Research

 

About Agriculture Research System

 

The present agricultural research system comprises essentially two main streams, the ICAR at the national level and the Agricultural Universities at the State level. Besides, several other agencies such as General Universities, Scientific Organizations, and various Ministries/Departments at the Centre, as also Private or Voluntary Organizations participate directly or indirectly in research activities related to agriculture.


Linkages among the subsystems

Strong working relationships and complementarity in research efforts amongst the components of the research system is necessary in order to optimize resources and check avoidable duplication. The ICAR, as the coordinating agency at the national level, has established close working relationships with the Agricultural Universities and other agencies involved directly or indirectly in agricultural research through formal arrangements and informal exchanges.

At the policy making level, the Vice-Chancellors of Agricultural Universities are represented in the Governing Body, and in the Norms and Accreditation Committee of the ICAR. The senior level research managers of the ICAR, in turn, are represented in the Management Boards of these Universities. The Regional Committees of the ICAR provide an important forum for the scientists from these two agencies to come together and look at the regional research needs. Through Interdisciplinary Scientific Panels of the ICAR, the experts from the Agricultural Universities play a critical role in selecting research programmes at the national level as well as at the regional level. More importantly, various research schemes of the ICAR like the AICRPs, NARP, and ad hoc research schemes provide opportunities for the two subsystems to work jointly on problems of national as well as regional relevance.

As far as the General Universities are concerned, they participate in research activities under different types of research schemes and projects financed by different agencies. Through the AICRPs and ad hoc research schemes, these Universities have established linkages with the ICAR and Agricultural Universities subsystems. Joint programmes in specific areas like plant physiology, biological nitrogen fixation, etc. have been taken up by the ICAR with scientists working in these Universities. ICAR has also established close linkages with various scientific organizations like CSIR, ICMR, ISRO, BARC, etc. through Joint Panels. Problems of mutual interest have brought the ICAR closer to various Departments and Ministries at the Centre to find solutions through collaborative research efforts.

 
 

The ICAR System:

The ICAR has the following major objectives:

(i) to undertake, aid, promote and coordinate agricultural, animal husbandry and fisheries education, research, and its application;
(ii) to act as a clearing house of research and general information relating to agricultural and veterinary matters;
(iii) to maintain a research and reference library;
(iv) to do other things considered necessary to attain the above objectives; and
(v) to provide consultancy services in the fields of education, research and training in agriculture and allied sciences.

Research infrastructure of the ICAR

Although agriculture is a State subject, ICAR has established many Central Research Institutions over the years to meet the agricultural research needs of the country. These are essentially meant for:

(i) implementing research mandates extending beyond the administrative boundaries of the States;
(ii) pursuing basic research not undertaken by most Agricultural Universities;
(iii) evaluating research results through multi - locational testing; and
(iv) developing manpower for Agricultural Universities and other agricultural institutions.

Central research institutes

ICAR directly administers 49 research institutes in the areas of crop, animal and fishery sciences. They are :

Research management academy
National bureau
Crop science institutes
Horticulture and plantation crops institutes
Resource management institutes
Technological institutes
Animal science institutes
Fisheries Institutes
Social science institutes
Project directorates

Because of the importance and magnitude of the work involved in a single commodity like rice, wheat and poultry, or a group of commodities like oilseeds, pulses and vegetables, ICAR has upgraded some of its research infrastructure/projects with added responsibilities, and designated them as Project Directorates. Except for the size and magnitude of work involved, these are basically the same as the Coordinated Research Projects. Additionally, they do undertake some research besides playing such national service roles like maintenance and supply of germplasm, organizing off-season nursery to promote and speed up research interests, monitoring pests and diseases, forecasting and issuing clearly warning about the pests and diseases outbreak, and performing such duties as a lead centre in relation to their respective subject matter, and so on. There are now ten of them under operation. They are:

(i) Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad;
(ii) Directorate of Wheat Research, Karnal;
(iii) Directorate of Pulses Research, Kanpur;
(iv) Directorate of Oilseeds Research, Hyderabad;
(v) Project Directorate on Vegetables, Varanasi;
(vi) Directorate of Cropping Systems Research, Modipuram;
(viii) Project Directorate on Water Management, Patna;
(viii) Project Directorate on Cattle, Meerut;
(ix) Project Directorate on Poultry, Hyderabad; and
(x)Directorate of Maize Research, New Delhi.

