“Think globally but act locally” was the appeal made by Dr. Raj Paroda, eminent Agricultural Scientist of international repute and former Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Educat ion (DARE) and Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi and presently, Chairman of the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi.
Dr. Paroda, a Padma Bhushan, FICCI and Norman Borlaug recipient, was delivering a Special Lecture on “Indian Agriculture – Present Challenges and Opportunities” at BAIF Development Research Foundation, Pune on Friday. “Genetically modified crops, precision farming using sub surface drip, technology capital and strengthening agri-marketing through reforms in APMC, ECA, Cooperative and FPC Acts and improving land management systems by revisiting land laws to check land fragmentation and encourage lease systems for collective/contract farming and promotion of bio fortified crops were some of the technologies identified by Dr. Paroda for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” apart from improvement in our Social Progress Index (SPI) and not just the GDP. He called for scaling up of hybrid technology especially of single cross maize hybrids which has shown fastest growth rate of 4 to 5% among cereals and urged the farming community to increase hybrid coverage (including QPM) from its current 60% to at least 90%. He also quoted the success story of BT cotton whose area of production has reached 11 to 12.0 mha, nearly 95% of the total area in the country, He also advocated the twin pillar strategy of genetic resource management along with natural resource management for sustainable intensification and quoted the Rice Wheat Consortium of National Agricultural Research System (NARS) – Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) partnership programme to be the most successful eco-regional partnerships.
Conservation agriculture from the present 5.0 m ha to 10 m ha, biomass burning in India (40 mt of rice straw), managing crop residues through turbo happy seeder, on-farm water use efficiency and the paradigm shift in GM soyabean which is the leading oilseed crop now were also highlighted by him during his lecture. Inspite of achieving Green, White and Blue Revolutions, which changed the status of India from “begging bowl” to that of “self sufficiency”, the country still accounts for around 50% of the world’s malnourished children and has 22% of the people who live below the poverty line, Dr. Paroda lamented. The major challenges now, are household nutritional security, economic access to food, second generation problems of Green Revolution such as factor productivity decline, degradation of natural resources, especially land and water, increased incidence of pests and diseases and higher cost of inputs apart from the adverse effect of global climate change, he added. India, despite all its efforts to check its population (presently 1.3 billion), has added almost 15 million people (equivalent to one Australia) each year, thus nullifying the impact of agricultural advances. The SDGs are thus both an opportunity and a future vision for India, he stated.
Earlier, Dr. Paroda visited the BAIF Central Research Station at Urulikanchan and appreciated the adoption of cutting edge technologies such as livestock genomics, sexed-sorted semen technology, evaluation of jatropha genotypes, Adaptability Studies on Cactus / Mini-Apple and Aeroponics, Azolla, Aromatic Crops and Soil Health initiatives, apart from the involvement of women as change makers in agriculture. Shri. Uday D. Shirsalkar, Chief General Manager, NABARD, Maharashtra Regional Office, Pune, in his concluding remarks, highlighted land consolidation, capital formation, agricultural marketing and marketing reform and IOT in agriculture, value chain development and engagement of local youth who stay back in the villages and try farming, as some of the opp ortunities in Indian agriculture to overcome the challenges of fragmented land holding, shrinking of average land holding, lack of mechanization, higher consumption of pesticide in Maharashtra and inadequate storage facilities. Dr. Ashok B. Pande, Group Vice President, Livestock Development, BAIF, proposed the vote of thanks.