By : Dr. S. Ayyappan : Indian agriculture has witnessed momentous growth during the last 60 years. The food grain production increased by 4 times, horticultural crops and milk by 6 times, fish by 9 times and eggs by 27 times since 1950-51. The country harvested a record 230 million tonnes of food grains, produced 6.87 million tonnes of fish and more than 100 million tonnes of milk during 2008-09. It could not have been possible but for the pioneering role of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in ushering green revolution and other major developments in agriculture and allied sectors through its research and technological excellence.
With a strong base for planning, promotion, execution and coordination of agricultural research and education to meet emerging challenges in the country and wide network of Institutes spread across the country the ICAR has significantly contributed to overall development of farm and related sectors. 45 Research Institutes, 4 Deemed Universities, 6 National Bureaux , 17 National Research Centres, 25 Directorates/Project Directorates, 61 All India Coordinated Research Projects and 17 Network Projects, 45 State Agricultural Universities (including one with Deemed University status), one Central Agricultural University and 570 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) are the part of nationwide network of ICAR.
Delayed and deficient monsoon coupled with flash floods in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in recent months affected the Indian agriculture in kharif 2009. Government’s timely response to the exigency and technology-driven contingency plans greatly contributed to protect the standing crops as well as mitigating the drought effects to minimize the adverse impact on kharif production. Sound and scientific location-specific advisories were disseminated across the country to grow short-duration rice varieties, low-water consuming crops and feed and fodder crops. Mobilization of quality seeds was streamlined in coordination with sister organizations at central and state levels.
Steps have been taken to augment production and productivity of rabi crops to at least partially offset the losses in kharif. Acreage under wheat, winter/boro rice, pulses, maize, sorghum and bajra are being increased to have higher yields/production.
One hundred thirty one varieties/hybrids of major food crops for different agro-climatic regions of the country were released/identified, besides a few varieties in plantation and horticultural crops. A total of 7,340 tonnes of breeder seed of field crop varieties and over 25 lakh planting material were produced and distributed. Gene sources for resistance to Ug99 rust with new genes have been located. Through efforts of biodiversity conservation, fingerprints of 44 grape accessions of commercial importance were developed. Cost-effective amelioration technologies for waterlogged, salt affected and acid soils have also been developed.
To meet the challenges of climate change in agriculture, National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management has been established by ICAR at Baramati, Maharashtra. Two major institutions, the National Institute on Biotic Stress Management and Indian Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology are in the process of establishment to address the impact of biotic stresses and harness potentials of emerging tools of biotechnology in agriculture. Two hybrid varieties and 8 high yielding varieties of rice have been developed and released for different agro-eco system. Besides this, a new wheat variety Pusa Baker (HS 490) with a seed potential upto 5 t/ha and durum wheat variety ‘Malva Kranti’ (HI 8638) for rainfed and limited irrigation conditions of Madhya Pradesh have been developed. A pond-based farming technology has been developed for waterlogged areas that can enhance net water productivity and net returns in rice.
The standardization of a novel hand guided cloning technique in cattle for the first time in the world and the birth of buffalo calf ‘Garima’, produced through this technique, is a significant achievement. Efforts to provide timely support in diagnosis of Avian Influenza (AI) has led to international recognition of High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) at Bhopal. Fisheries has emerged as a sector with great potential to ensure food, livelihood and nutritional security. Through various technological interventions, marine fish landings exceeded 3.2 million tonnes, recording an increase of about 11 % over the estimates of the previous year. Forensic investigations using DNA bar coding technique helped in identification of whale shark meat, designated as endangered species.
A comprehensive accreditation system is under implementation to ensure quality of education, strengthening of infrastructure and faculty improvement in 45 State Agricultural Universities. Accreditation was granted to five SAUs during the year, taking the number to 33 till date. A national core group revised the course curricula and syllabi of 95 courses in Master’s and 80 courses in Doctoral programmes. Introduction of international fellowships during the year was a major milestone in globalizing higher agricultural education. Besides, 368 e-courses for degree programmes have been introduced and created repository of 3,852 e-theses and provided online access to 1,088 research journals in 126 libraries. In an effort to build capacity in high-end research such as molecular breeding, genomics and transgenics, allele mining bioremediation, nanotechnology, diagnostics etc. scientists from ICAR institutes and teachers from State Agricultural Universities were trained in best of the laboratories of the world.
Over 150 agricultural tools/implements and machines have been developed for timely farm operations, drudgery reduction and efficient input use for various field and horticultural crops. A tractor-mounted cumin planter was developed to save 30% of seed. For pomegranate a motorized aril extractor was developed with 94% separation efficiency and 500 kg/hour capacity. For commercial-scale groundnut milk production, processing technology developed and equipment fabricated having 250 litre per day capacity.
To facilitate assessment, refinement and demonstration of technology/products, a total number of 570 KVKs have been established so far against the XI plan target of 667 KVKs in all the rural districts of the country. In an effort to enhance farmers’ capacity and skills, about 56,000 training programmes were organized benefitting about 15 lakh farmers and farm women, rural youth and extension workers.
To promote production-to-consumption chains for maximizing farmers’ profits, 51 models developed for different agricultural commodities. Thirty six models of technological innovation-based sustainable rural livelihood initiatives introduced in 102 of 150 most disadvantaged districts, benefitted 50,000 farm families.
For the first time non-conventional partners were brought into the partnerships in National Agricultural Research through the National Agricultural Innovation Project. They include IITs, IIMs, CSIR laboratories and enterprises of private sector and NGOs. The project, with its approach and expense, has become a model for other countries to emulate.
The Guidelines formulated at ICAR for Intellectual Property Management and Commercialization of Technologies, intense capacity building efforts were undertaken which resulted in filing of 55 patents applications from 13 ICAR institutes during the year.