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2014 GAP Report® – Research and Collaboration Improve Productivity and Economic Growth
USER-FRIENDLY WEB-BASED TOOLS FOR DROUGHT MITIGATION
When drought strikes, U.S. farmers can rely on an abundance of tools that help mitigate the impact on their crops and livestock and adjust planting and marketing strategies based on local and global conditions. The U.S. Drought Monitor is a weekly map of drought conditions broken down by county. The Monitor’s web-based tools convey to farmers the extent of drought and water insecurity for agriculture, helping farmers manage risk and become more resilient in hotter, drier climate patterns.
The U.S. Drought Monitor is a joint effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The maps are released each Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. (Eastern), based on data through 7:00 a.m. the preceding Tuesday. The map is based on measurements of climatic, hydrologic and soil conditions as well as reported impacts and observations from more than 350 contributors around the country.
USDA uses the U.S. Drought Monitor for analyzing losses and allocating drought relief to farmers and ranchers through the Farm Service Agency, Livestock Forage Disaster Program and Livestock Assistance Grant Program. Thanks to the user- friendly and visually dramatic presentation of data, both policymakers and the media are better able to convey and respond to the drought situations in farm country. During the severe drought of 2012, USDA streamlined the process for disaster declarations, making them nearly automatic for a county shown on the monitor in severe drought for eight consecutive weeks.113
Many countries, including India, are seeking to develop similar monitoring capabilities that can be adapted for their national agricultural contexts. Brazil and Morocco along with India are currently in dialogue with the NDMC to establish comprehensive drought monitoring capacity. The NDMC is providing strategic advice to the Water Technology Centre (WTC) of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and momentum is building for further collaboration. Effective drought monitoring and advisory services tailored for Indian agriculture holds great promise and must be prioritized for investment by the government, foundations, and the private sector to meet the challenge of climate change and drought.
National average cotton yields in India have steadily increased since the 1970s, but most dramatically with the near doubling of yields from 2002 to 2012.114 This coincided with the introduction of Bt cotton, starting with Gujarat and spreading to a total of nine states. Farmer surveys in leading cotton- producing states have shown that more than 6 million small-scale farmers are seeing positive yield impacts from Bt cotton. Today, Bt technologies are used in 90 percent of India’s cotton fields.
Cotton plants with Bt technology have built-in protection against bollworm and other pests. Insecticide spraying for bollworms as a percentage of total insecticide use for cotton decreased from 46 percent in 2001 to 3 percent in in 2011.115 Together, the increased productivity and reduced expenditures on pesticides have benefited farmers.116 In addition to the economic value, the significant drop in pesticide use has also had positive health benefits for farmers.117
India is now the world’s second largest producer and exporter of cotton, which creates multiple value streams in the country. The plant’s fiber is used domestically and exported for textiles. Cottonseed oil is extracted and refined, which has helped offset the edible oil shortfall in the country, supplying 1.2 million metric tons per year.118 Cotton stalk biomass has potential to be used as feedstock for biofuel energy. Cottonseed meal, a byproduct that has a high protein content, is used for cattle feed. As with so many agricultural commodities, an innovative technology has unleashed numerous economic, employment and nutritional opportunities for producers, agro-businesses and consumers. The success of the Bt cotton value chain can serve as a model for how to improve other crop and livestock value chains in India.
BORLAUG WHEAT RUST PARTNERSHIP
India is the second largest wheat producer worldwide. Wheat-based food, such as roti and chapatti, are staples of the Indian diet, providing 50 percent of the calories.119 About 40 to 45 percent of wheat is retained by farmers for household use and as seed for the next season, leaving less than one-quarter of the crop for sale to private millers and traders. While there is a growing domestic market for flour, baked goods and other processed wheat products, the largest market share is wheat berries, which consumers have custom milled into atta, whole wheat flour derived from the entire berry.120
The Government of India dominates the wheat market, buying one-third of production over the past five years at a government-set minimum support price (MSP) that has been steadily increasing.121 As a result, there is little private sector investment in the wheat value chain, and research and development into new varieties and to improve disease resistance is largely conducted by the Indian Center for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and State Agricultural Universities (SAUs). ICAR and SAUs develop new varieties with higher yield and quality potential, but uptake by producers is low due to limited distribution and extension services.
One of the major concerns for ICAR is controlling the spread of wheat rust, a disease produced by spores of the Puccinia graminis fungus that germinate on wheat plants, rapidly reproduce and feed off the plant, leaving it fruitless and destroying entire crops. Yellow rust, also called stripe rust, occurs in most wheat areas with cool and moist weather conditions during the growing season. It is the most serious constraint to wheat production in India.
Resistant wheat cultivars have been developed by Indian institutions and are available to farmers, but not all farmers recognize or have had access to extension services to learn the preventative benefits and ultimate savings that using the rust resistant seeds would provide. As a result, incidence of yellow rust remains high as farmers continue to use older varieties of wheat not recommended by ICAR.
In 2008, ICAR joined with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and Cornell University to establish the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI), which is now a consortium of more than 100 researchers worldwide working to reduce vulnerability to stem, yellow, and leaf rusts. The initiative is named for Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his painstaking work to identify a gene that, when transplanted into wheat, enabled it to resist the P. graminis fungus.
The BGRI is closely monitoring, researching and rapidly disseminating information about a new wheat rust pathogen, Ug99, that was discovered in Uganda in 1999. Since then, seven variants have been identified. It has spread to Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran and strains have also been found in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Because of its destructiveness and the economic and food security importance of its host, scientists are collaborating globally to find solutions before one of these strains enters India or other major wheat producing areas of the world.
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Research and Collaboration Improve Productivity and Economic Growth