielding varieties that fit well in these cropping systems together with appropriate input bundles, planting time, planting densities and arrangements were promoted in these countries to increase resilience and productivity on smallholder farms. In Mozambique, four soybean varieties with yields ranging from 3.4 to 4.5 ton per ha, and cowpea varieties with yields ranging from 1.0 to 1.8 ton per ha have been selected for registration and release. Similarly, mung bean and horse gram cultivars with high yields and biomass production have been selected in Burkina Faso for intercropping with sorghum or as preceding crops for sorghum rotation. Intercropping maize and cowpea in Mozambique increased land use efficiency by 52% (LER = 1.52) when compared to sole cropping. The input bundles consist of various combinations of phosphorus, potassium, inoculum, manure, and lime with improved seeds. In addition, a hand push planter was promoted in Mozambique among women who conduct most of the cowpea and soybean planting activities to save time on planting, reduce drudgery and optimize plant population. Use of the Hand Push Legume Planter by women helps reducing planting time by half when compared to planting using a hoe, and increasing cowpea and soybean yields by up to 60%. More than 622 demonstration plots were established on farmers’ fields in Malawi and Mozambique in partnership with farmer associations, community seed producers, seed companies and agro-dealers to create awareness, promote, and scale-up adoption of the technologies. A total of 1,128 farmers (48% women) were trained on improved production practices, besides disseminating extension materials and radio messaging across the communities in Malawi and Mozambique to reach more farmers. Cumulatively, CRP-GLDC activities in Malawi and Mozambique benefitted 725,000 individuals in the last four years when about 177,700 farm households used improved technologies including varieties, inputs bundles, intercropping, doubled-up legume, and rotation. Other agronomic practices such as timely planting and appropriate planting densities on almost 590,000 ha were also followed.

Decision support tools have been developed to evaluate the performance of legume varieties and combinations, and farm management options across agro-ecologies and socio-economic conditions in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. More than 750 households (about 4,000 beneficiaries) who grow GLDC crops have adopted improved seeds and cereal-legume intercropping systems as well as specific recommendations on varieties and sowing dates. Three manuscripts on (1) Integrated assessment of sustainable intensification for smallholder agricultural livelihood systems in coping with contextual diversity, (2) Typology-based approach to assessing adoptions of soil fertility management and pest control technologies, and (3) Coupling crop diversification, soil and water conservation, soil fertility management, and pest control for sustainable intensification are being prepared. At least 17 graduate students including 9 MSc and 8 PhD scholars were also trained.

Improving natural resources and ecosystem services activities supported by APSIM modelling in Malawi focused on sustainable intensification and diversification of integrated cropping systems, and crop genotypes with complementary growth habits and plant architecture were identified. This also included the consideration of soil type and environment to target extension material as well as capacity strengthening of beneficiaries. In Tanzania, the focus has been to build datasets and modelling to develop climate informed agro-advisory information. For this, sustainable intensification systems with diversified crop mixes including groundnut and pigeonpea as well as cropping patterns that capitalize on the synergies between germplasm have been developed for different environments. To create awareness and facilitating adoption of the technologies, 300 demonstration plots were implemented on farmers’ fields in Malawi in partnerships with farmer associations, agro-dealers, and community seed producers. The activities of promoting GLDC-based practices in Malawi cumulatively benefitted 250,000 individuals. In terms of adoption, 5,650 farm households including 40% women applied doubled-up legume technology on 1,668 ha in central and southern districts of Malawi. Here, doubled-up legumes involving pigeonpea-groundnut or pigeonpea-soybean are also being practiced by over 5,650 households including 2,260 women on 1,668.5 ha. We investigated the role of women’s labor force participation in the household’s dietary diversity and the value of home-production. Empirical estimations revealed a positive significant effect of workdays of women on dietary diversity (overall and home-produced) and home-production. Co-designing framework/tools for resilient farming systems such as farm household typologies, whole farm system model as decision support were tested and validated, besides strengthening the capacity of extension systems and NARS partners to use these tools for enhancing resilience of rural livelihoods in India, Niger and Burkina-Faso. Two Ph.D. students were trained on systems modelling for value chain analysis. There is renewed focus by CGIAR and others to develop holistic solutions to improve multidimensional sustainability and resilience of the farming and food systems. Our quantification framework on Framing system sustainability assessment was selected as a Golden Egg innovation by CGIAR, as tool of great value in designing need-based solutions and tracking progress of intensification strategies.

