Nanoscience based viable advanced technologies that are both economic and scientific, must be developed to counter negative effects of declining landholdings, increasing number of marginal farmers and land degradation, said Dr R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India at an Assocham event, ‘4th Bio-Nano Agri Summit, held in New Delhi today.
“Agriculture contributes little less than 20 percent of India’s gross domestic product, accounts for over 10 percent of India’s exports and employs over half of our workforce,” said Dr Chidambaram while speaking in the summit.
He stressed on the need for more widespread techniques to improve irrigation facilities in India. “Once California faced a dry spell of four years, the farmers consumed 40 percent of fresh water for irrigation. It irked the critics in the US. In India, agriculture consumes about 80 percent of fresh water. Thus, we need to utilise water in efficient manner.”
Talking about the need for climate resilient agriculture, Dr Chidambaram said that mitigation and adaptation strategies must include soil health restoration and development of new crop varieties including genetically modified (GM) crops.
Dr Chidambaram also pitched for using ‘agricultural drone with appropriate sensors’ while citing an example of NETRA, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that was used to track damage and marooned people in in devastating Uttarakhand flood. It can also be used in agriculture.”
Giving an example of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO) which has set up rural food processing centres, He emphasised on the need for large scale industrial and rural food processing units as they can add enormous value to primary agricultural produce and increase the shelf life.
Speaking on the occasion, Shilpi Gupta, of Biotechnology Industrial Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) said, “We are providing research funding to students, researchers and entrepreneurs. BIRAC promotes the biotechnology start-ups ideas which can be transformed into entrepreneurship.”
Underlining the need of technologies for agriculture sector, Alok Adholeya, Senior Director – Biotechnology & Management of Biotechnology Resources Division, TERI said, “The marginal farmers must have access to the technologies which can transform agriculture in India. Without their participation, the sector cannot be developed.”
There are enormous opportunities for researchers and policymakers for doing research in the biotechnology sector, Adholeya further added.
Focusing on the technological advancements, Dr. Bharat Char, Biotechnology Head, Mahco said, “Around 68 percent of arable land in India is subject to drought in varying degrees. In the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, forget the irrigation water, we are even facing shortage of drinking water. And therefore, we need to develop or adopt such water efficient technologies and drought tolerant varieties of seeds.”