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[Answered] Increased investment in agriculture research is an absolute need of the hour. Examine.

Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss the need for investment in agriculture research. Conclusion. Way forward.

Agriculture and allied sectors account for approximately 14% of India’s GDP, and 50% of its entire workforce. Indian agriculture has transformed significantly over the last few decades. The green revolution was a major technological breakthrough which created a lasting impact on Indian agriculture. However, when it comes to investments on Research & Development (R&D) Infrastructure and Technology implementation, a lot more needs to be done. India’s public investment in R&D as a fraction of GDP has remained stagnant over the last two decades at around 0.6% to 0.7% of GDP. 

Need of investment in agriculture research:

  1. Food security: The United Nations estimates India’s population (1.39 billion now) to overtake China’s by 2027. This will pressure the country’s economy, food security and agriculture. Such challenges need to be addressed to feed the largest population in the world.A Second Green/Evergreen Revolution is urgently needed to raise the growth rate of agricultural GDP. An investment in R&D would help create more seeds and increase productivity.
  2. Climate Change: Use of biotechnology in agriculture can reduce vulnerability of crops to environmental impact and over dependence on chemical fertilisers to improve yield. Off late, technologies with respect to bio-formulations have been found effective against soil borne pathogens to maintain the productive capacity of agro-ecosystems. R&D is needed for in-house field research and process development for environment-friendly agricultural practices and for educating farmers on land use patterns.
  3. Farmer distress: With ever-increasing supply-side constraints, the role of R&D has become increasingly important with the potential to offer long-term solutions for Indian agriculture. Farmers’ access to the latest research can help in overcoming issues such as seed problems, pest and disease problems, crop sustainability, climate change, irrigation problems, soil erosion etc. To fulfil its objective of doubling farm incomes by 2022, the govt must hike R&D spend and facilitate private investments.
  4. Efficient Water Management: Water is indispensable for all agricultural activities. The unpredictable monsoon rains coupled with increasing demand for food production has made smart irrigation imperative for Indian agriculture. Area-specific R&D on irrigation technologies can play an important role in this regard. 

Way forward:

  1. Increasing investment in R&D: Investment in agricultural research and education should be raised to provide 2% of the GDP to R&D in agriculture and allied sector to facilitate the development of basic and strategic research.
  2. Genetic enhancement of crops: In the field of genetic enhancement, premier institutions should be identified where breeding of specific crops should be carried out. Both molecular and transgenic technologies need to be given equal and high importance.
  3. Crop-potential mapping: Development of district-wise crop-potential map is needed to focus research on crop improvement and production management within the potential region for each crop. Block level agro-climatic, land use and socio-economic data collection and analysis should be carried out.
  4. Climate tolerant and rainfed crops: Focused research on climate tolerant and rainfed crops of rice, wheat is needed. Under it biofertilizer, zero-tillage and organic nutrient based crop improvement research has to be initiated as priority.
  5. Strengthening regional research: Bio-Safety Testing and Research at national and regional level be strengthened and facilities is an absolute necessity. India should focus on high-quality product development research with commercialization prospects to quickly and safely reach the farmers.

R&D generates new technologies and passes them to farmers. In the coming years, agricultural technology will play a vital role in addressing their concerns related to conservation and management of rural resources. In spite of successful R&D initiatives around crop cultivation and protection and huge investments from the private sector, a majority of farmers in India have not been able to get optimum yield in the absence of expert scientific advice. The need of the hour is to bridge the gap between research and practice.

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