DuPont Pioneer is working towards developing varieties of hybrid seeds that offer disease tolerance in addition to improved yields. SHARAD KHURANA, Country Manager, DuPont Pioneer India talks to MOHD MUSTAQUIM about the research and development in the hybrid seeds sector, its growth and opportunities
What is the overall hybrid seeds market in India?
India is relatively a new seed market, with a history of only 45 years or so. It is expected to grow at a healthy double digit rate as farmers are seeking new technologies which can increase their farm profitability. We have seen healthy hybridisation rates in corn and millet. With improved irrigation, farm equipment and management practices, farmers are willing to invest more on better quality seeds. Rapid hybridisation trends for key crops like corn, cotton and many vegetables indicates that there is tremendous potential for seed industry growth in our country. As a result of rapid adoption of quality seeds, the hybrid seed industry may grow at 10-12 percent per annum.
How do hybrid seeds impact the farm production and help farmers?
To feed India’s growing population and make farming a more sustainable and profitable business, hybrid seed solutions can increase crop yields in different weather and soil conditions. Some hybrids have good biotic and abiotic defensive characters and superior grain qualities.
However, to realise the full potential of hybrid seeds, the farmers need to be trained on effective crop management practices. DuPont Pioneer India is putting in significant efforts to educate farmers about cultivation of hybrid crops through our Farm schools initiative.
What are the developments going on hybrid seeds currently?
Current developments are encouraging – farmers are now ready to adopt new technologies that can improve their farm income. 60 percent of corn and millet crops are hybridised and for cotton the rate is more than 90 percent. There is a rapid increase taking place in hybridisation of rice and mustard crops. Seed replacement rates have increased steadily; farmers are now making a shift from farm saved seeds to high yielding varieties and hybrids resulting in increased productivity.
What are the challenges that you face in this sector?
Differential taxation, seed licensing and registration policies amongst states makes it difficult for seed companies to do business smoothly all across the country. Lack of modern mechanisms and skills to extend information about upcoming technologies to farmers limits the benefit of newer technologies to only a handful of farmers than the entire community as a whole. Regulatory uncertainties on biotech trials and Intellectual Property constrain research based companies to invest freely in new technology development in the country. More clarity on germplasm access, utilisation and transfer would encourage companies to invest in order to develop India as their regional research and manufacturing hub.
Do you run any farmers’ awareness programmes for seeds?
Apart for selling high quality hybrid seeds, DuPont Pioneer gives helpful crop management suggestions to farmers. This enables them to make highest possible profit from our products.
One of the services, Farm School –through this program, our representatives impart trainings on right agronomical practices and technical know-how to rural youth. They in-turn train their fellow farmers on proper management practices to improve farm yields and income.
Through Pioneer Paramarsh, a farmers helpline, our representatives build greater customer connect and extend technical advisory, crop management tips and product solutions to farmers across India.
What feedback do you get from them?
Farmers opine that they can improve their income and productivity by addressing the gaps in poor extension network, exposure to newer technologies and platform for best practices sharing between the farming community.
What future plans do you have for the sector?
DuPont Pioneer is committed to offer value-added products that improve farm productivity and raise income levels. We are working towards developing corn hybrids that offer disease tolerance in addition to improved yields. Our next generation corn hybrids will be able to withstand higher stress and will be suited to mechanised farm operations. We are highly focused on converting land to hybrid rice and mustard, thereby creating more value for farmers, contributing to food security and reducing the edible oil import bill for the country.
What relaxation, in terms of regulation and policies, the industry seeks from the government?
The industry seeks public-private- partnership for skill building in the rural space for knowledge transfer, subsidy on farm machinery and equipment to reduce cost of cultivation, Farmer Producers Organisation (FPO) for promoting co-operative farming and direct transfer of subsidies to farmers and simplified licensing and registration norms to facilitate introduction and release of new technologies.