Prioritization of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry Research for 12th Five Year Plan Period

Recommendations of Brain Storming Session on “Prioritization of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry Research for 12th Five Year Plan Period”

New Delhi, August 5-6, 2011

To meet the demands of burgeoning population, agricultural production must be increased tremendously from the shrinking natural resources under unfavorable climatic conditions in the Global Climate Change scenario. Besides, the conventional demands for food, fodder and fiber, now agriculture have to produce more to meet the demands for biofuel requirement. Therefore we must develop genotypes and devise production technologies to enhance productivity and quality under Global Climate Change scenario. The potential yields have reached a plateau in some important crops, whereas, in other crops there have not been significant gains in yield. For a quantum jump in yield potential, we must explore the possibilities of breaking the yield barriers to further improve the yield potential, and enhance yield stability under biotic and abiotic stresses. Since enormous amount of post harvest losses occurs in food grains, fruits and vegetables, efforts should be made to prevent these losses through genetic improvement and post-harvest technologies. Greater emphasis on quality with respect to biofortification and functional foods is needed. To address these problems more than 200 plant physiologists and biochemists from all over India participated in the brain-storming session to prioritize researchable issues in the area of plant physiology and biochemistry for the 12th Five Year Plan Period at IARI, New Delhi on 5th and 6th August 2011.

The inaugural session of the brain storming session was held under the chairmanship of Dr. S. Ayyappan, Director-general, ICAR and Secretary, DARE in Dr. B.P. Pal Auditorium, IARI, New Delhi. The meeting started with welcome and introductory address by Dr. M. Dadlani, Joint Director (Research), IARI. Dr. H.S. Gupta, Director, IARI delivered the opening remarks. At the outset, he welcomed the dignitaries on the dais, Dr. S. Ayyappan, DG, ICAR, Dr. H.P. Singh, Deputy Director General (Horticulture), ICAR, Dr. N. Gopalakrishnan, Assistant Director General (Commercial Crops), ICAR, Dr. T.P. Rajendran, Assistant Director General (Plant Protection), ICAR, Dr. M. Dadlani, Joint Director (Res.), IARI, Dr. R.K. Sairam, Head, Plant Physiology, IARI, Dr. R.D. Rai, Head, Biochemistry, IARI, and 200 delegates representing various Agricultural Institutes of ICAR and State Agricultural Universities  who have come from all parts of the country. In his inaugural remarks, he emphasized on the exploitation of photosynthetic efficiency, importance of source-sink relationship, enhancing nitrogen use efficiency by introduction of nif genes from pulses to cereals and conversion of C3 into C4 plants in a network mode.

The Dr. S. Ayyappan, Director General, ICAR initiated the discussion by asking some of the prominent scientists to give their views on researchable issues. Notable among these were Dr. R.C. Pant, Dr. J.B. Mishra, Dr. M. Udaykumar, Dr. M.L. Lodha, Dr. P. Anandakumar, Dr. K.C. Bansal and Dr. R.K. Sairam. In his chairman’s remarks, Dr. S. Ayyappan, DG, ICAR highlighted the importance of basic sciences in ushering in food security. He highlighted that for quantum jump in yield potential we have to increase the resource use efficiency of the crop plants, i.e., to produce “more from less”. He emphasized that crop improvement strategies must focus on increasing yield potential of crops through modification of physiological processes, such as, high photosynthetic efficiency, efficient nutrient uptake, greater efficiency to accumulate storage reserves, terminal heat stress in wheat, minimizing post harvest losses and manipulation of factors responsible for productivity with greater emphasis on quality with respect to the classical nutrition as well as the functional foods. He also announced that ICAR is ready to fund the long term research of national priority. He further stressed that this can be achieved only through team based Network Programmes focusing on basic, strategic, applied and anticipatory research.

 Dr. H.P. Singh, DDG, Horticulture, also emphasized the importance of physiological research for next five year plan targeting conversion of C3 to C4 plants, terminal heat stress in wheat and role of various plant growth regulators in various horticultural crops.

The two-day discussions were divided into eight sessions, where two to four resource persons presented their views on future research priorities, followed by open house discussions in which all the scientists actively participated.

The plenary session was chaired by Dr. S.K. Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop science) and co-chaired by Dr. H.S. Gupta, Director, IARI. Dr. (Mrs.) M. Dadlani, Joint Director (Res.), IARI also graced the session. All the chairpersons/co-chairpersons/rapporteurs presented the proceedings of their respective sessions. Dr. Datta emphasized on the development of scientific infrastructure and identification of some of the important challenging programme such as enhancing yield potential of rice under low light condition, importance of biological nitrogen fixation in relation to enhancing nitrogen use efficiency, etc. He also stressed the importance of already known concept, which should be translated into products through networking projects.

The session-wise recommendations are as follows:

I. Physiological manipulation for enhancing yield potential

  1. Enhancing source activity and sink potential in crop plants for higher economic yield.
  2. Plant architecture and crop productivity.
  3. Identification of plants with low CO2 compensation point.
  4. Improvement of photosynthesis and productivity through increase in the radiation use efficiency (RUE), by increasing the rubisco specificity factor, introduction of photorespiratory bypass and bicarbonate pump in the chloroplast envelop.
  5. Enhancement of sink capacity through improvement of starch metabolism.
  6. Exploitation of microbial genes for enhancing yield potential.

