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Author: rpuri

Bridging Innovation: BISA’s Technological Frontiers and Collaborative Prospects with Tata Trusts

By Manish Vishwakarma

BISA’s research station in Ludhiana, Punjab hosted Ms. Aparna Uppaluri, Chief Operating Officer of Tata Trusts, and Mr. Baljinder Saini, Executive Director of the Reviving Green Revolution Cell at Tata Trusts. The meeting marked a strategic exploration of advanced agricultural technologies and potential collaboration between BISA and the Tata Trusts. All the representatives did a tour of the farm which is spread over 500 acres of land. Their tour included visits to different facilities of the farm like various wheat research trials, molecular laboratory, Precision Nitrogen Nutrition facility, seed processing unit, and farm machinery section. They appreciated the infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities being used at the BISA farm in Ludhiana.

Dr. Ravi Gopal Singh, Scientific Lead, BISA, gave a detailed brief and talked about all the technological interventions of the organisation. He explained that BISA works to harness the latest genetic, digital, and resource management technologies and uses research for development approaches to invigorate the region’s agriculture and food systems while enhancing productivity, resilience, livelihood, and nutrition security to meet future demands.

Major flagship projects assumed prominence during deliberations, offering insights into BISA’s pioneering work in cropping systems, water and nutrient management, remote sensing, scale-fit mechanization, cutting-edge genomics, and real-time precision phenotyping for research trials. The exposition aimed to showcase the institute’s acumen in integrating advanced technologies for comprehensive agricultural solutions

The visit served as a platform for BISA to extend a scientific overture, demonstrating the synergies between cutting-edge research and pragmatic application. The team’s adept presentations elucidated not only the extant challenges but also the pathways toward scientific solutions, encapsulating expertise in precision agriculture, genomics, and technological interventions.

Dr. Ravi Gopal Singh (L), Scientific Lead, BISA in discussion with Aparna Uppaluri, (centre) COO, Tata Trusts.

The collaborative synergy between Tata Trusts and BISA signals a paradigm shift in the approach towards agricultural innovation. It is an alliance poised to yield transformative outcomes in addressing the imperatives of sustainable and resilient agriculture in the face of evolving global challenges.

In the verdant fields of Ludhiana, the visit laid the groundwork for a scientific continuum, wherein the seeds of collaboration were sown, promising a future harvest of innovative solutions to propel agriculture into a new era of sustainability and productivity. The scientific tapestry woven during this engagement exemplifies the concerted efforts towards a technologically enriched, environmentally sustainable agricultural landscape.

CIMMYT’s Hub Model – a learning field in Mexico for the Indian Scientists


Dr. Nele Verhulst and Richa Sharma Puri

The historical ties between India and Mexico go long back to 1950 when both countries established their diplomatic relations. The Mexican wheat variety ‘Sonora’ was instrumental in India’s Green Revolution in the 1960s. Since then, India-Mexico relations have consistently been friendly, warm, and cordial. Both countries have maintained comparable levels of economic and technological development. The writings of Nobel laureate Octavio Paz, who was Mexican Ambassador to India, on his long experiences in India have had a profound impact on Mexico.

CIMMYT’s partnership with the Indian government, spanning more than five decades, is one of the longest and most productive in the world. The collaboration started with the visit of Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug in 1963 to usher in the Green Revolution in active partnership with the Government of India. This long partnership led to the birth of the Borlaug Institute for South Asia in 2011. BISA since then, has been contributing with its scientific discoveries & approaches toward food, nutrition, livelihood security, gender equality and capacity building.

Regular trainings are organized for students, scientists, and farmers in India on aspects ranging from breeding techniques to crop insurance, from knowledge sharing to emerging climate-resilient technologies. To take this vision forward, BISA adopted a new approach to organise exposure visits of Indian scientists to countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Nepal, Australia and Mexico. Therefore, in the month of October, a group of around 18 scientists from Bihar Agricultural University (BAU), Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), and Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University (RPCAU) visited CIMMYT HQ in Mexico to participate in the course on ‘Innovation in Agri-food Systems through the Hub Model’.

This course was designed to provide hands-on training on the development and practical implementation of the hub model so that participants return to India with new knowledge & skills as innovators & champions of the Hub Model. CIMMYT’s Hub Model was a central theme of discussion around which issues related to food security, economic development, nutrient use efficiency, agri-food system resilience and different techniques for capacity enhancement were taught in Mexico by a team of CIMMYT scientists. As a part of the hub model, CIMMYT by integrated management, seeks to improve farmers’ livelihoods by working hand in hand with a large network of stakeholders, developing and promoting sustainable technologies tailored to farmers’ needs.  

