Thursday, October 14, 2010

MFI in crisis, at the moment
With the sacking of Gurumani, CEO of SKS MicroFinance and the change in guard has become headline for many Business dailies and thw matter is yet to be settled with it going to the court. And many of the clarifications issued on behalf of SKS, but the things are far from the pacification mode and raised the very doubts of orivate sector's participation in the financing, that too at the ground level to the naive and illiterate people. For another jolt as a reverberation of almost the same event, the Andhra Govt vowed to make the days harder for the institutions, due to many fradulant practices and wrongful way of recovery. AP is only considered as the birthplace of MF activities in recent past and then later only the movment has further moved to other parts of Eastern & Southern India, where these agengies almost become moving force for the small and marginal farmers and rural artisans. MFIs might have transformed many a lives but the apprehensions can't be denied on any account, as there is mushrooming of the MFI all throughout, without any Govt watchdog and, exclusive legislation for nailing down the guilty, in case of defaults and fradulent reports. Earlier NGOs did the same and now the practice has been extended to the MFIs but this case may prove to be another stint of mass-suicides, on par with Vidarbha and many other drier tracts of the country.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Chak-de India" style win for the Hockey men's team...

The Semis b/w England vs India started on a good usual note and some good feeling after first GOAL from Indian side, then mum for some time, but the rival team equalled the score just before the half time. Initial 2nd half witnessed continuous 2 goals from the visiting team and the pressure, surmounted the redemption from Indian side. And the Home team pounced back with 2 field goals (all other GOALS (3-England & 1-India, are scored of penalty) within the time interval of last 10 min to end. Thus the levelled scores led to 3-3 by the completion of the stipulated time. Extra time of 15 mins, was unable to yield anything for both the sides. The final decision referred to Penalty Shootout for the possible outcome and lo, it is victorious INDIAN team, backed on the shoulder of Bharat Chhetri and all the penalty shooters, scoring 5/5 against the 4/5 of the rival.

Great performance added with team-work yielded the feat, other than Chhetri's extraordinary game save...

Jai Ho!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

at its low

At last the agrochemical major Dow Agro Sciences (DAS), a subsidiary of Dow Chemical of the US has faced the ire of Agriculture Ministry, with imposition of ban on all its commercial activity, which excluded it from the purchase of pesticides for the next five years for unlawful practice of bribing Indian officials. It bribed the officials to expedite the approval of three of its substandard pesticides. The three pesticides were identified as Dursban 10G, Nurelle-D and Pride, used for controlling of pests of crop like cotton and oilseeds.

But the action followed after a lot of dilly dally by the Agri Ministry, when it is asked by the GoM, looking into the Bhopal Gas tragedy sought to know the status of the show-cause notice. The ministry, in its response, cited the result of the CBI probe into the case, and its recommendation that the firm be blacklisted. In an effort to cover all its flanks, the agriculture ministry had, before issuing the show-cause notice, also sought the views of the law ministry. The later, in its response, asked it to take the registration committee on board. The direct role of ministry in the whole accreditation and certification process should be investigated to look for the bigger fishes, pursuing corrupt and unethical practices by dint of position and government office.

In June, the agriculture ministry issued a show cause notice, asking why Dow should not be blacklisted for having indulged in unethical practices. The ministry also asked the registration committee of Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) to review the registration of these three pesticides afresh. Since DAS India has not presented and justified its position to the notice in a meaningful and appropriate reply, the action followed.

The charge sheet was filed on the basis of information furnished by the US authorities to the Indian government in response to a letter rogatory. Is the Indian government and ministry gone so hapless and toeing the US lines that only after action from a foreign soil and influence it gets charged. The US Securities Exchange Commission (SEA) had indicted Dow AgroSciences long ago in 2007 and fined Dow Chemical $325,000 for bribing the officials in India, and charged the company of violations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for letting its subsidiary use funds for illegal activities.

The CBI team investigating the case had earlier found out that Ratan Lal Rajak, a former plant protection advisor to the government, and his aides had been paid $32,000 in cash and jewellery, while their travel and hotel expenses were also picked up by Dow Agro Sciences, and at that time it was being known by the name of DE-Nocil Crop Protection Ltd. It later filed chargesheets against Rajak and a middleman, identified only as Satyabroto Banerjee, in the court of a special judge in Ambala (Haryana) for accepting bribes from Dow Agro. Mr Kevin Aden, the then managing director of Dow Agro, a British citizen was also mentioned in the charge sheet for corrupt deals.

