Agriculture & R&D – UPSC GS3

  • India spends between 0.7 to 0.8% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on R&D. 
Reasons for the low investment:
  • Structural issues: like lack of competent human resources and lack of policy clarity.
  • Overzealous opposition to the new technologies: from ideologues of the left and right.
Problems faced by Indian Agriculture due to lack of R&D:
  • High natural resource inputs: including irrigation, tilling, harvesting, fertilizers, agrochemicals, seeds;
    • High water usages for Agriculture: Around 690 billion cubic metre (bcm) or 90.5 % goes into agriculture which leads to groundwater depletion in India, which is in the range of 122-199 bcm.
  • No alternative crop for wheat and rice:
    • Potential alternatives are not utilizing well: E.g. Maize, which can be a replacement for rice is used as livestock and poultry feed.
    • R&D deficit in other crops: R&D deficit in coarse grain crops like millets, sorghum etc. leads to low yield potential as well as losses to pests and pathogens.
      • Stagnation of yields of oilseeds like mustard, soybean, and groundnut – at around 1.1 tons per hectare, significantly lower than the global averages.
  • Loss of crops to pests: All India Coordinated Research Project on Weed Management has revealed losses between 14 and 36 %. (due to virtual paralysis on the use of genetic engineering and gene editing technologies)
    • Losses on average for wheat 21.5%, rice 20%, maize 22.5%, potato 17.2%, and soybean 21.4%.
    • India is one of the lowest users of pesticides. In 2014, comparative use of pesticides in kilograms per hectare: Africa- 0.30, India- 0.36, European Union countries- 3.09, China- 14.82, and Japan- 15.93.
Ways to deal with the problem of pesticide:
  • Let the host fight the pathogen on its own: the interaction between pests/pathogens and their hosts at the gene or the organism level should be left unhindered to run its course.
  • Utilize the method of breeding: E.g. Green Revolution technologies were based on the effective use of germplasm and strong phenotypic selections.
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