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]