Food-feed crops research: A synthesis

In December 2010, a special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology focuses on the fodder quality of crop residues and how this can be improved through the close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multi-dimensional crop improvement programmes.

Over the next two decades, rapid urbanization and rising incomes in the developing world will continue to feed an on-going livestock revolution. In India, this boom in the production of animal products will be driven by a demand for milk that is projected to increase by more than 80 million tons in 15 years.

Smallholder livestock producers will have new opportunities to raise their incomes on the back of this increasing demand, particularly the vulnerable communities occupying dry, marginal and remote lands that rely most heavily on their animals.

Feed scarcity and resulting high feed costs are one of the major constraints and threats to higher benefits from livestock otherwise offered by the rising demand for livestock products. New strategies for improving feed resources are urgently needed, but they need to take into account the increasing scarcity of the natural resource base, particularly of arable land and increasingly water.

Crop residues are the single most important feed resource in India, and the national feed resource scenarios predict that their importance for livestock feeding will further increase. In several parts of India, weight for weight, crop residue prices are now approaching, and sometimes even exceeding, half the prices of their grains.

Crop residues do not require specific land and water allocations, since these are required in any case for the production of grains. Unfortunately, the fodder quality of crop residues is often low, and in the past decades, efforts have been invested in upgrading the feeding value of crop residues (implicitly from cereals since leguminous residues can have excellent fodder quality) through chemical, physical and biological treatments.

However, these approaches have seen little adoption by farming communities. A different paradigm has been developed in this this special issue of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology, namely, the improvement of crop residues at source through close collaboration of crop and livestock scientists in multidimensional crop improvement programs. Until recently, fodder traits of crop residues were largely ignored in crop improvement, although farmers were traditionally aware of differences in the fodder quality of crop residues even within the same species. Farmers’ perception of crop residue fodder traits could effect the adoption of new cultivars, resulting sometimes in the rejection of new cultivars that have been improved only for grain yields.

In response, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) together with their partners from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) initiated several multidisciplinary research projects to create crop cultivars that better match the need of farmers, particularly in mixed crop-livestock systems which are dominant in many parts of the developing world.

The fundamental issues explored in these collaborative projects, and expounded in this special issue, are: (1) availability of livestock nutritionally-significant cultivar-dependent variation in crop residue fodder quantity and quality; (2) relationships between crop residue fodder traits and primary food traits and possible trade-offs between the traits; (3) technologies for quick and inexpensive phenotyping of large set of samples for simple fodder quality that are well correlated with actual livestock productivity; (4) breeding techniques for further genetic enhancement towards food-feed traits; and (5) upgrading crop residue fodder in value chains through densification and fortification.

These valuable contributions serve as eye-openers to researchers and present a strong case for further strengthening such collaborations between national and international crop and livestock institutions. More importantly, they pave the way for expanding work on the promising approach of producing dual-purpose varieties of key crops for mixed crop-livestock systems given that these systems will be crucial in feeding the next 3 billion people.

View the special issue

Feed-plus-food sorghum crop varieties are feeding India

CGIAR Annual Report 2009 cover

Cover of the CGIAR Annual Report 2009 (photo credit: CGIAR/Palmer).

The annual report for 2009 for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is out.

The International Livestock Research Institute contributed the following article about development of crops that feed people and animals both.

'New varieties of sorghum are bred to better meet the needs of India’s 208 million livestock farmers for animal feed, as well as to feed its growing human population.

'Throughout the tropics, a lack of feed keeps farm animals underweight and underproductive, thereby preventing some 600 million poor farmers and herders from meeting fast-rising global demand for milk and meat. But thanks to a partnership between India ́s National Research Centre for Sorghum (NRCS), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), new varieties of sorghum are being developed that can provide both nutritious food for humans and high-quality feed for livestock.

'The single most important source of animal feed on many small farms in Asia and Africa is not grass but rather the stalks, leaves and other residues of crop plants after harvesting. In India, for example, 44% of the feed that annually sustains all the country ́s cattle, buffalo, goats, sheep and camels is made up of such crop wastes. The rest comes from planted forages and a shrinking area of pastures and other common lands. Expensive feed concentrates—the mainstay of livestock production in rich countries—are used only occasionally.

'Although crop residues (also known as stover) have become the main source of feed for farm animals in developing countries, crop breeders have continued to focus their efforts solely on increasing grain yields and not on improving the yield and quality of stover. The NRCS-ICRISAT-ILRI partnership seeks to redress this oversight by focusing on sorghum, an important staple crop in India that is grown on nearly 10 million hectares throughout the country.

'Small-scale entrepreneurs in India are developing new livestock feeds using new dual-purpose, food-plus-feed sorghum varieties.

