International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

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The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is an international organization which conducts agricultural research for rural development, headquartered in Patancheru (Hyderabad, Telangana, India) with several regional centers (Bamako (Mali), Nairobi (Kenya) and research stations (Niamey (Niger), Kano (Nigeria), Lilongwe (Malawi), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Bulawayo (Zimbabwe). It was founded in 1972 by a consortium of organisations convened by the Ford and the Rockefeller foundations. Its charter was signed by the FAO and the UNDP.

Since its inception, host country India has granted a special status to ICRISAT as a UN Organization operating in the Indian territory making it eligible for special immunities and tax privileges.

ICRISAT is managed by a full-time Director General functioning under the overall guidance of an international Governing Board. The current Director General is Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes who took the post in April 2020. The current chair of the Board is Dr Paco Sereme.

The Agro-Eco Region: The Semi-Arid Tropics[edit]

Purple Rumped Sunbird in the ICRISAT fields

The semi-arid tropics (SAT) region is characterised by highly variable, low-to-medium rainfall and poor soils, further characterised by lack of irrigation. In general, the historical average annual rainfall in the SAT is below 700 mm. In agricultural policy terms, this region is considered to be a less favored area (LFA).[1]

Research strategy[edit]

ICRISAT adopts Integrated genetic and natural resources management as its overarching research strategy. The aim is to combine tested methods of crop commodity research with well established practices in research in natural resources management. The original goal was to use crop improvement research as the basis to improve food availability in drought-prone areas of the tropics. In the last ten years, ICRISAT research, especially in India, China, the Philippines and Vietnam, has tended to emphasise creation and sustenance of rural livelihoods in addition to releasing crop varieties that yield better.[2]

ICRISAT founded the Smart Food Initiative in 2013 with the Vision to create a world where food is ‘Smart’ – good for you, the planet and the farmer. A key objective is to diversify staples across Africa and Asia, with the initial focus on millets and sorghum. The Smart Food initiative is now led globally by FARA , CORAF, FANRPAN and APAARI.

Mandate crops[edit]

Pearl millet seed production plots at ICRISAT (Patancheru, India), the panicles covered in parchment paper bags to ensure self-pollination in this normally mainly cross-pollinating crop (February 2013).

ICRISAT performs crop improvement research, using conventional as well as methods derived from biotechnology, on the following crops: chickpea,[3] pigeonpea,[4] groundnut,[5] pearl millet,[6] sorghum,[7] finger millet,[8] teff, and small millets.

ICRISAT's scientific information by topic, crop, location and resources on Exploreit

Research themes and Genebank[edit]

ICRISAT conducts its research under four themes: Agro-ecosystems development, Harnessing plant biotechnology and bioinformatics, Crop improvement and management, and Institutions, Markets, policy and Impacts.

The ICRISAT genebank serves as a repository for the collection of germplasm of the six mandate crops[9]sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut; and five small milletsfoxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet, proso millet and barnyard millet. The collection has over 128,446 germplasm accessions[10] assembled from 144 countries. Several landraces now conserved in the ICRISAT genebank have disappeared from their natural habitats in Africa and Asia.[11]

Crop improvement research[edit]

Most of ICRISAT’s crop improvement research is directed at LFAs. At an aggregate level, there is evidence from India that crop improvement research is having favorable productivity and poverty impacts in many LFAs.

Based on an econometric analysis of time-series data for three different types of agricultural areas (irrigated, high-potential rainfed, and low-potential rainfed), non-ICRISAT experts found more favorable marginal returns (measured as Indian rupees of agricultural production per additional hectare planted to modern varieties) for crop improvement research in low-potential rainfed areas than in either high-potential rainfed areas or irrigated areas. Moreover, additional crop research investment in low potential rainfed areas lifts more people out of poverty than in the other two types of areas.[12]

They found that ICRISAT-improved chickpea varieties have been widely adopted in a poor tribal area in Gujarat, India, with favorable impacts on yields, unit production costs, and net returns per hectare. ICRISAT’s package of improved groundnut varieties grown in combination with improved agronomy practices has had a positive result in the semi-arid tropical areas of Central India.

Two major science-based breakthroughs attributed to crop improvement research at ICRISAT relate to pearl millet and pigeonpea. A team of researchers at ICRISAT have released the first public sector-bred marker-assisted hybrid pearl millet, HHB 67. This was released in India in 2006. It is assessed to have superior agronomic performance and improved tolerance to terminal drought.[13] The first-ever release of a hybrid pigeonpea by ICRISAT researchers has been reported in 2008.[14]

Information products and services[edit]

ICRISAT formally adopted an open-access policy for its research publications in 2009. It is among a small number of agricultural research organisations to do so. As of June 2010, about 3000 publications are available on the organisation's website.

ICRISAT scientists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. "Sci-Tech / Agriculture : ICRISAT, ICAR jointly to fight climate change". The Hindu. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  2. Special Correspondent (7 June 2012). "NATIONAL / KARNATAKA : Government signs MoU with ICRISAT". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  3. Chickpea Crop Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Pigeonpea Crop
  5. Groundnut/Peanut Crop
  6. Pearlmillet Crop
  7. Sorghum Crop Archived 2015-11-25 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Smallmillet/Finger millet Crop
  9. Avadhani, R. (4 October 2015). "ICRISAT introduces finger millet as mandate crop". The Hindu.
  10. "Key performance indicators of CGIAR genebanks, 2012-2019". CGIAR Genebank Platform. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  11. "BGI, ICRISAT join hands on genomics research". The Hindu. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  12. Special Correspondent (10 May 2012). "NATIONAL / ANDHRA PRADESH : ICRISAT to help revive Nigeria's groundnut industry". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  13. "HHB67 hybrid of Pearl Millet". Archived from the original on 15 August 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  14. Erik Stokstad (13 April 2007). "The Plant Breeder and the Pea". Retrieved 12 September 2012.

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