Can produce designer seeds suited for harsh environments: BARC director
The next green revolution should start with nuclear science, which can provide seeds that can resist drought, pests, salinity, and give better yield, said Sekhar Basu, Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), during the inauguration of the St. Aloysius Advanced Research Centre in Mangalore on Saturday.
Talking to presspersons on the sidelines of the inauguration, Mr. Basu and Stanislaus F. D’Souza, Head, Nuclear Agriculture and Bio-technology at BARC, said there is vast potential for nuclear mutated agricultural seeds.
“We can produce designer seeds that are suited for even harsh environments; seeds that can produce crops where there is less water, or resistant to a type of pest, and will mature faster and give more produce,” said Mr. Basu.
Already, most of the black gram grown is through mutated seeds, while around 30 per cent of groundnuts come from a variety called TD groundnut seeds (Trombay-Dharwad; that is, the collaboration between the BARC at Trombay and the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad), said Mr. D’Souza.
When asked if such a system would be acceptable in a country where nuclear science and modified seeds come with labels of fear, Mr. D’Souza said: “We have many varieties of rice and other products due to natural radiation. At BARC, we accelerate the natural radiation to get varieties. Since pulses are in shortage in India, we are trying to bring out more variety of them.”
Each new seed undergoes testing till seven generations are produced, before being commercially produced, said Mr. Basu, adding that a total of 41 oil seeds and pulses had been developed.
Earlier, addressing faculty members of the college, the scientist said nuclear energy is pivotal for the country’s progress. “In a few decades, coal stocks will end. Then energy has to come from nuclear, solar, wind and water. Nuclear will take the lead then,” he said, assuring teachers that nuclear energy production was among the safest in the “human endeavour for energy”.
The centre will be coordinating with St. Aloysius College on many projects and workshops, said Mr. Basu. In fact, as a memento, he was given an “irradiated” flower – that is, modified to change colour, size – from researchers in the college.
Later, addressing students during the third graduation ceremony of St. Aloysius College, Mr. Basu said inclusive growth and eradication of poverty, health for all, education for all, power for all were the key challenges facing graduates.