Focus more on enhancing the productivity of small and marginal farms: VP tells scientists

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The Vice President of India, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu today called upon the scientific community to lay emphasis on enhancing the productivity of small and marginal farmers. “The small and marginal ​​farmers are the most vulnerable and their welfare must be accorded the highest priority,” he added.

Addressing the 58th Convocation of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, he lauded the Institute’s achievements as truly remarkable in post-green revolution phase, considering the quantum jump in the country’s foodgrain production from 50.82 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 283.37 million tonnes in 2018-19.

The Vice President asked institutions like IARI to utilize technological advancements to improve the life of farmers and ensure that their research reaches the farm. He wanted them to serve the nation through scientific advancements and innovations in agriculture.

Expressing concern over the alarming prevalence of malnutrition and hidden hunger, he pointed out that more than 80% of adolescents in India suffer from hidden hunger. “This problem has to be addressed on a war footing as youth are the backbone of the nation,” he added.

Observing that malnutrition was a serious health issue as it increased susceptibility to various diseases, the Vice President referred to the growing problem of Non-Communicable diseases and advised the youth to shun sedentary lifestyle and junk food.

Shri Naidu urged institutions such as IARI to develop high yielding, disease-resistant and nutrient-rich varieties of crops. He also wanted them to educate people on the dangers of excessive use of pesticides as it was leading to increasing instances of diseases like cancers.

“A country like India cannot depend on imported food security. We need homegrown, protein-rich food to meet the needs of the burgeoning population,” he added.

The Vice President lauded the institution for developing several bio-fortified maize hybrids rich in lysine, tryptophan and pro-vitamin A and pearl millet, lentil varieties rich in iron and zinc and said that it was indeed a step in the right direction for making India nutritionally secure.

“Combination of appropriate policies, technologies, and institutional arrangements are vital to transform agriculture and make it sustainable and profitable,” he added.

Stating that all efforts must be made to double the income of the farmers in the next few years, the Vice President called for the concerted efforts to improve agricultural productivity. He also stressed the need for diversifying traditional cropping systems as it would reduce economic risk while increasing the scope for higher profitability.

“Diversifying traditional cropping systems and taking allied activities would provide resilience to farmers to withstand the vagaries of nature,” he added.

Talking about the impact of climate change, Shri Naidu observed that the rise in temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns were adversely affecting agriculture. He stressed the urgent need to develop technology for climate-resilient agriculture and enhance the adaptive capacity of farmers.

Appreciating the central government for the historic step last year to honour 12 farmers with Padmashri awards for their path-breaking innovations in agriculture, Shri Naidu said that such recognitions will boost their morale.

Shri Naidu complimented IARI for several high yielding mustard varieties, which would help in cutting down the edible oil import bill.

On the occasion, the Vice President presented degrees and medals to students who completed M.Sc and Ph.D. A total of 243 students were awarded the degrees in 58th Convocation of IARI.

The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Kailash Choudhary, Secretary, DARE, Dr T. Mohapatra, and the Director of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Dr Ashok Kumar Singh were present at the event.

Following is the full text of the speech-

“It is a matter of immense pleasure for me to be with you today on the auspicious occasion of 58th convocation of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, a premier institute of agricultural research, education and extension in our country.

My congratulations to the students who are receiving the postgraduate and doctoral degrees today!

The country is proud of the achievements of IARI, which has heralded the Green Revolution through development of high yielding wheat varieties. The achievements of IARI post-Green Revolution phase has been truly remarkable, considering the quantum jump in production of wheat and rice to 101.2 tonnes and 115.6 million tonnes, respectively, boosting the country’s foodgrain production from 50.82 million tonnes in 1950-51 to 283.37 million tonnes in 2018-19.

The advanced crop varieties and technologies developed by the institute have been important in strengthening the Indian economy and the prosperity of farmers. I am happy to know that the Pusa Basmati varieties predominate basmati cultivation in India and are helping in securing higher production and profit to the farmers, apart from foreign exchange worth Rs.33,000 crores annually to the country.

Similarly, I am told that IARI wheat varieties like HD 2967 and HD 3086 have played a vital role in enhancing wheat production and productivity in India. It is heartening to note that these varieties alone account for more than 12 million hectares of cultivation by farmers and contribute to more than 50 percent of the country’s wheat production.

While the position on food front is comfortable with a total food grain production of 283.37 million tonnes, India, however, ranks at 102nd in the Global Hunger Index.

The alarming prevalence of malnutrition and hidden hunger are matters of grave concern. I am told that more than 80% of adolescents in India suffer from hidden hunger. This problem has to be addressed on a war footing as youth are the backbone of the nation.

Undoubtedly, malnutrition is a serious health issue as it not only increases susceptibility to various issues but also affects the socio-economic growth of the country.

 Besides launching a massive awareness campaign about nutraceutical and therapeutic values of agricultural produce, there is a need to increase the production of nutritive food to overcome such problems.

I am happy to learn that significant progress was made by this institute in developing high yielding, disease resistant and nutrient-rich varieties of crops.

I was informed that IARI has released several bio-fortified maize hybrids rich in lysine, tryptophan and pro-vitamin A and pearl millet, lentil varieties rich in iron and zinc—this indeed is a step in the right direction for making India nutritionally secure.

