New Paradigms in Agricultural Research

By Dr. S. Ayyappan, New Delhi, January 11, 2014 (Washington Bangla Radio):The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is an apex organization in the country spearheading agricultural research, education and extension activities for productivity enhancement and diversification of Indian agriculture. The comprehensive initiatives taken by the Council have led to notable accomplishments in natural resource management, input use efficiency, climate resilience, secondary agriculture and economic transformation of farmers though technological interventions. The science-led and technology- driven agriculture is duly supported by appropriate institutional mechanisms, enabling environment and policies. ICAR with 99 institutes, 69 Agricultural Universities and 636 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) spread across the country constitutes one of the largest national agricultural research systems in the world. ICAR provided the critical technological inputs for various processes of agriculture that culminated the highest ever food production of all components of cereals, pulses, fruits  and vegetables, meat, milk, fish and eggs during 2012-13.

The monsoon-driven Indian agriculture witnessed 106% of long-term average rainfall during the cropping season 2013 that enabled 105 million hectare of total area sown during kharif 2013 as compared to about 100 million hectare during 2012. Eventually, the first advanced estimates target food-grain production of 259 million tonnes and a growth rate of over 5% for agriculture and allied sectors in 2013-14. Meanwhile, Uttarakhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh were struck by natural calamities of differential, but severe intensities. The ICAR prepared doable and location-specific action plans of agriculture and allied sectors for rehabilitation and restoration of the affected areas through technological backstopping. The Council demonstrated climate resilient technologies in 100 most-vulnerable districts under NICRA. For different agro-climatic regions, 104 new improved varieties/hybrids have been released during the year. The Council has also prepared the climatic vulnerability atlas of the country and district level contingency plans to enable farmers to choose appropriate means and methods for mitigating the climatic variability in different agro-climatic regions. Further, the Council is committed to need-based, location specific research for agricultural development in the country through innovation and integration.

For productivity enhancement, the Council released an early-maturing basmati rice variety, Pusa Punjab Basmati 1509 with moderate resistance to leaf blast and brown spot diseases;  a late sowing wheat variety HD 3059; and the large seeded (>30g/100 seeds) kabuli chickpea variety, CSJK 6, moderately resistant to root rot and tolerant to wilt. During the year, 11,835 tonnes of breeder seeds, 14,984 tonnes of foundation seeds, 22,281 tonnes of certified seeds, 14,939 tonnes of truthfully labeled seeds and 5,237 tonnes of quality planting material have also been produced for distribution among stakeholders. In horticultural crops, bacterial wilt, TLC V and Alternaria-resistant tomato Arka Rakshak yielding over 90 tonnes/hectare; a new red skinned advance potato hybrid 2001P-55 with a potential yield of 300-350 quintals/hectare and moderately resistant to late blight for Eastern plains of Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Odisha and Jharkhand; and a new variety Swarna Vaidehi of makhana (Euryale ferox Salisb.), with a production potential of 2.8-3.0 tonnes/hectare were released.

The livestock sector plays an important role in providing livelihood to small farmers with over 87% of the livestock owned by small and marginal farmers. At Hisar based Central Institute for Research on Buffaloes 63,857 frozen semen doses of Murrah bulls were produced as farmers from all over India are evincing keen interest in Murrah breed improvement. Physical identification using injectable subcutaneous microchips was done in all female buffalo progeny to help in future milk recordings in the project. Under the Mega Sheep Seed Project, flocks of Chottanagpuri, Mandya, Mecheri and Sonadi were built up for production of superior seed. Crossbred pig (Hampshire and Ghungroo) was found suitable for farmers because of its fast growth, adaptive and carcass characteristics with a marketable weight of over 75 kg in 8 months. A dual purpose poultry variety, Srinidhi was developed that attains a body weight of 668 g in 6 weeks.

The technology of seed production of silver pompano (Trachinotus blochii), a highly sought after fish due to its fast growth rate and high market demand, was scaled up for bulk seed production and transportation. Off-season breeding of climbing perch has paved the way for round-the-year production of its quality seed. Spawning of marine fish Cobia in recirculation aquaculture systems showed high survival rates of 86.7%, ensuring availability of quality seed for culture. Farm made feed for Sea bass enabled production of 2.7 tonnes/ hectare in 325 days of culture. The reported marine fish catch of 3.94 million metric tonnes during 2012-13 is an all-time record, with a growth rate of 3.37% over the previous year.