'The researchers incorporated fodder quality traits in India ́s sorghum crop breeding trials and, in so doing, led breeders to identify sorghum varieties that give high yields of both grain and stover, as well as improved stover quality. The result is dual-purpose, food-plus-feed sorghum varieties that are now helping India’s 208 million livestock farmers close the livestock feed gap and feed India’s growing human population.

'The initiative has proved groundbreaking in demonstrating that traits for stover fodder quality and quantity can be incorporated into existing breeding programs to improve grain yields and has led the way for similar work on other major crops such as millet, groundnut, rice, maize and cowpea. New initiatives are also beginning for wheat and various leguminous crops.'

Read the whole CGIAR Annual Report 2009: From research to results, November 2010.

Pulverizering mills that chop roughages into bits take off on East Africa’s dairy farms

Pulverizer

The pulverizer feed mill that is taking off on small dairy farms in East Africa (photo credit: East African Dairy Development Project).

Pulverizer  machines can help small-scale farmers in East Africa transport, store and stall-feed their ruminant animals with the bulky dry forages they may have at hand on and near their farms. Such dry forages include grass and legume hays; fibrous crop residues such as stovers of maize, sorghum, and millet; cereal straws of rice, teff, wheat, barley and oats; and haulms of beans. Pulverizers shred this forage into lengths of a few millimetres.

What’s different?
Although pulverizers have been around for a long time, they have been little used on small farms. But now this technology is being promoted by an East African Dairy Development Project to improve the use of the crop residues and roughages available to smallholder farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Project staff are helping service providers to purchase pulverizers through loan schemes, are setting up business development services as part of local dairy ‘hubs’, and are providing technical back-up support. The rapidly increasing numbers of providers of this technology are generating competition and sparking innovations, such as mobile service providers.

What do pulverizers do?
Physically treating roughages is a main way to enhance the availability of their nutrients for cows and other ruminants. Pulverizing roughages on farms reduces their wastage by 30–60 per cent, while easing the fodder packaging, storing, transporting and feeding by farmers enhances the feed intake of farm animals by 30–60 per cent..

When did these services start?
Pulverizer services started in 2009 with about 20 operators in Kabiyet and Kipkaren districts in Kenya’s North Rift Valley; these have mushroomed in the last year to more than 200 operators in Siongiroi and Kipkelion in South Rift Valley as well Kieni and Ol-Kalou districts. The technology has also been replicated through dairy farmers business associations in Kiboga and Masaka districts of Uganda and Rwamagana, Gatsibo and Nyagatare districts of Rwanda. Local producers have now ventured into fabricating the machines, making them easily and cheaply available to the farmers.

Use of the pulverizer technology can increase profitable beef and milk production through more efficient use of forages, a benefit particularly valued by farmers during dry seasons, when forages are scarce. Among the most common users of the technology are service providers who transport and trade dry forages and others that pulverize forages on farms.

What we've learned

1.       The hubs being created in this East African Dairy Project are providing the stimulus for new livestock feed markets as well as farmer access to credit (the credit is provided against their milk sales), which farmers often invest in improved feed production.

2.       The clustering of dairy input services in local dairy hubs is enhancing community access to feed information, business skills and other resources useful to agribusiness entrepreneurs.

3.       Smallholders are very interested in making better use of their crop residues for dry-season stall feeding.

4.       When demonstrating use of the pulverizers to farmers, with the aim of increasing their adoption of this technology, service providers should stress ways the technology could directly benefit the farmers rather than how the technology works.

5.      Dairy farmer business and related associations should be supported and used to scale up use of this technology by farmers and farmer groups.

 

About the Project
The East African Dairy Development Project envisions transforming the lives of 179,000 families by doubling household dairy income in 10 years through integrated interventions in dairy production, market access and knowledge application. The Project is working to improve on-farm productivity by increasing milk production, improving milk quality and providing access to production inputs through business delivery services. The Project aims to improve market access by developing local hubs of business delivery services in association with chilling plants that facilitate market access. The Project is also linking producers to formal markets through processors and increasing the benefits milk producers obtain from traditional markets. The Project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The article was developed by Beatrice Ouma, regional senior information officer in the East African Dairy Development Project, and Ben Lukuyu, a scientist working at the International Livestock Research Institute, one of the partners collaborating in this Project.

For more information, contact the Project at eadd@eadairy.org or read about recent progress of the Project on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.


A desert state turns green

Rajasthan (disused) water pump (Bhimpur Village)

Disused water pump in Bhimpur Village, 1.5 hours' drive south of Udaipur, in Rajasthan, India (photo ILRI / MacMIllan).