Participants through this Hub Model learnt that the central position of farmers as drivers of change is very crucial to achieve innovation, and it is more effective with an innovation systems approach than through classic extension methods. This can be scaled up and leveraged for impact in other areas and agri-food systems.

To understand more about the Hub Model, teams were taken to Chiapas and Guanajuato to witness its functioning at the research platform and at the farmer’s field. A visit to farmers’ maize fields in Irapuato, a city in Guanajuato, was organised where participants met the farmers and other community members while taking a trip to their farm fields. They also visited a farm machinery unit in Irapuato to understand the latest technology and inventions being used in the Mexican agri-food system.

Chiapas was also very enriching as the scientists exchanged experiences with smallholders growing native maize, more commercially oriented smallholders and other stakeholders like researchers and farm advisors. They learnt about agroforestry, residue management, and intercropping of maize with faba bean, black bean, and marigold along the hilly terrace with high returns for sustaining the livelihood of smallholders here.

After an enriching experience in the fields, participants gained more from the classroom theories. Topics covered were methods for relevant agronomic research, an introduction to the global wheat & maize program of CIMMYT, digital tools like e-Agrology, scaling, gender inclusion, carbon credits, network results from Mexico etc.

They also had a chance to witness the legacy at CIMMYT HQ by having a trip to the beautiful radiant campus. CIMMYT has very well preserved its rich history. A museum with Hi-tech design & technology gives historical background and context for scientific research into maize and wheat, emphasizing agricultural achievements in the world. A trip to CIMMYT’s Gene Bank was exhilarating at -18 degrees for our scientists. They experienced the state-of-the-art infrastructure – facilities, labs, trial fields, etc at the beautiful premises of the CIMMYT HQ.

In the end, the closing ceremony was held with certificate distribution and a vote of thanks from both CIMMYT and Indian scientists. The Indian delegates brought back rich scientific knowledge, technical skills, hands-on experience & innovations to take Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA) project in Bihar to new heights.

Nurturing Resilient Crops: Insights from the Rust Screening of Wheat Training Course


Manish Vishwakarma

CIMMYT hosted a transformative training program titled “Enhancing Wheat Disease Early Warning Systems, Germplasm Evaluation, Selection, and Tools for Improving Wheat Breeding Pipelines.” from October 1st to 13th, 2023, at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in Njoro, Kenya. Among the many enlightening sessions, the Rust Screening of Wheat Training Course stood out as a pivotal experience for attendees, offering valuable insights into the intricate world of rust diseases in wheat and innovative approaches to combat them.

One of the cornerstones of the training was the emphasis on identifying resistance mechanisms within wheat varieties. Trainees from the different countries viz. Ethiopia, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Türkiye, Zimbabwe and India participated in the training. Attendees from BISA centres Dr. Manish K Vishwakarma, Dr. Pradeep Bhati, Narain Dhar and Dr. Sandeep Sharma (BHU), from India, gained a profound understanding of the genetic basis of resistance and learned practical tools for identifying and breeding resilient wheat varieties. This knowledge serves as a crucial foundation for effective rust disease management.

The practical field visits and hands-on sessions provided a unique opportunity to witness the real-world applications of screening techniques discussed during the training. These experiences not only reinforced theoretical knowledge but also deepened their appreciation for the complexities of rust disease management in actual agricultural settings.

Engaging with experts and peers in the field was invaluable. Discussions and knowledge-sharing sessions allowed for the exchange of perspectives and insights into innovative approaches and emerging trends in rust screening and crop disease management. This collaborative environment fostered a sense of community and shared commitment to advancing agricultural practices.

The training covered different subjects such as  pathogen surveillance, diagnostics, modeling, data management, early warning assessments, and open science publishing. However the standout aspect of the training was the comprehensive analysis and interpretation of scoring data. This component played a vital role in honing analytical skills, teaching attendees how to effectively interpret and utilize data for decision-making purposes. This newfound ability significantly enhances our contribution to the field of agricultural research and development.

Several lectures and sessions from distinguished experts left an indelible mark on the participants: Dr. Sridhar’s (CIMMYT-Kenya) sessions on Disease Pathways and the basics of Rust Disease races provided a solid foundation, simplifying complex concepts and aiding in the fundamental understanding of rust diseases.

Dr. Naeela (CIMMYT) insightful lecture on molecular mapping opened up new possibilities in utilizing molecular tools for mapping rust resistance genes, offering a transformative perspective on breeding resilient wheat varieties.

