'Endeavors to Feed the Nation, with Pride’: Republic Day Feature of Secretary, DARE and DG, ICAR

Press Information Bureau, Government of India has released following Republic Day Feature by Dr. S. Ayyappan, Secretary, DARE and DG, ICAR

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is the apex scientific organization with robust agricultural research system for planning, promotion, execution and coordination of agricultural research and education in the country. ICAR with 99 institutes, 65 Agricultural Universities and 631 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 2011-12.

The year that went by posed challenges - an erratic monsoon, drought-like situation in some parts of the country as also cyclones impacting agriculture. The technological responses were quick and visible in terms of contingency plans for over 374 districts; stress-resilient crop varieties; holistic technological solutions under NICRA; disaster management in agriculture; innovative attempts at farm mechanization and secondary agricultural enterprises. India's first ovum-pick up IVF cattle calf and the first mithun calf through embryo transfer technology; and complete suppression of papaya mealy bug through classical biological control by deploying three exotic insect parasitoids in cassava, papaya and mulberry crops were research highlights. Over a dozen patents were granted signalling internalization of IPR culture in the Council. We surged ahead in developing farmer-friendly technologies, their assessment and refinement. Consultations with all stakeholders marked the Year in our review and planning process.

Under a specific country wide National Initiative for Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA), climate resilient agricultural practices are being demonstrated on farmers’ fields in 100 most vulnerable districts. During 2011-12 more than 15000 germplasm of wheat and 2000 germplasm lines of other crops like rice, maize, pulses were screened for drought, heat and submergence tolerance which are the major climatic stresses and more than 50 promising lines were identified in different crops which will be used for breeding purposes during next year. Drought and flood coping technologies were demonstrated on farmers’ fields for adoption in large number of villages for up-scaling. During drought like conditions this year, ICAR coordinated generation and delivery of agro-advisories on contingent crop strategies in different states through the extension system of ICAR and the State Agricultural Universities in regional languages.

A national level programme on ‘Technology Demonstration for Harnessing Pulses Productivity’ was coordinated with participation of Indian Institute of Pulses Research, Kanpur, Zonal Project Directorate and 137 KVKs in 11 states to conduct 6000 demonstrations in 2010-11 and 2011-12. The demonstrations were laid out on five major crops viz. pigeonpea, chickpea, urdbean, mungbean and lentil. A model was developed in which various technological and extension related factors were integrated that led to yield increase of about 40% in demonstrations over farmers’ practices.

Nearly 95,000 frontline demonstrations on cereals, millets, oilseeds, pulses, cotton and other important crops; 7,000 on improved tools and farm implements; 8,000 on livestock species; 800 on related enterprises; and 4,000 on gender-specific technologies were conducted during the year 2011-12. A single window delivery mechanism has been developed for technology products, diagnostic services and knowledge through Agricultural Technology Information Centers located in ICAR institutes and Agricultural Universities. Riding on the strength of Information and Communication Technologies, more than 300 KVKs are providing Kisan Mobile Advisories to farmers on their registered mobile phones. During the year, about 1.10 lakh short text messages (SMSs) were delivered to 13.40 lakh farmers for timely actions.

Rinderpest, also known as cattle plague, has been eradicated from the planet in which ICAR played a central role yielding major economic benefit to the country in respect of owners of livestock sector. The Council in consultation with the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries celebrated the national ceremony on the declaration of Global Freedom from Rinderpest. Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations which has been instrumental for declaring Global Freedom from Rinderpest adopted a resolution in Rome during the 37th FAO conference, in the presence of 192 member countries making it the first animal disease being eliminated from the planet.

Captive breeding and larval production of silver pompano, a high-value marine tropical finfish, was accomplished successfully. Improved strains of Hungarian scale carp, Ropsa scaly and Felsosomogy mirror carp were bred for improving economics of carp culture in the mid-hill region. Early breeding of grass carp achieved in April would ensure off-season seed availability. The culture of pacific shrimp (L.vannamei) in inland saline soils using ground saline water at Rohtak, Haryana with a salinity of 13-15 ppt is the first attempt in the country towards, utilizing degraded lands for aquaculture.

In the field of bio-technology and genomics, ICAR has played a central role in decoding of rice, potato and tomato genomes as partner of international consortium. Recently, India contributed sequencing of the gene-rich region of the tomato chromosome 5 (tomato has total 12 chromosomes) and provided further support to generate 5-fold sequence coverage of the entire tomato genome by Next Generation Sequence (NGS) technology. The genomes of the cultivated tomato and its closest wild relative have been decoded by the Tomato Genome Consortium (TGC), a group of over 300 scientists from 14 countries.

A group of Indian scientists from ICAR, State Agricultural Universities and Banaras Hindu University, have decoded the genome of pigeon pea (Arhar), the second most important pulse crop of India. This is the first plant genome sequenced entirely through a network of Indian institutions and it will provide highly valuable resource for further improvements in pigeon pea. A total of 47,004 protein-coding genes were identified in the genome, of which 1,213 are for disease resistance and 152 are for tolerance to drought, heat and salinity.

DARE was conferred prestigious Indira Gandhi Rajbhasha Puraskar (2010-11) for excellent work and commendable achievements for implementation of the Official Language Policy of the Union. The comprehensive and effective use of Rajbhasha Hindi has resulted in outreach of benefits of agricultural research to the large community of Hindi speaking farmers and other stakeholders. Krishika, first Hindi Research Journal of the Council was launched which is a half-yearly peer reviewed journal covering research in agriculture and allied subjects.

Under the knowledge management efforts, over 350 courses have been developed under the ‘e-Learn Agriculture’ initiative covering undergraduate programmes in agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, veterinary science, dairy technology, sericulture and agricultural engineering. AgriDaksh, a Knowledge Management tool for building online expert system for crops was developed comprising knowledge model creation, knowledge acquisition, problem identification, knowledge retrieval, ask questions-to-experts and administration. The Knowledge Information Repository in Agriculture for North-East (KIRAN) and Rice Knowledge Management Portal were launched. The National Agricultural Bioinformatics Grid in the ICAR will be a national facility to provide computational framework to support biotechnological research in the country.

The ICAR now has a corporate platform, ‘Agri-Innovate India Limited’ for technology commercialization and consultancy at home and abroad. Forty-three patent applications were filed and two international and nine national patents were granted during 2011-12. Over 200 extant varieties were registered and granted protection and 436 applications were brought out in the Plant Variety Journal. Six Copyrights were registered by the ICAR institutes to protect developed softwares. ‘Weather Cock’ software package, capable of agro-meteorological analysis to understand possible impacts of climate change on crop performance, was developed and registered. Trademark ‘IISR’ was granted to the Indian Institute for Spices Research, Kozhikode.

Unforeseen challenges of Indian agriculture are presenting uncommon opportunities that also seek unconventional approaches to harness the potentials. Agriculture-Food-Nutrition-Health Environment- Employment and Gender Perspective have to be addressed in all our efforts through an innovative and integrated approach. The year ahead is the time for focusing on programmes, partnerships and projects that should further bring cheer to the Indian farmer. 'Family NARES' and 'Team ICAR' are committed for greater synergy as a winning strategy, and together, we can make a change in Indian agriculture, to become a sought-after career and occupation for men, women and youth alike.

(PIB Feature)