Over the last five years, poor monsoons have led to crippling droughts throughout Rajasthan, India's 'Land of the Kings', which includes a hilly and rugged southeastern region and the barren northwestern Thar Desert, which extends across the border into Pakistan.

Rajasthan cow (Bhimpur Village)

This year's monsoon, which started mid-June, is wetter than average. By mid-September, the rains had transformed Rajasthan's hills into misty verdant pastures, on which still-thin cattle and buffaloes are now fattening. Rivers are full and running fast and lake waters are high with their floodgates bursting with water. Even the camels appear thankful for the greenery the monsoon has brought. Maize is ripening in the fields and everywhere you look people are cutting the tall green grass and other fodder and loading it and carrying it home—on their heads, on their bullock carts, on the backs of their motorcycles—to feed their animals. They will dry and store the excess fodder for use when the land turns brown again.

Rajasthan rice straw stored for livestock feed (Bhimpur Village)

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are working with others to conduct three case studies in South Asia on the use of stover and other crop 'wastes' for feeding ruminant farm animals. The residues of grain crops after harvesting are vital to animal husbandry here, where such residues typically make up more than half the feed for cattle, buffaloes, camels, goats and sheep.

The case studies are being conducted in three contrasting sites: the extensive and normally dry rangelands of Rajasthan, the modern farming sector of Haryana (part of India's breadbasket), and in the intensely cultivated fields of Bangladesh.

ILRI's Braja Swain in Rajasthan

Braja Swain, the project associate doing all the fieldwork and analyses for this project, says that even this year's good maize harvest will feed many families only for a few months, after which they will have to buy grain using money they get from selling some animals or from family members who have migrated away to find jobs.

Rajasthan goats (Renoje Village)

This project is funded by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and led by the Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. ILRI's Swain is studying for a doctoral degree in economics at the Centre for Development Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi.

Greener pastures and better breeds could reduce carbon ‘hoofprint’

Baoshan Community Dairy Feeding Centre

Cows at the Boashan Community Dairy Feeding Centre, in Yunnan Province, China (photo credit: ILRI / Mann).

A new study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) finds reductions in greenhouse gasses could be worth a billion dollars to poor livestock farmers if they could sell saved carbon on international markets.

Greenhouse gas emissions caused by livestock operations in tropical countries—a major contributor to climate change—could be cut significantly by changing diets and breeds and improving degraded lands, according to a new study published today in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And as an added bonus, scientists found the small changes in production practices could provide a big payoff by providing poor farmers with up to US$1.3 billion annually in payments for carbon offsets.

'These technologically straightforward steps in livestock management could have a meaningful effect on greenhouse gas build-up, while simultaneously generating income for poor farmers,' said Philip Thornton, of ILRI, who co-authored the paper with ILRI’s Mario Herrero.  

Livestock enterprises contribute about 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases, largely through deforestation to make room for livestock grazing and feed crops, the methane ruminant animals give off, and the nitrous oxide emitted by manure. Many worry these greenhouse gas emissions could grow due to increased livestock production to meet surging demand for meat and milk in developing countries.

Thornton and Herrero believe there are options readily available to prevent up to 417 million tons of carbon dioxide expected to be produced by livestock in tropical countries by 2030—a sum representing a savings of about 7% of all livestock-related global greenhouse gas emissions.

'Of course,' says Thornton, 'if we also manage to bring down consumption of meat and milk in rich countries, the amount of carbon saved will be even greater.' The difference between livestock production in rich and poor countries is a big concern to Thornton. 'We conducted this study to try to disentangle some of the complexities surrounding livestock systems, particularly those in developing countries. Livestock systems are not all the same, and there are large differences in their carbon footprint, their importance for the poor, and their mitigation potential.'

Most reductions of livestock-produced greenhouse gases would have to come from the more than half a billion livestock keepers in tropical countries. But the study finds that these struggling farmers could be motivated to adopt more climate-friendly practices.

'It would be a useful incentive if these farmers were allowed to sell the reductions they achieve as credits on global carbon markets,' Thornton said. 'We found that at US$20 per ton—which is what carbon was trading for last week on the European Climate Exchange—poor livestock keepers in tropical countries could generate about US$1.3 billion each year in carbon revenues.' Although carbon payments would not amount to a lot more income for each individual farmer (such payments might represent an increase in individual income of up to 15%), such payments should provide a tipping point for many smallholders considering intensifying their livestock production.

According to the ILRI study, livestock-related greenhouse gas reductions could be quickly achieved in tropical countries by modifying production practices, such as switching to more nutritious pasture grasses, supplementing diets with even small amounts of crop residues or grains, restoring degraded grazing lands, planting trees that both trap carbon and produce leaves that cows can eat, and adopting more productive breeds.

