Crop variety improvement
: Post-rainy sorghum is an important staple food in semi-arid Marathwada and Western Maharashtra regions. There are great opportunities to improve the production of this climate-resilient cereal as a baseline study
shows. Yields can be significantly raised by 35-50% if farmers adopt better varieties; there is also a market for ready-to-use sorghum products
to respond to the urban demand. High quality seed production is facilitated through a consortium
of seed companies, farmers, extension services and other stakeholders.
Pearl millet too is an important staple crop. The breeding of high-yielding varieties with particularly high iron content has led to the commercialization of Dhanshakti biofortified pearl millet cultivar to combat widespread iron deficiency. Crop residues of both dryland cereals are also an important fodder source.
Chickpea and pigeonpea are the major pulses produced in Maharashtra (80% of total pulses). Working with the private seed sector, hybrid pigeonpea varieties are promoted to raise the particularly low average yields (853 kg/ha in 2012-13). To limit crop destruction by the pod borer, a major pest, chickpea varieties are tested for pod borer resistance. Other areas of research such as the sustainable sweet sorghum biofuel value chain; combination of broad-bed and furrow tillage and high-yielding groundnut varieties have led to great impact.
Natural resources management: In partnership with Maharashtra farmers, researchers and grassroot organisations, ICRISAT designs efficient community approaches to sustainable watershed management, as a way to improve rural livelihoods in drought-prone areas, as has been done in the Dolsane-Bambalewadi site of learning.
Knowledge-based interventions include stratified soil sampling to identify major soil nutrient deficiencies and define recommended fertilization by type of crop, as well as participatory varietal selection to promote improved varieties. By doing so, crop yields could jump up to +83% for groundnut.
Water scarcity is often the first limiting factor for farmers. Access to appropriate irrigation technologies adapted to small holdings is key to reducing rural poverty, as shown in the Padmalaya benchmark watershed, where the promotion of drip irrigation and water harvesting and conservation practices were part of an integrated water management strategy for farmers to raise their productivity despite drought conditions. Hydrological modelling of watershed intervention in the Padmalaya watershed reveals that it is a suitable approach to adapt to climate change.
Poverty dynamics and systems research: Since the 1970s, village level studies have been conducted in Kalman and Kinkhed villages in Solapur district and in Shirapur and Kanzara villages in Akola district, which help identify the drivers of change in the past four decades. See VDSA micro-level data for more details.