The country needs to increase spending by at least one per cent of agricultural GDP on farm research to raise productivity in a sustainable manner, according to Hamid Ansari, Vice-President.

Delivering the 28th convocation address at Gandhigram Rural Institute (GRI) at Gandhigram near here on Thursday, he said agricultural research must focus on commodities that are relevant to rural poor.

Public institutions, especially State agriculture universities, must be re-energised with adequate funding and commensurate institutional reforms to incentivise research system. The private sector, with a minor role in technology generation, had been more effective in popularising Bt Cotton and hybrids of maize, rice and sunflower. The public sector technology generation had become supply-driven process without adequate regard to farmers' needs and with insufficient marketing of the technology, he said. Greater space must be created for private sector in technology generation and diffusion so that new skills, including transgenics, could be developed and released under regulatory authority system while adhering to bio-safety norms.

The policy makers, research and development institutions and academia should heed some mid-term appraisal of 11th plan to accelerate growth and revitalise agricultural research, Mr. Ansari advised.

“The potential of agriculture to bring about inclusive development and social reformation can only be achieved if public policy directs agricultural research towards poverty alleviation.”

In post-Green Revolution period, productivity growth was sustained through increase in input use that was not adjusted to availability of resources of poor and marginal farmers. They had limited access to credit, off-farm input and water and consequently faced higher level of risk while adopting such technologies. Adequate research had not been done on dry land and rain-fed farming technologies, marginal land farming and low cost technologies. Research focus on farming system with lower level of input usage and sustainable resources utilisation would benefit the poor immensely, the Chancellor of GRI suggested.

Agricultural research and development were facing systematic institutional and financial problems in the country. While agriculture was a State subject, bulk of agri-research was carried out in Central government organisations. “We spend only 0.6 per cent of agricultural GDP on agri-research and development.” The key to alleviate poverty is to ensure access to information and enable communication on businesses, farming practices, government policies, health and education issues and rights and obligation of citizens, he said.

Organic farming expert A.V. Balasubramanian received degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) at the convocation in which 1,131 students received their degrees.

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