In the field of cutting edge science, ICAR successfully developed world’s first test tube yak calf Norgyal; male buffalo cloned calf Swarn using seminal plasma of elite bull; and Purnima, first cloned calf from an adult buffalo. Blast resistance gene Pi 54 incorporated into major rice varieties viz., Pusa Basmati-1, Swarna and BPT 5204. ICAR scientists decoded the genomes of the cultivated tomato (Solanum lycopersicon) and its closest wild relative, Solanum pimpinellifolium, in the International Consortium.

Genetic resources are of unique significance, as they provide valuable traits with potential for breeding new varieties/hybrids/animal strains/breeds. In this endeavour, thirty-three explorations were undertaken in 16 states and collected 1,722 accessions, including 322 of wild species. In the National Gene Bank 5,414 accessions of orthodox seed species and 112 of non-orthodox species were cryo-stored, and eight were added to in-vitro Gene Bank for long-term storage. Over 44,000 accessions from 42 countries were imported including promising accessions of wheat, paddy, safflower and others.

In an endeavour to reach out to farmers, the ICAR made 2,174 technological interventions in 4,159 locations in cropping systems, drudgery reduction, farm machineries and other areas. Over 1.40 lakh extension programmes through electronic and print media were conducted across the country. The Council also approved four new KVKs, two in Jammu & Kashmir and one each in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal for technological empowerment of farmers and knowledge sharing. The Council launched social media initiatives to develop a dialogue and share the vast knowledge resources of ICAR with youth.

Eighty-three patents were filed taking the cumulative figure to 826 applications from 68 ICAR institutes. Indian Patent Office granted 161 patents from 25 institutes. Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right Authority considered applications and granted registration certificates for 138 varieties taking the cumulative total to 469. Commercialized 82 technologies/products; transferred 58 technologies to private entrepreneurs with a license fee of over Rs. 3.2 crore.

To enhance land and labour productivity, tractor operated five-row seed-cum-fertilizer-drill was developed which is capable for placing seeds at 50 mm and fertilizer at 100-150 mm depth and covers 0.2-0.35 hectare/hour. A multi-millet thresher operated by 1.5 kw motor with 95% efficiency reduces drudgery and minimizes post-harvest losses. Machines for roasting and popping of makhana and extraction of pulp from custard apple were developed. For improvement in quality of ground spices powder, a cryogenic grinder was developed.

The National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP), made satisfactory progress in enhancing the competence of NARS towards steering the agriculture R&D and introducing pragmatic pluralism. 91 public-private partnerships were established in 203 NAIP supported sub-projects, including three with GEF support. New 51 rural industries were piloted and over 3,800 hectare area of farmers’ agricultural land brought under sustainable land management practices.

AgrInnovate India Ltd., the registered company owned by DARE/ICAR is working towards promotion and commercialization of ICAR technologies, and licensed the technology of tissue culture of oilpalm and related knowhow for commercialization. To augment the availability of FMD vaccine, Agrinnovate has initiated the establishment of a modern vaccine production plant (capacity 100- 150 million doses) in PPP mode at Bengaluru capus of Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar. The company is also assisting DARE on projects related to establishment of facilities for soil, water and tissue testing, seed production and demonstration.

DARE and ICAR became one of the first Departments in having the recognition of ISO 9001:2008 certification by implementing Quality Management System. This is also the success indicator of all the Government Departments, and testifies the commitment towards assuring quality services to its customers with continual improvement of its delivery system. DARE/ICAR also achieved 97.6% composite Score of RFD for the year 2012-13.

The demand for food is continuously increasing with rising population amidst the production constraints such as shrinking natural resources and increasing farm operation costs. The present food production has been achieved through productivity enhancement, striking a balance between environmental and agricultural sustainability, wherein research innovations are essential ingredients. Further to corroborate ‘science-led growth,’ as indicated by the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, the ICAR is contemplating initiatives such as Farmer FIRST, Student READY, National Agricultural Innovation Foundation, Agricultural Technology Foresight Center and Consortia Research Platforms to enrich agricultural research and education through innovation and integration.