The ban has unearthed many of the truths behind the approval and the licence-permit raj, prevalent in the ministry and Indian government. The jurisprudence observed in this case, is the height of maneuverality, as the company in question instead of responding to the notice, questioned the government’s jurisdiction in seeking action against it. The multinational has even employed stalling tactics, as per an anonymous ministry official, but the company directly refutes the charges leveled for. In many other countries also, Dow Chemicals is facing the ban and penalty for its unscrupulous and unethical activity, like in US fined $2 million by the New York Attorney General for falsely advertising the safety of chlorpyrifos.

Many other corporations and multinationals too have very dubious accounts on many of the fronts for their substandard products, particular the agri inputs, i.e. seeds, pesticides etc. and tried under courts for the cases of fraud and imprudent practice, spreading across the boundaries. Being powerful and wealthy, they have developed strong MNC lobby, in lieu of direct funding to the political parties, developmental and anti-lobbyists groups.

Concerned ministry and government authority should act in a fairly transparent way of all the transactions and accreditation process, so that the large section of the society should not suffer at the cost and misdeeds, of a few. But the big question is where the line should be drawn between corporate responsibility, and the responsibility of other agents, such as the governments of developing countries or the international community? These key issues need to be addressed urgently; otherwise the cases of such corporate bankruptcy and social frauds and bound to be unraveled.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Netafim found Drip Irrigation Jugaad for Indian farms

World largest drip irrigation firm, Netafim has come up with a solution to cater to the drip-irrigation problems of India’s fragmented land. In a country of unique problems, the solutions cannot be conventional. Netafim Irrigation realised this when it pondered over the problem of how to provide drip irrigation to small Indian farms. Six months ago, the wholly owned subsidiary of Israel-based Netafim, the world’s largest micro-irrigation company, indigenised its Family Drip System (FPS) for mainstream farming in India. As a result, drip irrigation is now available for farms that are as small as a quarter acre.

FPS was originally developed for irrigating the backyard gardens in developed countries. Netafim itself had, till then, catered mostly to large farms of a few thousand acres. The budgets for these systems were large, and so was the incremental produce that farmers could get by adopting such systems. But that began to change when Netafim set up its own subsidiary in India in 1997. For the purposes of drip irrigation, India’s farm needs were different from most other countries in two significant ways.
First, even some of the largest farms in India would be considered medium-sized or even small in most developed countries. Most drip irrigation systems that were available in India were for a land-holding of one acre. The small size of the farms immediately translated into a design constraint. Small farmers could not afford the expensive drip irrigation systems.
Second, electricity was not always available to many farms. To irrigate a farm using drip irrigation systems normally requires continuous power supply for three to four hours. Most Indian villages did not have this luxury.
For these reasons, catering to small farmers remained a low priority item for Netafim till an opportunity suddenly presented itself in Jharkhand. This East Indian state is one of the most impoverished states in India where most farm holdings are not just under one acre but also on uneven terrain. The farms are often owned by tribals who live on subsistence farming by growing just one crop when the rains are good. The rest of the year they work as menial labour — often on their own lands which they ‘loan’ out to better-off businessmen.
Netafim took advantage of a state government plan to make agriculture viable for its impoverished tribals. The initiative was partly funded by the state under the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) scheme. This scheme is meant for the self-employment of rural poor and the upliftment of tribals. The strategy involves introducing appropriate technologies and skills for irrigating a plot of land large enough for each tribal family to earn enough, but small enough for the husband-wife team to cultivate the plot themselves without depending on outside labour. The size of this plot has been standardised to 25 decimals, or 1,000 square metres — a little less than a quarter of an acre.
The conventional FPS is a pressure compensated system which ensures that the flow of water is equal all over the farm right from the beginning of the pipes to the very end of the pipes, both on low lying portions of the field and on higher levels. This is achieved through valves which clamp down when the water pressure increases (usually close to the source of water supply) and eases up when this pressure decreases (usually at the end of the pipe). A conventional FPS has tap inlet through which the water supply is taken into the system.
This is where Netafim used a little bit of Indian jugaad (improvisation), as water supply is not very regular on Indian farms.
To create water pressure, Netafim decided to befriend gravity. It recommended the setting up of a water tank at a height. This water tank could be filled with water with just 10 minutes of electrical motor power. If there was no electricity, the water could even be put in the tank through a hand pump. Once the tank was full, it could irrigate the field for over three hours.
Thus, when fields were parched last May, the only fields that remained green with a promise of a very rich harvest were those that had this system installed.
As against other systems that would cost at least double, this system cost just Rs. 30,000 of which 50 percent came in by way of a grant from the state government. The farmer had to finance just around Rs. 15,000.

