By Dr S Ayyappan
In view of the emerging challenges and threats to agriculture sector, vis-à-vis national food security, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed a strategic framework to improve food security, enhance opportunities for inclusive growth, augment competitiveness of Indian agriculture and create adequate and quality human resources to address the concerns. Some of the major concerns include, natural resources degradation, increasing biotic and abiotic pressures, declining input use efficiency, post-harvest losses, decreasing profitability in farming, quality human resource and farm extension.
To deal with the challenges effectively, ICAR is coordinating, guiding and managing research, education and extension in agriculture, including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences, in the country. It has a vast network with 97 ICAR institutes, 54 state agricultural universities; five deemed universities and one Central Agricultural University and 592 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) spread across the country. The research programmes under umbrella of the ICAR are designed and undertaken for harnessing power of science that ensures food, nutrition and livelihood security for all.
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 through technological interventions. The year 2010-11 has been agriculturally rewarding as we have observed record food grain production touching 242 million tonnes in farm season (July-June) according to the 4th advance estimates released recently. The food grains comprise rice, coarse-cereals and pulses. The record output was largely because of a sharp rise in production of Wheatto 86 million tonnes against 81 million tonnes in the year before. The record high oilseed production of 31 million tonnes is another notable accomplishment to cheer. Further, a high production in horticulture, 234.4 million tonnes could also be achieved through policy and technological support.
The bygone year has thrown many challenges also. These include perceptible climate change, as seen by the dry spells in the Eastern India, despite normal rainfalls across the country; degrading land and water environment; need for quality inputs; emerging problem of agricultural labour; and post-harvest losses across the commodities. It was here that the ICAR provided, both directions and solutions, in terms of crop varieties suitable for both drought and submergence; defined elements of fertilizer application, based on the nutrient deficiencies; farm mechanization for both field and horticultural crops; and developed clear estimates of post-harvest losses of various crops and commodities, as the basis for formulating future approaches.
The paradigm shift from ‘primary to secondary agriculture’ was focused in our discussions and research process, as was demonstrated through the projects in the value chain component of the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP); that is planned to be further enlarged in the coming years. A parallel development has been the establishment of agri-incubators, a new concept in the Indian agriculture; expected to develop entrepreneurship in a big way. In our efforts at institutionalizing the research extension continuum, the ‘Farm Innovators’ meet held during the year, the second in the series, added a new dimension to our approach of innovative agriculture.
Among new projects, a National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture is a noteworthy one launched with the objective to assess impact of climate change on the agriculture and allied sectors, and for evolving cost-effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. The Project has a budget outlay of Rs 350 crore for XI Plan; out of which Rs 200 crore is allocated for 2010-11, and Rs 150 crore for 2011-12 on the research infrastructure, capacity-building and on-farm demonstrations of available climate-resilient technologies.
During the year 2010-11, 60 varieties/hybrids of crops including major food crops of rice, wheat, maize, pearl millet and pulses were released/ recommended for cultivation in different agro-climatic regions of country. During the year, 629 tonnes of nucleus seed, 9,554 tonnes of breeder seed, 7,745 tonnes of foundation seed, 3,471 tonnes of certified seeds and 10,443 tonnes of truthfully labeled seed were produced for large scale multiplication to ensure timely supply of quality seeds to farmers.
To address the problem of decreasing soil and water productivity, the GIS based soil fertility maps, using soil-test data was prepared for 500 districts spread over 21 states of India. The data have revealed that soils of most of the districts have low to medium amount of nitrogen and phosphorus and medium to high amount of potassium. Existing ridge-and-furrow system of irrigation was modified for in-situ rain water harvesting (10% than the earlier 1% of rain), which increased castor yield by 30%. A decision support system was developed for facilitating location specific nutrient management.
With a view to enhance profitability and livelihood security, integrated farming is being promoted in all the ecological regions with the desired technological backstopping. An Integrated Farming System Component Selection Model is found useful for selection of the components of the integrated farming system based on the expected profit under the prevailing constraints, and also for suggesting beneficial components from profit as well as land and water productivity point of view.
To improve the quality and productivity of livestock population, artificial insemination is being standardized and adopted in field situations. Successful pregnancy from artificial insemination with extended semen is reported for the first time in Indian dromedary camels. The first mithun calf was born at farm-gate level through artificial insemination using cryo-preserved semen from genetically superior mithun bulls. Semen collection by ‘Gloved Hand Method’ and AI technique were standardized for pigs, and by using AI technology, highest litter size (15 piglets) at birth was recorded from a Ghungroo sow in the farm.
With repositioning of its approach towards entrepreneurship and livelihood security, the ICAR has made a strong commitment for socio-economic transformation of the Indian rural population. The research programmes, educational initiatives and extension activities have been reoriented to meet the objective. Efforts are being made to ensure free flow of knowledge, crossing all barriers on the way. The ICAR has adopted open-access policy for its highly-rated research journals and other literature of importance.
The website (www.icar.org.in) has transformed into a treasure house of agricultural information and knowledge for various categories of stakeholders. On an average, more than 2, 00,000 visits are recorded per month from around 166 countries reflecting the global presence of Indian agriculture. Consortium for e-Resources in Agriculture (CeRA) is providing free online access to more than 2,900 international journals and 124 libraries of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS). During the year 2010-11, 64 patent applications were filed and 10 were granted making the total as 481 and 58 respectively.
As a special thrust to North-East region, Knowledge Information Repository in Agriculture for North-East has been launched by the ICAR with a mission to empower the agricultural production system of North-East region with right technology and methodology emphasizing innovative approach and solutions. It will act as a platform to foster linkages among partners and collaborate with public, private, state and regional organizations functioning in the region.
Partnerships grew at the national level and also across the globe with the projected Borlaug Institute for South Asia and enhanced Indo-African and India-Afghanistan Fellowships in Agricultural Universities. An ICAR–Industry meet was also convened in New Delhi in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) which received an overwhelming response from the private sector. Twenty-five new Units were added to the existing 220 Units in 49 universities to develop entrepreneurship skills among students. Niche Area of Excellence was also supported at 30 locations to achieve global competence in agricultural research and education.
Under the ICAR award scheme, two new prestigious awards have been instituted, namely ICAR Norman Borlaug Award and ICAR Challenge Award. The total numbers of awards to be given annually in specific categories have been increased from 13 to 22. Similarly the award money has also been enhanced in most of the categories.
The ICAR has repositioned its approach in the formulation of 12th five year plan to bring a demand driven and technology led revolution in the country.
The Council will focus more on the commodities and the areas where private sector would be reluctant to venture. Secondary and specialty agriculture and the strength inter-departmental platforms will be harnessed to sustain the benefits of agricultural research and development. At national level, initiatives such as National Agricultural Education Project, National Agricultural Entrepreneurship Project, National Agricultural Science Foundation and National Agricultural Innovation Foundation have been envisaged to further strengthen and accelerate the process of transformation. However, in all these initiatives the Council is making a forward march with Farmers First approach.
The research and development programmes during the year have armed ICAR with preparedness to meet future challenges, especially of prospective global climate change vis-à-vis depleting and degrading natural resources. We envision that innovations in agriculture would transform existing slowdown in agriculture sector into a vibrant and competitive sector by harnessing untapped opportunities in domestic and global markets. The Council firmly believes that agricultural research and development would augment farmers’ income, generate employment opportunities, conserve natural resources, restrict imports, promote exports and increase value addition for higher and inclusive agricultural growth.
Appropriately backed by frontier sciences and techniques, a surge in production and productivity of major commodities is on the way to realize the dream of rainbow revolution)