The contract for the project was signed by the Commission on September 20, so work can now begin in earnest. The official start date of the project was April 1, 2006. This was selected so that work could begin in India and Nepal before the normal sowing date of the crop, so avoiding the loss of an entire growing season.
Despite this, it was only in Nepal that work could actually begin, and an initial meeting was held in Kathmandu on April 5. This addressed the following areas.
- Review of existing literature on rice bean and rice bean germplasm:
Some work on collecting and characterising ricebean germplasm had peviously been done in Nepal by Dr Bajracharya, and some documentation should be available in the Division of Agricultural Botany (DoAB), NARC. Available published literature suggested that 139 rice bean accessions from 30 districts had been collected, catalogued and maintained by the Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) Section of DoAB. It was agreed to investigate the process of acquisition of rice bean germplasm from the PGR unit for on-farm and on-station evaluation and molecular study. Seed quality and quantity of the individual accessions would also be investigated. A review of the available literature on rice bean in Nepal led by LI-BIRD and NARC wouldl contribute to this process.
- Identification of representative sites for on farm and on station evaluation:
It was agreed that a number of criteria (e.g. diversity, importance in the farming systems and peoples' livelihoods, representativeness of testing site to the rest of the area) would be used to select the final sites for on-farm and on-station evaluation after a baseline study and collection of secondary information. The hill districts of the western, mid-western and far western regions had maximum ricebean diversity in Nepal, but for evaluation in the first season two sites, Gulmi for on-farm evaluation, and Kavre Farm, NARC for on-station evaluation, would be used.
- Germplasm collection:
It was agreed that rice bean germplasm should be collected from as many districts as possible. To speed up the process, NARC would mobilize their own farms and research stations (Dotii, Dailekh, Jumala, Sallyan, Kavre, and Dhankuta). LI-BIRD would collect germplasm from Dang, Palpa, Gulmi, Tanahun, Kaski, Gorkha and Illam, and the help of the SUPPORT Foundation would be sought for collecting germplasm from the far and mid-western hill areas. A deadline of May 15 was set for germplasm collection, with any samples arriving later being assessed the following year.
- Plan for the assessment of germplasm in the coming season:
The ricebean accessions would be characterised under sole-crop conditions rather than as intercrops. This would be done using the standard descriptor developed by IPGRI.
- Preparation for molecular analysis:
This would involve a literature reviewe to develop the protocol and markers, folowed by optimization of the protocol and isolation of DNA.