Drama Mask Delusions

Facing a challenge


The College of Agricultural Sci­ences, Dharwad was founded nearly 70 years agobyrenowned scientist S.W. Nlenshinkai on the out­skirts of Dharwad in Karnataka. How­ever it took another four decades to become a full fledged university, UAS Dharwad (UASD). One of the lead­ing institutions in India which has engaged in high quality research, teaching and extension among farm­ers, todav the institution faces new challenges. To date it has released over 200 new varieties of crops.

Dr D.P. Biradar, a plant biotech­nology is the new vice-chancel­lor. He is not the one to sit on past laurels. He wants it to be a globally known institution that serves the needs of local farmers. “Post indepen­dence Indian agriculture was tradi­tional and was subsistence in nature, which was unable to meet the food demand of a fast growing popula­tion. Indian agriculture today has to work towards achieving nutritional security,” says Biradar. Technologi­cal intervention is the only option to achieve both national food and nutri­tional security. The area under arable land in India is not increasing and is currently hovering around 140-145 m ha. Therefore, growing not only high yielding crop cultivars, but also of better quality is important. A good example here is of Bt cotton.

hybrids but along with them we are also developing Bt cotton varieties suited to high density cultivation,” adds Biradar. Unlike Bt hybrids, when Bt varieties are released, the seeds can be reused by farmers – helping them

  • in the long-run. “Our varieties are
  • well adapted to the local environment ; including limited water environments ; both rain fed and dry land.”

Dryland is another major area where new technological interven­tions are required to adapt to abiotic stress (hot and dry climates). This includes drought tolerant crop culti­vars with the introduction of drought resistant genes, rain-water harvesting, soil conservation and mechanisa­tion that is suited to small hold­ings of Indian farmers. Here, there is greater collaborative opportu­nity for UASD to work with engi­neering colleges. The collaboration between plant biologists and engi­neers would address the problems related to labour scarcity, mechanised cultivation and harvesting of agricul­tural crops.

UASD has quite a few MoUs with outside institutions such as Texas A&M, Cornell University, USA; McGill and University of Manitoba, Canada; and many others including some Afri­can institutions. It has established an International Centre for Agricultural Development in Dharwad and has identified six themes for research with global partners. “We are now looking to develop collaborations with Asian and African partners. In fact, we now have an MoU with China and LUA- NAR, Malawi. In fact, we have been attracting students from Africa and the Middle East regularly.”

One of the issues facing UASD is the lack of agriculture graduates going back to farming. While the government has recently started a two year diploma course in agriculture, the numbers remain low. “We are encouraging our graduates to work closely with their farming families. I think both agri­culture graduates and diploma hold­ers need to be provided with a credit linkage by the banks so that they are encouraged to take up farming or agri­culture-related enterprise.”

♦ SHIVANAND KANAVI [email protected]


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