Agricultural Research - Opportunities and Challenges
AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH – CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES DHAKSHINAMOORTHY, M.*INTRODUCTION Agriculture in India, like in many developing countries, continues to occupy a pivotal position, andcontributes to about one-third of our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Nearly two-thirds of theworkforce is employed in this sector. Also the overall national economic development largely depends onthis sector. In the post independence period, a phenomenal growth in agriculture sector has beenwitnessed largely due to cutting edge of science turning challenges into hopes. We have travelledsuccessfully from insufficiency to self sufficiency in food production. The Green, Blue, White and YellowRevolutions are the examples of remarkable accomplishments, which many developing countries are yetcraving for. It is heartening that the Indian agriculture is well on its own way to attain a new "RainbowRevolution"(Paroda, 2001). Agricultural research and technology development has thus played a pivotal role during the last 40-50 years in achieving spectacular increases in food and agricultural production to feed the billions ofadditional people. The world population is expanding rapidly and may reach 7.75 billion by 2020 and 10billion by 2050 from the current population of about 6.5 billion. In India, the population may increase fromthe current 1.025 billion to 1.334 billion and from 6.21 crores to 8.07 crores in Tamil Nadu by the year 2020.To meet the demand of increasing population, India’s food grain production must be increased from 200m.t. in 2000 to about 300 m.t. by the year 2020. Tamil Nadu must produce about 20 m.t. in 2020 to meetthe demands of the burgeoning population. It is gratifying that for most parts of the world this huge increasein world population was accompanied by significant progress in food security. The share of the worldpopulation that has adequate access to food has continued to rise. World per caput food supplies are todaysome 17 percent above what they were 30 years ago - agricultural production has thus kept pace with andeven outstripped population growth (FAO, 2000). The Green Revolution, a science-led synergism among enhanced genetic potential (improvedseeds), irrigation, and fertilizers in the mid-1960s, was the engine of this transformation. Increasedagricultural productivity, rapid industrial growth in many countries, and expansion of the non-formal ruraleconomy decreased poverty incidence from 60 percent to less than 30 percent and resulted in a near-tripling of the per caput GDP. *Professor, Department of Soil Science & Agricultural Chemistry, TNAU, Coimbatore
Productivity gains during the Green Revolution era were largely confined to the relatively well-endowed irrigated areas of north-western plains and the deltaic irrigated areas and only to a few crops,notably rice and wheat. Further growth needs to be more rapid, more widely distributed and better targeted.There is a growing realization that previous strategies of generating and promoting technologies havecontributed to serious and widespread problems of environmental and natural resource degradation.Problems of resource degradation in high production areas relate to depletion of soil fertility, declininggroundwater table in some areas and rising water tables causing spread of salinity/ alkali problems in otherareas, negative effects on excessive use of fertilizers and plant protection chemicals on water andenvironmental quality and a reduction in the bio-diversity. In the rainfed areas, acceleration of processes oferosion of surface soils is leading to reduced soil productivity, siltation of reservoirs and increased runoff-related adverse effects. In future, the technologies must result in increased productivity levels and ensurethat the quality of natural resource base is preserved and enhanced. Our past research and developmentefforts to increase production focused on use of inputs for maximizing production. This focus will now haveto shift to increase the use efficiency of inputs for optimum and sustained production. Despite continuous growth in the world economy, and considerable food availability in majorexporters, the aggregate food-security situation of the developing world has shown little progress in recentyears; While the assumptions underlying future food grain production needs might lead to varyingprojections, the fact remains that (a) India’s population continues to grow @1.8 to 1.9%; (b) A large fractionof our population is poor and malnourished and does not have the capacity to buy food; (c) Apart from foodgrains, demands for milk, oilseeds, poultry, fish and horticultural products will continue to rise in responseto population growth and rising incomes; (d) With the livelihoods of nearly 70 per cent of its populationdependent on the agriculture sector which generates about 28 per cent of its GDP and over 15 per cent ofits exports, the country’s economy is particularly dependent on healthy agricultural growth; (e)Opportunities for agricultural export are expected to continue to grow (Abrol, 2001) The challenges facing Indian agriculture today are thus more serious, complex and exceed thosethat we encountered prior to the Green Revolution period. This paper analyzes the past and forecast trendsand explores how science and technology can be harnessed to bring about a more just, equitable, andsustainable pattern of agricultural growth and development for raising levels of nutrition, standards of living,and overall livelihood security.