With a bit of help from both local support groups and the state government, the first group of 30 tribals who installed this system went to market with their produce just two months ago, each earning anywhere between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 40,000 from the first crop. The tribals who grow vegetables with a crop cycle of three months, now earn a steady cash flow, helping them earn more than enough to repay the loans taken for the irrigation system within one or (a maximum of) two crops.
Says Govardhan Munda, a 25-year-old tribal farmer, who now goes about teaching other farmers how to earn cash through this method of farming, “Today, we can earn at least Rs. 25,000 every cropping season. Some of us have even made Rs. 40,000.”
Now that the state of Jharkhand has decided to scale up this experiment to cover 100,000 farms, Netafim’s agronomists are helping the state’s officials to mark out each field with GPS locators, so that the spot can be identified on a GPS grid, and then help the state government couple it with the Unique Identification card (UID) project of the government. “This,” says a state government official, “will reduce the practice of drip irrigation companies claiming that more acres have been covered by drip irrigation than is actually the case, thus becoming eligible for a higher subsidy grant.” The process is likely to be adopted by other states as well.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mozambique President visited IARI to decode the secrets of Green Revolution

H. E. Mr. Armando Guebuza. The President of Mozambique visited Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi on 1st October 2010. The purpose of his visit was to know about the success of Indian Green revolution and India’s present efforts for the evergreen revolution, as the major problem of Mozambique is poverty, low agricultural productivity and dependence on food import.

The agro-climatic and social conditions are similar in both the countries. The visiting delegation was received by Dr. H.S. Gupta, IARI, Director along with senior officials of the institute. Dr. Gupta has shared the major accomplishments of institute and the present agriculture scenario in the country. The visiting Mozambique President Armando Guebuza and delegation members were highly impressed with Institute‘s achievements.

They desired that their students should be provided an opportunity for higher education and their senior researchers should be provided training in the important areas in agricultural research.

Dr. H.S Gupta agreed for the same and emphasized that higher education in agricultural is very high standard with on-hand on training cheaper as compared to other countries. Dr. Gupta also briefed the delegation about the ways for solving their food and nutrition problem. The country should identify few food crops like rice, wheat, maize and high yielding varieties of these crops from similar agro-climatic can be introduced.

The high yielding varieties should be identified their full package, which include water management, Integrated plant nutrient Management, Integrated pest management, post harvest Management, should be worked out. He emphasized the cultivation of yellow maize, which has high vitamin A content. The delegation was also shown the Institute museum depicting IARI technologies and products. Both the side agreed for active collaboration in higher education, research training and transfer of Agricultural technology.

Indian Tea to get new logo

The existing logo depicting Indian Tea, a lady in black & white carrying a wicker basket of three tea leaves strapped to her head, the 34 year old India Tea logo may soon going to be replaced with a new one, to give it a more contemporary look. Related with the same Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union minister of state for commerce has recently set up a task force to improve the brand image of Indian tea, with a new logo.

The current logo incidentally was introduced as a marketing symbol and is protected under copyright as well as certification trade mark. Mr Scindia already has had a round of discussions with producers, merchant exporters and Tea Board of India. The minister plans to create an umbrella brand for Indian tea, which is more vibrant, youthful, exciting and visually connects the rich heritage of Indian tea. He has asked all the stakeholders of the tea industry to hold brainstorming sessions and come up with suggestions. Tea Board is likely to appoint an advertising agency, which will help the industry to give a shape to this new logo. Adman Piyush Pandey, who was a tea taster in Kolkata before joining Ogilvy & Mather India in 1982, is expected to help the commerce ministry and Tea Board of India in this exercise.

