Agricultural Biotechnology

The post Green Revolution era is merging with the gene revolution for increasing crop productivity and improving quality. The exploitation of heterosis and development of new hybrids (including apomixis), genes for resistance to or tolerance for biotic or abiotic stress, developing planting material with desirable traits, and genetic enhancement of all-important crops will dominate the research agenda. Integrated nutrient management and development of new biofertilizers and biopesticides are important for ensuring sustainable agriculture, soil fertility, and a clean environment. Stress biology, marker-assisted breeding programs, and studying important genes will continue as priorities.

In India, at least six genes have been cloned and sequenced. Regeneration protocols have been developed for citrus, coffee, and mangrove species. New types of fertilizers and new biopesticide formulations, including mycorrhizal fertilizers, have been developed Research to develop new transgenic brassica, mungbean, cotton, and potato is well advanced.

Industries have also shown a keen interest in the options of biotechnology and are participating in field trials and pilot-level production. Two successful tissue culture pilot plants in the country, one at Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi and the other at National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, are now functioning as micropropagation technology parks. This has given new direction to the plant tissue culture industry. The micropropagation parks serve as a platform for effective transfer of technology to entrepreneurs, including training and the demonstration of technology for mass multiplication of horticultural crops and trees. Considerable progress has been made with cardamom and vanilla, both important crops. Cardamom yield has increased 40 percent using tissue-cultured plants.

The livestock population has provided a White Revolution, with 80 percent of the milk in India coming from small and marginal farms. This has had a major social impact. A diverse infrastructure has been established to help farmers in the application of embryo transfer technology. The worlds first in vitro fertilized buffalo calf (pratham) 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. Cost effective, environmentally safe waste recycling technologies are being generated. The animal science area is also generating many avenues for employment.

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