Inaugural speech of Shri Sharad Pawar, Union Minister for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food ,Public Distribution


Honourable Chief Minister of Punjab Shri Prakash Singh Badal ji, Chief Minister of Haryana Shri B.S. Hoodaji, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Sushri Mayawati ji, Chief Minister of Bihar Shri Nitish Kumar ji, Chief Minister of West Bengal Shri Budhadeb Bhattacharya ji, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Dr. R. Pokhriyal Nishank ji; Professor K.v. Thomas, Minister of State for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution; Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Member of Parliament and Chairman, MSSRF, Dr. Mangala Rai, Secretary DARE and Director General ICAR; Dr. Thomas Lumpkin, Director General, CIMMYT; Dr. Mahmoud Solh, Director General, ICARDA; Dr. Ronnie Coffman, Vice-Chairman, Borlaug Global Rust Initiative; Dr. H.S. Gupta, Director, lARI; Officials from international organizations CIMMYT, ICARDA, ACIAR, BGRI; Officials from various wheat growing countries, international researchers on wheat, scientists from the NARS, Officials from State departments of agriculture, Members of the Press and Media; I Ladies and Gentleme.

1.This important seminar is organized in fond memory of Nobel laureate Late Dr. Borlaug; who served humanity at large, and helped in alleviating hunger and poverty through the development and dissemination of input-responsive semi-dwarf wheat varieties in wheat growing countries. India owes a lot to his unprecedented, innovative Fontributions. I consider that to discuss the challenges at hand, as also the likely future challenges of global wheat production, in an international seminar, would be an appropriate tribute to the Nobel Laureate. I Complement DARE and ICAR for this important and timely initiative. In The memory of Dr. Norman Borlaug, we have instituted a National Professor Chair in Biotechnology for Crop Improvement at IARI, New Delhi.Also, we have named important wheat varieties after Dr. Borlaug.

2. The theme of this seminar covers two important issues. First, challenges that the global wheat production has been facing. And, second, options to maximize the production. Dr. Borlaug was also keen to find solutions to resolve these issues. World will remember him for ever for his vision, brilliance and commitment towards solving the problems of food scarcity, through genetic enhancement and development of high yielding wheat varieties. The zeal, motivation and passion with which Dr. Borlaug directed the global movement were of unparalleled scale. Those among us who have had the privilege of being in touch with him, and working with him, will always cherish his untiring zeal. He displayed his continued efforts on providing his wisdom, counsel and directions, which enabled developing countries like India to achieve food sufficiency. I feel great satisfaction that this very important Seminar is organized in the memory of the chief architect and father of Green Revolution, Dr. Norman Borlaug who left for heavenly abode on September 12, 2009, at the age of over 95 years.

3. This seminar envisions taking stock of the global situation in wheat production, the challenges faced by the crop, and the preparedness of the wheat producing nations. We are grateful to the international organizations with global mandate on wheat, and national programmes of wheat growing countries, for joining us in this Seminar.

4.Any effect of the challenges to wheat production in India shall influence the global food security strategies since India is the second largest wheat producer in the world. The presence of the Honorable Chief Ministers/ Ministers of Agriculture of the major wheat producing States of India is, therefore, most appreciated and encouraging for us. I strongly believe that together, we will be able to sustain and enhance wheat production in the country. Together, we will also focus on solving the current and future wheat production challenges.

5.Wheat constitutes a major part of staple food of the growing population. Globally, about 600 million tonnes of wheat is annually produced from approximately 225 million hectares. This includes both spring and winter types of wheat. The crop now faces newer challenges. But, the challenges are almost similar in various wheat growing countries; depending on the ecology of the region. Diseases such as rusts, includingthe threat of new race of stem rust, Ug99, and foliar blights are prevalent in almost all the tropical regions. Similarly, rusts and smuts are prevalent in the temperate regions. Water scarcity and drought are also adversely affecting the prqduction of both spring and inter wheats. Drought is alarming serious proportions due to the erratic behavior of rainfall , and changing temperature regimes, during the crop cycle as a consequence of changing global climate. The consequence of these challenges are most felt by the marginal farmers of the developing nations; where cost of cultivation of wheat is already very high, and slight reduction in productivity impacts the livelihood and food security.

6. In the past, plant breeding programmes have been able to provide solutions to many challenges affecting the productivity and production of food crops. However, now, a multi-pronged approach is urgently required, on a very high priority, to lay special attention to the changing climate-led erratic fluctuations, and innovate durable solutions. Information, such as the responses shown by different genotypes cultivated in various parts of the world, needs to be shared to better understand the phenomenon. Approaches, such as an integrated productivity potential increase in a network mode, as being adopted by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, will be true dedication to the memory of Late Dr. Borlaug. Such initiatives are commendable, and these need to be widely adopted.