National research centers

The National Commission on Agriculture recommended setting up of `Centers of Fundamental Research' headed by eminent scientists in particular areas. Consequently, the ICAR conceived the idea of setting up a number of National Research Centers (NRCs). The concept of NRCs revolves around the need for concentrated attention with a mission approach by a team of scientists from different disciplines. They work under a senior leader on selected topics which have direct or indirect relevance to resolving national problems in a particular crop or commodity or a problem area of research. These centers are designed to concentrate on those crops and commodities not well served by the research institutes. Unlike the institutes, these centers do not have divisional set-up for individual disciplines nor have regional stations. They feed the national network of research with new materials, technology and information for subsequent adoption in the different production-oriented research programmes. The NRC for Groundnut was the first to be organized in 1979, and the NRC for Cashew is of the more recent ones established. There are now 31 such Centers, covering a wide range of areas like crops, horticulture, animal species, fisheries, resource management, etc.

Research schemes/projects

In addition to its institute-based research, ICAR promotes research schemes/projects in agriculture and allied areas to resolve location-specific problems. It is involved in a cooperative effort with other research organizations in carrying out multidisciplinary research programmes. Such promotional schemes fall under the following categories.

All India Coordinated Research Projects (AICRPs)
National Agricultural Research Project (NARP)
Technology mission in agriculture
Ad hoc research schemes
Centers of advanced studies
Special schemes

Research planning, monitoring and evaluation

ICAR is responsible for agricultural research planning at the national level. Its headquarters scrutinizes and sanctions research schemes received from its own institutes as well as from other institutions. The research schemes are first technically examined by the concerned Subject Matter Divisions in the headquarters and put up for consideration before the Scientific Panels. Once they are found technically sound, they are later examined for financial implications by the Standing Finance Committee. Finally, they are placed before the Governing Body for approval.

 
 

State Agricultural Universities System:

As agriculture is a State subject, the responsibilities for research, education and extension rest with the State Governments. Prior to 1960, agricultural research in the States, essentially on local problems, was carried out by the State Departments of Agriculture supported by Agricultural Colleges. During the past 30 years, research and education have been transferred to the Agricultural Universities,and the State Departments of Agriculture organize extension services. The Universities are supported by their respective State Governments. ICAR provides financial support and assists their research and education programmes.

Agricultural Universities are autonomous institutions established by an Act of State Legislature. Although the administrative structure differs somewhat from State to State, the general outlines are similar. As Chancellor, the State Governor is the nominal head of the University. In some States, the Agriculture Minister acts as the Pro-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor is the Chief Executive of the University. In some States, more than one University has been established through a Common Act; their activities are coordinated through a State level Agricultural Research and Education Coordination Committee. Of the 29 Agricultural Universities in the country, 10 are mono-campus while the others are multi-campus Universities.The number of campuses in each University varies from 1 to 6.

Research infrastructure

Basically, the research infrastructure consists of an experiment station at the main campus and a number of research stations and substations located in different parts of the State. There are about 313 such research stations belonging to the 29 Universities, working on location-specific problems.Generally, the research programmes are headed by the Directors of Research, who are assisted by the Associate Directors of Research located at the regional research stations within the State. Some Agricultural Universities have established Advanced Centres by combining related subjects in areas such as plant protection, genetics and plant breeding, agricultural engineering, agricultural economics, water technology, etc. In order to undertake need-based and location-specific research, a network of Zonal Research Centres have been established since 1979 with assistance from the World Bank under NARP. These Centres numbering about 131 in the country, each located in a distinct agro-climatic zone, is a part of the Agricultural Universities System.

Research planning, monitoring and evaluation

Agricultural Universities have State-wide responsibility for research in agriculture. In those States where there are more than one University, the research responsibilities are shared on the regional basis. To ensure relevant research planning, their efficient implementation and proper evaluation,each Agricultural University has a Research Council or a Research Advisory Committee as an apex body for policy formulation and coordination of research activities. This body, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor comprises Director of Research, Director of Extension Education, Deans of constituent colleges, representatives of State Departments and farmers. It reviews periodically the overall status of research activities in the University, and determines their priorities and future direction. Research is organized under;

(i) University research
(ii) Postgraduate student research
(iii) Coordinated research programmes.

The Director of Research, who is the overall in-charge of research, prepares an annual plan indicating the main thrusts of research within the broad directions given by the Research Advisory Committee. The Directorate of Research is responsible for research review and evaluation, and timely publication of research results and reports. By and large, the individual scientists formulate research projects which are then scrutinized by the concerned Department Head, examined at the Faculty/Departmental level and finally approved by the University Research Advisory Committee. Thereafter, the Director of Research and Department Heads provide funds and facilities to the scientists. In respect of research done by teachers and postgraduate students, the Director of Research acts in coordination with the Deans/Principals of the respective colleges.

Special mechanisms exist for the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of ICAR supported programmes in the Agricultural Universities. In the case of Coordinated Projects, the University scientists work in close co-operation with others from the ICAR Institutes and other Universities through the mechanism of All India Workshops conducted periodically. Ad hoc research schemes formulated by the University scientists are first scrutinized by the Scientific Panels and approved by the ICAR. These schemes are continuously monitored and evaluated by the ICAR in collaboration with the University. In the case of NARP, the programmes formulated at Zonal Research and Extension Advisory Committee meetings are constantly monitored and reviewed by the University concerned, the ICAR, and the World Bank Missions.

