Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

[pib] Seed Village Programme (Beej Gram Yojana)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Seed Village Concept

Mains level: Not Much

The govt is implementing Seed Village Programme (Beej Gram Yojana) since 2014-15 to upgrade the quality of farmers’ saved seeds.

What do you mean by Seed Village?

  • It is a village, wherein a trained group of farmers are involved in the production of seeds of various crops and cater to their needs themselves.

Seed Village Programme

  • This program aims at upgrading the quality of farm-saved seeds.
  • Under this, financial assistance is available for up to one acre per farmer for distribution of foundation/certified seeds at:
  1. 50% of seed cost for cereal crops
  2. 60% for pulses, oilseeds, fodder, and green manure crops

Objectives of the program

  • Increasing the seed production
  • Increasing the seed replacement rate
  • Organizing seed production in cluster (or) compact area replacing existing local varieties with new high yielding varieties
  • Self-sufficiency and self-reliance of the village


The present program of seed village scheme is having two phases:

  • Seed production of different crops: The area which is suitable for raising a particular crop will be selected, and raised with a single variety of a kind.
  • Establishing seed processing unit: If the seeds are not processed and handled properly, all the past efforts in production may be lost. Thus seed processing and packaging is a very important aspect of seed production.

Benefits offered

  • Seed is available at the doorsteps of farms at an appropriate time.
  • Seeds are available at affordable costs even lesser than the market price.
  • It has increased the confidence among the farmers about the quality because of known sources of production.
  • It facilitates the fast spread of new cultivars of different kinds.

Back2Basics: Seed Replacement Rate

  • It is the percentage of area sown out of the total area of the crop planted in the season by using certified/quality seeds other than the farm-saved seed.
  • In simple terms, it is a measure of the cropped area covered with quality seed.

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Analysing the impact of Bt cotton


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 3- Bt cotton

After almost 20 years of adoption of Bt cotton in India, its time to review the claimed benefits of the Bt.

Hybrid cotton seeds and issues

  • Until the 20th century the indigenous ‘desi’ variety, Gossypium arboreum was used.
  • From the 1990s, hybrid varieties of G. hirsutum were promoted.
  • These hybrids cannot resist a variety of local pests and require more fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Cotton suffers from plenty of infestation from moth pests such as the Pink Bollworm (PBW) and sap-sucking (Hemipteran) pests such as aphids and mealy bugs.
  • With increasing pressure to buy hybrid seeds, the indigenous varieties have lost out over the years.

Resistant pests and introduction of Bt cotton

  • The increasing use of synthetic man-made pesticides to control pests and the rising acreage under the American long-duration cotton led to the emergence of resistant pests.
  • Resistant Pink and even American Bollworm (ABW), a minor pest in the past, began increasing, leading to a growing use of a variety of pesticides.
  • Rising debts and reducing yields, coupled with increasing insect resistance, worsened the plight of cotton farmers.
  • It was in this setting that Bt cotton was introduced in India in 2002.

What is Bt cotton

  • The plant containing the pesticide gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), has been grown in India for about twenty years.
  • This pesticide, now produced in each Bt plant cell, ought to protect the plant from bollworm, thereby increasing yields and reducing insecticide spraying on the cotton plant.

Review of the utility of Bt cotton

  • Review  was published in the scientific journal Nature Plants, analysing the entire picture of the use of Bt cotton in India.
  • Earlier studies had attributed to Bt the tripling of cotton yield between 2002-2014 in India.
  • However, one detail that raises concerns over such a conclusion was that yield differences between farmers who were the early adopters of Bt cotton and those who were not suffered from selection bias.
  • Controlling for such bias showed (in 2012) that the contribution of Bt cotton to yield increase was only about 4% each year.
  • Since yields vary annually by over 10%, the benefits claimed were dubious.
  • There are discrepancies between yield and the deployment of Bt cotton.
  • For instance, the Bt acreage was only 3.4% of the total cotton area in 2003, not sufficient to credit it for the 61% increase in yield in 2003-2004.
  • The rise in cotton yields can be explained by improvements in irrigation, for instance in Gujarat, and a dramatic growth across the country in the use of fertilizers.
  • The PBW developed a resistance by 2009 in India. In a few years, the situation was dreadful.
  • A technology that works in the lab may fail in fields since real-world success hinges on multiple factors.

Way forward

  • The cost of ignoring ‘desi’ varieties for decades has been high for India.
  • Research suggests that with pure-line cotton varieties, high density planting, and short season plants, cotton yields in India can be good and stand a better chance at withstanding the vagaries of climate change.
  •  But government backing for resources, infrastructure and seeds is essential.


It is time to pay attention to science and acknowledge that Bt cotton has failed in India, and not enter into further misadventures with other Bt crops such as brinjal or herbicide resistance.

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abscisic acid (ABA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Plant growth hormones

Mains level: Not Much

A team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal, has conducted a study on seed germination that could have a major impact on agriculture.

What is the study about?

  • The study aims to determine the optimum timing of seed germination and thus ensure high plant yields.
  • It focused on the interplay between plant hormones like abscisic acid (ABA) which inhibit the sprouting of the seed and environmental cues like light (which promotes the sprouting process) and darkness.