'We wanted to consider the impact in tropical countries because they are at the epicentre of a livestock revolution,' said Herrero. 'We expect consumption of milk and meat to roughly double in the developing world by 2050, which means it’s critical to adopt sustainable approaches now that contain and reduce the negative effects of livestock production, while allowing countries to realize the benefits, such as better nutrition and higher incomes for livestock-producing households.'

Herrero and Thornton said that changing diets and breeds could increase the amount of milk and meat produced by individual animals, thus reducing emissions because farmers would require fewer animals. For example, in Latin America, they note that switching cows from natural grasslands to pastures sown with a more nutritious grass called Brachiaria can increase daily milk production and weight gain by up to three-fold. This increase, they said, means fewer animals are needed to satisfy demand. In addition, Brachiaria also absorbs, or 'sequesters,' more carbon than degraded natural grasslands.

'Even if only about 30% of livestock owners in the region switch from natural grass to Brachiaria, which is what we consider a plausible adoption rate, that alone could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 30 million tons per year,' Thornton said.

Herrero and Thornton also said that, for a given level of demand, fewer animals would be needed if more farmers supplemented grazing with feed consisting of crop residues (often called 'stover'), such as the leaves and stalks of sorghum or maize plants, or with grains. In addition, they note there is the potential to boost production per animal by crossbreeding local with genetically improved breeds, the latter of which can provide more milk and meat than traditional breeds while emitting less methane per kilo of meat or milk produced.

Planting trees that have agricultural and feed uses, a practice known as 'agroforestry,' has the benefit of reducing feed costs for animals, while the trees themselves absorb carbon. Herrero and Thornton found that of the 33 million tons of carbon dioxide that could be reduced through wider use of agroforestry in livestock operations, almost two-thirds of it—72%—would come from the 'carbon sequestration' effects of the trees.

Carols Seré, ILRI’s Director General, said Thornton and Herrero’s work usefully steers the discussion of livestock’s contribution to climate change from blunt criticism of the impact of farm animals to meaningful efforts to address the environmental consequences of their increased production.

'There is a tendency today to simply demonize livestock as a cause of climate change without considering their importance, particularly for poor farmers in the developing world,' Seré said.

'Most of the farmers we work with have a relatively small environmental footprint,' he added, 'and they are intensely dependent on their animals for food, for income, and even as "engines" to plough their fields and transport their crops. What these farmers need are technological options and economic incentives that help them intensify their production in sustainable ways. Carbon payments would be a welcome additional incentive inducing such changes in smallholder livestock production.'

Key messages from the publication
(1) The impact of any given livestock intervention on mitigating total greenhouse gas emissions will be small.
To make a difference, we will need to implement many interventions and do so simultaneously. Mitigating the impacts of livestock systems on climate change will require taking a series of small incremental steps and implementing a wide range of different mitigation strategies to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

(2) We should aim for fewer, better fed, farm and herd animals.
Apart from strategies to sequester greater amounts of carbon, all strategies for mitigating greenhouse gases appear to require the intensification of animal diets and a reduction in animal numbers to produce the same volume of meat and milk.

(3) Ways to mitigate greenhouse gases in tropical livestock systems are technologically straightforward.
Apart from strategies to sequester carbon, all strategies for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions tested could be implemented at farm level with the appropriate economic and other incentives for resource-poor farmers.

(4) GHG mitigation strategies can be pro-poor.
Paying small-scale livestock farmers and herders for practices that help sequester carbon (under REDD or similar incentive schemes), although not trivial in management terms, would help smallholders generate greater and more diversified incomes.

(5) Mitigation strategies can also support strategies to help smallholders adapt to climate change.
Some interventions aiming to reduce greenhouse gases will also serve to help people cope with more unpredictable and extreme weather.

(6) All strategies will need to include appropriate incentives for smallholders.
A major incentive for small-scale livestock producers to change their production practices will be the increasing demand for livestock products in developing countries. But many smallholders will also need other economic incentives and more user-friendly technologies in order to make even straightforward changes in their production practices. 

Read the whole paper at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: The potential for reduced methane and carbon dioxide emissions from livestock and pasture management in the tropics, 6 September 2010.

