“The farmer needs right type of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides at the right time and at right source.”
I am delighted to participate in the 5th Convocation of Birsa Agricultural University (BAU), Ranchi. My greetings to the Hon’ble Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Members of Board of Management and Academic Council; Deans of faculties, distinguished guests, graduands and dear students. I am happy that Birsa Agricultural University has linked its education, research and extension with rural development. It is heartening to know that BAU is contributing in developing strategies for optimum income to farmers with large, medium, small and marginal farm holdings. Friends, I congratulate all the students who are graduating today and also the faculty for shaping the young minds. Today, when I am in the midst of future agricultural scientists, I would like to share few thoughts on Dimensions of 21st Century of Indian Agriculture.
Friends, a few days back, I was reading a recently published book “What a wonderful World” written by Marcus Chown. I want to quote a beautiful paragraph from the book that captures well the importance of agriculture to sustain human life on our planet. Marcus Chown writes, “Let us remember why we are here: because our farming ancestors learned the fine art of growing crops from the wild plants. Man despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments – owes his existence to a six-inch layer of top-soil and the fact that it rains.”
Friends, it has been found that entrepreneurship plays a crucial role in the development and well-being of the society, as it creates jobs, drives and shapes innovation and promotes competition which in-turn improves productivity. Agricultural productivity can grow and enrich our farmers only through integrated rural development involving agriculture and non- agricultural growth along with societal missions.
Today, one of the major problems in the field of agriculture is small size land holding by farmers which is continuously getting fragmented due to our family structure. Under these circumstances, the only solution for increasing the productivity is to create a positive farmer cooperative movement in our rural sector which will bring together small farmers facilitating mechanized farming, silo storage, value addition and marketing of agro-products. When the farmer’s production increases, these cooperatives will forecast and establish networks with markets on behalf of the individual farmer members to facilitate rapid movement where there is a demand and profit cost. Also, the entrepreneurs should plan for diversification and value addition of the product needed by various sections of the society.
Friends, last year marks the 30th anniversary of the first successful introduction of a foreign gene into a plant. A transgenic crop plant contains a gene or genes which have been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring them through pollination. Depending on where and for what purpose the plant is grown, desirable genes may provide features such as higher yield or improved quality, pest or disease resistance, or tolerance to heat, cold and drought. Transgenic technology enables plant breeders to bring together in one plant useful genes from a wide range of living sources, not just from within the crop species or from closely related plants and expands the possibilities beyond the limitations imposed by traditional cross-pollination and selection techniques. Transgenic BT corn, for example, which produces its own insecticide, contains a gene from a bacterium.
In developed countries, the new life sciences companies have dominated the application of GM technology to agriculture. There is clear evidence that the use of GM crops has resulted in significant benefits like higher crop yields, reduced farm costs, increased farm profit and improvement in health and the environment. And yet there have been heated debate over genetically modified (GM) crops and the argument has not yet settled. The debate features not only science but also economics, politics, and even religion, is taking place almost everywhere. Science can’t be bogged down by dogma and no illusionary fears can stop the advancement of what is rational and logical. The solution lies in developing beneficial transgenic crops locally.
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT, Hyderabad) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India have together established a Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC). The DBT funded platform is a 6.2 million US dollar project that will translate transgenic technology and harness its products to meet the needs of agricultural growth and serve as a facility of reference to strengthen national, regional and international linkages in transgenic R&D, exchange of materials and information, as well as support training, consultation and technology commercialization. The PTTC will provide an opportunity for public sector research institutes and private sector biotechnology companies to work together for translating transgenic research into products.
With every new emerging technology, there are potential risks and transgenic crops are no exceptions. There is a danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods. There is a likelihood of transgenes escaping from cultivated crops into wild relatives. There is potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops. And also there is a risk of these toxins affecting non-target organisms. But with legislation and regulatory institutions in place, there are elaborate steps to precisely avoid or mitigate these risks. It is the obligation of the technology innovators and scientists, producers, and the government to assure the public of the safety of the novel foods that they offer as well as their benign effect on the environment.
The Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC) will be the birthplace of new generation transgenic crops which will even surmount the genetically modified crops developed so far in terms of their ability to lower farm-level production costs and also feature increased nutritional and/or industrial traits giving direct benefits of affordability and health to the consumers. In his book, “Feeding the Forgotten Poor”, Dr William Dar, (formerly DG-ICRISAT) has drawn the map for “second-generation” GM crops. It is not hard to imagine the immense value of Rice enriched with iron, vitamin A and E, and lysine; Potatoes with higher starch content, and insulin; Edible vaccines in maize, banana and potatoes; Maize varieties with low phytic acid and increased essential amino acids; Healthier oils from soybean and canola; and Allergen-free nuts. I have no doubt that the developing world stands to benefit from any technology that can increase food production, lower food prices, and improve food quality. Nutritionally enhanced foods could play a key role in helping to alleviate malnutrition in developing countries.
I am sure the young graduates will contribute to our society by following these basic truths in life. Make a difference, wherever you are and whatever you do. The knowledge and skills that you have acquired are not everything. They are probably sufficient to earn a living. But instead of learning to earn, you must try to earn for learning. Understand that ultimately you will shine as a leader if you possess an attitude of a good human being, a human being who tries to live among fellow human beings, for betterment of all, a human being who tries to give back much more to the society than what has received from it.