The innovative sessions by Dr. Dave (CIMMYT), Dr. Diana (John Innes Centre, UK) and Dr. Maricelis (Cornell university) on real-time diagnostics with MARPLE showcased groundbreaking solutions that could revolutionize timely management of wheat rust, sparking inspiration and motivation among participants.

Dr. Pawan’s (CIMMYT) session on diseases such as Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) enhanced understanding of the broader disease landscape affecting wheat crops, encouraging a more holistic approach to crop disease management.

Dr. Clay’s (Ohio State University, US) session on basic breeding up to the generation of wheat provided practical guidance, equipping participants with the necessary tools to actively contribute to the development of resilient wheat varieties.

The Rust Screening of Wheat Training Course not only broadened the knowledge base of participants but also instilled a sense of purpose and commitment to contributing to the sustainable management of rust diseases in wheat crops. The diverse sessions, coupled with practical experiences, networking opportunities, and expert insights, have empowered attendees to apply their newfound knowledge actively. The impact of this training resonates with the collective determination to advance agricultural research and enhance global food security through resilient crop production.

Scientists explore opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing between Indian and Ethiopian Agrifood systems.


Nitesh Singh and Richa Sharma Puri

CIMMYT-BISA organised an exposure visit of researchers from India to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Around eleven scientists from Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Rajendra Prasad Agricultural University (RAU) and BISA received an opportunity to visit the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and other research institutions in Ethiopia. Each participant got the opportunity to visit and share knowledge with different stakeholders from Private, Government and research institutions working collaboratively to enhance the income of marginal and small farmers.

Participants after an invigorating session at AICCRA in Ethiopia

The exposure visit started with an introduction to the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA). Participants got an overview of the AICCRA which helps deliver a climate-smart African future driven by science and innovation in agriculture. AICCRA is supported by a grant from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank with an aim to make climate information services and climate-smart agriculture more accessible to millions of smallholder farmers across Africa. One such innovation is delivering decision-relevant digital climate agro advisories for enhancing the adoption and impact of climate-smart technologies and practices. International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) scientists collaborated with Jokolante, a Senegalese Agritech company, the Senegalese National Meteorological Agency (ANACIM) and the Regional Center for Improvement of Plant Adaptation to Drought (CERAAS) of the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) to develop a climate advisory service through a decision tree process known as iSAT, which is intended for smallholder crop and livestock farmers. The iSAT process builds context-specific and real-time climate and agro-advisory information available through ICT. The “intelligent agricultural Systems Advisory Tool – iSAT” generates and disseminates pre- and in-season advisories by integrating insights from historical trends in climate, current weather and climate and weather forecasts. The pre-season advisory is based on the seasonal climate forecast and aimed at improving the preparedness of farmers for the forthcoming season. The in-season advisories are aimed at providing advice on the various farm operations where weather may play a role in management, i.e., land preparation, timing of planting and harvesting, crop management etc.

Lersha Customer Service Center for Climate Advisory. Operators receive calls from registered farmers and sends seasonal and operational climate advisory.

Participants also got a chance to visit Lersha, one of the emerging entrepreneurship models. Lersha provides a one-stop digital service to smallholder farmers and enables them to access farm inputs, hire mechanization services, and request dynamic agro-climate advice using technology. With its wide agent network and digital platform, Lersha aims to add value to smallholder farmers using an aggregation model by automating the process of placing online orders of livestock and Agri-products through its agents for efficient and fast delivery.

An Interaction with Digital Green also took place which gave our participants a chance to learn about the importance of digitization in the fast-growing technology era. One of the unique features was the use of telegram-assisted advisory; the Telegram Bot enabled extension agents to generate site-specific recommendations for specific locations.  Their strong association with the Women’s Health Group, Youth Association and Self-Help groups enabled them to reach the marginal and remote farmers. Overall, their vision is to create a world where farmers use technology and data to build prosperous communities.

Participants also visited the National Meteorology Agency (NMA) and interacted with Fetene Teshome, Director General and Kinfe Hailemariam, Deputy Director General. Participants visited their EMI data centre and control room where live data was being recorded.

Indian officials at ATI

On the last day, participants visited the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Institute (ATI) where they received an overview of the Digital Agriculture Extension and Advisory Services (DAEAS) Roadmap and selected ATI projects. They informed the participants that the DAEAS project was officially launched in July 2022 with the vision of delivering customized digital services to all farmers in Ethiopia. To achieve this, they have identified 30 initiatives across 6 focus areas. The road will deliver initiatives across three key layers of the digital ecosystem and will enable coordination among existing elements, to address the critical gaps.