Worst Drought In 10 Yrs, Says Icrisat Chief

New Delhi, July 29: | Updated: Jul 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
Indian government should frame a policy to deal with the drought which has become a recurring feature, said International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) director-general William D Dar.

Stating that current drought was the worst witnessed in the decade, Dr Dar talking to newsperson on Monday said the government, as a first step, should encourage farmers to sow drought-resistant in the affected areas.

Dr Dar further added that farmers could grow drought-resistant varieties of chickpea, pigeonpea, sorghum, millet and groundnut developed by the Icrisat.

He said the institute has also developed its first transgenic groundnut seeds apart from developing drought-resistant varieties of five mandated crops through conventional methods. “This transgenic groundnut is in the process of field trials under controlled conditions and is likely to be released for commercial cultivation after three years,” he added.

Groundnut crops in India are usually affected by the Indian peanut clump virus (IPCV), which is transmitted by a soil borne fungus, called ‘polymyxa gramminis.’

The Icrisat team, led by by Dr Kiran Sharma, developed a transgenic groundnut variety by introducing the coat protein and polymerase gene of IPCV through agrobacterium tumefaciens-medicated genetic transformation. The polymerase genes were procured from Scottish Crops Research Institute, Dundee, Britain, and were sequenced and cloned as part of the collaborative effort between the two institutes. This transgenic groundnut would help in increasing productivity and farmers’ income particularly in chronically drought-prone areas, said Dr Dar.

Dr Dar said, this year the institute is promoting research-cum-capacity building projects in three drought-prone districts in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and five drought-prone districts in Andhra Pradesh using watershed development as the core strategy. Icrisat is setting up knowledge systems for drought mitigation to assist policy makers and local communities.

He said that the Rajasthan government has agreed to set up a virtual university for climate management which will employ modern technologies and methodologies for distance learning to train local level climate managers.

The representative of the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute in India, Dr RK Singh said that farmers in the drought-affected areas after the expected revival of monsoon should go in for sowing early maturing paddy crop which do not need transplantation. These paddy varieties are Heera, Kalinga 3, Prabhat, Govinda, Narendra 97 and Turant Dhan. If these varieties are sown, they would mature within 100 days.

Dr Singh said that other alternate short duration crops are pulses like green gram, black gram, horse gram. These pulses should be sown by August end. Icrisat variety of pearl millet which matures within 75 days should be sown in the first week of August. Finger millet, ragi and sorghum can be sown by August end. In October, the farmers should go for early sowing of rabi oilseed crops like mustard and rai.

Icrisat, based in village Patancheru near Hyderabad, is one of the 16 “Future Harvest” institutions under the Consultative Group of International Agriculture Research. This is the only Icrisat institute in the country.