The move to change this age old traditional logo has thrown open a vigorous debate. While a section of the industry feels that the current logo does not visually connect to Indian tea, there are others who feel that the logo, which has become synonymous with Indian tea should not be completely changed, since world markets have come to accept the logo for over three decades. The new logo will have to registered in all the export markets so that it is not be misused by unscrupulous traders.

Now, it is protein packed GM potato

The humble potato, which is consumed as a staple food in many parts of the world and yet considered as a major source of carbohydrate are changing their course. All credit goes to the Delhi based National Institute of Plant Genomic Research (NIPGR) and its team of scientists. The team has developed a genetically modified (GM) potato which they claim is packed with up to 60 per cent more protein than an ordinary tuber. The potato variant created was also found to have increased levels of essential amino acids, notably lysine, tyrosine and sulphur, which are usually limited in potatoes. Apart from that, the newly developed transgenic also had more yield per hectare compared to ordinary potatoes and in field trials, the crops have produced 15 to 25 per cent more potatoes per hectare. The scientists inserted the gene called AmA1 (Amaranth Albumin 1) into seven types of potatoes and then grew the transgenic potatoes over two years. They found that there was a 35-60 per cent increase in total protein content in all varieties of the transgenic potatoes. The researchers carried out tests on rats and rabbits and found that the new crop has no toxic or allergic effects on them.

The findings has been published in the journal ''Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences'', the scientists said these transgenic potatoes will gain much public acceptance than other genetically-modified crops as it uses a gene from another edible crop, the amaranth seed. These potatoes have to be cleared by biotech regulators before introduction for commercialisation. But the need is to develop proper scientific module, public awareness about the whole developmental process and finally the various impact assessment studies for the transgenic, so that it may not end up in the Bt Brinjal like situation.

Is the Bt Brinjal report plagiarism, merely a case of hyper sensitization?

Can it be categorized as a case of plagiarism? As the very person from whose few lines have been excerpted from his published article, can be termed a copy cat. As a person who is the fellow of NAAS, he was invited to express his views and except the historical account and some fact findings, no part of recommendation goes from Dr Kumar’s article or ISSSA’s article. So is it a clear case of hyper sensitization by the media savvy anti-lobbyists.

Bt Brinjal is back in news, surrounding the controversy of plagiarism by Indian Academic Societies. It is learnt that in March 2010 Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had asked the six science academies - the Indian Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Indian National Science Academy, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the National Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences (India) to give an unbiased scientific assessment on the feasibility of transgenic crops and the proposed regulatory mechanism for GM crops. They submitted the Inter-Academy report on GM crops to Environment minister in September last week, recommending the lifting of the imposed moratorium and limited release of Bt brinjal.

But it turns out that the academies have relied heavily on data generated by US based GM lobby International Service for the Acquisition of Agri- biotech Applications (ISAAA) and an article “Bt Brinjal: A Pioneering Push”, which was published during December 2009 in “Biotech News”, a publication of the Department of Biotechnology written by Dr P Ananda Kumar, Director of Delhi based National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology. The plagiarism allegations against the academies has been leveled by the advocacy group “Coalition for GM Free India”, which dubbed the report as a biased, political position paper. Earlier, science and technology minister Prithviraj Chavan had been alleged to plagiarised from reports by the same ISAAA in a letter to cabinet colleague A. Ramadoss while defending Bt brinjal.

But Dr Kumar defied that being a fellow of the NAAS, one of the academies, he attended the meeting and submitted his inputs for the Inter-academy report upon the GM crops and Bt Brinjal. If the same person has expressed his views at both the places (report and magazine), then the similarity in views are bound to happen. Then what is the wrong in that and where arises the question of plagiarism?

The reason could also be attributed to the fact that at present there are very few experts in the field of genetically modified crops and that’s why majority of the academicians directly depended on those as their very source of reference. But the mere understanding can’t be termed as expertise over the same.

Later on the day, Environment & Forest Minister Mr Jairam Ramesh has thrashed the report, terming it full of absurdity and lack of scientific rigour, which does not give a larger scientific view and focused only on findings of a scientist (Ananda Kumar). Ramesh had imposed moratorium on release of Bt brinjal on February 9 citing lack of consensus among various stakeholders and still of the view that he has not yet heard even a single state asking government in the country wanting its revocation.

