Challenges like climate change call for farm research to take centre stage: The Indian Express

(This column first appeared in The Indian Express on September 30, 2021)

  • Indian agriculture’s major challenge in the initial decades after Independence was to increase crop production and yields at any cost. Today, it’s about boosting farm incomes, while simultaneously ensuring production that is cost-competitive, resource-use efficient and climate-smart. The release of a new herbicide-tolerant rice variety by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) that can be directly sown, instead of requiring transplantation, is therefore welcome. Farmers transplant and grow paddy in flooded fields mainly to control weeds, which cannot emerge under water that acts as a natural herbicide. The IARI variety contains a mutated gene making the paddy plant “tolerant” to Imazethapyr, a herbicide effective against a wide range of weeds. This chemical when now sprayed will kill only the weeds, while the paddy can be cultivated without any nursery preparation, transplanting, puddling and flooding. Farmers would save about 30 per cent water, Rs 3,000-per-acre labour costs and 10-15 days’ time from direct seeding, compared to conventional transplantation…

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