The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) was established back in 1977, as one of the CGIAR Consortium Research Centers. As the name implies, the scope of ICARDA is to develop agricultural research innovations to be applied in dry areas; a mission really important, as dry regions cover more than 40% of the earth’s surface and are home to 2.5 billion people – a significant percentage of the world’s population. According to ICARDA, its mission is “to contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of the resource-poor in dry areas by enhancing food security and alleviating poverty through research and partnerships to achieve sustainable increases in agricultural productivity and income, while ensuring the efficient and more equitable use and conservation of natural resources.”
ICARDA puts conservation agriculture practices at the core of its activities, aiming to ensure the optimal use of the limited resources available in the target & collaborating countries. In this context, it also identifies and applies methodologies for water conservation, highlights the importance of water harvesting methodologies and encourages the use of stress- & drought-tolerant crop varieties. The latter is significantly supported by the Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS) tool, which was developed jointly by ICARDA, the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry in Russia, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation in Australia. The tool combines agro-ecological information with data on plant traits and characteristics available in the world’s agricultural genebanks (and we are talking about more than 6 million genetic resources accessions!), allowing researchers to easily identify and retrieve specific plant genotypes are potential sources of novel genes that can improve drought tolerance, disease resistance and other traits, which are at the heart of ICARDA’s objectives. The FIGS tool is not currently publicly available (even though a web-based version is expected to be published soon), so any queries can be made by ICARDA’s FIGS team upon request. You may find more information about FIGS here.
ICARDA works with various types of stakeholders in more than 60 countries, sharing skills, resources and experience to achieve common goals. An important part of its outcomes is the development of various types of publications (including reports, manuals/guidelines, working papers and impact briefs) that cover a wide variety of topics related to agricultural research, capacity building and training. Apart from this, ICARDA also features probably the largest genebank worldwide, which holds over 135,000 accessions from over 110 countries. The genebank includes traditional landraces, improved germplasm, and a unique set of wild crop relatives. These include wheat, barley, oats and other cereals; food legumes such as faba bean, chickpea, lentil and field pea; forage crops, rangeland plants, and wild relatives of each of these species. In general, ICARDA works with several different types of data and produces large amounts of research outcomes for the agricultural sector.
Last but not least, ICARDA is pretty active in social media (in fact, probably the most active agricultural research center) , so you may find more information about the organization at the following social media channels:
- Drylands thinking: Solutions and new perspectives on drylands agriculture (blog)
- ICARDA Update: Recent developments and new initiatives (blog)
- WordPress (old blog; it seems that it’s not being updated anymore)
Why did we select to feature ICARDA and not any of the rest CGIAR research centres? Stay tuned and you’ll make the connection through one of our future blog posts! 🙂