BARC Research Programme in Agriculture

By M. V. S. Prasad (Director, PIB, Chennai), New Delhi, December 12, 2013 (Washington Bangla Radio): A huge amount of energy is released by splitting an atom. This energy can be utilized for various peaceful applications. 'Nuclear agriculture' is one such important sector having a major societal impact. Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division (NABTD) of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is involved in broad based research programme in agriculture and allied areas. Nuclear agriculture involving mutation and recombination breeding is one of the core areas of such research. Development of biopesticides for integrated pest management, nutrient formulation for improved fertilizer use efficiency, research on bioregulators, biosensors, and agro-processing are some other areas of research.

Improved Crop Varieties.

Using radiation induced mutations and hybridization, 41 crop varieties such as groundnut, mungbean, blackgram, pigeonpea, soybean, cowpea, mustard, sunflower, rice and jute have been developed and released for commercial cultivation in different agroclimatic zones in the country.

These varieties are endowed with one or more of improved characters such as higher yield, earliness, large seed size and are stress-resistant. Mutation and recombination breeding in wheat and rice is also being carried out to improve yield and disease resistance. A late flowering mutant in Sesbania has been developed with the potential to produce more biomass under short day conditions and is an excellent material for green manuring.

The deployment of crop technology and large scale production of breeder seeds of these released varieties is being undertaken through linkages with various Central and State Government Institutions, seed corporations and NGOs. The societal impacts of these varieties are reflected in terms of their enhanced popularity, productivity and extensive cultivation.

Plant Biotechnology

Micropropagation protocols have been developed for banana, sugarcane, grapes, pineapple, potato, turmeric and ginger. Technology for tissue culture production of banana has been transferred to Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Puducherry and the Maharashtra State Seed Corporation, Akola.

Enzymes and Micro-biotechnology

Research and development is undertaken on techniques for immobilization of biocatalyst and multi-enzyme complex,  production of enzymes and downstream processing, biosensors, bioremediation of organic and inorganic pollutants like heavy metals, radionucleides, nitrate, phenol and TBP besides bio-nanotechnology and molecular dynamic simulations for understanding protein solvent interactions.

Soil Science and Insect Pest Management

Farmer friendly soil organic carbon detection kit for the analysis of soil organic carbon on field has been developed and technology transferred for commercial production. Phosphorus fertilizer formulation using single super phosphate, phosphoric and bio-sludge of molasses based distilleries and zinc fertilizer formulation using zinc sulphate heptahydrate and bio-sludge of molasses based distilleries having slow desorption as compared to most prevalent fertilizers like single super phosphate and zinc sulphate have been developed.

‘Nisargruna’ Biogas Technology

A biogas plant named "Nisargruna" has been developed to process kitchen waste. Digested slurry from this plant has good fertilizer value for crops. The biogas plant has the ability to process other forms of organic wastes like pre-soaked grass and even shredded paper. Various Nisargruna plants have been commissioned across the country and are functioning satisfactorily. The biogas technology is rapidly gaining popularity and acceptance from the municipal corporations for disposal of municipal waste.