Agriculture and Allied Areas

The post-green-revolution era is almost merging with the gene revolution to improve crop productivity and quality. The Indian research agenda will for some years be dominated by the exploitation of heterosis vigour and the development of new hybrids, including apomixis, genes for abiotic and biotic resist ance, developing planting material with desirable traits and the genetic enhancement of important crops. Integrated nutrient management and development of new biofertilizers and biopesticides would be important contributions to sustainable agriculture, soil fertility and a clean environment. Stress biology, marker-assisted breeding programmes and studying the important genes will continue as priorities.

We have achieved the cloning and sequencing of at least six genes, developed regeneration protocols for citrus, coffee and mangrove species and new types of biofertilizer and biopesticide formulations, including mycorrhizal fertilizers. Research to develop transgenic plants for brassicas, mung bean, cotton and potato is well advanced. Industries have shown a keen interest in the applications of biotechnology, including field trials, and have set up production facilities for biopesticides, biofertilizers and tissue-culture plants. The success of the tissue-culture pilot plants in the country, at Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi and the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, are now functioning as Micropropagation Technology Parks. This has given a new direction to the plant tissue-culture industry. The micropropagation parks serve as a platform for the effective transfer of technology to entrepreneurs, including training and the demonstration of technology for mass multiplication of horticulture crops and trees. Considerable research progress has been made with cardamom and vanilla, both important crops. Cardamom yields have increased 40% using tissue-cultured plants.

While the green revolution gave us self-reliance in food, the livestock population provided a 'white revolution', making India the largest milk-producing country in the world. With 80% of the milk in India coming from small and marginal farms, progress in milk production has had a major social impact. A diverse infrastructure has been established to help farmers in the application of embryo-transfer technology. The world's first in vitro fertilization (IVF) buffalo calf was born through embryo-transfer technology at the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal. Multiple ovulation and embryo transfer, in vitro embryo production, embryo sexing, vaccines and diagnostic kits for animal health have also been developed. Waste recycling technologies that are cost-effective and environmentally safe are being generated. The animal science area is also opening up many avenues for employment generation.

With an extensive coastline, India has great potential for marine resource development and aquaculture. Scientific aquaculture offers real opportunities to achieve an annual target production of 10 million metric tonnes of fish. Aquaculture products are among the fastest-moving commodities in the world, so we have to continuously improve seed production, feed, health products, cryopreservation methods, genetic studies and related environmental factors. Aquaculture will help substantially in the diversification of the bread basket and in combating nutritional deficiency.

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