THE EMERGING CHALLENGES There is already a wake-up alarm that the world could be rapidly approaching to its agriculturalcarrying capacity. Our natural resources will be increasingly at risk, from soil degradation, deforestation,water scarcity and contamination, bio- diversity loss and climate change owing to over-consumption andwaste in rich countries, and population pressure in poor countries. We are also losing bio-diversity at historic rates, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Theworld has lost half of its tropical forests during our lifetime. In some countries, the economic cost ofproducing clean water is even greater than the economic cost of producing oil. The worlds marine fisheriesare over- exploited resulting in decline in marine fish production. Soils are being constantly degraded and destroyed, with profound economic costs. Our soils aremore hungry than thirsty today. About 70 per cent of our soils are deficit in organic carbon (less than 1 percent) and micronutrient deficiencies are being widely experienced throughout the country. Soil toxicity dueto industrial effluents and use of chemicals and pesticides is affecting adversely both soil health and cropproductivity. According to latest estimates, 187.7 m.ha (57.1%) of the total geographical area (329 m.ha) isdegraded. The degraded land encompasses water erosion (148.9 m.ha), chemical hazards (13.8 m.ha),wind erosion (13.5 m.ha), water logging (11.6 m.ha), salinization (10.1 m.ha) and nutrient depletion (3.7m.ha). The per capita arable land is declining rapidly due to the demographic pressure, soil degradationurbanization and conversion to non-agricultural uses. Large inputs of chemicals, inevitable dependence onirrigation and high cropping intensity have caused pollution of ground water, eutrophication of surfacewater, contamination of soil and deterioration of air quality. Some of the problems stem from the process of intensification itself. As the size of the holdingcontinues to shrink, the range of the income-enhancing options in agriculture narrows down. Landdegradation and population pressure have forced the farmers to cultivate even the marginal lands. . In thenext 30 years, one additional ton of grain must be produced from each hectare to meet the projected fooddemand. Producing this increment shall increase environmental pressures. Besides, the public systemsdealing with irrigation, credit, marketing and extension are finding it difficult to cope with the emergingdemands especially in an environment of declining capital investment in agriculture and rural infrastructure,which has almost gone down by half (from 18 to 19 per cent) over the last two decades. It is projected thata growing and urbanizing population with rising incomes will increase global demand for cereals by 35 percent between 1997 and 2020 amounting to 2,497 million tonnes and for meat by 57 per cent that will
amount to 327 million tonnes. However, growth in cereal yields is slowing .in both developed anddeveloping countries and is projected to further slow down in coming decades. The net cereal imports bydeveloping countries are forecast to almost double by 2020, with maximum absolute increase expected inEast Asia and the largest relative increase in South Asia. It is estimated that we shall need annually additional 5 million tonnes of food grains, besides largeincreases in oilseeds, fodder, fuelwood, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, eggs, fish, etc. All these reflect thepressure to produce more of diversified food at a much accelerated pace. Serious imbalances also underliethe existing scenario. Widening regional disparities in agricultural performance are also our concern.Rainfed areas (about 65 per cent) still continue to lag behind and in order to achieve "EvergreenRevolution", these gray areas will have to be made green. The plateauing of yields is also emerging insome crops and regions. Water is another important vital resource for economic development. Over exploitation of groundwater in many parts of world including India has affected agricultural economy due to steep declining ofwater levels, reduced well yields, drying up of shallow wells, deterioration of ground water quality and seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers. In India, it is projected that the per capita water availability will reducefrom 2000 m3 to the stress level of 1700 m3 in the next two to three decades. In particular, agricultureswater share will reduce from the present 89 percent to about 75 percent by 2020: more shall need to beproduced from progressively less water. In Asia, Asian Development Bank reports that one in three Asianslacks access to safe drinking water within 200 meters of their home. Climate change, variability and global warming and their impact on agriculture and vice versaemerge as new threats and challenges. Expected sea-level rises of between 15 to 94 cm over the centurywill adversely affect the coastal ecosystem: island states (such as the Maldives and Sri Lanka) may therebyface serious threats. Tropical and sub-tropical agriculture will be negatively impacted by adverse changesin temperature, precipitation, and sea-level rise - further threatening the livelihoods of the poor personsdwelling in those climate zones. It is projected that South Asia may also have an increase in temperaturebetween 0.1° to 0.3°C by 2010 and 0.4° to 2.0°C by 2070. The sea level is also expected to rise between15 cm and 94 cm over the next century and the low-lying areas may get inundated. Moreover, the ozonedepletion may lead to increase of ultra violet radiation and with adverse impact on earths environment andthe people. Pre- and post-harvest losses generally range from 15 to 30 percent in the region, adverselyimpacting productivity, quality and export, and hence food security and income. Livestock, fruits and fish