New paper quantifies the global role of livestock as a nutrient source for the first time

Mario Herrero, systems analyst at the Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is co-author of a paper to be published today in the prestigious US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper quantifies the role of livestock as a nutrient source globally for the first time. The paper, ‘A high-resolution assessment on global nitrogen flows in cropland’, reports results of an investigation of the sources of nitrogen for crop production globally. ‘We quantified the role of manure in different continents and in different agricultural production systems,’ says Herrero. ‘We found large differences in manure levels. In large parts of Africa and South Asia, which have the greatest numbers of poor people in the world, most of whom make a living by farming, manure can represent 35-40% of the nitrogen needed for growing crops, making it a major source of needed nutrients in these regions,’ Herrero. Elsewhere, he explained, where farmers have ready access to chemical fertilizers, manure plays a less important role in crop production. The paper shows that livestock manure is as important a nutrient contributor as (and in some regions, is even more important than) the stalks, leaves and other wastes of crops after harvesting, which are often fed back into soils to help enrich them for the next cropping season. But those crop residues are becoming increasingly scarce due to their competitive uses. And one of the biggest competitive uses is as animal feed. Many farmers are loath to put their crop residues back into their soils because they need them to feed their animals. In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, crop wastes represent between 40 and 60% of all the feed for the cattle, sheep, goats and other ruminant animals raised. ‘Crop residues are a hugely important resource,’ says Herrero. ‘And needing to keep these resources to feed their animals stops many farmers from adopting conservation agriculture, which requires putting the residues back into the ground.’ Of course, the animals consuming crop residues deposit their manure on the ground. This analysis by Hererro and colleagues suggests that, globally speaking, livestock manure and crop residues make similar levels of contributions to nutrient levels. ‘In developing countries,’ he says, ‘the best solution is often for a farmer to feed her crop residues to her ruminant animals and then fertilize her soils with the manure they produce.’ That’s because these farm animals provide poor farmers with many other essentials as well, including highly nourishing animal-source foods for the household, much-needed year-round cash incomes, and draught power, transport and other inputs for successful cropping. ‘The bad news,’ says Herrero, ‘is that the amount of manure we have in Africa and South Asia is not nearly enough to increase levels of crop production. And to feed the world’s growing human populations, we’re going to have to increase the amount of nutrients we’re providing the soils in these regions.’

Improving the performance of crop-livestock systems

Last week, the CGIAR System-wide Livestock Programme (SLP) held its annual planning meeting in Addis Ababa.

In this short video, John McDermott, ILRI Deputy Director General for Research introduces the SLP. He argues that its focus on the intensification of crop-livestock systems is critical: More than a billion people in developing countries are involved in these smallholder systems.

The SLP brings together 12 CGIAR centers, and, he mentions, “one of the key things we’ve been struggling with is how to improve the performance of these [crop-livestock] systems” – so people can get more income and more benefits from them; also so the systems can be more sustainable.

Reflecting on the just-completed SLP meeting in Addis Ababa, he highlights one of the major issues under discussion: how the crop biomass from these systems can be used more effectively – as food, as animal feed, and as fuel. Furthermore, how the crop residues can be fed back into the soil.

“Now we are turning our attention more to this tradeoff between whether you actually feed these residues to animals or whether some of them should stay with the soil.”

Watch the video:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2966773&dest=-1]

Feeding livestock, sustaining soils: Crop-livestock tradeoffs focus of SLP discussions

This week, ILRI Addis Ababa hosted a meeting of the Livestock Programme Group that steers the CGIAR’s Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP). The Programme builds synergies between crop research and livestock research across the CGIAR.

A major discussion point at the meeting is the “pressure on biomass use in systems.”

Bruno Gerard, SLP Coordinator, explains that the group will look especially at tradeoffs in the use of crop residues – between feeding livestock or sustaining soils.

View his video:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2967023&dest=-1]

Read more …

Research project on fodder marketing in Bihar, India


ILRI India

A recently completed research project has, for the first time, systematically studied the trading of fodder in Bihar with a view to determining the importance of fodder trading and marketing as a means of mitigating fodder scarcity. The study has also identified differences in the nutritive value of traded fodders.

Dr Iain Wright of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) which led the study explained, “Scarcity of fodder is one of the key constraints to the development of the livestock sector in Bihar as well as India generally. We know that trading of fodder is important within villages, between villages and even between states, but until now we have not known much about the volumes traded nor the importance of fodder trading in supplying fodder to areas where there is a scarcity. We now understand more about the way in which fodder is moved within Bihar and even outside the state and how the marketing of fodder could be made more effective.”

Crop residues make up almost 50% of the fodder that is fed to livestock in India, and are even more important in Bihar where over 60% of all feed is contributed by wheat and rice straw, with rice straw especially important. Dr Wright explained that recent research by ILRI had shown that there were big differences in the nutritive value of straw from different varieties of rice. ‘We wanted to see whether these differences in the feeding value of rice straw are reflected in the prices paid for straw in the markets.’

The results of the study show the diversity of the supply and demand for fodder in different parts of Bihar. Areas with intensive cereal production supply dry fodder to the rest of Bihar. Dr Nils Teufel an ILRI researcher explained that farmers with small land-holdings have to purchase dry fodder to feed their animals while farmers with surplus fodder are selling about 45% of their dry fodder production. “Within villages, more than 80% of trade in fodder is usually directly between producer and consumers but trade between districts generally involves up to four trade transactions,” he added. Urban dairy producers are major buyers of fodder – they buy about 73% of dry fodder sold by traders.

