All India Coordinated Research Project on Sesame and Niger
(AICRP-Sesame and Niger)

About Us

Sesame is an ancient oilseed crop, with the long history of cultivation. With 0.78 million tonnes of production, India ranks third in sesame production and second in area after Sudan in the world from 1.56 million hectares area and productivity of 502 kg/ha. The productivity of sesame in the country has constantly increased during the XII plan. India is a major exporter of sesame and earns Rs 3761 crores foreign exchange. In the recent past, the international demand for sesame has witnessed substantial growth. Sesame is the source of quality edible oil, food, biomedicine and health care.  The superior nutritional, medicinal, cosmetic and cooking qualities of oil made it the queen of oilseeds. It is grown in all seasons of the year and being a short duration crop, fits well into different cropping systems. The research on sesame started systematically in 1967 and niger was added into AICRP fold in 1972. The full-fledged AICRP on Sesame and Niger was started with the creation of the Project Coordination Unit at Jabalpur in 1981. The project was strengthened in terms of new AICRP and Testing Centres for need based research. The project started with centres viz.,Tikamgarh, Mandor, Amreli, Jalgaon, Bhubaneshwar and Jagtial on sesame from 1967. Later Vridhachalam (1980), Powarkheda (1987), Nagpur (1987), Mauranipur (1982), Kayamkulam (1987) and Dharwad (2006) were added.

As per the recommendation of Jain Committee constituted by ICAR and the subsequent approval by the ICAR, the administrative control of AICRP (Sesame and Niger) was delinked from DOR and vested with the ICAR Hqrs from the year, 2001. However, based on the decision of the council, the administrative control of the AICRP (Sesame and Niger) was once again attached with ICAR-Indian Institute  of Oilseeds Research(IIOR), Hyderabad. Presently, the project is operating at 16 centres including 11 centres as AICRP on Sesame and 5 centres as AICRP on Niger located in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal.

Brief background of the project

Sesame is the oldest indigenous oil plant with longest history of cultivation. Sesame is quality food, nutrition, edible oil, biomedicine and health care, all in one. The international demand and market has witnessed significant growth in the recent past. It has upsurged as a silver line in the agri export with contribution of Rs. 3761 crores of foreign exchange. Sesame has remarkable antioxidant function due to the presence of lignans and tocopherol. The seed, highly rich in quality proteins and essential amino acids, especially methionine is considered rejuvenative and anti-aging. Sesame seed is rich source of linoleic acid, vitamins E, A, B1, B2 and niacin and minerals including calcium and phosphorus. The seeds are used in the preparation of baby foods and considered as the best substitute for mother’s milk. The oil with 85% unsaturated fatty acids are highly stable and have reducing effect on cholesterol. Sesame is called as the queen of oils because of the extra ordinary qualities of oil. Sesame is grown in all seasons of the year and being a short duration crop, fits well into various cropping sequences/systems.

Niger, the lifeline of tribal agriculture and economy in India, is primarily grown on the denuded soils in hilly and tribal pockets under input starved conditions. India ranks first in the area, production and export of niger. The crop grows successfully without much investment of chemicals. Compared to other oilseeds, niger is less vulnerable to biotic and abiotic stresses. Niger is a potential bio fertilizer with weed suppressing effect. The oil is tasty with good keeping quality. Due to over 70% unsaturated fatty acids and completely free from toxins, the oil is good for health.

Barring sporadic and fragmented research efforts under the Provincial Department of Agriculture, the oilseeds received little or no support until midforties. The formation of Indian Central Oilseeds Committee in 1947 was the first effort to improve oilseeds. Under this the commodity committee was formed. Out of funds received from cess, levied on oil mills and oilseed exporters adhoc projects were financed; bulk of the projects sponsored were for the crop improvement. Subsequently in 1966, the ICOC was replaced by the oilseed development council. During its operation the cess fund schemes underwent modifications; first as an integrated scheme and later on a cross commodity integrated basis under the project for intensification of regional research on cotton, oilseeds and millets. Though these diffused efforts led to the evaluation of few varieties of different oilseed crops based on selection and in some cases hybridization, they failed to create any worthwhile impact, since they lacked the required multidisciplinary approach to tackle the problem.

Realizing the low productivity and multiplicity of problems facing oilseeds, the government set up a subcommittee during late sixties to suggest ways to overcome the stalemate. As a follow up of the recommendations, the All India Coordinated Research Project on Oilseeds was set up in April 1967. With this development, the oilseeds entered era of organized research.  The project covered five crops including sesame with a full-fledged coordinator. Initially the project had 32 research centres. Later in 1972 three more crops including niger was brought in to the fold and the number of centres raised to 40. Simultaneously, new positions of Project Coordinators were created. The project got further fillip in 1977 with the elevation of the headquarters of the coordinator to the status of Directorate. In addition, three more posts of Coordinators were created including for sesame and niger. By the end of sixth plan, the project had 98 centres spread over 55 locations. These also include the IDRC financed project on sesame (Vridhachalam). Even in spite of this research infrastructure, bulk of the oilseeds research lacked the need based multidisciplinary teams to tackle production problems. To solve this and speed up advances on productivity front, the available manpower was redeployed wherever necessary.

Realizing the role of oilseeds under irrigation which were hitherto relegated to submarginal rainfed situations and efforts to develop oilseeds based cropping system, command area research projects were formed. Unlike in cereals, the spread of improved varieties in oilseeds is very poor and their impact less pronounced because of lack of organized seed production programmes. With a view to accelerate the spread of improved varieties and ensure continuous flow of quality seed in oilseeds, the ICAR has introduced two schemes under the centrally sponsored seed production; one for sunflower and second for the production of other oilseed crops.

While it is true, oilseeds have not witnessed spectacular breakthrough as in case of wheat, even 10-15 % of the technologies generated have not percolated down to the ultimate user, the farmer, realizing this the Government has set up a National Communication and Training Centre at the Directorate in 1983. Since 1981 to May 2001, the Project was operating through the Directorate of Oilseeds Research, Hyderabad. Since 2001 the project is operating under the direct control of the Deputy Director General, ICAR. At present the Project was once again attached with ICAR-IIOR, Hyderabad. The project has a sanctioned staff of 83 comprising Project Coordinator, 38 Scientists, 29 Technical Assistants and 2 Supporting Staff working for sesame and 7 Scientists and 7 Technical Assistants for niger.