are highly perishable foods, requiring proper handling and processing if these are to be utilized in a costeffective and efficient way for the benefit of those who rely on them for nutrition and income. Post harvestprocessing and handling and food-safety mechanisms are, therefore, expected to play major roles in bothdomestic and exports markets. New socio-economic regimes have emerged, especially globalization and liberalization, with bothpositive and negative implications for developing countries. Liberalization of agricultural markets would bebeneficial to developing countries by forcing adoption of new technologies, shifting production functionsupwards, and attracting capital flow in agriculture - but only if the process is mindful of the interests ofsmall-scale farmers who constitute the bulk of the farming population in the region. Therefore, tradeagreements must be accompanied by operationally effective measures to ease the adjustment process forsmall farmers in developing countries. We should find new and creative ways of working with ourexpanding clientele such as the private sector, NGOs, Farmers Associations etc. We obviously have achallenging journey ahead for which we need to gear ourselves. Another important challenge before us is to transform the scientific institutions into "new age"institutions characterized by efficient work culture, responsiveness, and cost-effectiveness. So, let us notmake this a difficult transformation. We should build a knowledge-based system. We must use informationtechnology as an instrument of research as well as of knowledge sharing, and also to function as virtuallaboratories. Such efforts would also provide us a platform for innovative partnership both nationally andglobally. Emerging challenges will require a new breed of scientists and managers that have excellence inthe field of new sciences such as biotechnology, information technology, environmental science,Geographic Information System (GIS), space science, health and other natural sciences. The strength ofan organization/system is determined not by mere numbers but by the technical competence of its humanresource. Hence, HRD be seen as a long-term investment in the national interest. Another important challenge is to ensure increased and secured funding for Science andTechnology (S& T). To increase productivity and growth for ensuring better living standard and to reducepoverty and malnutrition, funding support for agricultural research will have to be stepped up to a minimumof 2 per cent of our agricultural GDP, as is the case with many growing economies.SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY TO MEET THE CHALLENGESThe Yield Revolution
Productivity improvement will be possible only if greater attention is paid to improving the efficiencyof input use, particularly nutrients and water. To cite just one example, cotton yields in India are less than 20percent of the yields achieved in several other countries like Egypt and USA. However, Indian farmers use 25times as much water to raise a ton of cotton as compared to California. Normally to produce 1 ton of grain,about 1000 tons of water may be needed. To bridge the gap between actual and potential yields prevailing at the currently available levelsof technology, a multi-disciplinary constraints analysis will have to be undertaken in different regions andfarming systems. In the short term, the highest priority should go to utilizing the untapped productionreservoir existing at current levels of technology. In the longer term, the prospects for improving yieldfurther without associated ecological harm will have to be explored.Bridging Yield gaps There is an existence of sizable yield gaps between attainable and farm level yields acrossecologies, regions within ecologies, and crop seasons in all rice growing countries in the Asia-Pacificregion. The practical yield gap that can be addressed is the difference between the maximum attainableyield and the farm level yield as defined below:a. Maximum attainable yield: is the rice yields of experimental/on-farm plots with no physical, biologicaland economic constraints and with the best-known management practices at a given time and ecology.b. Farm level yield: is the average farmers’ yield in a given target area at a given time and ecology. It is observed that the yield gap ranges from 10 to 60 percent between attainable and economicallyexploitable yields depending on the ecosystem and countries. The adverse environments (rainfed andflood-prone) have the highest yield gaps. The various factors currently contributing to the yield gap indifferent countries include:a) Biophysical: climate/weather, soils, water, pest pressure, weeds.b) Technical/management: tillage, variety/seed selection, water, nutrient, weeds, pests and post-harvestmanagement.c) Socio-economic: social/economic status, farmers’ traditions and knowledge, family size, householdincome/expenses/investmentd) Institutional/Policy: government policy, rice price, credit, input supply, land tenure, market, Research,Development and Extension (RD and E).
