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Pratibha: agriculture research must meet national priorities

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President Pratibha Patil on Saturday asked research institutions to develop partnerships with the farming communities for effective transfer of technology.

Expressing concern at the slow pace of technology dissemination from lab to land, she said the successes in the laboratory were often missing on the field and the extension machinery was weak. “Agriculture research must focus on priorities that meet national priorities,” she said at the annual convocation of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) here.

She conferred degrees on 69 Ph.D and 75 M.Sc students in the presence of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Union Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas and IARI Director H.S. Gupta.

Favouring a complementary role for the industry in developing the farm sector, Ms. Patil said, there were many benefits of agriculture and the corporate sector working together. “I believe that farming is the biggest enterprise in our country. Industry-agriculture joint enterprises can be complementary to each other. Industry can involve farmers as stakeholders in an array of activities in terms of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and implements, besides marketing and food processing.”

“The partnership arrangement should be voluntary, autonomous and democratic. It should be a transparent process, where farmers see such arrangements as a measure to empower them and are confident about the ownership of their land.

“Agriculture sector accounts for less than a quarter of the country’s GDP, but employs 60 per cent of the workforce. With more than six lakh villages being homes to millions of farmers and farm workers, it is difficult to visualise a prosperous India without rural development,” the President observed.

Pointing to the low level of productivity in comparison to other countries, Ms. Patil asked the scientists to bridge the gap. Rice productivity in the country had doubled to 3.3 tonnes per hectare since 1960s, she said, but it was still lower than the yield level of countries like Bangladesh, China, Vietnam and Indonesia. The wheat yield had tripled to 2.8 tonnes per hectare in the past 50 years, but it was still half of what was produced on a hectare of land in the European Union.

With the rise in food production prices, there was a need for developing strategies that maximised productivity and generated income and employment for rural population.

With 82 per cent of farmers in the country being small and marginal, the President said, the economic limitation of small-sized land operations was the main challenge. Mridhul Chakraborti and Santosh H.B. received ‘Best Student of the Year’ award. Five faculty members of the post-graduate school including A.D. Munshi, Y.S. Shivey, S.D. Singh, D.K. Singh and V.T. Gajbhiye were given ‘Best Teacher’ award.


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