Research and Development

Make in India and that too for Indian Agriculture

India is virtually an agriculture based country with around a 1.2 billion population. The well respected slogan of ‘Make in India’ by its visionary Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi, must be the part of every Indian’s heart in respective fields of interest, wherein agricultural development should reasonably be of top priority. No industrial or other development can be meaningful and sustainable in absence or ignorance of agricultural development in India. So, the concept of ‘Make in India’ must start by structuring and updating the shape of agriculture in such a way that may enable the agricultural products to compete in global markets, besides satisfying the national food demands. This issue is challenging in many facets, starting from higher education and research at college and university levels. Another challenge, for example, rests on projection of challenges as well as opportunities in different sectors of agriculture in order to motivate the students towards education with commitment.

Agricultural education in most parts of India drastically suffers from stereotypical course curriculum, wherein comprehensive learning is more or less far from the truth. The said ‘learning’ lacks a systematic approach of knowledge being imparted to students through practical-based conceptual trainings and more often suffers from completeness. Agricultural education suffers from vision, mission and goal, but works on a stereotypic framework prescribed in differing modes of isolation. For example, a professor or vice chancellor specialised in biotechnology in agriculture often tries to introduce biotechnology as much as in all branches of agriculture, though its impacts are hardly reflected as real opportunities in time that necessitates its relevance. I have seen some agronomists who often claim to be the soil scientists just because they know some tips of soil testing procedures and so on.

Similarly, professionals of one agricultural discipline may often handle other disciplines more efficiently, but they lack the basic knowledge. So, there is need to define opportunities for a teaching and learning tool in agriculture, and the teachers are solely responsible to shoulder such accomplishment in classrooms, colleges or universities as well as fields. One of the ultimate goals of agricultural education and research may be the reliable attempt to move towards corporate sectors in such a framework that ensure poverty alleviation in the farming communities. Obviously, one has to link such teaching and learning approaches with agri-business and entrepreneurship in a big way. Importantly, this requires opportunities that can be enthusiastically injected in the mind of a student and that too by the teacher in a true farming environment, where farmers are the witness.

Challenges and Opportunities

Opportunity is an outcome of synthesis for vision, mission and goals of the activities in hand. The agricultural sector is the one that alone leads to nourishment and survival of our lives through food, water, forage, climate, biodiversity, energy and ecosystem, leading to healthy livelihood environment as well as gross happiness. Students can synthesise the system that makes agriculture viable in order to define an opportunity to work.

Can we define indicators of healthy food qualities in agriculture that reflect their quick impact on the human body?

We lack symptomatic criteria to be observed quickly on body as a result of consumption of substandard, adulterated or polluted foodstuff. Currently, available reports indicate that the food materials are often genetically altered; pulses are mixed; spices are polluted; milk and ghee are impure; vegetables are toxic; tea and coffee are adulterated; etc. We have to design and compose the clear-cut symptomatic yardsticks on body that will be corresponding to ill-effects of the foodstuff consumed. Similarly, soil and water qualities need to be well understood in line with their vital impacts on agricultural production. Soil borne diseases as well as fluorine and arsenic problems are seriously emerging. Partial factor productivity causing decline in crop yield is virtually a soil based issue, but we hardly recommend for evaluation of whole soil or pedon. The breeding programme for crop improvement suffers mostly from a sound and environment-friendly yardstick. Entomology and pathology work mostly in isolation without caring about soil types and underground water quality. Clay mineralogy or clay-organic interactions are least understood. The horizontal shrinkage of land because of non-farming activities through construction of houses, roads etc, is one of the alarming consequences of climate change issues. The earth surface is receiving almost 95 percent incoming solar radiation, but we are practically unaware of such vital issues contributing to agriculture. Photopedogenesis as a new chapter in soil science (Mishra BB 1996) seems to be a beginning to understand such radiation-related issues. Flood with excess water beyond the capacity of a river is virtually a natural resource particularly for agricultural production and calls for a proven management strategy through integrated input set-up and tools. These are some of the issues that may form the opportunities in shaping the agricultural education and research.

Thus, each chapter in the teaching process must include a well-defined opportunity that empowers students to be enthusiastic in the learning process. Micro-teaching may help to provide such positive feedback in defining an opportunity of relevance based on prescribed courses.