II. Abiotic stress tolerance:

Drought, high temperature and salinity are the major abiotic stresses affecting agricultural productivity nationally. Region specific priorities are also needed to address waterlogging, low light stress and low temperature stresses. Hence, research efforts need to be focused on the priority stresses in the following areas:

  1. Physiological basis of abiotic stress tolerance in crop species, with special emphasis on exploitation of genetic variability to identify genetic sources for component traits and superior alleles.
  2. Identification of traits/enzymes/genes regulating grain growth in rabi (winter) season crops in relation to terminal heat stress.
  3. Dissection of stress signaling pathways with a focus on identification of upstream signaling components, hormones and long-distance signaling molecules.
  4. Plant response to the interactive effects of stress combinations (Abiotic x Abiotic; Abiotic x Biotic stress) needs to be studied.
  5. Regulon engineering for cellular stress tolerance and component traits in crops.
  6. Manipulation of ABA-dependent and independent pathways for mitigation of drought stress in rice and other important crops.
  7. Role of elicitors/phyto-hormones in manipulation of root architecture and biochemical pathways for enhanced stress tolerance.
  8. Association- and QTL-mapping to identify genes for component traits and trait-by-trait pyramiding by marker assisted selection.

III.Crop Adaptations and Resilience to Climate Change

  1. Mitigation of high temperature induced changes in the grain quality characters in wheat, rice and oil seeds.
  2. CO2 mitigation technologies such as carbon sequestration, agro forestry, bio energy crops, organic agriculture, zero tillage needs to be exploited and developed.
  3. Exploiting genetic variability to identify high temperature tolerant donors.
  4. Crop adaptation to interactive effects of rising CO2 with temperature and other abiotic stresses.
  5. Nutrient dynamics in plant and soil under rising CO2, temperature and moisture stress.

IV. Plant Nutrition-Physiological and Molecular aspects

  1. Studies on biological nitrogen fixation in non-legume plants.
  2. Enhancement of nutrient use efficiency (NUE) - germplasm evaluation for efficient nutrient acquisition and utilization under deficient and toxic conditions.
  3. Prevention of N loss from above ground parts during reproductive phase of the plants.
  4. Development of crop plants with efficient ion transporters for uptake and remobilization.
  5. Phosphorus uptake and use efficiency through improvement of root architecture, physiological and molecular interventions.
  6. Development of micronutrient rich (Fe, Zn, Se) food crops and enhancement of bioavailability.

V. Physiology and post-harvest Physiology of horticultural crops

  1. Physiological and molecular basis of enhanced storability of perishable and non-perishables.
  2. Enhancement of shelf-/vase-life of horticultural crops through physiological and molecular approaches.
  3. Physiological studies on shelf-life of underutilized perishable fruit crops.

VI. Metabolic engineering for improved productivity and quality

  1. Biofortification of staple crops with macro- and micronutrients to improve dietary values.
  2. Metabolic engineering for high-value secondary metabolites, productivity and quality improvement, and biotic stress tolerance of crop plants.

VII. Functional foods, nutraceuticals and nutrigenomics

  1. Screening of the genotypes for commercially and nutritionally important nutraceuticals, improve their contents and devise cost-effective extraction procedures.
  2. Development of phytoallexin-enriched functional foods using different biotic elicitors.
  3. Elucidation of metabolism of phytochemicals and developing strategies for the enhancement of their bioavailability.

VIII. Protein engineering applications

  1. Beginning should be made by the biochemists at the selected centers, to acquire the skill and infrastructure in the area of upstream protein engineering related with crop research.

IX. Overall general recommendations:

  1. Impart training to plant physiologist and biochemist on the application of molecular biology and biotechnology tools to understand plant processes. This is important not only to do basic research but also to enhance the teaching abilities.
  2. Modernization of lab and field facilities to help undertake basic and strategic research.
  3. Vacancies in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry in NARS system needs to be filled.
  4. Creation of Departments of Plant Physiology/Plant Physiology and Biochemistry in SAUs (in some universities like CSK HPKV, Palampur, HP, the existing Departments have been abolished).


The outcome of the brain storming is expected to result in a strong national network, linking plant physiologist and biochemists of various Institutes, SAU’s and other stake holders to address the important problems. Based on the deliberations during these sessions, the following network projects in the form of challenge programme are recommended:

  1. Evaluation of crop germplasm for physiological trait: phenomics of traits and identification of QTLs.
  2. Improvement of source-sink relationship and radiation use efficiency to enhance yield potential.
  3. Physiological and molecular manipulations for the improvement of terminal heat stress tolerance in wheat.
  4. Enhancing yield potential of rice crop under low light intensity through physiological and molecular approaches.
  5. Elucidation of reproductive phase stress tolerance mechanisms in important crops (rice and other crops).
  6. Manipulation of ethylene-dependent and –independent pathways for enhancement of post-harvest life in horticultural crops.
  7. Improvement of biological nitrogen fixation in non-legume plants for enhancing productivity.
  8. Enhancement of nutrient use efficiency through development of crop plants with efficient ion transporters for uptake and remobilization.
  9. Improvement of nutritional quality and yield in forage crops.

(Source: IARI, New Delhi)