In most Agricultural Universities, the Research Evaluation Committees attended by the scientists and extension subject matter specialists provide the much needed in-house review mechanism within the Universities to examine the findings and data support emerging from various research projects. Only when the results are substantiated from trials, both on the experimental farms and farmers' fields, recommendations are made for large-scale implementation

 
 

Other Agencies:

General Universities

Many General Universities with well-developed faculties in agriculture, or strong departments engaged in areas such as genetics, plant physiology, mycology, entomology, biochemistry, economics, chemistry, marine biology, home science, etc. have made distinctive contributions to agricultural research in the country. Besides, the Central Universities like the Banaras Hindu University, Shanti Niketan, etc. have Institutes/Schools of Agricultural Sciences which are engaged in research in agriculture and allied areas, some of which are supported by the ICAR.

Scientific organizations

Many other scientific organizations either directly undertake research, or sponsor and support programmes related to agriculture. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), through its network of National Laboratories, provides research support in areas like processing of agricultural products, recycling of agricultural wastes, development of various agro-chemicals, etc. The Indian Council of Medical Research's (ICMR) research on the nutritional qualities of various agricultural produce including toxicity and occupational health of agricultural workers have greatly helped the ICAR in planning its research programmes. Some of the areas in which the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is actively engaged are the development of newer varieties of crops and preservation of agricultural produce. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is helping the research system to assess India's soil and water resources.

Technological institutions like IIT, Kharagpur, are active in the fields of agricultural engineering, soil and water management, and agronomy. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) promotes research on genetic engineering, post harvest technology, and areas of basic sciences supportive to agriculture. The Department of Non-Conventional Energy Sources works on the utilization of solar and wind energies, and biogas for agricultural purposes. The Department of Meteorology is actively engaged in research on crop-weather forecasting. The Department of Ocean Development is involved in assessing the fishery resources in the country and promotes research in the area of fisheries.

In addition, institutions like the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) under the Agriculture Ministry; various Commodity Boards like Silk, Coffee, Rubber, Tea, and Cardamom Boards under the Commerce Ministry; and the Forest Research Institute and Wasteland Development Board under the Ministry of Forestry and Environment help in strengthening the agricultural research system in the country.

Private sector

Involvement of private sector in agricultural research is of recent origin. In mid 1960s, several private companies started programmes mainly to develop hybrid maize, sorghum and bajra. Research on vegetables started in late 1960s. Private sector research is confined mainly to breeding crop hybrids, certain plantation crops, agro-chemicals, poultry, and agricultural machinery.

Private sector research in seed industry has grown very rapidly. Several private companies are now engaged in the production of hybrid seeds of a variety of crops like cotton, sorghum, bajra, maize, vegetables, red gram, rice, etc., and a small seed export industry has also emerged. There are at least ten private companies undertaking plant breeding research, and several others are involved in plant protection research. Besides their own research stations, these companies conduct experiments on farmers' fields. They test the bio-efficiency of insecticides and herbicides that are new to India as well as synthesize new compounds. Private research in poultry sector is of recent origin. Although Government introduced exotic birds in commercial poultry industry, they were popularized by the private sector and many companies are now actively engaged in it. Many other large industrial concerns are engaged in research on shrimps and shrimp feed.

Some private companies undertake major research and development programmes for the improvement of tractors and irrigation pumps. Research on tractors seems to be primarily aimed at improving quality, fuel efficiency and engine durability. Some companies are now moving into agricultural implements. Research in pump industry is aimed at increasing the efficiency of pumps through improved design and better materials. Some companies are even experimenting with non-conventional sources of power. Historically, private companies in the processing and plantation sector have been a very important source of new agricultural technology. Some of the prominent ones include Indian Sugar Mills Association, Southern Planters Association, Textile Mills Association, Silk Industry, etc. Some large firms are involved in research on animal nutrition, plant growth regulators, biotechnology like tissue culture in cardamom, sugarcane, coconut and tea, bio fertilizers, etc. Research in the area of tree farming including in vitro culre and tree breeding is also receiving attention of private firms.

Some of the well-established institutions such as Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Bharatiya Agro-Industries Foundation, Wool Research Association, United Planters Association of South India undertake short-term, mission-oriented research projects supported by the ICAR for multi-locational testing of varieties and agro-techniques.

In order to promote scientific research and the participation of industry in it, the Government through the Income Tax Act of 1961 has offered certain tax concessions relating to the expenditure on scientific research. The involvement of private agencies in agricultural research is gaining momentum with greater sophistication in technological development and the prospects of high returns on investment in agriculture.