Dr. Mangla Rai
( Secretary, Department of Agriculture Research and Education and Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research )
Agriculture continues to be the main stay for providing food, nutrition and livelihood security to large and growing population of the country. The Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE)/ Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) through its vast network of 97 research institutes including 4 ICAR institutes as deemed to be Universities, 46 Agricultural Universities including one Central Agricultural University and one deemed to be University and 568 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) spread all over the country has undertaken quality agriculture research, education and frontline extension activities. This system has made significant contribution in agricultural production in the country, where by the food grain production has increased by four times, horticultural crops and milk by six times, fish by nine times and eggs by 27 times since 1950-51. During the year 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. The DARE/ICAR is working in close cooperation with the other Government agencies to meet the new challenges including the impact of climate change on agricultural production.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has marched ahead in generating technologies towards sustainable advancements in agriculture and allied sectors, improving quality of higher agricultural education, institutional capacity building, fostering international linkages for co-operation in agricultural research. The research and development activities during the year covered wide areas, ranging from optimizing resources’ use, improved cultivation techniques, development of improved varieties/breeds, excellence in agricultural education and frontline extension of technologies, providing improved planting materials, imparting training especially to rural women and youth and various stakeholders through wide network of Krishi Vigyan Kendras as a knowledge hub.
The ICAR in its continued efforts towards enhancing and sustaining the standards, quality and relevance of higher agricultural education in the country has initiated an international fellowship with dual purpose of (i) developing human resource in cutting edge technologies and (ii) demonstrating the strength of Indian agricultural system abroad. This would provide an opportunity to develop competent human resource that are trained in the identified best laboratories in the world(for Indian candidates) and similarly expose overseas candidates to the best Indian Agricultural Universities (AUs) in the ICAR-AU system for creating a pool of scientist-envoys for enhanced future co-operation endeavoring quality research and human resource development.
IT-enabled decision support systems for responsive crop management have been developed to help formulation of agro-advisories on various farm issues that include variety recommendation, pest management, nutrient application, etc. ICAR is delivering demand-driven technologies to farmers of various agro-climatic regions through print and electronic media that include ICAR website (www.icar.org.in) for enhancing agriculture production at farm-gate level.
During the year 2008-09, a total number of eight new Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) were established, thus making the total number of KVKs to 568. Provision has been made for e-linkage of KVKs and for establishment of facilities like the mobile diagnostic-cum-exhibition units; soil-and water-testing labs; rain-water harvesting structures; basic plant health diagnostics; minimal processing; portable carp hatchery and integrated farming system, besides support to Directorate of Extension of SAUs for knowledge empowerment of KVKs. During 2008-09, a total 74,732 frontline demonstrations including hybrids of different crops were taken up in order to establish the production potential of improved technology on the farmers’ fields. During the same period, 11.53 lakh farmers and 0.90 lakh extension personnel were trained to update their knowledge and skills on improved agricultural technologies.
The World Bank funded National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) has made significant progress in approving a total of 176 sub-projects till date at a total outlay of Rs. 1128 crores covering research components like production to consumption systems, sustainable rural livelihood security in disadvantaged districts and basic and strategic research in frontier areas of agricultural sciences in a partnership mode including SAU’s/SVU’s, NGOs, sister organizations and Private industries. A total 61 sub-projects have been sanctioned under basic and strategic research not only to bridge the knowledge gap in frontier areas of agricultural sciences but also to contribute towards next generation of innovations in a participatory mode including IITs, International centres, etc. The major expected outcome of the 61 approved projects include development of mitigation strategy to control the deadly arsenic problem in food chain, genetic engineering for fixation of heterosis, genetic solutions for improved cotton boll and fibre development, enhance yield and quality in buffalo milk etc.
Awareness on Intellectual Property (IP) has been enhanced with the release of some global and national IP databases and search tools. Eleven patents have been granted to ICAR in various fields of invention. The IPR policy will be useful in fostering partnership with private organizations for technology development and dissemination. Such partnerships are also being encouraged through funding research programmes developed in partnership with private sector under the externally-aided project, viz. National Agricultural Innovation Project. 227 scientists and other concerned staff were reoriented with the nuances of IPR in 5 training-cum-workshop programmes on IP and Technology Management organized in five different states.
During the period 2008-09, ICAR has released 96 varieties/hybrids of crops. These include a variety of Bt. Cotton which has been commercialized and has transformed the economy of cotton farmers. ICAR has developed a Bt. Cotton variety, Bikaneri Nerma, which is a boon to farmers as it saves on their seeds and avoid purchasing seeds for replacement each year. Some more GM crops are under various stages of trial and testing. There is a well structured stringent regulatory mechanism through which each GM crop has to pass through before it is approved for release.
Implementation of the scheme on Seed Production in Agricultural Crops has resulted in quality seed production of field crops to a record level during 2008–09. Breeder seeds to the tune of 7,162.4 tonnes of centrally released varieties and 2,778.1 tonnes of state released varieties were produced. In fisheries sector, 1502.5 lakh spawn of carps, 5.1 lakh fry and spawn of catfish, 22.03 lakh larvae of sweet water prawn, 1217 lakh seed of ornamental fishes and 848.87 lakh seed of other marine fishes have been produced. In livestock sector, quality animal seed production programme in sheep, goat, pig and poultry has also been launched.
Through freshwater aquaculture, early breeding of Catla and Rohu has been achieved, paving way for year round availability of their seed. Mapping of fisheries resources and water bodies, maturation of tiger shrimp under captivity, census of marine fisheries, fish meal and shrimp feed, and stocking protocol for reservoirs are some of the significant achievements.
ICAR has achieved a unique scientific landmark recently with the birth of the first cloned buffalo calf in the world at NDRI, Karnal. The first calf born in February, 2009 died due to Pneumonia, but the second cloned buffalo calf born on 6th June, 2009 is quite hale and healthy. This technology would provide us tool to produce animals of desired sex and traits faster. Similar programme for cloning of Pashmina goats has been initiated. The Council has also provided diagnostic services for avian influenza thereby helping in early detection and monitoring of the disease. ELISA based diagnostic kit for Brucella and IBR has been developed. Several value added milk (bajra and sorghum based lassi) and meat products have been developed keeping the consumers preference in mind.
A large number of equipments (zero till drill, strip till drill, raised bed planter, happy combo-seeder, pneumatic planter) and technology have been developed to suit the requirement of various categories of farmers for different agro climatic regions, for different crops and also for increasing the revenue of the farmers by value addition. A solar PV mobile unit was designed and developed to provide complete self-sustained mobile power unit for domestic, small agricultural and other rural applications in isolated cluster of houses of arid region.
A mega programme “Modernization of Agricultural University Farms” was launched at an outlay of Rs. 421 crores to enhance their capacity for undertaking globally competitive research and education activities. The course curricula and syllabi for all post graduate (masters’ and doctoral) programmes revised by involvement of a large number of academicians will enable to have a uniform and competitive system of education.
National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management with deemed university status and state of art facilities has been established in Maharashtra for addressing the issues related to impending climate change affecting agricultural productivity and to enhance our capacity to effectively deal with the challenges of climate change.
It is envisaged that adoption of the improved technologies would transform agriculture into a vibrant and competitive sector paving way for harnessing the untapped opportunities in domestic and global markets.