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23 December 2009, New Delhi
Shri K.V. Thomas Ji, Minister of State for Agriculture, distinguished members of the ICAR Society and Governing Body, Dr Mangala Rai, Secretary, DARE and Director-General, ICAR, Shri Rajiv Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, DARE and Secretary, ICAR, special invitees, media persons, Ladies and Gentlemen !
It is a matter of pleasure to welcome distinguished members of the ICAR Society, esteemed members of the Governing Body and participants to the 81st Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research Society. I express my gratitude on behalf of the ICAR Society, and on my personal behalf, to all the participants who have made it convenient to participate in this meeting despite their busy schedule and Delhi’s cold weather. I am happy to see members who have come from the different parts of the country, even remote areas and from the north-eastern states. The AGM of the ICAR Society should not be an annual ritual; rather it should become an interactive forum where we share our views and experiences, take stock of our performance and identify challenges that lie ahead, so that deliberations particularly focus on our ultimate objective of furtherance of the agricultural growth and development in the country.
Friends, this has been a challenging year for Indian agriculture due to delayed and deficient monsoon coupled with flash floods in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in recent months. However, I am delighted to say that ICAR responded to the exigency, and designed in time technology-driven contingency plans which 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. Simultaneously, movement of quality seeds was mobilized and coordinated across the country in coordination with department of agriculture, Government of India, and state government authorities to ensure availability of quality seeds to the farmers on affordable price.
In view of the above, 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 yield additional production. Improved soil moisture, due to late monsoon rains has brightened the prospects of rabi production in the entire country.
Among rabi crops, wheat contributes nearly 72% to the total rabi foodgrains production of the country. However, the crop faces newer challenges in the wake of water scarcity, erratic rainfall and changing temperature regimes, in addition to prevalent diseases and threat of new race of stem rust, Ug99. I would like to emphasize that small and marginal farmers are likely to be the worst sufferers of such challenges, because the cost of cultivation is already high and even a slight reduction in productivity will adversely impact their income in real terms.
Friends, I was a part of an international seminar on ‘Meeting challenges of Global Wheat Production’ organized here last month, as a tribute to the Late Dr Norman E. Borlaug, to whom Indian owes a lot for spearheading green revolution in the country. I felt delighted to observe the passion, zeal and commitment among scientists to meet the emerging challenges through collaborative research and inter-institutional support mechanisms. I am sure, wheat will continue to play a central role in enhancing food security and alleviating hunger in India.
Towards providing a scientific and technology-driven thrust to agricultural development, ICAR has taken several notable steps and initiatives. Its efforts have resulted in several notable achievements. Crop improvement programmes resulted in release/ identification of 131 varieties/ hybrids of major food crops for different agro-climatic regions of the country, besides a few varieties in plantation and horticultural crops. A total of 7,340 tonnes of breeder seed of field crop varieties were produced and distributed. A drought-tolerant horsegram mutant was released for the north zone in tribal dominated Eastern Ghats of Orissa. Gene sources for resistance to Ug99 rust with new genes have been located. The Pacific Rim Conference on Bacillus thuringiensis held here last month gave us a comprehensive picture of its status and potential of applications in the coming years. In our efforts at biodiversity conservation, fingerprints of 44 grape accessions of commercial importance were developed. The ICAR has also developed cost effective amelioration technologies for waterlogged, salt affected and acid soils.
Studies and modeling to assess the impact of increased carbon dioxide levels, for example, have indicated increase in the yields of wheat, chickpea, greengram, pigeonpea, soybean, tomato and potato in the range of 14% to 27%. However, we also have a look at the possible impact on the protein contents, that could be marginally reduced. In order to address the issues of impact of climate change on agriculture, a National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management has been established. Further, 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. You would be happy to learn that the ICAR has brought out a seminal publication depicting impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of Indian agriculture to climate change.
In order to make the agriculture more lucrative, the ICAR is devising ways and means to supplement family income and employment in rural areas. A pond-based farming technology has been developed for waterlogged areas that can enhance net water productivity and net returns in rice. We regard livestock as the best possible insurance against the vagaries of nature like drought, famine and other natural calamities. 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 an encouraging development.
Fisheries has emerged as a sector with great potential to ensure food, livelihood and nutritional security. At a time when natural resources are under stress, it is a matter of pleasure to note that helped by a variety of 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.
Quality human resource is a key to input in all aspects of agriculture, for making it technology-led and entrepreneurship-driven. The ICAR is implementing a comprehensive accreditation system to ensure quality of education, strengthening of infrastructure and faculty improvement in 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 involving over 1,000 academicians in the country to make them utilitarian, updated and competitive. Introduction of international fellowships during the year was a major milestone in globalizing higher agricultural education. I am sure this would provide for the much needed opportunity for our students to go overseas for Master’s and Doctoral degree programmes and also for foreign students to pursue higher studies in our agricultural universities.
In order to infuse new blood in research efforts, over 430 scientists are being recruited at the entry level and further, 334 scientific positions were filled up during the year. In an effort to build capacity in high-end research such as molecular breeding, genomics and transgenics, bioremediation, nanotechnology, diagnostics etc. scientists from ICAR institutes and teachers from State Agricultural Universities were trained in best of the laboratories of the world.
It is a matter of great pleasure that for the first time non-conventional partners have been 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.
In line with the Guidelines formulated at the Council for Intellectual Property Management and Commercialization of Technologies, intense capacity building efforts were undertaken. These have resulted in filing of 55 patents applications from 13 ICAR institutes during the year. Two patents applications have entered into National phase in USA, France and Japan. In an effort to enhance farmers’ capacity and skills, about 40,000 training programmes were organized benefitting 11.27 lakh farmers and farm women. Similarly, about 13,000 skill-oriented training programmes were organized for 3.10 lakh rural youths.
In the current knowledge-intensive era, the ICAR institutes and State Agricultural Universities are being connected to National Knowledge Network through an electronic digital broadband to encourage sharing of resources for collaborative research. The ICAR is committed to promote ICT-driven technology and information dissemination system for effective communication. The ICAR contemplates to share its knowledge resources on a common platform in open-access mode for the benefit of stakeholders. The most authoritative source of information on Indian agriculture, the 6th edition of the Handbook of Agriculture is now available.
Friends, I have shared a glimpse of major and diverse activities and achievements of ICAR since the last meeting. We solicit your guidance and suggestions to move ahead and contribute in greater measures to the cause of agriculture in the country.
Jai Hind !