e) Technology transfer and linkages: Competence and equipment of extension staff, RD and E integration,farmers’ cognitive blocks, knowledge and skills, weak linkage among public, private, and NGO extensionstaff. It was also recognized that only a part of the yield gap can be remedied by currently availabletechnologies. Policy environment and interventions were considered a very vital component of the strategyto bridge the yield gap. Likewise, technology transfer to farmers and research-extension-farmer linkagesplay an equally important role.ISSUES AND CHALLENGES FOR BRIDGING THE YIELD GAPS Some of the issues and challenges for bridging the yield gaps are: Yield plateauing in high productivity areas Continued imbalanced use of fertilizer nutrients. Shrinking labour availability in the rural areas Location specific production packages for diverse growing conditions under rainfed ecologies: Low input management vis-a-vis risk of crop losses dissuading farmers from high input management in rainfed ecologies Least attention to investment intensive development programmes Adverse effects of over-mining of ground water and excessive use of irrigation water and N- fertilizerTECHNOLOGIES TO REDUCE YIELD GAPS Sensitization of policy and decision-making is an important activity in bridging the yield gap. Thereis a need on the deployment of a holistic and participatory approach to address the yield gap problems. Keypoints of this strategy are as follows: Development of location-specific varieties and technologies, i.e. integrated crop management approach like the “System Rice Intensification (SRI)” technique for rice. Incorporation of yield stabilizing traits through conventional and innovative approaches (resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses). Development and adoption of technologies with higher yield potential such as hybrid rice, New Plant Type, etc. Intensified technology transfer activities using successful models such as contiguous area demonstration to promote yield enhancing technologies, i.e., land preparation, improved variety and seed, pest management, nutrient management, water management, and post-harvest management.
Improve working relationship and interaction of research, development and extension services. Policy intervention to provide incentives to high production, i.e. pricing, credit, input supplies, marketing etc. The yield deceleration, stagnation and decline observed in high-yielding environments must be arrested, first by systematic studies to understand the causes and then by the development of new varieties and crop management practices. Yield variability must be confronted. The diversion of resources towards risk reduction is a trade off in yield performance. The trade off between high yield and yield stability may be considered. Technologies to decrease the cost of production and increase profitability must be considered. Issues in poverty alleviation, social justice and diversification in agriculture are inter-linked. (Khush, 1996; FAO, 1999)BALANCED FERTILIZATION TO BRIDGE YIELD GAPS Several computerized models are available to arrive at fertiliser recommendation and to effectsuitable soil fertility management practices based on nutrient stocks and flows and nutrient balance at farmlevel. Most models describing relationships between nutrient supply, uptake and crop yield address a singlenutrient. In agricultural practice however, at least three macronutrients should be taken into account. Thisprinciple is the major cornerstone of the model Quantitative Evaluation of the Fertility of Tropical Soils(QUEFTS), which takes N, P and K into considerations, as well as the interactions between them (Janssenet al., 1990). QUEFTS has both empirical and theoretical components and describe the relationshipsbetween (i) chemical soil tests, (ii) potential NPK supply from soils and fertiliser, (iii) actual NPK uptake, and(iv) grain yield. Utilizing this computerized decision support system the potential yield of an unfertilized ricecrop at the native fertility of soil was estimated and results reveled that the plant nutrients requirement forthe production of one tonne of paddy grain were 20.16, 4.04 and 19.75 kg N, P and K, respectively with anaverage NPK ratio of 5:1:4.9 in the plant dry matter (Jagadeeswaran and Murugappan, 2001). Theregression coefficient between observed and predicted yield was 0.97 and for nutrient uptake were 0.97,0.88 and 0.95 for N, P& K, respectively. NUTMON-Toolbox is one such computerized software, which is used to monitor nutrient balance infarms and thereby identifying unsustainable practices/trends in soil fertility management. Using thissoftware an attempt was made for nutrient monitoring at farm scale to assess the level of nutrient sourcesand flows (Jagadeeswaran, 2002). The farm situation where the investigation was taken up necessitatedevolving strategies and policies to mitigate the noticed negative signs in P and K balance in the farm. The
