–Dr. S. Ayyappan*
The ICAR remains committed to generate cost effective and environment friendly technologies by harnessing the developments in science for the cause of a robust agriculture and the farmers of our country for times to come. Established on 16 July, 1929, as a registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act–1860, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is primarily mandated to plan, co-ordinate and guide research nationally and develop research partnership internationally, in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences, in the country. The ICAR as the national apex body for agricultural research and extension education spearheads the National Agricultural Research & Education System (NARES) in developing farmer friendly technologies.
During last one year, improvement in the existing research and education infrastructure received due importance and based on the needs of R&D some new institutions were established whereas some existing institutions were reoriented to enhance systems efficiency and competence in technology development. Six additional colleges in north eastern states on agriculture, horticulture, veterinary sciences and food processing are being established under the Central Agricultural University, Imphal, thus raising the total number of colleges from 7 to 13. A state institution, Rajendra Agricultural University, Samastipur, Bihar is being converted into Rajendra Central Agricultural University. In order to ensure and maintain quality of higher agricultural education in the country, four Regional Centres of National Agricultural Education Accreditation Board have been set up.
Union Minister of Agriculture laid the Foundation Stone of a state of the art Indian Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology (IIAB) at Garhkhatanga, Ranchi (Jharkhand) on 25 August 2014. National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases has been established at Bhopal to address the emergence of exotic and trans-boundary animal and zoonotic diseases and National Institute of Veterinary Epidemiology and Disease Informatics(NIVEDI) has been established at Bengaluru to study the changing pattern of emerging and re-emerging animal diseases. A National Research Centre on Integrated Farming System has been approved for setting up in Motihari, Bihar.
More than 80 improved varieties/hybrids of major crops with enhanced yield potential and stress tolerance/resistance, that include 21of rice, 11of wheat, 17 of other cereals, 16 of oilseeds, 8 of pulses, 4 of forage crops, 3 of fiber crops and 1 in sugarcane, were developed by research institutions for cultivation in diverse agro-ecological regions of the country. About 94,953 quintals (q) breeder seed, 1,44,369 q of foundation seed, 1,63,466 q of certified seed, 1,72,352 q of truthfully labelled seed and 73,185 q of planting materials were produced to meet the demand as indented by different states and other stakeholders. Further, 155.59 lakh planting materials and 5.60 lakh tissue culture plantlets of field crops were also produced.
Some of the major achievements of the ICAR scientists include decoding of Wheat genome first time in the world in which scientists of the ICAR, PAU, Ludhiana and Delhi University collaborated. This genetic blueprint of wheat will help in the first-track development of superior wheat varieties. A rapid diagnostic method was developed to detect brucellosis, the main cause of abortion and reduced fertility in livestock and vaccine has been developed for the prevention of sheep pox. For the first time in the world somatic cells isolated from urine have been used to clone a calf, Apurva a female cloned calf. Cloning is useful for conservation of endangered animals species as well. In our efforts to conserve the biodiversity, ‘Deepasha’ a clone of wild buffalo was developed to save this species from extinction. It was cloned form cells of her mother the only surviving female of this breed in the Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary at Chhattisgarh.
A mobile mini lab named ‘Mridaparikshak’ has been developed that can assess the soil health and can be used in the preparation of soil health cards. It is a digital mobile quantitative mini lab to provide soil testing service at farmers’ doorsteps. It comes with ‘Smart Soil Pro’ an instrument for determining the soil parameters and displaying of fertilizer nutrient recommendations. It determines all the important soil parameters i.e. soil pH, EC, organic carbon, available nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur and micronutrients like zinc, boron and iron. It can provide information on doses of fertilizer N, P, and K based on the targeted yield equations.
A new device, Improved Light trap, has been designed to separate the insects having small, narrow body size i.e., mostly beneficial/ non-targeted insects from other (mostly harmful) insects. It comprises of a light source as attractant and a funnel to direct lured insects into the porous insect collecting chamber (having single or double-walled chamber that facilitate automatic sieving). The devices can be used to manage the insect-pests in field crops (paddy, pigeonpea, chickpea, groundnut, soybean, castor, sugarcane, tobacco), vegetable, horticultural and other crops viz., spices, medicinal plants, plantation crops, forestry, tea, floricultural nurseries, etc. The technology had already been adopted by several states, bodies. It may serve as an effective component of integrated pest management (IPM). These technologies have been licensed exclusively on joint basis to private sector.
Dissemination of user friendly technologies at ground level is undertaken by a wide network of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) having direct interface with farmers. Five new KVKs were established raising their number in the country to 642. The Government has approved establishment of 109 new KVKs in XII Plan to carry out its wide range of activities so as to meet the technological needs of the farmers of the concerned district. 16 new Agricultural Technology Information Centres (ATICs), Network Project on Expert System and New Extension Methodologies and Approaches have been approved. The scheme provides support to the Directorates of Extension Education (DEE) of State and Central Agricultural Universities. The Scheme also proposes to enhance the number of Zonal Project Directorates to 11 from the existing 8 and creation of one Post of Zonal Project Director and one post of Principal Scientist in each of the three new Zonal Project Directorates.
Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 25th July, 2015, on the occasion of Foundation Day of ICAR in Patna called upon agricultural scientists and planners to design second green revolution with new vision, dimensions and objectives to address the agricultural challenges in this modern era. Prime Minister appreciated the initiative of ICAR to celebrate its Foundation Day at Patna, Bihar from where organised agricultural research was initiated first time in the country through establishment of agricultural research institute way back in 1905. Emphasizing on the lab to land initiative, Prime Minister in his address urged agricultural scientists to make farmers their fellow travellers in development and refinement of farm technologies. Adoption of villages by teams of scientists can bring significant changes in the life of farmers by enhancing productivity, he said. He expressed satisfaction that ICAR has translated his vision of Lab to Land into newly launched schemes: Farmer FIRST, ARYA, Student READY and Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav. He also released ICAR Vision-2050 which presents a roadmap for food, nutrition and livelihood security in the year 2050. ICAR has developed Vision-2050 for its 100 Institutes spanning across India. The briefs about the above schemes are given below.
Farmer FIRST: The new proposed project – ‘Farmer FIRST’ is an ICAR initiative to move beyond the production and productivity and to privilege the complex, diverse & risk prone realities of majority of the farmers through enhancing farmers-scientists contact with multi stake holders-participation. The focus is on Farmer’s Farm, Innovations, Resources, Science and Technology (FIRST). Many aspects are multiple or multi; multiple stakeholders, multiple perspectives, multiple realities, multi-functional agriculture, multi-method approaches. There are concepts and domains that are new or new in emphasis like food systems, trade, market chains, value chains, innovation pathways and most of all innovation systems.
The project is conceptualized to deal with focus on: i) Enabling involvement of researchers for continuous interaction with farm conditions, problem orientation, exchange of knowledge between farmers and other stakeholders, prioritization of problems and setting up of research agenda; ii) Integrating components of technology for application in different agro-ecosystems with focus on innovations and feedback; iii) Building partnerships involving different stakeholders; development of rural based institutions; agro-ecosystem and stakeholders analysis and impact studies and iv)Using the platform of the project having commodity institutions as partners to develop commodity specific contents for e-enabled knowledge sharing. It is envisaged that project will provide a platform of creating linkages, capacity building, technology adaptation and application, on-site input management, feedback and institution building.
Mera Gaon-Mera Gaurav: To enhance the direct interface of scientists with the farmers, an innovative initiative has been launched as “Mera Gaon- Mera Gaurav” which will hasten the lab to land approach. The objective of this initiative is to provide farmers with required information, knowledge and advisories on regular basis. Under this scheme, groups of scientists will select villages and will remain in touch with that village and provide information to farmers on technical and other related aspects in a time frame through personal visits or through telecommunication. In this way, 20,000 scientists of National Agricultural Research and Education System (NARES) can work directly in villages.
Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture (ARYA): Realizing the importance of rural youth in agricultural development especially from the point of view of food security of the country, ICAR has initiated a programme on “Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture”. The objectives of ARYA project are (i) To attract and empower the Youth in Rural Areas to take up various Agriculture, allied and service sector enterprises for sustainable income and gainful employment in selected districts, (ii) to enable the Farm Youth to establish network groups to take up resource and capital intensive activities like processing, value addition and marketing, and (iii) To demonstrate functional linkage with different institutions and stakeholders for convergence of opportunities available under various schemes/program for sustainable development of youth.
ARYA project will be implemented in 25 States through KVKs, one district from each State. In one district, 200-300 rural youths will be identified for their skill development in entrepreneurial activities and establishment of related micro-enterprise units in the area of Apiary, Mushroom, Seed Processing, Soil testing, Poultry, Dairy, Goatry, Carp-hatchery, Vermi-compost etc., KVKs will involve the Agricultural Universities and ICAR Institutes as Technology Partners. At KVKs also one or two enterprise units will be established so that they serve as entrepreneurial training units for farmers. The purpose is to establish economic models for youth in the villages so that youths get attracted in agriculture and overall rural situation is improved.
Skill development of rural youths will help in improving their confidence levels and encourage them to pursue farming as profession, generate additional employment opportunities to absorb under employed and unemployed rural youth in secondary agriculture and service related activities in rural areas. The concurrent monitoring, evaluation and mid-term correction will be an integral part of project implementation.
STUDENT READY: The term READY refers to “Rural and Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana”.Student READY is Skill development initiative to strengthen students with skills, so as to enable them to tackle global challenges, and to improve both their employability as well as ability to set up a venture. Student READY concept signifies this as a Finishing school for the undergraduate students.
The students get experience of working on farm in coordination with research stations and KVKs under RAWE Component. The students also stay in villages with farm families, agro based industries, cooperatives during phases of the RAWE programme to enable them to get real life field experience, understating of the problems and enable them to gain confidence to tackle these problems. Approximately, 25000 graduates as Student READY will be a mandatory requirement for the UG Degree. It is an all inclusive approach to strengthen the entrepreneurship development scenario in the country which is competent, quality conscious, market savvy, innovative and has globally competitive entrepreneurs shall be carefully mentored and encouraged. The programme will attract youth towards agriculture and allied sector and such ventures, when established will help improve economic conditions in rural areas.
All out efforts are being made to raise profitability of agriculture for making it a really attractive occupation, especially for youth.