Evolution of Hybrid Seeds in India
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Indian Agriculture has made enormous progress in the last 50 years. Food grains production has risen from 50 million tons in 1947 to 212 million tons in 2003-04. However, the growth of agriculture sector has not kept pace with the growth of the population and has stagnated. The unsatisfactory growth of agriculture, apart from serious implications for food security of the country, has been adversely impacting the growth rate of country’s economy. Seed is the critical determinant of agricultural production on which depends the performance and efficacy of other inputs. Quality seeds appropriate to different agro-climatic conditions and in sufficient quantity at affordable prices are required to raise productivity.
Indian Seed Industry is strong, vibrant and is showing rapid growth. Seed Industry’s turnover is of Rupees 7000 crores and growing at a rate of 12-15% annually. It is globally 5th in terms of size and projected to be 3rd by 2015.
The National Seed Corporation was established in 1963. The Government of India enacted the Seeds Act in 1966 to regulate the growing seed industry. The sixties were the most eventful times for Indian agriculture, not only because of introduction of high-yielding cereals, particularly wheat and rice but also for many other positive developments related to seed such as, constitution of Seed Review Team, enactment of Seeds Act, 1966 and formation of National Commission on Agriculture. This was the period, during which the private sector significantly stepped into the seed business.
The Seeds Act stipulated that seeds should conform to a minimum stipulated level of physical and genetic purity and assured percentage germination either by compulsory labelling or voluntary certification. Further, the Act provided a system for seed quality control through independent State Seed Certification Agencies which were placed under the control of state departments of agriculture.
When we talk about Hybrid seeds in India, the first name that comes to our mind is Padamshri Dr. Manmohan Attavar. He is the pioneer of development of commercial hybrids in India as well as protected horticulture. The monolithic growth of seed export industry from the first batch of Petunia hybrid seeds production in greenhouses in 1967, speaks volumes about his unparalleled managerial ability, scientific acumen and visionary leadership. He ideated and reined potential of the horticulture industry by establishing Indo-American Hybrid Seeds at Bangalore, as early as in 1965 and with his global vision, enduring persistence and relentless persuasion of his ideals for quality assurance and service to mankind, the Indo-American Hybrid Seeds (India) Pvt. Ltd.(IAHS) is today India’s leading company in hybrid vegetable seed and horticulture. As Chairman of the company, Dr. Attavar has made it one of the most modern houses for agricultural science with International standards and cutting age laboratory on Genetic Engineering and Commercial Tissue Culture Laboratory. The Seed Testing Laboratory established by him is the first laboratory in the private sector in Asia accredited by International Seed Testing Association.
Extensive studies were carried out at C.I.C.R., Nagpur on various management techniques such as controlled fruiting, restricted pollination and plant trimming to increase the hybrid seed production in various GMS hybrids. NSC is the pioneer in field crop seed production. Seed production of first hybrids of Maize, Sorghum and Bajra have been done by NSC. NSC was assisted by Rockefeller foundation and USAID in seed production in the formative years.
India is the pioneer country for commercial cultivation of cotton hybrids which covers more than 50% of the cotton area. Cotton hybrids have 50% higher productivity than varieties. Moreover, hybrids have wider adaptability, high degree of resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and better fibre quality. Hybrids can be developed with comparatively lesser time frame than straight varieties. The hybrids are highly productive and have uniform fibre quality.
The first intra-hirsutum hybrid cotton Hybrid - 4(H-4) was released in 1970 from Main Cotton Research Station, Surat of G.A.U. by Dr. C.T. Patel. This was followed by the development of world first inter-specific hybrid Varalaxmi in 1972 from U.A.S., Dharwad by Dr. B.H. Katarki. Thereafter, development of hybrids got momentum and numerous location specific superior hybrids were released in the country. The successful hybrids earlier developed were of inter or intraspecific new world cotton which are susceptible to pests and diseases compared to Asiatic cotton. Asiatic cotton is hardy and better tolerant to adverse field conditions.
Hybrid rice is a field reality in Indian agriculture now. During the year 2007, around 1.1 million hectares were estimated to be planted to hybrid rice. It is one of the viable and proven technologies available at present to enhance the rice productivity and production in the country. The “National Food Security Mission" to be launched shortly envisages increasing of annual rice production by 10 million tons by end of XI plan by 2011-12. Hybrid rice is likely to play a very pivotal role in achieving the targeted production increase.
The seed production network consisted of public sector national and state seed production agencies such as National Seed Corporation, State Farms Corporation of India, and the State Seed Development Corporations in addition to all the interested private sector seed companies. The extension network consisted of state departments of Agriculture, extension wings of SAUs, Krishi Vigan Kendras( Farm science centres) and the NGOs. Effective linkages were established within the different sub-components of the network. The entire project was co-ordinated and implemented by the Directorate of Rice Research (DDR), Hyderabad.
India’s seed industry has grown in size and level of performance over the past four decades. Both private and public sector companies/corporations are involved with the production of seed. The public sector component comprises two central corporations, viz. National Seed Corporation (NSC) and State Farm Corporation of India (SFCI) and 13 State Seed Corporations. The private sector comprises around 150 seed companies, which include national and multinational companies and other seed producing/selling companies.
According to a study by Rabobank International, India can become a hub of seed production for South-East Asian region and will also be able to supply African countries. The case for India emerging as a production hub is backed by the fact that the country has built up sufficient expertise and resources in both the private and public domain to become a strong ally in early stage contract research or late stage seed multiplication," the bank said in a market overview and outlook on Indian seed industry.
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