possible options that were proposed for adoption are the use of slow release fertilisers, effectivelymanaging crop residues and planning for converting the available crop residues in all forms into manurestowards regulating the nutrient balance in the farm. In another study, the CERES rice model in DSSAT(Decision Support System for Agro technology Transfer) format was calibrated using the data of CO 47 andADT 45 rice varieties (Susmitha, 2002). Using the calibrated model, optimum N fertiliser doses for thesevarieties for different locations (soil and weather conditions) within Tamil Nadu were calculated. Thesecalibrated models are valuable tools not only for optimizing N fertiliser recommendation but also forpredicting the method and time of fertiliser application, planting date, planting density, quantity andscheduling of irrigation, organic manure etc. DSSIFER (Decision Support System for Integrated Fertiliser Recommendation), a user friendlycomputerized product, was developed as a useful tool in decision making in soil fertility management.Research information on soil test crop response on various crops formed the database for developingDSSIFER. With soil available macro and micronutrient levels, which are the input data for generating site-specific fertiliser recommendation, this software verifies the availability of soil test calibration for that site-specific situation. Besides calculating the fertiliser requirements, DSSIFER software also generatesrecommendations on saline and alkali soil reclamation using the soil analysis input of pH and EC. Also fromthe irrigation water analysis it checks its quality and gives out its suitability for irrigation in the output withrecommendation for the safe use of poor quality water.BIOTECHNOLOGY: EXPLOITING THE GENE REVOLUTION Development of biotechnology can bring enormous benefit to the third world,especially with respect to solving the problems of poverty, hunger, disease, environmentaldestruction and the development of natural resources. In fact biotechnology is more relevant to acountry like India with the tremendous pressure of population, problems of sanitation and drinkingwater, the premium on cultivable land and the vagaries of the monsoon, fuel shortage, forestdenudation, etc. Progress in molecular biology, genetic engineering, and biotechnology can greatly and most-effectively supplement conventional breeding approaches (preceding section) in enhancing yield,productivity, income, sustainability, and equity. It is fortunate that as we enter the new millenium and seektechnological breakthroughs, modern biotechnology with multiple and far reaching potential has becomeavailable. It may spearhead agricultural production in the next 30 years at a pace faster than that of thepast 30 years (the Green Revolution). Biotechnology interventions are already being used (and have
additional potential) to enhance yield levels, increase input-use efficiency, reduce risk (and lessen effects ofbiotic and abiotic stresses), and enhance nutritional quality - all leading to increased food security,nutritional adequacy, poverty alleviation, environmental protection, and sustainable agriculture. Oftenreferred to as "Gene Revolution or Biorevolution", biotechnology - if judiciously harnessed, blended withtraditional and conventional technologies, and supported by policies - can lead to an ever-green revolutionsynergizing the sustainable pace of growth and development (Swaminathan, 2000). The uncommonopportunities provided by fast developments in functional genomics, proteomics, DNA microchips andmicroarrays must be brought to developing countries - otherwise the technology divide will further widen.MANAGING NATURAL RESOURCES: LAND, WATER AND BIODIVERSITY Land, water, and biodiversity are the base not only of agriculture but of the very life and existenceof humankind. Conservation, sustainable use and development of these resources are fundamental to thesurvival and progress of humanity. Science and technology, therefore, must play a leading role in arrestingand even reversing the ongoing trend of degradation and erosion of these basic resources. To meet the targeted food production for the next few decades, management of the soil resourceswill be a major challenge for the scientific community. Studies on soil dynamics or evolution of physical,chemical and biological properties with time for new farming systems are needed to establish the causeeffect relationship between farming systems and soil productivity. Research is needed for crop adaptationto soil related constraints such as eroded and degraded lands, compacted zones, depleted fertility status,nutrient imbalances (toxicity and deficiency) etc. Even with adequate availability of inputs, fall in crop production is directly related to vagaries ofclimate more specifically to the monsoon rain. This needs a better understanding of not only the resourcesof soil, water and climate but also their interactions in modifying the system. To achieve this, there is astrong need for strengthening the data base on soil, climate, water resources, vegetational succession andcycles of major nutrients, water and energy. Development of a GIS and its use for land and waterresources management and accurate forecasting, monitoring and management of disaster problems will goa long way in sustaining agricultural production. There is a need for realistic estimates of occurrence of degraded and problem soils. Remotesensing, a valuable technology, should be put to use to get a reliable estimate of the extent of landdegradation. The continued importance of irrigation as a means of increasing crop production can be gaugedfrom the estimates that the irrigated land area worldwide has increased from 16.2 x 106 ha in 1975