The modelling framework developed to explore the multi-dimensional effects of future pathways for sustainable intensification was applied in a scenario analysis for southern Mali. By simulating all 411 households of two representative villages, differentiated effects in the heterogeneous farm population were analyzed. This analysis showed that in the “business-as-usual” scenario, food security and per capita income would drop due to the increasing population size. Incremental improvements in agricultural practices (e.g., intercropping, crop-livestock integration) in the “crop-livestock integration” scenario would be insufficient to lift a considerable portion of the population above the living income and food self-sufficiency thresholds. A more drastic system transformation would be required that combines policies supporting conducive market conditions, off-farm employment, and reduced birth rates, with incentives for increased use of agriculture inputs. Our analysis confirmed expected trade-offs between increasing agricultural productivity and environmental objectives, as nutrient surpluses and greenhouse gas emissions would increase with more intensified fertilizer use in the “yield gap closure” scenario. However, mitigation opportunities exist through more intensified animal husbandry with less numbers, but more productive cows. In this “mitigation” scenario, mechanization could reduce the reliance on animal draught power. Large differences in effects between farms underscored the importance of considering farm diversity to develop tailored solutions. Clearly, forward-looking scenario analysis is a powerful tool to explore the multi-dimensional effects of transformative pathways towards sustainable farming systems.

Using crop modelling frameworks and high-throughput computational technologies to quantitatively analyze the cereal-based semi-arid tropical agri-systems in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa provided the data-driven advisory on optimum GxExM (genotype-by-management-by-environment) for current and projected climates. The model application has been expanded to groundnut and pearl millet in south Asia and Western and Central Africa (WCA) to support crop improvement. A serious game was developed and played with 32 farmers (4 sessions with 4 farmers in 2 villages) to simulate biomass production and fluxes in households and between households. The game was designed as effective capacity building tool that helped farmers in choosing optimal and resilient crops and cultivars, serving three purposes, 1. understanding of farm management strategies per farm type, 2. co-learning of alternative farm management strategies with farmers and, 3.  co-design of agro-ecological options based on agro-ecological technologies that are being implemented at field scale.

The dataset from on-farm and on-station agronomic trials with detailed management and soils for Nigeria will contribute to CGIAR big-database platform. Towards capacity enhancement of smallholder farmers, 600 copies of extension guide were produced in French and English, and distributed to both extension agents and literate farmers (Steps to boost sorghum productivity in the savannah and Sahelian regi… (slideshare.net). In addition, 36 young researchers and postgraduate students of which 33 people (25 Men and 8 women) were physically present with three joining virtually, were trained on “Introduction of APSIM and their applications for climate risk assessment/management in West Africa”.

To enhance household diet diversity and nutrition security in Mali and Burkina Faso, participatory on-farm demonstrations of 14 improved biofortified cultivars of GLDC crops (sorghum, millet, cowpea and groundnut) were piloted with 160 households together with women-led gardens of vegetables and trees including Ziziphus mauritiana (jujube), Tamarindus indica (tamarind) and Adansonia digitata (baobab) with households that increased from 160 to 250 in 2021. The kitchen gardens involving women significantly improved the dietary diversity and consumption in the smallholder households. In the activity aimed at evaluating the impacts of GLDC crops on NRM, we conducted; (1) a three-date landscape analysis and field surveys including ground-truthing for the image analysis and soil sampling using Land Degradation Surveillance Framework (LDSF), (2) drone images campaign to assess DryDev impacts on the vegetation cover, and (3) household surveys (individual and FG) to collect key stakeholders’ perception on the dynamics on land use as well as the impacts of DryDev. Preliminary results mainly composing of outputs of treated drone images that show clear vegetation recovery where the project interventions took place. These values are being associated with visual observations. An important delay in delivering the results has been observed due to the COVID-19 restrictions and the lengthy process to obtain an authorization for the use of drone with the government of Niger.

Health and Nutrition Literacy Knowledge Hub targeting GLDC target regions was created. Through community engagement, innovative practices around improved nutrition, health and wellbeing outcomes using MOOC and other communication methods were co-created, designed, delivered, and documented. A new tool – Women’s Empowerment in Nutrition Index (WENI) has also been validated for rural India.

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