Biotechnology & Indian Agriculture [Part 1]

June 21, 2012
By Krishiworld

the challenge of the next millenium 

General Agriculture Scenario

The world has won the improtant battle in the area of food security, but the war is still on. A total of 800 million people, that is one out of every six persons, in the developing world do not have access to food. One-third of all pre-school children in the developing countries are food insecure. We, thus, have a big challenge ahead of us as we enter the next millenium.

It is true that the mass starvation that was predicted for Asia in seventies and eighties did not occur. It is only because Science was effectively put to work to raise agricultural productivity. In India, the ‘ Green Revolution’ was a success due to the introduction of improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation and plant-protection measures combined with positive policy support, liberal public funding for agricultural research and development, and dedicated work of farmers. Notwithstanding all-round achievements, the basic problems of food security, poverty, equity and sustainability, continue to be a cause of concern in India today.

The Indian Challenge.

There are several concerns about Indian agriculture that we need to address. Even in the green revolution crops, rice and wheat, the Indian average yield ranks around 50th in the world. A weak agro-based industry, the problems of weak marketing, storage, transportation, credit support, etc, haunt us. Only 0.3% of agricultural GDP is spent on agricultural R &D. The population is growing at an alarming rate of 1.8% per annum. It will be around 1.3 billion by 2020 and would require 50% additional foodgrains. A total of 200 million people are still below the poverty line and have insufficient access to food. Declining resource base, degeneration of natural resources, including soil fertility, water environment, etc, are some other concerns. Food production systems centre around a few states only. Out of 17 big states, only 7 are self-sufficient and surplus in foodgrains. There was a significant decline in per capita intake of calories and protein between 1975 and 1990.

Inspite of all these problems, there is plenty of good news. India harbors a vast diversity of basic natural resources. Tremendous bio-diversity of agriculturally important micro-organisms exists, which are not yet been harnessed. We have a variety of crops, including quality fruits, vegetables, foodgrains, and a number of plantation and commercial crops. Indian fisheries resource has spread over 8,100 km of coastline on the east and west, and provides access to marine resources and transportation.

Very large proportion of area of various food crops is under low porductivity category. It can be increased with inputs of high class science. There is a scope to cultivate sizeable portion of waste lands through soil amendment and introduction of agroforestry. Several million hectares of saturated soil can be potentially exploited from rainfed lowlands of eastern India. The India Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the marine sector, of about 2 million sq.km., has high potential harvestable yields. Only about 20% of the cultivated area is covered under tractor cultivation, great scope of making quantism quantum jump in production and productivity exists, changing consumption patterns offer scope for diversified agriculture. Trade liberalization provides opportunities to reach for outside markets, which were not accessible otherwise. Great gains are possible through agro-based industrialization and overall rural development.

The cultivators and farmers of India have a rich heritage of traditional agricultural wisdom on crop and livestock husbandry and fisheries; based on the principles of the conservation of natural resources and environment. India has an extensive network of extension channels for dissemination of technologies generated by research institutes. India has a strong manufacturing capability and a large network of about 20,000 manufacturers and nearly one million village artisans for indigeneous production of all types of agricultural machinery. Therefore, inspite of several disadvantages, we have a great chance to leap forward, if we enforce the right policy initiatives and implement them.

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