A day after it became known that a report by top science academies had recommended an immediate release of Bt brinjal, people opposed to GM crops produced a counter report, authored by David Andow of the Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota, United States with diametrically opposite conclusions. It was released by Aruna Rodrigues, the lead petitioner in the Supreme Court case seeking a ban on genetically modified crops. Rodrigues claimed that Andow was an acknowledged international expert on the environmental risks of genetically engineered crop plants. This report finds faults with the clearance granted to Bt brinjal by the GEAC in October last year. The report by the American scientist says that the expert committee, on whose recommendation GEAC had given its clearance, had relied on dubious scientific assumptions and had either ignored or inadequately evaluated environmental concerns. Today, It has almost become business of many of the so called no-profit but money making organization and other such welfare organisations, to stop the diffusion of all the technology, which may harm their usual business.

Even head of the academics head are playing hide and seek and trying to salvage the things, but the unnecessary confrontation can be well avoided by proper mention of acknowledgement to the authors and citing references and sources to the contributors of the report. The confusion over these paragraphs arose, because of no reference to where these paragraphs were taken from, which reference should have been made. The author (P Ananda Kumar) is a member of the academy so his views can be quoted in the report. In June 2010, at an inter-academy meet, the issue of commercially releasing Bt brinjal was discussed at length, in which around 60-70 members from all the six academies were present and they had presented their views on the subject.

It can be taken as just another case of media sensitization, which is overtaken by the anti-lobbyists’ front. Today, the anti-lobbyists have become too media-savvy and the very media, which was revered as the fourth pillar of the democracy highlights/ debates the unnecessary things out of proportion without having investigating the facts and revelations. Steadily but surely, the media is going too critique to Indians and going for lot of paid editorials and articles, which is really not a good sign of a healthy future. But now the big question is where gone the unbiased and independence character of media, once been referred as the mirror of the society. Everything is having its own flaws and goodness, but the thing is that whereas the good things need to be highlighted, the other darker side can be taken care of. As nonetheless, refuting any technology yields nothing for the welfare of the mankind. During this time, when not only the Indian subcontinent but the whole world is facing the challenges of food security, hunger and malnutrition, climate change, weather extremities etc., which can only been fought with taking all the stakeholders in the confidence, without harming the cause. With the constitution of NBRAI, it is hoped that the issues of media hypocrisy and chauvinism would be moderated and things are going to addresses as far as the biotechnology and GM industry is concerned.

The controversy:

"It (brinjal) is an important cash crop for poor farmers who transplant it from nurseries at different times of the year to produce two or three crops, each of 150 to 180 days' duration."

ISAAA report: "Brinjal Shoot and Fruit Borer (BSFB) causes significant losses of up to 60 to 70 per cent in commercial plantings. Damage starts in the nursery, prior to transplanting, continues to harvest and is then carried- over to the next crop of brinjal. BSFB damages brinjal in two ways. First, it infests young shoots during the vegetative phase, which limits the ability of plants to produce healthy fruitbearing shoots, thereby reducing potential yield." Another piece of data used to justify Bt brinjal has been lifted from the industry report: "Farmers usually spray twice a week, applying 15 to 40 insecticide sprays, or more, in one season depending on infestation levels." Figures relating to the financial cost of insecticide spray by farmers too come from the industry document. The similarities in the ISAAA report and the Inter-Academy report go on without anyone getting a hint about the source of the data. No references or citations have been given, as is normal with any scientific document. No references or citations have been given, as is normal with any scientific document.

Dr GS Khush-

The undisputed Hero of Rice revolution

It is a measure of Dr Khush's stature as the world's foremost rice breeder that, in any rice field, anywhere in the world, there's a 60 percent chance that the rice was either bred at IRRI under his leadership or developed from IRRI varieties.”

The man who is often referred to as one of the fathers of the Green Revolution in rice cultivation is none other than Dr Gurdev Khush, a plant breeder and geneticist by profession and is one of the world's authorities on crop breeding and a major force behind the development of productive rice varieties and the Green Revolution in plant breeding.