Friends, Indian agricultural sector employs nearly 50% of India’s population who can work in the agriculture area, yet accounts for only about 17% of total GDP. Growth in agriculture has stagnated relative to other sectors: last quarter, the agricultural sector grew at a rate of 3.2%, which is much lower than all other sectors. Agricultural incomes are lower and growing slower than incomes in other sectors. The causes for such a situation are many out of which the major concerns for the low productivity are: non availability such as: proper irrigation system, availability of quality seeds in time, coordinated support to the farmers for system oriented approach towards farming and its practice, insurance accessibility and natural disaster including flood, drought, seasoned pests, excessive inorganic fertilizer, degraded soil quality, storage facility and non-availability of trained human resource and non-availability market access at the right time, are some of the important reasons for its low productivity.
The country has seen the islands of success in agricultural growth and productivity increase in many parts of the nation. Best insurance to the farmers and to increase their earning capacity is possible only by adopting the following: multi-cropping, scientific farming with regulated drip irrigation, creation of reliable agro and food processing infrastructure, increased availability of ground water and 24×7 power availability. The coordinated mission mode operations has to be initiated by government in partnership with the Agriculture universities and its scientists. It is one of the essential need for high productivity of agriculture produce, the agriculture inputs such as; quality seeds, quality fertilizer reach the farmer in-time.
Despite best efforts of all public and private agencies supporting agriculture in our country, availability of quality seeds to large number of farmers at reasonable price is still an important issue. Providing good and healthy seeds is the basic input for higher productivity and quality produce. All stake holders in agriculture should pay added attention to this important aspect. Particularly, Birsa Agricultural University, Ranchi may take a mission mode operation for providing right type of seeds at the right time at affordable cost through reliable marketing institutions, in addition to soil testing
Plant breeders and plant bio-technologists have to cope up with increasing demands of quality seeds of different crops with useful characteristics besides higher yield. The College of Biotechnology under BAU can take up the mission of providing the right type of seeds. I consider that the second green revolution is possible only with provision of right type of quality seeds to the farmers.
Let me now discuss about organic farming.
Friends, in the environmental climate change, there is a need for Farmers, Agricultural Planners, Educationists and researchers to increase the quantum of organic farming in the country. Organic agriculture recognizes that crop rotation and intensive partnership with animal husbandry is important to maintain ecological balance. In this respect, organic farming becomes a sustainable development process. Farmers can realize better value from the agricultural residue. Of course, various state governments have launched the unique mission giving priority and assistance to the farmers for organic farming.
An integrated development plan with employment generation as the focus, driven by provision of the habitat, healthcare, education, skill development, physical and electronic connectivity and marketing as a business proposition in a sustainable manner is envisaged. Certain research areas have been identified for agriculture sector. The Birsa Agricultural University may like to consider taking it as a mission mode program involving R & D agencies, agricultural universities, industry, farmers and the government:
1.In many parts of the nation, it has been found that the soil is deficient in micro nutrients such as zinc, boron and sulphur. There is a need to map this deficiency in different areas and bridge the gap through balanced fertilization demonstrated on large farms and the multi-cropping system.
2.Providing improved quality seed varieties, matching the soil condition and climate variability. The quality seeds have to be made available to the farmers to buy at the right time.
3.Forecasting to the farmers correctly at the right time, the monsoon arrival and also the monsoon performance. Right input to the farmers accordingly should be available.
4.Promoting appropriate land and water management practices for alleviating water logging and simultaneously harvesting water for subsequent supplemental irrigation. Farmers and agriculture scientists have to work together.
5.Capacity building among stakeholders through training, skill development and online problem solving and knowledge sharing through agri-clinics at block level.
6.Arranging efficient processing of produce which can result in a value addition of 4 — 5 times and increased shelf-life. Cooperative farming can be introduced, particularly for small land holding farmers, so that the seeding to the harvest, and marketing can be made more efficient.
7.We need research on nutritional of aspect of food and create a plant, or farm mix which leads of efficient nutrition in the food produce.
8.My farmer friends tell me, that one of the key research and development area which they need is in the field of agro economics and development of proper markets for farm produce. I would also suggest research areas for BAU may include issues like forward pricing, breaking the monopoly and cartelization of purchasers, fixing of spot prices before delivery and a market where the farmer has the choice on whom to sell.
Friends, the second green revolution is indeed a knowledge graduation from characterization of soil to the matching of the seed with the composition of the fertilizer, water management and evolving pre-harvesting techniques for such conditions. The domain of a farmer’s work would enlarge from grain production to food processing and marketing through cooperatives. While doing so, utmost care would have to be taken for various environmental and people related aspects leading to sustainable development.
With this background, I would like to ask you, what would you like to be remembered for? You should write it on a page. That page may be a very important page in the book of human history. And you will be remembered for creating that one page in the history of the nation :
Will you be remembered for planning and executing a second green revolution which can double the productivity per hectare?
Will you be remembered for developing new seeds which can be resistant to the weather vagaries?
Will you be remembered for evolving a strategy for biofuels, from plants and algae, which can effectively replace fossil fuels?
Will you be remembered for implementing a roadmap for organic cultivation, free from harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers which can give healthier food for all?
Will you be remembered for executing better management of food processing, storage and marketing to help farmers overcome market fluctuations?
Will you be remembered for inventing a new digital and computerized mechanism of managing farming equipment and machines, optimal irrigation and farm supervision?
My best wishes to all the graduating students and members of the faculty of Birsa Agricultural University, Ranchi for success in their mission of working towards enhancement of sustained agricultural productivity for the nation.
May God bless you.