Agriculture in India is not treated under technical education, though more technology development is mandatory in different sectors of agriculture. We have quite a good number of agriculture-based developmental schemes launched by the Government, but they are not much concerned with agricultural education and research. The roadmap of agriculture in some states often suffers from sound technical knowledge and so it can hardly be reliable. The agriculture graduates in India are by and large discouraged due to employment insecurity, low salary structure, poor social recognition and low coverage in media. This results in poor attraction towards this profession and as such, opportunities in agricultural education are at chronic risk and deserve quick attention. For healthy and sustainable agricultural growth in India, agriculture education must be given well proven priority accepting its standard as a sophisticated full technology.

Agripreneurship

Exactly as a medical student is prepared to start medical practice after successful completion of medical degree, agricultural graduates must be mentally equipped with a strong mindset to be ready for self employment after completion of their degree. This is the only mantra towards revolutionary transformation of students’ mindset with their professional satisfaction, where they would be passionate to accept a profession in agriculture for learning and training.

However, such a simple proposal needs to have strong support from government. The higher education and research in agriculture will thus begin to move in quantized momentum in order to achieve the absolute mission. A Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) should have a common goal to work as a NUCLEUS for reception and adoption of the transferred technologies. The nucleus concept of KVK is to be surrounded by a compact environment of agriculture comprised of teaching, research, extension, training, marketing and entrepreneurship in a three tier linkage viz, student-teacher-farmer. The student with entrepreneurial mindset may add value to his business at every level, making his creativity expanded towards competitiveness, which may help in the rapid growth of his profession/business. A student through education and research after obtaining a degree may look for his future in some of the following fields of agri-business or entrepreneurship skills too:

• Soil evaluation for fixing the potential soil productivity;

• Soil suitability for land use choice for the most remunerative return;

• Soil laboratory for preparing soil health card and water quality;

• Soil as direct food, medicine, kaolin, bentonite/attapulgite clays, raw materials (crockery, brick making), etc;

• Tissue culture and biotechnology;

• Breeding in crops, vegetables, spices and fruits;

• Plant path-lab for plant protection measure chart;

• Food processing and packaging;

• Preservation of fruits and vegetables;

• Seed processing, storing and preservation;

• Growing and marketing of vegetable, fruit and flower seedlings/nurseries;

• Recycling of crop residues, solid and liquid waste materials, vermicompost;

• Conservation agriculture vs. evergreen agriculture;

• Organic farming vs. integrated farming system; and,

• Different systems in value addition in agriculture.

Besides, application of electricity, magnetism, monochromatic light and sound can stimulate the growth of plants, associated technologies are yet to be discovered not only to improve the yield and quality, but also to protect crops from disease, insect pest, frost and to reduce the requirements for fertilisers and pesticides. Thus, the popularly known ‘electro-culture’ needs sincere attention to work in a big way.

Today, human population is suffering from a collapsible situation caused by adulteration, toxication, pollution, quality deterioration of not only the foodstuff, but of both water and air. We are blindly running after medical treatments including yoga, but never feel serious towards well-tested quality food and water. The protective medical treatments start from soil and end with grain, flesh and milk. The entrepreneurial skills must be cohesive to similar vision, mission and goal. Table 1 is merely an example to begin how to advance our skill towards agri-business following the expected challenges/opportunities.

Logical perception on comparative linkage of agriculture with medical science and engineering under relevant distinguishing traits (Table 2) clearly discover the most vital issues that need to be addressed at the government policy level, if the country wants to promote agriculture in a true sense. Agriculture in India is least respected as a profession and the farmers are known as resource poor persons in the community. As such, agriculture must be awarded all eternal respect as the most viable profession by the government through recognition in action. Each parcel of land is a prime land in terms of its suitability to specific land use. Soil as a natural resource cannot be a wasted and subjected to management according to its capability to produce. This may not be difficult, but surely a challenging task. Let’s be sincere to shoulder the ultimate goal through higher education and researchable efforts, where language is no restriction.

Note: This article is in two parts. The second part will be published in March-April Edition.

Author

Dr BB Mishra is a Professor-cum-Chief Scientist and Chairman at Bihar Agricultural University, Bhagalpur. He is the Chairperson, A Task Group of Universal Soil Classification-WG, International Union of Soil Science. He may be reached at bbmsoil@rediffmail.com.