Dr GS Khush was born in a small village in Punjab and received his education at the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana in 1955. Then in 1957, he applied for his doctorate and was accepted by the University of California at Davis, where he studied with two legendary plant geneticists Ledyard Stebbins and Charles Rick. At an early age of 25, Dr Khush completed his PhD in genetics in less than three years after joining the University of California and studied the tomato genomics with Dr Rick for seven years.

In 1967, Dr Khush joined the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Manila and in less than five years of joining IRRI, Dr Khush became the head of IRRI's plant breeding department and developed his own new variety of "miracle rice", IR36. This was developed using IR8 as a genetic base and cross breeding it with 13 parent varieties from six nations. He led IRRI to the forefront in the improvement of rice varieties. Prior to the beginning of the Green Revolution, varieties of rice took 6-7 months to mature and yielded about 1-2 tons per hectare. Dr Khush modified the plant by reducing its height, shortening maturing time, and increasing response to fertilizers. Under optimal conditions, these plants can yield up to 10 tons per hectare. The combination of these characteristics soon made IR36 one of the most widely planted food crop varieties the world has ever known. IR64 later replaced IR36 as the world's most popular variety and IR72, released in 1990, became the world's highest-yielding variety.

For his monumental contributions to the World Food Security, Dr Khush has been honored with numerous awards and honors. Perhaps no other NRI scientist has received as many awards and honors as Dr Khush. He has received honorary doctorates from ten universities, including a doctorate from Cambridge in 2000 and a doctorate from Guru Nanak Dev University in the year 2007 in India. In 2007, Dr Khush was awarded the Golden Sickle Award, honoring researchers who have made a considerable contribution or accomplishment in rice research. In addition, Dr Khush received the Borlaug Award in 1977, the Japan Prize in 1987, the 2000 Wolf Prize in Agriculture, the 2001 International Scientific and Technological Cooperation Award from the Government of China, and the Padma Shri award from president of India in 2001. Dr Khush was elected to some of the world's most prestigious academies such as Indian National Science Academy, The Third world Academy of Sciences, U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society, and he consults for over 15 national governments, including India, China, and Russia. Dr Khush is the author of three books, and more than 80 book chapters and 160 scientific papers.

Dr Khush has served as consultant to rice breeding programs of 15 countries as well as The Rockefeller Foundation, The Third World Academy of Sciences, Italy, and the International Science Foundation, Sweden. He is now serving as a member of Scientific Advisory Committee (overseas) to the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.

In 1994, Dr Khush announced a new type of "super rice", which has the potential to increase yields by 25 percent. His final work on what is called the New Plant Type (NPT) for irrigated rice fields is complete. Developing NPT almost took 12 years and the plants were yielding strongly in temperature areas of China and are expected to be ready for farmers in tropical Asia very soon. It is a complete redesign of the rice plant from the roots up, making it higher yielding, more vigorous, and better able to resist pests and diseases without the use of environmentally damaging pesticides. It is designed to yield up to 12 tonnes per hectare in irrigated tropical conditions, but adjusting its genetic characteristics to match tastes and environment conditions.

Dr Khush shared the 1996 World Food Prize with his mentor, Dr Henry Beachell, for their unparalleled achievements in enlarging and improving the supply of rice, one of the world’s largest food crops. He has since played a key role in developing more than 300 rice varieties in IRRI's race to keep rice production ahead of population growth.

High yielding rice varieties with disease and insect resistance and superior grain quality developed under his leadership are grown on 60 per cent of the world’s riceland. At IRRI, he and his team developed several varieties like IR8, IR36, IR64 and IR72. It is IRRI’s improved rice varieties only, which has pushed the world rice production from 257 million tonnes in 1966 to over 700 million tonnes today and most of the major rice growing countries became self sufficient in food production. High yielding rice varieties with disease and insect resistance and superior grain quality developed under his leadership are grown on 60% of the world’s Riceland. All thanks goes to Dr Khush and IRRI.

Another significant contribution of Dr Khush is the training of numerous rice scientists from all over the world. His contributions to rice genetics and biotechnology are equally well recognized. In 2002, after 35 years of unprecedented service, he retired from IRRI and returned to University of California-Davis as an adjunct professor to share his knowledge and experience with students and faculty.

