Availability of quality seed needed to achieve higher seed replacement rate: Prof. K. V. Thomas

National Conference on Quality Seeds and Planting Material-of Horticultural Crops inagurated

New Delhi
11 March 2010

Prof. K.V. Thomas, Minister of State for Agriculture Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has emphasized on private and public sector participation in production and management of quality to ensure higher seed replacement rates and achieve targeted production to meet the growing demand. He exhorted all the concerned to work towards providing Indian farmer with good healthy seeds and planting material, so that he could grow quality horticultural produce and fulfill the much needed nutritional security.

Addressing a National Conference on Production of Quality Seeds and Planting Material - Health Management in Horticultural Crops here today, Prof. Thomas said, in the backdrop of growth of seed industries, development of new technologies and recognition of many Indian cultivars abroad, there is a great opportunity for seed trade both in India and abroad. He said that Government has recognized the importance of quality seed and planting material and provided focused attention both for financial support for seed production, quality regulation and enabling policies. New Seed Bill-2004 approved recently also covers all the horticultural crops for regulation of seeds and planting material, Prof. Thomas added.

Referring to appreciable growth of horticulture in last two decades, Prof. Thomas said, ‘the plan investment in horticulture has been rewarding, and it has emerged as the best option for the effective land use, employment generation and enhanced farm profitability. Scientists have developed more than 1500 cultivars of horticultural crops, many of which have been adopted by the farmers. In potato and many other crops, cultivars developed by the ICAR are grown across the country. Use of improved cultivars and production technologies have resulted in enhanced production, productivity, availability and export of horticultural crops, and this development is referred as Golden Revolution. But, availability of quality seeds and disease-free planting material continues to be a constraint. Thus, effective use of diagnostic techniques are essentially required.’

The Minister said, ‘the planting material produced through micro-propagation is the success story especially in banana, which has enhanced the production and productivity many fold. Similarly, production of mini tuber in potato has ensured the quality production of seeds in potato. True potato seed (TPS) required intensive research to popularize.’ Talking about diagnostics for banana, citrus and potato developed by the ICAR research institutes for rapid and accurate method of detection of viruses and other pathogens, the Minister desired development and standardisation of similar detection techniques for other vegetatively propagated plants.

Expressing satisfaction over the involvement of many private sector companies in vegetable seed production, especially of hybrids, Prof. Thomas informed, ‘nurseries to produce seedling of vegetables, particularly high value crops have also been established by a large number of small entrepreneurs, which produce millions of healthy seedlings of popular varieties in portrays under net tunnels. This has not only reduced the initial incidence of virus attacks, but has also provided uniform crop stand in the farmer's field with low or no mortality. As source of clean material, nucleus garden has to be established under protected conditions having monitoring system to ensure freeness from diseases. In order to ensure, the quality planting material, we may have to think for establishing "seed and planting material health management system" where farmers can have access to ensure the fidelity and freeness from diseases. The system must have facilities for verification of cultivars (finger prints) and diagnostic system.’

The Minister stated that despite various challenges, Indian agriculture, which provides livelihood to 600 million people, has made rapid strides. He further said, efforts made by the Government has brought about a significant enhancement in investment for agriculture through new initiatives like National Horticulture Mission, National Food Security Mission and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna. Prof. Thomas said, ‘initiative of the Government to provide seeds and inputs in a timely manner has paved the way for all time record harvest of wheat. In this context, Indian Council of Agricultural Research has played a key role in technology generation, development of seeds and production of breeder seeds and nucleus planting material.’

Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Dr. S. Ayyappan said that inadequate availability of quality material is one of the major constraints of a sound horticulture industry in the country. He told the participants that massive area expansion programmes under National Horticulture Mission and Technology Mission for Development of Horticulture in North Eastern and Himalayan States require improved varieties for replanting, planting in marginal and arid areas.

DG highlighted the strong institutional network of the Council to undertake crop specific research. He said that 9 research institutes and 11 national research centres and a network project on hybrid seed production which are involved in the production of planting material. He also said, 30 vegetable hybrids are being produced under national seed programme at 19 centres covering both ICAR institutes and state agricultural universities.
Earlier, Dr HP Singh, Deputy Director General (Horticulture) said in his welcome address, that four day Conference deliberation aims to discuss technological advancements, and critical gaps to develop strategies to address the issues for resolving the problems for seed and planting material.

Shri Ashish Bahuguna, Additional Secretary, DAC, Ministry of Agriculture, Dr RS Paroda, former DG, ICAR, Vice Chancellors, Directors, scientists and delegates from different parts of the country were also present there.
The Society for Promotion of Science, Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Confederation of Horticultural Association and Indian Agricultural Research are jointly organizing the National Conference during 11 to 14 March, 2010 at New Delhi, to address some of the critical issues such as nursery standards, diagnostics, GM seeds, policy interventions, pathogen free clones and virus indexing. Four days of deliberations with the theme of 'Production of Quality Seeds and Planting Material - Health Management in Horticultural Crops' will develop strategic action plan for ensuring the quality seeds and planting material.

(Source : PRUNIT/March/2010 anil [dot] cproatgmail [dot] com)