7. I have witnessed another very important international meeting staged at this venue in 2008; for developing a global road map to counter the threat of stem rust, Ug99. There was an immense response shown by the global wheat group as well as government officials from more than 40 nations. The 'Delhi Declaration' made in this meeting had also led to the road map ,i development for active, collaborative research for combating Ug99 by the countries lying in the projected Ug99 path; involving CGIAR, BGRI, ACIAR and ICAR. I understand that the research required as per the road map is already implemented; and the Kenyan-facility is being fully utilized to generate vital information on the extent of resistance to the race and its variants. In another parallel activity, ICAR and ACIAR have initiated a strategic molecular wheat breeding project with a set of focused and shared research projects on Ug99, water use efficiency, water logging tolerance, quality improvement and bioinformatics. Such collaborative research models can supplement the global commitment towards enhancing food security and alleviating hunger.

8. The system of All India Coordinated Crop Improvement Programs, organized by ICAR for over half-a-century, is already an excellent example of how strengths and capacities within the country are complemented and utilized to evaluate, identify, and promote superior crop technologies for different agro-ecologies across the country. An important output of this national level research collaboration is the successive releases of new landmark varieties of wheat since the green revolution days. The variety PBW-343 gained tremendous popularity and had already covered over six million hectares, that is, around 80 per cent, of the area under wheat crop in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh in 2006. At this popularity peak, the variety faced a new threat of another yellow rust menace. But, our national wheat improvement programme could timely give DBW-17 as a trusted alternative. This new landmark variety, besides having yield advantage over PBW-343, and resistance to the new yellow rust race 78S84 for which PBW-343 is susceptible, also shows better tolerance to Karnal bunt disease and moderate resistance to stem rust race Ug99. The international evaluation trials conducted in Kenya in the previous crop season have unearthed resistance to the new wheat rust menace in several Indian varieties and genetic stocks, including the new variety DBW-17. I am happy to note that these developments could be made possible by the dedicated wheat breeders; also a mark of respect to the Noble laureate who has been the torch-bearer of the wheat improvement programmes all over the world.

9. The strategy of 'gene deployment' is another exemplary initiative implemented by the Indian wheat research network. Varieties deployed for specific agro-ecological regions of the country possess specific genes that counter the prevailing races of the pathogen. This strategy has paid rich dividends by eliminating epidemics and minimizing losses due to diseases to the growers. This programme has been supported by a well-executed disease survey and surveillance system on the basis of which plant breeding programmes are oriented. India has also promoted the idea of sharing information on disease monitoring and surveillance among the neighbor countries. I am sure that this aspect will be further deliberated during the seminar; for each of the challenges that the wheat crop has beenfacing in different regions.

10. The natural resource management of wheat for realizing its genetic potential is one of the most immediate strategies to be devised and adopted to realize the global wheat production potentia1. I understand that out of about 27 milli,on hectares of wheat area, many areas suffer due to one or a combination of more than one abiotic stress factors. About 5 million hectares wheat under low rainfall area, and 15 million hectares in the productive zones of Rajasthan, Western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, sufferJrom declining ground water-levels. The ground water has to be recharged for retaining the productivity potential of the zones. Similarly, heat-stress during grain-filling period is affecting about 20 million hectares across the northern and north-eastern plains. In the last decade, salinity has taken its toll; in reducing the wheat yield in about 2.5 million hectares. Even in the most productive zone of Punjab, there are areas which suffer from these yield reducing factors. I hope, during the seminar these aspects will be addressed and possible solutions discussed. Some of the Chief Ministers of these States are here; and, I hope, the states would benefit from the discussions and also the recommendations of the seminar.

11. One of the potential options available to tackle wheat productivity problem is conservation agriculture. This is a fast growing area of research with a vast scope. It can be adopted without adversely affecting the environment. I understand that the delegates will take note of the recommendations of the 4th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture, which was held at the same venue in February 2009; and deliberate upon natural resource management strategies in wheat.

12. By joining the initiative of Dr Borlaug in the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, India is acknowledging with profound gratitude this most distinguished friend of the nation. By further enlarging the association into other areas like climate change, involving the CGIAR system, ACIAR and other networks, the global wheat research community shall beoffering a fitting tribute to Dr. Borlaug.

13. In our pursuit to globally tackle the challenges that limit wheat production, it is necessary to exchange information, and germplasm, among the partners involved. The national contributions by way of international circulation of their materials should be transparent, welldocumented and duly ackno"wledged by the partners in the international networks and consortia. There should be mission-mode research action plans to ensure that the resear01 efforts of individual partners are complementary to each other's efforts and needs. Efforts should be made to facilitate such collaborations within the available resources and by using existing mechanisms among partners for efficient delivery of results. I hope this seminar will come out with objective recommendations, indicating specific areas of future collaborations.

14.I again express my happiness that scientists engaged in wheat research have gathered in large numbers from all over the world; and this gives ample opportunity to leaders of state governments, and also government officials, to be benefited from the deliberations of this seminar. I wish you all, a satisfactory participation and discussions; and would be eagerly looking forward to an action-oriented road map from the recommendations of this seminar, which we all can adopt in our march towards a hunger-free world.

15.Finally, with a great honour and pride in the voluminous contributions made for the world peace through agriculture by the great soul, I inaugurate this very important Seminar organized to commemorate Late Dr. Norman Borlaug.

Thank you