The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has adopted a new approach to integrated research combining crop breeding, selection and release with animal nutrition traits as an important research approach , bringing together the skills of plant breeders and animal scientists, and building upon collaborative research led by ILRI, the National Sorghum Research Centre and ICRISAT.
ILRI’s MTP for 2004-2006 included an output target on “the development and evaluation of innovations with farmers to enhance the animal feed value of major food crops in collaboration with other CGIAR centres”. The most important feed resources (at least 50% of the total) in India’s small holder systems, crop residues and farmers’ choices of varieties are influenced by the crop residue fodder traits in addition to grain yields. Despite this, before initiation of research between ILRI’s animal nutritionists and ICRISAT’s crop breeders, crop breeding and selection had largely ignored such dimensions for residues from India’s major crops. Addressing fodder quality and quantity required close collaboration between crop and livestock scientists; nutritionally significant cultivar-dependent variation and heritability; sufficient independence between fodder traits and primary traits (grain and pod yield) and technologies for quick and inexpensive phenotyping of large sets of samples for fodder quality traits. Combining these through incorporating animal nutrition parameters into crop breeding and selection programmes of ICRISAT and subsequently in the case of sorghum, of the National Research Centre for Sorghum (NRCS) led to the identification of crop varieties able to provide both significant quantities of grain as well as improved quantity and quality of fodder. Such results were described for groundnut (Blummel et al., 2005), sorghum (Seetharama et al., 2006) and millet (Bidinger et al., 2006; Hash et al., 2006).
Research to incorporate feed parameters into crop breeding and selection programmes with potential to increase fodder yield and quality without compromising grain yield for sorghum, millet and groundnut in India has been recognized as an important strategy, bringing together the skills of animal nutrition scientists with those of crop breeders to address animal feed constraints. This resulted in the Indian Animal Nutrition Association World Conference making an emphatic and groundbreaking recommendation: Considering the limited scope to increase acreage under fodder cultivation and also the experience of enhancing fodder quality together with grain quality, plant breeders and animal nutritionists need to develop joint research to address the requirement of food-feed-fuel crops.
This joint engagement of crop and animal scientists to address livestock feed issues represents a new step forward in national collaborative efforts in India. The recommendation has been followed up with an agreed work plan between ILRI and ICAR to further pursue this topic.
Crop varieties with improved fodder parameters have a direct impact on animal productivity, a positive influence on the pricing of stover sold as animal feed, thereby contributing to income from both crop and livestock enterprises. Furthermore, because the feed part of the crop plant is produced using the same resources (land, labour, capital, water) as the grain, there is a reduction in the pressure for potentially environmentally demanding animal feed production. The dual-purpose groundnut variety ICGV 91114 has a potential domain of some 800,000 ha in the Ananthapur region of India alone. Adoption of the new cultivar is estimated to increase household income by about US$175 per household/annum with 30% attributable to increased income from livestock because of the improved haulm fodder traits. Sorghum varieties with improved fodder traits may impact on India’s 100 million mixed crop livestock farmers in the sorghum domain. The implications stretch further than specific crops in India, with new partnerships between national and international research institutions pursing similar approaches for a number of other crops in different regions of the world (see examples in Kenya at: http://www.researchintouse.com/nrk/RIUinfo/PF/CPP51.htm
Blümmel et al, 2005. Food-Fodder Traits in Groundnut. Journal of the Semi-Arid Tropics 1, 1-3.
Hash et al, 2006. Genotype × environment interactions in food-feed traits in pearl millet cultivars. International Sorghum and Millets Newsletter 47, 153-157.
Seetharama et al, 2006. Fodder value in a wide range of sweet sorghum cultivars. Presented at Sixth Biennial conference of Animal Nutrition Association, Jummu, Dec.2006. http://www.nrcsorghum.res.in/paperspresented.php
- Recommendation from the Indian Animal Nutrition Association World Conference (scanned relevant pages)
- ICAR/ ILRI Work plan