Note the following plant hormones and their functions:



Ethylene Fruit ripening and abscission
Gibberellins Break the dormancy of seeds and buds; promote growth
Cytokinins Promote cell division; prevent senescence
Abscisic Acid Close the stomata; maintain dormancy
Auxins Involved in tropisms and apical dominance

What is Abscisic Acid? 

  • Humans have glands that secrete hormones at different times to stimulate body processes such as growth, development, and the breaking down of sugars.  
  • Plants also have hormones that stimulate processes that are necessary for them to live.  
  • Abscisic acid is a plant hormone involved in many developmental plant processes, such as dormancy and environmental stress response.  
  • Abscisic acid is produced in the roots of the plant as well as the terminal buds at the top of the plant. 

Function of Abscisic Acid 

Abscisic acid is involved in several plant functions.  

  • Plants have openings on the bottom side of their leaves, known as stomata. Stomata take in carbon dioxide and regulate water content. Abscisic acid has been found to function in the closing of these stomata during times when the plant does not require as much carbon dioxide or during times of drought when the plant cannot afford to lose much water through transpiration. 
  • One of the crucial functions of abscisic acid is to inhibit seed germination. Abscisic acid has been found to stop a seed from immediately germinating once it has been placed in the soil. It actually causes the seed to enter a period of dormancy.  
  • This is of great benefit to the plants because most seeds are formed at the end of the growing season, when conditions would not be favorable for a new plant to sprout. The abscisic acid causes the seed to wait until the time when conditions are more favorable to grow. This ensures greater success in the plant’s ability to grow and reproduce successfully. 
  • ABA functions in many plant developmental processes, including seed and bud dormancy, the control of organ size and stomatal closure. It is especially important for plants in the response to environmental stresses, including drought, soil salinity, cold tolerance, freezing tolerance, heat stress and heavy metal ion tolerance.

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In news: Pokkali Rice


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pokkali Rice

Mains level: Coastal farming and various hurdles

Farmers from West Bengal are betting on the Pokkali variety of rice from Kerala to tide over a crisis-like situation created by severe seawater incursion into paddy fields in vast areas of the Sundarbans after the cyclone Amphan.

Try this MCQ:

Q.Which of the following is the striking feature of the Pokkali Rice recently seen in the news?

a) It is bio-fortified rice for treating malnutrition

b) It is a saltwater resistant variety of rice

c) It is healthy rice used to treat diabetes

d) None of these

Pokkali Rice

  • The Pokkali variety of rice is known for its saltwater resistance and flourishes in the rice paddies of coastal Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts.
  • The uniqueness of the rice has brought it the Geographical Indication (GI) tag and is the subject of continuing research.
  • It had been in the news because of its uniqueness and also because a group of people in Kerala have been trying to revive the cultivation of the rice variety in the State.

Why introduce in Sunderbans?

  • About 80% of the rice paddies in the Sundarbans faced the problem of the saltwater incursion.
  • If the Pokkali experiment succeeds, it would be a good step to turn around the fortunes of the farmers.

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What is ‘Direct Seeding of Rice’ (DSR)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Paddy cultivation in India

Farmers are now being encouraged to adopt ‘direct seeding of rice’ (DSR) in place of conventional transplanting due to lack of labourers, who are stranded due to lockdown.

Recall the classification of cropping seasons on India based on onset and retreat of Monsoon.

The kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, pearl millet/bajra, finger millet/ragi (cereals), arhar (pulses), soyabean, groundnut (oilseeds), cotton etc. The rabi crops include wheat, barley, oats (cereals), chickpea/gram (pulses), linseed, mustard (oilseeds) etc.  Kindly make a note of this.

What is ‘Direct Seeding of Rice’ (DSR)?

  • In transplanting, farmers prepare nurseries where the paddy seeds are first sown and raised into young plants.
  • These seedlings are then uprooted and replanted 25-35 days later in the main field.
  • Paddy seedlings are transplanted on fields that are “puddled” or tilled in standing water using tractor-drawn disc harrows.
  • In DSR, there is no nursery preparation or transplantation. The seeds are instead directly drilled into the field by a tractor-powered machine.

How is the question of herbicides addressed in DSR?

  • Paddy being very much water-intensive is compromised by weeds that compete for nutrition, sunlight and water.
  • Water prevents the growth of weeds by denying them oxygen in the submerged stage, whereas the soft ‘aerenchyma tissues’ in paddy plants allow air to penetrate through their roots.
  • Water, thus, acts as a herbicide for paddy. The threat from weeds recedes once tillering is over; so does the need to flood the fields.
  • In DSR, water is replaced by real chemical herbicides. Farmers have to only level their land and give one pre-sowing irrigation or rauni.
  • Once the field has good soil moisture, they need to do two rounds of ploughing and planking (smoothening of soil surface), which is followed by the sowing of the seeds and spraying of herbicides.

What are these herbicides?