I am also happy to note that the institute has developed several high yielding mustard varieties, which will help in cutting down the edible oil import bill. Thus, with these cultivars, I am confident that India will achieve the target of sustainable developmental goals (SDGs).

As we all are aware, climate change has emerged as a serious threat to agriculture. Climate change-induced rise in temperature and changes in rainfall pattern are adversely affecting agriculture. Many a time, the terminal rains are creating havoc by destroying the crops ready for harvest.

Assessing methane emissions from paddy plants is one of the institute’s most outstanding achievements, which can be helpful in protecting India’s interests in climate change negotiations with the United Nations. There is a need to analyze the effects of climate and generate technology for climate-resilient agriculture and enhance the adaptive capacity of farmers.

Dear sisters and brothers,

We are now in the era of smart agriculture. Application of digital technology, remote sensing technology, sensors, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and molecular genetics will help immensely help in fostering cutting-edge innovations.

The focus of every scientific endeavor has to be on improving the lives of the people, particularly the marginalized sections. Inclusive development is the need of the hour. Therefore, I urge you to lay emphasis on enhancing the productivity of small and marginal farms. As you all are aware, the small and marginal farmers are the most vulnerable to agrarian challenges and their welfare must be accorded the highest priority.

According to the Agriculture Census, the total number of operational holdings in India is 138.35 million with an average size of 1.15 hectares. Of the total holdings, 85 percent are in marginal and small farm categories of less than 2 hectares. These small farms, though operating only on 44 percent of land under cultivation, are the main providers of food and nutritional security to the nation. However, these small farms have limited access to technology, inputs, credit, capital and market. Hence, it becomes incumbent upon every stakeholder associated with agriculture to work for improving lot of small and marginal farmers.

It is a matter of pleasure that IARI has established a state-of-the-art plant phenomics facility named as “Nanaji Deshmukh Plant Phenomics Center”, which was dedicated to the nation by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi on October 11, 2017.  Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence-based analysis are being employed to provide impetus to genetic improvement towards more crop per drop in major food crops.

I am also pleased to note that an Innovation Centre is being developed on this campus to foster innovation, including grass-root innovations.  Farmers should be motivated and facilitated to join experimentation at research institutes. They must also be guided for obtaining patents and IPR rights.

The central government took a historic step last year to honour 12 farmers with Padmashri awards for their path-breaking innovations in agriculture. Such recognitions uphold the morale of innovative farmers and entrepreneurs.

With the government aiming to double the income of the farmers in the next few years, there is a need for concerted efforts for improving agricultural productivity. Combination of appropriate policies, technologies and institutional arrangements are vital to transform agriculture and make it sustainable and profitable.

I have always been stressing on the need for diversifying traditional cropping systems as it would reduce economic risk while increasing the scope for higher profitability.

In addition, integrated farming systems combining various agro-enterprises such as field crops, fisheries, horticulture and animal husbandry would ensure increased employment and agricultural income throughout the year.  Diversifying traditional cropping systems and taking allied activities would provide resilience to farmers to withstand the vagaries of nature.

While attaining a production of over 311 million tonnes of horticultural crops has been phenomenal, the full potential in this area is yet to be realized due to lack of adequate facilities for cold storage, processing and value chain development.

I am sure that the schemes proposed in this year’s budget like “One District One Product”, “Kisan Rail and Kisan Udan” for speedy transport of perishable products, “online organic market” will provide fillip to horticulture sector.

Various schemes rolled out by the Government like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichayee Yojana , “har keti ko paani”, “more crop per drop”, ‘Soil Health Card’ and e-Nam are all aimed at securing a better future to the farmer.

A vital contribution of national importance by this institute has been the development of neem-coated urea. This increases nitrogen utilization efficiency by 10% compared to uncoated urea. With the government making the use of neem-coated urea mandatory, the farmers are saving 10% urea.

I am also happy to note that the new scheme   called “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman” (PM Kisan) for assured income support to the farmers has immensely benefitted around 12 crore farming families. 

I am happy that PM Kisan SAMPADA Yojana seeks to create modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet. It will not only provide a big boost to the growth of the food processing sector in the country but also help in providing better returns to farmers. Indeed it is a big step towards doubling of farmers income, creating huge employment opportunities in the rural areas, reducing wastage of agricultural produce and enhancing the export of processed foods.

Annadata scheme is to be expanded to include “Oorjadata” to help farmers link pumps to solar grid. Farmers having fallow and barren lands can set up solar power generation units and they can sell it to grids to make a living.

As we all are aware, agriculture holds immense potential for entrepreneurship.  Agriculture needs to be developed as an enterprise and find ways to attract youth by creating an appropriate entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is equally important to strengthen the incubation centers for the promotion of agri-enterprises. I am happy that IARI has set up incubation centre to empower youth and promote agri-business enterprises.

Besides research, IARI has also excelled in agricultural education and in producing quality human resources for agricultural research, education, and extension. I appreciate the contribution made by the institute’s scientists, students, and all other staff members in advancing research and technology development.

Finally, I would like to once again congratulate the students who have completed their M.Sc and Ph.D. degrees. I wish you all success in your future endeavors.

I am confident that IARI will continue to serve the nation through scientific advancements and innovations in agriculture. 

Thank you. Jai Hind!”

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