The type of fodder used also depends on the intensity of production: with increasing intensification of dairy production, the share of wheat straw being fed to dairy animals increases.

Laboratory analysis of fodder samples showed the expected superior nutritional quality of wheat straw compared to paddy straw. In fact, the analysed paddy straw samples showed below average quality characteristics.

Traders and consumers evaluate straw by its appearance, but neither appearance nor the nutritional quality characteristics seem to have a strong effect on prices. This is in contrast to some other parts of India where prices are higher for fodder with better nutritional quality.

A workshop at which the key findings of the project will be presented and discussed is being organized by ILRI on 27 October 2009 at the ICAR Research Complex for the Eastern Region, Patna. The guest of honour will be Sri Anil Kumar Singh, Director, Dairy, Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Government of Bihar. Participants will include representatives of the primary stakeholders, i.e. fodder producers, traders and livestock owners of the state as well as research scientists and officials from different government departments. Members of the Press are cordially invited to attend.

For further information
contact Dr Iain A Wright, Regional Representative, Asia. Tel: 987 187 7038, email: i.wright@cgiar.org

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is one of 15 International Agricultural Research Institutes which are part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. ILRI carries out research to alleviate poverty through the development of the livestock sector in Africa and Asia. Its headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya. It has a team of scientists based in Hyderabad working to alleviate problems of feed scarcity and an Asia Regional Office in New Delhi. For further information on ILRI see www.ilri.org

The research project was funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) Vienna, Austria.

Sweet sorghum: Utilizing every ‘drop’

Poor livestock keepers in the drylands point to feed shortages as one of their biggest animal production constraints. Research in India is demonstrating that sweet sorghum's traditional use as a dual-purpose food and feed crop and its modern day use as a bio-fuel need not be mutually exclusive

Sweet sorghum: utilizing every 'drop'

Sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) is well adapted to the semi-arid regions of the tropics. One of its main advantages is that it is very water-use efficient  It has long been used by farmers as a multi-purpose crop from which they extract grain for human consumption and stover for livestock feed. Today, sweet sorghum is becoming increasingly used in industrial bio-fuel production in India. It is one of the most efficient dryland crops to convert atmospheric CO2 into sugar and is therefore a viable alternative for the production of ethanol.

 

 

Sweet sorghum’s role in India’s bio-fuel plans
‘All countries, including India, are grappling with the problem of meeting the ever-increasing demand for fuel within the constraints of international commitments, legal requirements, environmental concerns and limited resources. In this connection fuels of biological origin have drawn a great deal of attention during the last two decades.
 
‘India wishes to consider the use of bio-diesel and ethanol for blending with petro-diesel and petrol. Oil provides energy for 95% of transportation and the demand for transport fuel continues to rise. The extract from the third assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that global oil demand will rise by 1.68% from 75 million barrels per day (mb/d) in the year 2002 to 120 mb/d in 2030. Energy input in agriculture is also increasing. Part of this energy should come from bio-based fuel, which is short term renewable.
 ‘Ethanol is used as a fuel or as an oxygenate to gasoline. In India, raw material used for producing ethanol varies from sugar, cereals (sweet sorghum), sugar beet, and molasses. Brazil uses ethanol as 100% fuel in about 20% of vehicles. Use of a 5% ethanol gasoline blend is already approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and is in a progressive state of implementation in India.’

Excerpted from: ‘Development of Value Chain for Bio-fuel in India’, National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP). NAIP website: http://www.naip.icar.org.in

 

Win-win situation
Increasing industrial usage of sweet sorghum for ethanol production does, on one hand, provide important income for dryland farmers, but it can also divert biomass away from livestock, thus adding to the feed scarcity problem being faced by livestock keepers. However, scientists are demonstrating that full use of all parts of the sweet sorghum plant can meet both industrial and livestock feed needs.
Collaborative work between the International Crop Research Center for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Rusni Distillery in Sanga Reddy Medak District, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s National Research Center for Sorghum (NRCS), in Hyderabad, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is demonstrating the feasibility of manufacturing marketable sweet sorghum feed blocks using the stripped leaves and the crushed stalks (bagasse) remaining after juice extraction for ethanol. A bagasse-based feed block has been manufactured in collaboration with Miracle Fodder and Feeds in Hyderabad and is currently being tested with large and small ruminants with very promising results.Sweet sorghum: utilizing every 'drop'
Full utilization of crops and their by-products in the balanced production of food, feed and industrial products is likely to become increasingly important in developing countries. Total utilization of all parts of the sweet sorghum plant for use in the manufacturing and food industries would help compensate for fodder loss and provide an additional source of income for farmers.