Dr Khush has worked closely with the Indian rice scientists and supplied numerous rice varieties which are grown widely in India. It is solely due to his untiring efforts, perseverance, scientific bent and visionary thought, which has ushered into a food self sufficient and food secure India and many other countries world over.

-Abid Hussain

Drop by Drop- Bumper Crop

On a fateful day in September 2003, Ramrao, a farmer from Yavatmal district of Maharashtra thought of committing suicide, due to repeated crop failure and mounting debts. Though he didn’t succeed in his endeavor, today after seven years into his rebirth (that’s how he puts it) is a happy and prosperous man. Sitting on a charpai in front of his one storey pakka house, he cheerfully talks about cotton cultivation on his four acres of land, benefits of growing Bt cotton, implying the improved agronomic practices and his desire to buy more land in future between the sips of hot tea. And what has brought about this change of fortune and attitude is not Bt cotton alone, but also the use of drip irrigation in his cotton fields.

In India, cotton accounts for 30% of agricultural gross domestic product. In this year, it emerged as the largest cotton growing nation with a total of 106 lakh hectare under it, surpassing the earlier record of 104 lakh hectare land in USA. It has also witnessed an increased production of two and half times in last five years and expected to become the single largest producer of cotton at the end of this season.

The meteoric rise in cotton production can be attributed to myriad factors like applying out of the box solution on the farm and shift in improved agronomics practices. One of the key factors responsible for its growth has been the introduction of Bt cotton. “When it was first introduced, it Bt cotton hardly had any significant area under it, but with the much popularity of the Bt hybrids in terms of lesser bollworm incidences, thus resulting in significant increase of yield and the total economic return to the farmers, today it has touched to an unimaginable level of 92%,” says Dr. Kranthi, Director, Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur. “What is more interesting is that cotton hybrids are now grown both in the rainfed and irrigated regions.”

But it is not that Bt cotton is the only element that has changed the cotton cultivation in India. Since time immemorial cotton has been the main cash crop of Indian farmers. However, due to several factors, its cultivation had become non viable for the farmers. But with the international prices of cotton shooting up in last couple of years, farmers are willing to experiment and risk money on cotton cultivation. Drip irrigation, a highly efficient but capital intensive system of surface irrigation is increasingly finding its way in the cotton fields. So next time you happen to visit the cotton belts of Maharashta and Andhra, don’t be surprised if you find drip pipes laid out beautifully in cotton fields.

As cotton cultivation is mostly limited to dry land area and inconsistent monsoon playing hide and seek, surface or subsurface drip irrigation has proved to be the saving grace for dejected farmers and increased productivity has revived their hopes. It can save electricity, labour and 50% of irrigation water against the surface furrow irrigation. In this water saving technology which enables water directly to the roots of the plants maximizes the production through increase in crop yield. Other advantages of drip irrigation are protection of environment through conservation of soil and fertilizer resources.

Several changes in cropping system have been observed, as farmers are going for intercropping the Bt cotton along with sorghum, other than the non-bt variety. Once, there was heavy loss due to the weeds but now a day, cotton farmers are managing it well with the judicious application of herbicides, like Roundup (Glyphosate), a selective herbicide of American giant Monsanto added with one or, two manual weeding. We are also noticing the rising trends of water application through drip irrigation in cotton, and with more usage of micro-irrigation, water efficiency is improved, added with the better crop condition and the higher yield.

Since the initial coast of establishing drip irrigation being quite high and only big farmers can afford such an investment, small and marginal farmers have come out with some cost effective and innovative techniques. They bought large stripes of uncut “guthka” packets from the manufacturers and placed it parallel to the crop. It is tied at one end and fills it with water. After that they apply a needle prick in the plastic stripe adjacent to each crop, which effectively works like a desi drip without any electricity. These indigenous methods are nothing but an extension of India’s famous “Jugad technology” and seem to be working well for the farmers.

It can facilitate the early sowing of the crop in case of late monsoon, particularly in the water scarce cotton belts. Thus, the early development of crop will minimize and curtail the weed population. It will also result in the emergence of early flush, hence harvesting is pre-poned. The basic advantage of such a scenario results in easy and cheap availability of labourers meant for cotton harvesting. It also caters to better market price.

- Nitin Kumar -