The Kerala Agricultural University is set to augment its research facilities by establishing eight centres of excellence focussing on research and production of planting materials and bio agents.

The decision to establish new centres in thrust areas was the outcome of a brainstorming session convened by Minister for Agriculture K.P. Mohanan, who is also the Pro-Chancellor of the University.

More than 50 scientists representing various research stations under KAU, the Vice-Chancellor, and other officers of the University as well as the Agricultural Production Commissioner and Secretary (Agriculture) attended the session held here on Tuesday. The meeting assessed the performance of research stations and mooted steps to improve the functioning of the varsity.

Mr. Mohanan called upon the University to spearhead efforts to promote organic farming in the State. “The KAU should be able to lead the revival of agriculture in Kerala and redress the issues in the sector. Not an inch of land should be left fallow and new technologies should be generated and popularised to mitigate climate change issues”, he said.

Vice Chancellor P. Rajendran said the new centres of excellence would enhance the efficiency of agricultural management through research activities pertinent to respective sectors and assure supply of quality planting materials and bio control agents.

The main centre for research on Farming Systems would be established at Kumarakom to take care of wetland ecosystem. One of the sub centres for Coastal Rice Ecosystem would come up at Vyttila and another for Kole land would be set up at Mannuthy.

The second thrust area was Research in Farm Mechanisation for which the primary centre would operate at the Agricultural Research Station, Mannuthy, while technology generation would be done at Agri Engineering College at Tavanur.

The third thrust area, Biotechnology and Secondary Agriculture, would be handled by a centre at Vellayani, a sub-centre of which would be located at Vellanikkara, Dr. Rajendran explained.

The other centres of excellence mooted would be for Rice Research and Development (Pattambi), Research on Spices, Cool Season Vegetables and Subtropical Fruits (Ambalavayal), Protected Cultivation and Precision Farming (Vellanikkara), Production of Seeds and Planting Materials (Vellanikkara and Anakkayam), and Research on Biofertilisers and Bio Control Agents (Vellayani and Vellanikkara), he said.

The income-generation proposals mooted by the session are Agri tourism packages, new courses including distance education programmes on self-financing mode, consultancy services for project preparation, implementation, appraisal and evaluation, as well as trainings and education programmes.

The session also proposed energy management plans including tapping of solar energy and enhancing energy efficiency, redress of manpower shortage in key areas, efficient utilisation of available manpower, programmes for water conservation including rain water harvesting, and an active interface with line departments and other research institutions in the field of agriculture and allied branches.