National Wheat Researchers Workshop inaugurated at PAU, Research Progress Reviewed, New Thrusts Suggested

Ludhiana, August 28, 2010

Wheat, that has a major contribution towards national food security in India,  has been having a special place in Indian agriculture and folk culture.  It has been cultivated since ancient times in this part of the country. This was stated by the PAU Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Manjit Singh Kang while inaugurating the 49th All India Wheat and Barley Research Workers Meet at PAU, today.  Dr. Kang traced the historical saga of agricultural development in India and highlighted that this success story, called the Green Revolution, has been possible due to the visionary role of government, ICAR and Farm Universities.  The role of All India Coordinated Research Projects, involving a large number of inter-disciplinary scientists had been a key factor in this direction.  Dr. Kang said that deep commitment of scientists, hard work of peasantry and pro-farming policies of government played a synergistic and positive role in this direction.  There were many issues such as climate change, incidence of pests and diseases, etc. that need to be addressed.  Dr. Kang said that the future gain in wheat production can be through enhancing input use efficiency, particularly of nutrient and water. 

Glimpses from the inaugural session of the Wheat-Barley Researchers Workshop at PAU

"Multi disciplinary approach is no longer an option but is a must for a tangible development in agriculture", said Dr Kang adding that synergy of combined disciplines and economics of value addition were needed. The burgeoning population will require augmentation of food grain production in coming years.  India is the second largest wheat producer in the world, he observed while complimenting the wheat scientist for this.  Dr. Kang emphasized that Plant Pathologists will have a special role to play in the wake of imminent risk from emerging new races and pathotypes of rusts.  He said that the Ug 99 race of stem rust is a matter of concern for them.  He said that during the last two decades rapid developments in molecular biology and biotechnology including molecular markers and genomics, have made available new tools for creation, analysis and manipulation of genetic variations, and thereby, development of improved cultivars. 

Glimpses from the inaugural session of the Wheat-Barley Researchers Workshop at PAU

In the inaugural session rich tributes were paid to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and Dr. A.B. Joshi by garlanding their portrait and lighting the holy lamp, for their contribution in removing starvation through revolutionizing wheat production.   Dr. Kang released a 'Souvenir of the workshop' on this occasion.  The other publications released were a 'Directory of Wheat Research Workers', 'New released varieties and IPR issues', 'Barley and Wheat Publications', and a 'CD of Annual Report of AICRP on Wheat'. 

The Deputy Director General (Crop Science) of ICAR, Dr. Swapan K. Dutta, the Chairman of the session, appreciated the key role that PAU played in ushering in an era of Green Revolution, making the country self sufficient in food grains.  He said that to feed the growing population more food will have to be produced and highlighted a target of additional one million ton per year.  This is not an easy task though , he said adding that with the availability of improved genotypes and biotechnological tools, this would be accomplished.  Dr. Dutta said that by participating in international project on wheat genomics, the PAU will provide the required lead in wheat research.  He, however,  said that in the coming years the demand for barley would increase many folds due to its multifarious utility in brewery industry, malt industry and consumption, Dr. Dutta said that India can lead the South East Asian countries as far as the food security is concerned.  He also mentioned that private sector is enthusiastic to work in India with ICAR and State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) in food sector.  He elaborated that India has the strength of resources, marketing and scientific manpower. 

On the sidelines of the workshop, Dr. Dutta said that the setting up of Borlaug Institute near Ludhiana will cater to the wheat and maize production technologies not only for India but other countries of South-East Asia also.  He said that the institute will work closely with PAU and ICAR.  Dr. Dutta said that the Indian wheat programme has a high recognition for its significant contribution at the national level.  The well designed multi-dimensional and multi-locational All India Coordinated Project has been a model programme that enabled the country to touch the record wheat production of 80.71 million tons (mt)  in 2009-10.  The country is maintaining its second position after China despite the changing climatic scenario.  The last 25 years have witnessed a moderate growth rate of 2.25 % in wheat production while the challenge is to fulfill a target of 90 mt  by 2030.  The threats of drought, salinity, nutrient deficiency, stem rust race Ug 99 and yellow rust race 78S84, seed production,   technology generation and adoption gap are some of the challenges that need attention.  He said that the strategies aimed at enhancing profitability and eco-sustainability were needed.

Dr. S.S. Singh, Project Director, Directorate of Wheat Research, Karnal discussed the progress made in irrigated and high fertility wheat regions.   He said that the knowledge of molecular biology is yet to be exploited to enhance wheat productivity and that work on rice-wheat gene sequencing is being initiated. The gap between the possible and actual yield at farm level, that has been revealed through frontline demonstrations, needs to be bridged through strengthening and popularizing production technologies, he said.  He   remarked that policy support for installation of modern silos to prevent post-harvest loss of quality and quantity of grains needs to be provided. The yield plateau in some regions, declining total factor productivity, occurrence of micro nutrient deficiencies, terminal heat and drought tolerance, and emergence of new races of pathogens, etc. are some demanding issues, he said. The storage facilities for food grains need to be strengthened. 

Dr. R.P. Dua, Assistant Director General (FFC) of ICAR, in his remarks said that although good progress has been made under the national network   yet the emerging biotic and abiotic stresses need to be given due focus.  He suggested that cropping system mode research was required.  The deployment of molecular tools and techniques can be helpful.

Dr.(Mrs) S.K. Mann, Dean Postgraduate Studies, traced the efforts of scientists in addressing the menace of wheat rusts.  She said that the contribution of Punjab at the national level were remarkable and added that the focus area at present should be eco-agriculture, human resource development and sustainability. 

Earlier, the Director of Research, Dr. S.S. Gosal welcomed the Chief Guest, participating dignitaries and delegates from different parts of the country.  The vote of thanks were proposed by the Dean College of Agriculture, Dr. M.S. Aulakh who said that All India Coordinated Project of Wheat Researchers was one of the biggest in the world. 

The Organizing Secretary, Dr. (Mrs.) Indu Sharma said that in a special session on strengthening international collaboration for wheat and barley research, Dr. Thomas Lumpkin (CIMMYT, Mexico), Dr. S. Rajaram (ICARDA, Syria), Dr. Paul Fox (ACIAR, Australia), Dr. Ronnie Coffman (BGRI, USA) and others will share their views.  An overview of progress of wheat research in the NWPZ (Ludhiana, Hisar, Durgapura, New Delhi, Pantnagar, Jammu, Karnal) will be discussed by experts who will finalize the work plan and recommendations for the next year, discipline wise, said Dr. Sharma adding that in the plenary session, a wrap-up will be undertaken.

Source: PAU, Ludhiana