and to nearly 300 x 106 ha by the year 2000. It is estimated that by the year 2025 the water shortage forall the uses in India will be approximately 50 per cent. Currently 80 per cent of the total water available isused in agriculture. However, crops like rice have the water using capacity of only 25-30 per cent,which is 50 per cent for horticulture crops. Overall the water using capacity in agriculture in India is only40 per cent which is 80 per cent in countries like Israel, Irrigation management has already acquired a pride of place in Indian agriculture. It needs tobe carried forward further to achieve the desired efficiency in water use, bring in more area underirrigation and make more water available for industrial and domestic use which will increase in future.Scientific irrigation schedules and other improved water management practices have to be adopted toimprove WUE and sustain crop productivity. The co-existence of industry and agriculture, which share thesame water resource, is facing serious problems on account of water quality degradation. Long termmonitoring of ground waters in different agro-climatic, industrial and municipal areas for managingagricultural inputs, industrial effluents and sewage needs special attention to minimize hazardous effect ofsuch waters. Informations available on conjunctive use of canal and poor quality general water for differentcropping patterns should be analyzed to develop suitable packages for sustainable agricultural production. Recycling and reuse of wastewater from different industries and use of brackish water should beone of the priority areas of research. In Tamil Nadu large quantities of organics (town wastes 0.93 m.t., pigmanure 0.96 m.t., press mud 0.68 m.t., coir wastes 0.32 m.t. etc.) are available. Suitable new technologiesfor composting and utilizing them as manure must be explored. An integrated approach involving inorganicfertilizers, organic manures, industrial and agricultural wastes and biofertilizers is one of the variousapproaches to sustain soil productivity. Economically viable and ecologically compatible and sustainable farming systems are the needs ofthe present day. It is equally important to create awareness amongst all concerned about over land andwater resources and their efficient use commensurate with the eco system for sustaining agriculturalproduction and ensuring prosperity for the nation.AGRICULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION Agricultural Diversification has always been an important strategy in agricultural production since itensures better land use, afford sustained productivity and simultaneously assures better income generationper unit area per unit time. The diversification of production systems comprises: Introduction of aquaculture, and development artisanal fisheries, small animals (poultry, sheep, goats, pigs) and tree crops;
Intercropping of trees and field crops; Training in use of crop residues for animal feed; Introduction of low cost methods of animal disease control; Support for post-production activities to promote income generation. Sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, risk assessment and management, quarantine and trade; Food quality and food-safety standards, harmonization/implementation of regulations; Intellectual property rights, plant-breeders rights, farmers rights; Regulations and ethics of development and sharing of biotechnology and biotechnological projects; Agroforestry is a system of biodiversity that promotes resource conservation for optimizingproductivity. The incorporation of soil-plant-animal system in a tree crop animal interface should form thebasis of research on agro forestry. Fodder tree based agro-forestry models are essential for dry zones andthe Himalayas to protect soil and water. Other alternate land use systems involving silvipasture, dry landhorticulture, medicinal plants and bio-diesel crops must be developed for the management of waste anddegraded lands.WEATHER FORECASTING In order to realize the anticipated rate of agricultural growth in the context of the diversity ofagro-ecological settings (production systems), it is important to analyse and study the climatic andweather patterns to take appropriate cropping decisions. Climate is the dominant factor in each of the agro-ecosystem, which has inherent strength,weakness, opportunities, and threats and these can be exploited, managed and reoriented foragricultural planning purposes. The effect of the climate and weather on agricultural productivityhas to be re- examined, to sustain agricultural productivity in the coming years. This may beapproached by different ways namely, studying moisture availability, identifying length ofgrowing period, water requirement of crops, drought vulnerability, drought detection, monitoring andearly warning, choice of crops and cropping systems, crop weather relationships, incidence ofpest and diseases and its control, soil fertility, air pollution, green house gases and its implications,ozone layer depletion, climate change and their impact on production. The curriculum shouldincorporate recent advances in meteorology so as to equip the agricultural graduates in handling bettersuch situations to reduce the losses or increase the production , as the case may be.DISASTER MANAGEMENT
