IT is like walking down memory lane. For someone who has grown along with the Green Revolution days, joining a graduate programme in agriculture when the miracle dwarf wheat varieties had begun to show promise, and kept a steady pace all through with the long strides taken by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana, this coffee table book is a reminder of its immense contribution in converting Punjab into the ‘food bowl’ of the country.
The more I flipped through the colourful pages of this book — the second in the series — the more I realised how important it is to document history. Completing 60 years of its existence, this university had truly sown the seeds of the Green Revolution. The book traces events from when Dr DS Athwal developed the dwarf variety of wheat, ‘Kalyan Sona 227’, in the late 1960s, and later when Dr SS Saini selected and released the ‘PR-106’ variety of rice, from the breeding lines that were sent by Dr Gurdev Singh Khush from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. Punjab never looked back. With the right kind of enabling environment, and the hard work of its valiant farmers, the rest is history.
With 11 research stations located in different agro-climatic zones, PAU has so far released 912 crop varieties, 222 of these at the national level. In fact, the ‘PR-106’ rice variety has also been released in Venezuela. Having attended several of the Kisan Melas over the years, I have seen the enthusiasm with which farmers scout for improved seeds. These fairs also serve as a platform for reaching out to farmers and addressing their specific crop and farm-related problems.
Not only wheat and rice research, the university is also involved in research in agriculture, horticulture, agricultural engineering, basic sciences and community science. Besides, it focuses on soil and water management, climate change, biotic and abiotic stress, cutting-edge technologies and issues related to environment as well as natural resource management.
During the past 60 years, the average yield of wheat and rice has increased four times, as a result of which the average productivity of the wheat-rice cropping pattern now exceeds 11 tonnes per hectare, amongst the highest in the world.
The book is not only rich in pictorial presentation of PAU’s enormous research as well as social and cultural activities, but also lists challenges like farmer suicides, declining groundwater and stubble burning. This is encouraging given that most coffee table books just lie there and look chic. PAU has instead presented it as a wonderful way to provide an overview. I only hope the next book in the series is a little better designed and focuses on the dwindling farmer income. Let the world know of the role and effort made by one of the best known agricultural universities in the world to make farming an economically viable and profitable enterprise.
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