Bihar agri institute to help region with tech, seeds

India plans to set up an international institute for agricultural research in the country’s eastern state of Bihar to help India, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries to upgrade their farm technologies and provide them with high-yielding and disease-resistant crops.

The institute will be named after renowned agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday announced that the Borlaug Institute of South Asia would be set up soon. “This institute will facilitate availability of new and improved seeds and new technology to the farmers of India and other countries of South Asia,” he said while addressing the nation from the rampart of Red Fort in Delhi on the occasion of India’s sixty-third Independence Day.

Nobel laureate agronomist Norman Borlaug was born in US and did his PhD in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota. He later developed semi-dwarf, high-yield and disease-resistant wheat varieties in Mexico. He later introduced these wheat varieties with advanced agricultural technologies in Mexico, Pakistan and India.

Borlaug helped Pakistan and India double their wheat yield between 1965 and 1970. In recognition of his contribution in saving over a billion people from starvation, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for helping nations achieve food security and thus promoting world peace.

“In the history of Indian agriculture, Norman Borlaug commands a special place. About 40 to 50 years ago, he developed new and more productive seeds of wheat. Under the leadership of [Indira Gandhi], India achieved the Green Revolution by adopting these seeds,” said Singh in a speech he delivered in Red Fort after unfurling the Indian national flag.

Borlaug had visited Bangladesh at least five times and played a significant role in convincing the Bangladesh government to give special emphasis to crop diversification. The Bangladesh Academy of Sciences had honoured him as a foreign fellow in 1978.

A few weeks after the “hunger crusader” died at the age of 95 on September 12, 2009, the Director General of International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (better known as CIMMYT), Thomas Lumpkin, mooted the proposal to set up the Borlaug Institute of South Asia in India in collaboration with the Indian government.

Indian government’s agriculture ministry accepted the proposal and decided to set up the institute at Pusa in Bihar. The central Indian government had requested the Bihar government to provide 500 acres for setting up the institution, which would work in close coordination with the Norman Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture based in Texas.

Indian government is likely to spend an estimated Rs 5 billion to set up the institution, where agricultural scientists from around the world are expected to come and take part in development of new technologies and seeds for all the South Asian nations.

“We want prosperity, peace and harmony in our neighbouring countries,” Singh said in his Independence Day speech, adding, “Whatever differences we have with our neighbouring countries, we want to resolve them through discussions.”

(New Delhi/ 15, 2010)


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