In case of crop production, the output of major crops such as rice, wheat and sugarcane had fluctuated owing to decline in their area of cultivation and stagnation in yield, said Mylswamy Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayan, ISRO, Bangalore, here on Monday.

He was speaking at the 30th convocation of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), which was presided over by the Governor of Tamil Nadu and Chancellor of TNAU, Surjit Singh Barnala. In total, 1,090 students received the degrees including UG, PG courses and doctorate programmes in person and in absentia.

Mr. Annadurai pointed out that the compound growth rate of rice production was 3.6 per cent during 1980-81 to 1989-90 and it came down to 1.9 per cent during 2000-01 to 2007-08. In the case of sugarcane, extreme variability in the acreage and production over the years had been a matter of concern.

He said that in the case of pulses, production had not kept pace with the demand leading to a rise in the prices. The share of agriculture in gross domestic product had registered a steady decline from 36.4 per cent in 1982-83 to 17.8 per cent in 2007-08. Yet, the sector continued to support more than half a billion people providing employment to 52 per cent of the workforce.

However, in 2008-09, the growth originating from agriculture and allied activities declined to 1.6 per cent which was far below the target of 4 per cent. The growth in the agriculture sector, though lower than that of non-agriculture sector, remained higher than the growth of population. Between 1950-51 and 2006-07, the production of food grains increased at an annual average rate of 2.5 per cent compared to the growth of population with an average of 2.1 per cent. As a result, India almost became self-sufficient in food grains and there were hardly any imports during 1976-77 to 2005-06, except occasionally.

On the marketing front, inadequacies in infrastructure coupled with competition arising out of the liberalisation policies posed formidable challenges to the Indian farmers. The need of the hour was action from science and technology and educational institutions to plan resources and capacity building programmes. He appreciated the drastic reduction in the quantum usage of insecticides against ball worms. This led to the rapid spread of Bt Cotton cultivation in many parts of India since 2002.

Mr. Annadurai said four different Bt Brinjal varieties were yet to be released. Field test results showed that Bt Brinjal required lesser pesticide application. It was considered an eco-friendly technology. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Government of India had recommended Bt Brinjal for commercial cultivation. Bt Brinjal now awaited approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Pro-Chancellor and Agriculture Minister S. Veerapandi Arumugam announced the institution of five endowments by various professors and associations to be given away to meritorious students in various faculties from the next academic year.

More In: Coimbatore