M Rai and AK Bawa

In the year 1996, from an estimated 1362 million hectares of arable land, 2050 million tons of cereals, 565 million tons of vegetables, 413 million tons of fruits and 536 million tons of milk were produced. In this global agricultural production, 88.6 kg/ha of fertilizer was used, consisting of 53 kg N, 21kg P2O5 and 14 kg K2O. An estimated 2592 million people were engaged in agriculture. In India, from 166 million hectares of arable land, 185 million tons of cereals, 65 million tons of vegetables, 39 million tons of fruits and 67 million tons of milk were produced, an average 81.8 kg/ha of fertilizer being used. Nearly 541 million people were engaged in agriculture.

The projected world population of 6.17, 8.35 and 11.0 billion by 2000, 2025 and 2050 CE, respectively, would require far greater vertical agricultural growth through almost 100 per cent productivity enhancement in the next 50 years. The same would be true for India, whose population is likely to cross the 1500 million mark by 2050 CE. In order to address the multiple and interwoven problems of ensuring household food and nutritional security, enhancing productivity, sustaining production, protecting environment, conserving natural resources and improving the profitability of farming as an occupation, there is an urgent need to redefine the agricultural research agenda. The important areas of science and technology, viz., biotechnology, seed technology, post-harvest technology, hybrid technology, information technology, remote sensing, GIS-based modeling and land use planning, integrated pest management, integrated plant nutrient management etc., are expected to provide the necessary boost to agriculture productivity in the times ahead.

Indian agriculture will have to achieve ecological, economic and social sustainability, for which a change, both in agricultural research priorities and strategies, and in public policies, will be needed. It will be desirable to examine the directions of this change and to understand its multidimensional effects on farm, family, livestock, science and society. Capital formation in agriculture; critical human resource development for upstream research; institutional mechanisms; congenial policies; public/private interface; system-wide systems approach; market-oriented and demand-driven technological upgradation; technology assessment, refinement and transfer; proprietary products, processes and marketing systems processing; product development and value addition etc. will be required to bring in a much needed agricultural commerce which would withstand the globalized market based on its competitiveness in terms of cost and quality. Equity, social and economic justice and sustainable growth would be expected only with a sound development strategy that must rally around conservation of natural resources, so that these are available for rational use on sustainable basis.

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