  • There are two kinds. The first is called pre-emergent, i.e. applied before germination. In this case, the pre-emergent herbicide used is Pendimethalin.
  • The second set of herbicides is post-emergent, sprayed 20-25 days after sowing, depending upon the type of weeds appearing.
  • They include Bispyribac-sodium (Rs 600-700 at 100 ml/acre) and Fenoxaprop-p-ethyl (Rs 700-800 at 400 ml/acre).

What is the main advantage of DSR?

  • The most obvious one is water savings. The first irrigation (apart from the pre-sowing rauni) under DSR is necessary only 21 days after sowing.
  • This is unlike in transplanted paddy, where watering has to be done practically daily to ensure submerged/flooded conditions in the first three weeks.
  • The second savings, relevant in the present context, is that of labour. About three labourers are required to transplant one acre of paddy at almost Rs 2,400 per acre.
  • As against this, the cost of herbicides under DSR will not exceed Rs 2,000 per acre.

Limitations of DSR

  • The main issue is the availability of herbicides.
  • The seed requirement for DSR is also higher, at 8-10 kg/acre, compared to 4-5 kg in transplanting.
  • Further, laser land levelling, which costs Rs 1,000/acre, is compulsory in DSR. This is not so in transplanting.
  • The yields are as good as from normal transplanting, but one need to sow by the first fortnight of June. The plants have to come out properly before the monsoon rains arrive.
  • There is no such problem in transplanting, where the saplings have already been raised in the nursery.

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Hazards of using fertilizers in Punjab


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Phosphatic fertilizers

Mains level: Health hazards of indirect fertilizers poisoning


Studies have pegged consumption of phosphatic fertilizers in Punjab at ten times higher than the national average. Thence media has consistently reported on cancer deaths in the Malwa region of Punjab.

What are phosphatic fertilizers?

  • Phosphatic fertilizers are chemical substances that contain the nutrient phosphorus in an absorbable form (Phosphate anions) or that yield after conversion in the soil.
  • Phosphates help plants store energy, root well, flower and produce fruit.
  • The DAP or Diammonium Phosphate is the widely used phosphatic fertilizer in our country.
  • The total fertilizer consumption in India is 27 million tones, out of which about 20-25 per cent of phosphorous and nitrogen-based nutrients are dependent on imports from the United States, Jordan, Iran, Oman, China, Russia, Morocco, Israel, Lithuania and Egypt.

Hazards of phosphatic fertilizers

  • Pursuant to the disquieting reports from the area, BARC in 2013 analysed fertilizer and soil samples from the Malwa region and discovered heavy concentration of Uranium.
  • According to the report, Uranium concentration in DAP was around 91.77 parts per million (ppm), which was way beyond the permissible limit.
  • It is also a fact that the fertiliser industry in India does not follow all procedures and protocols essential for decontamination of imported phosphatic rock associated with traces of Uranium.
  • There is yet another theory which does not support the fertiliser route for Uranium ingestion through food chain, but emphasises on the geogenic factors for the possible presence of Uranium in the groundwater samples.
  • Higher concentrations of Uranium are present in certain types of soils and rocks, especially granite.
  • All the three isotopes of Uranium (U-234, U-235, U-238) have a half-life period ranging from 0.25 million years to 4.47 billion years, indicating their relative stability.

Increasing Uranium contamination

  • Presence of Uranium is widespread, and according to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, its normal concentration in soil is between 300 microgram per kg (ug/kg) and 11.7 milligram per kg (mg/kg).
  • In the Indian context, contamination of Uranium in Punjab’s groundwater has been a problem since the early 2000s.
  • High levels of uranium found in the fertile Malwa region along with industrial effluents leads to a bigger problem as it contaminates the groundwater.
  • The presence of bicarbonates, nitrate, chloride anions and soil is calcareous since the carbonic acid created in the process enhances leaching efficiency of uranium from soils and sediments.

Matter of urgent importance

  • With no guidelines or acceptable standards by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) regarding the amount of uranium in fertilizers produced in India, we are on a dead track.
  • Authorities’ concerned need to take cognizance and invest in less expensive R&D of the decontamination process.
  • At the same time, it is also necessary to specify the acceptable limit of Uranium in groundwater.


Complete details of fertilizers

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Svalbard Global Seed Vault


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Doomsday Vault

Mains level: Not Much


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault — referred to as the earth’s ‘doomsday vault’ — now contains about 1.05 million seeds.

Global Seed Vault

  • The vault — in the island of Spitsbergen, midway between Norway and the North Pole — opened in 2008 and preserves seeds for several food varieties.
  • The aim of the vault is to preserve a vast variety of crop seeds in the case of a doomsday event, calamity, climate change or national emergency.
  • The vault is artificially cooled at temperatures of minus 18 degrees Celsius.
  • The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay seed ageing.
  • The permafrost surrounding the facility will help maintain the low temperature of the seeds if the electricity supply fails.

Access to seeds

  • Vault seed samples are copies of samples stored in the depositing genebanks.
  • Researchers, plant breeders, and other groups wishing to access seed samples cannot do so through the seed vault; they must instead request samples from the depositing genebanks.
  • The samples stored in the genebanks will, in most cases, be accessible in accordance with the terms and conditions of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, approved by 118 countries or parties.

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