Value-added products from by-products

Surveys of fodder markets in Hyderabad showed that stover from ordinary grain sorghum is widely traded as livestock fodder. This stover is sourced from several Indian States, transported over distances of more than 350 km and fetches retail prices that are about half the value of the sorghum grain. Higher quality stover fetches premium prices ranging from 3.1 to 3.9 Indian rupees per kilogram of dry stover.
  The fodder quality of feed blocks made from sweet sorghum leaf strippings and bagasse is similar to premium stover made from grain sorghum. Scientists estimate that this feed could fetch prices of 6 rupees per kg and more. The manufacturing of feed blocks could therefore offer attractive additional income along a sweet sorghum utilization chain. The feed blocks could be made more nutritious by adding sorghum grain distillery by-products—where the grain is used for biofuel production—and/or by targeted fortification with other supplements. The end product would be an attractive sweet sorghum by-product based feed block of good quality and with a high density, making

New pig feed technologies take off in China

Poor households in Sichuan are doubling their incomes by adopting research-based methods to store sweet potato leaves and vines to feed their backyard pigs almost year-round.
 
The online magazine New Agriculturist published the following article in its March 2006 issue;
http://www.new-agri.co.uk/06-2/focuson/focuson6.html.
Further information on this topic can be found on ILRI's website and its 2004 annual report;
http://www.ilri.org/home.asp?CCID=61&SID=1.

New pig feed technologiesThe southwest province of China is a world of contradictions. Amidst brand new cars and tall glass buildings, horse carts slowly wind their way through the bustle and the traffic, carting vegetables for sale. Commuters on bicycles peddle ferociously against the onward torrent of buses and motorcycles, and stop on the way to buy pancakes from a wooden stall propped up by the side of the road. The rich and poor live side by side in small cities and towns, in the growing network of China's metropolis. But with the growth of the economy and endless construction sites has come the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

While business is booming in China's cities, the poverty gap is growing between the urban and rural areas, with roughly 100 million rural people living on less than US$1 a day. Income for rural people has increased, but at a much lower rate than the urban industrial incomes which have underpinned a national GDP growth of about nine per cent every year since 1978. The real challenge is east-west and rural-urban inequality. The view from green paddy fields on the city outskirts is astonishing, as the speed of development merges the surrounding landscape into new high rises and roads every day. Between 40-50 million farmers are estimated to have partially or fully lost their land to development in the past decade, and that number is set to double in the next ten years.

Demand and supply
China's rural people rely heavily on agriculture and their livestock to provide food security amidst uncertain and rapid change; it is estimated that almost 70 per cent of the Chinese are dependent on agriculture. But China also has a very strong agricultural heritage. The Chinese were the first to use an iron plough, and wereCredit:Stevie Mann/ILRI thousands of years ahead of the West in methods of winnowing grain. Today, they are leading producers of pigs, poultry, rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes. And while demand for livestock products is increasing, livestock research can help mitigate the impacts that increasing demand will have on small-scale producers. With rapid change, knowledge about how to adapt farming systems is essential.

New pig feed technologiesThere are many challenges ahead: how to feed increased numbers of livestock, the risk to public health, and the impact on natural resources. To address some of these issues, the Sichuan Animal Science Academy (SASA), has worked with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Sichuan Animal Husbandry Bureau to help farmers make the most of sweet potato as a feed for pigs. In 2001, pig production accounted for four fifths of total meat production in China. The province of Sichuan produces more pigs than any other region, and most of this is small-scale production, largely in poorer, hilly terrain. The pigs are fed on sweet potato but as a feed source the crop presents two problems: it becomes rotten within three weeks after harvest, and it can be harvested only once a year.

To address these constraints, the International Potato Center (CIP) worked to improve sweet potato varieties with Chinese institutions, and ILRI joined them to assist with feed supplementation and silage-making technology for sweet potato roots and vines. As a result, the extra biomass that farmers have been able to conserve has radically changed the pig production system. After harvesting, the vines are wilted to reduce moisture content. The roots and vines are then chopped, mixed with supplements and stored in airtight plastic bags, providing a nutritious feed that can support pig herds for up to nine months of the year. Improved feed has also allowed farmers to keep high-yielding cross-bred pigs, replacing much smaller and slower growing scavenging pigs that spread zoonotic, diseases such as cystercercosis. Other improvements have also been observed, including better husbandry practices, animal housing, and use of feed supplements and drugs, and these have increased the weight of pigs and greatly raised farm income.