In countries like India with diverse climatic conditions, occurrence of flood and droughtare a common feature, apart from serious epidemics such as outbreak of pests and diseases. Theoccurrence of the disasters will be sudden and unanticipated, some of these even if anticipated, still themagnitude may not be known. Therefore, in a disaster, there is an element of surprise. When themagnitude of the disaster is small, it is managed easily or with some difficulty. But, when themagnitude is large, the management requires an organisation, co-ordination. co-operation, strategies,supplies, etc. This assumes even grater importance in lieu of the recent tsunami damage in the coastalTamil Nadu. The farmers are to be trained in managing such situations with better coordinationfrom other development departments. They should be trained in drawing up contingency plans andto act quickly to save the crops, according to the terrain and the local resources available,enlisting the total cooperation of the people.FOOD PROCESSING AND FOOD SAFETY Agricultural production in countries like India has made rapid strides as a result of the GreenRevolution initiatives in the past three decades. However, less than one per cent of the total horticulturalproduce is processed as compared to more than 60 per cent in developed countries. It is estimatedthat the post harvest losses in food grains are around 10 per cent and in perishables about 40 percent, resulting in a value loss of the order of Rs.5000 crores a year, In the present scenario of economic liberalization, the WTO provisions and changing foodconsumption habits, the Indian food industry will shift to foods that require more appropriatehandling, processing, preservation, storage and marketing to result in greater protein intake, besidesmaking the Indian food products safe and internationally competitive. This scenario only indicatesthe need for newer innovative approaches in the field of Food Process Engineering,SOCIAL RELEVANCE OF AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION The present day agricultural education does not address the issue of social relevance in totality.Issues like poverty, gender equity, malnutrition, sustainability and regional imbalances fall in thiscategory. The curriculum must cover these areas to substantially focus on economics, equity,agri-business, agricultural marketing, value addition, international trade and other relateddisciplines. The education process should be adjusted to serve the needs of illiterate unskilled farmersand farm households.CONCLUSION
Our past research and development efforts to increase production focused on use of inputs formaximizing production. This focus will now have to shift to increase the use efficiency of inputs for optimumand sustained production. ·Most of our research programmes are currently organized either with a commodity orientation oraddress issues in a disciplinary manner. Scientists from different disciplines/areas must come together as ateam in a ‘problem-solving mode’. For generating future technologies, our knowledge base has to be muchwider and deeper. This will call for bringing in the best of science to bear upon the process of technologygeneration. These inputs can be available from within the country through institutional linkages and mustextend to institutions which are traditionally not agriculture related. An important consequence of these changes will be necessity for the scientists to work inpartnerships: numerous, diversified, innovative and more substantive than in the past to avail opportunitiesfor greater synergies, complimentarities and closer working relationships leading to reduced overlaps, lessredundancy and effective and efficient use of limited resources. Problems facing poor farmers must be conceived in totality and solutions attempted keeping asystem’s perspective in view, such that chances of finding appropriate solutions are high. Team work willbe a necessity. Scientists from basic sciences will need to be increasingly involved in advancing thefrontiers of knowledge, which will have a bearing on solving agricultural problems of the country. Advancesin remote sensing and computer-based technologies, geographic informative system, communication skillsinvolving networking, etc. will need to be routinely used. To conclude, India’s agricultural research and education system has grown to be large and variedover the past decades. The changes needed to make the system responsive to the needs of this centurycall for a fundamental change in our thinking and approach – a new paradigm. The changes will need to beconceived and implemented in the perspective of a vision of the future and a road map carefully weighingpros and cons of each step. To move in this direction the system needs to have in place mechanisms tothink and change directions. As of now these mechanisms do not appear to be in place. REFERENCES
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