Racing ahead
Over the past few decades, China has made its transition from a rural to an urban and market-based economy. The transition has occurred at remarkable speed, especially considering its population of over 1.3 billion people. The country has experienced one of the fastest rates of agricultural and overall economic growth, amid reforms leading to rapid progress in several areas, although agriculture – which was once a clear leader in reforms – now lags behind other sectors. China's economy grew by an average of 9.9 percent between 1993 and 2004, accelerating the demand for electricity and power networks, as well as food production.

In the outline of the national programme for science and technology development between 2006 and 2020, published by the State Council, China will give priority to technological development to solve problems, including those in the environmental and agricultural sectors. As labour costs rise, and many move to the cities in search of work, the agricultural sector will face challenges. Small-scale farmers are already adopting mechanical innovations in feed processing to overcome constraints and to continue to thrive. Commenting on the work being done in Sichuan, the Director of ILRI-IFPRI Joint Programme on Livestock Market Opportunities, Chris Delgado asks: 'What is the future of small-holders farming in this province? With the hard work of the people and their science institutions, and a little technology transfer from outside, it looks bright."

Fodder innovations for smallholders in India

Improved fodder varieties and technologies offer better quality feed all year through for highly valued livestock in Hyderabad.

The online magazine New Agriculturist published the following article in its March 2006 issue;
http://www.new-agri.co.uk/06-2/focuson/focuson5.html.

Further information on this topic can be found on ILRI's website and its 2004 annual report;
http://www.ilri.org/home.asp?CCID=61&SID=1.

smallholders in IndiaHyderabad is one of India's fastest growing cities. The local markets in the central square sprawl onto the road, sellingcredit:Stevie Mann/ILRI everything from black pearls and embroidered rugs to plastic key rings. Fresh fruit stalls steadied on bicycles cluster by the side of the main road as motorbikes and rickshaws weave their paths through the chaos. Like the markets, the Indian economy is thriving and in the farming state of Andhra Pradesh, where Hyderabad is the capital, livestock produce is at the heart of development. Throughout India, livestock are highly valued for their agricultural products and buffalo, cattle, goats and pigs are the most important source of livelihood for poorer people in the state. Livestock supply daily food and milk, as well as draft power and manure, and the dairy industry provides valued employment for the poor, especially women. But many farmers cannot produce quality fodder – or enough of it – which prevents them from taking advantage of increased market opportunities and demand.


Rapid population growth, particularly in urban areas, has increased demand for produce such as milk and meat. However, the population expansion also means that there is little land available to support fodder production, in addition to the area needed for food crops. Family plots are divided and reduced over generations, making many plots too small to sustain livestock. And while public land is often used as a grazing area for livestock among marginal communities, the areas are shrinking. Consequently, over 40 per cent of fodder resources in India come from crop residues and are of poor quality.

Food and fodder

To help the poor in Andhra Pradesh benefit from India's livestock revolution, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is co-ordinating a project under the Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP) enabling smallholders to build on their assets by exploiting the growing market for livestock products. The aim of this work has been to improve fodder varieties and technologies in order to provide livestock with more and better quality feed throughout the year. Under the project, over 500 farmers from 47 villages have tested seed delivery systems and evaluated fodder and feed technologies. This process has included the farmers evaluating their own 'food-feed' crops (those that provide both grain for human consumption and fodder for livestock) and management systems, testing varieties provided by the research team, and evaluating researcher-managed demonstration trials. During the trials, farmers consistently found improved varieties to be superior to local cultivars.


smallholders in IndiaThe project has also supported seed supply for forage crops, since these are scarcely available from the commercial seed companies operating in Andhra Pradesh. Young people and women's self-help groups from several villages have been trained in seed multiplication and distribution, and village seed banks have been given support in sourcing germplasm from the public sector. In 2005 over 350 farmers attended field days and seed multiplication plots to learn about forage seed production.

Including fodder in food crop development

Credit:Stevie Mann/ILRIA third focus has been in raising awareness about fodder quality in India's crop improvement programmes. Nutritional studies have shown a wide variability in digestibility in stover from different sorghum varieties. But is has also been shown that high yield in food (grain or legume pods), can be compatible with high quality and quantity in crop residue. As a result, indicators of stover quality have now been incorporated into the sorghum and millet breeding programmes of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and India's National Research Centre for Sorghum has included stover quality in its release criteria for the last two years.


There is more work to be done, with the researchers continuing to find new ways of working with partners to increase the uptake of the technologies. A particular challenge will be to involve more women and minority groups in testing and evaluating new seed varieties. Partnerships with the private sector are also being explored, to investigate employment opportunities and further broaden seed choice and variety. Private sector dairy companies are being encouraged to promote fodder seeds in locations not served by dairy co-operatives. Looking more widely, the research team are hopeful that lessons from this project can be applied internationally.