India Seed Industry News

This page features a compilation and selection of Indian seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on events that impact or affect provinces, regions, counties, cities and locales in the Republic of India.

The news here covers trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping, with original sources linked.

This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.


Q3 News

Seed bank refurbished: Aug 23: Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, presided over the inauguration of the newly refurnished National Gene Bank at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi on August 16. Established in 1996, the National Gene Bank was upgraded with the latest technology and added capacity to conserve approximately one million germplasm to benefit future generations. Currently, the National Gene Bank houses 4,520,000 germplasm, 2,700,000 from India, and the rest from around the world. These include varieties of paddy, wheat, millets, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants, flowers, and spices. The seeds and other plant tissues are stored at temperatures ranging from 25 degrees celsius (In-vitro) down to -196 degrees celsius (Cryogenebank) for medium to long-term storage to be available for breeders and scientific research. Original story here and here.

New Bengal seed gram in AP: Aug 22: A new high-yield and pest resistant variety of Chana (Bengal gram), named Nandyal Bengal Gram 857 (NBeG 857), has been developed by scientists working at the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS) in Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh. Suited to conditions in South India, the plant is medium height with attractive light brown seeds, is recommended for growing in the Rabi (winter-spring) season, and can be harvested in 95 to 100 days. in Andhra Pradesh NBeG 857 has recorded yields of 3,782 kg per hectare compared to other varieties such as Super Annigeri 1 (2,540 kg/ha), JG 11 (2,300 kg/ha), and Jaki 9218 (1,866 kg/ha). Original story here 

Mustard seed update: Aug 12: The price of mustard seed has dropped by more than 1% across India. At the start of the harvest season a 25% reduction in supply year-on-year led to a temporary price increase. However, now that supply has caught up, the price has corrected although a potential reduction in global output may see prices increase again. Original story and table of prices per quintal buy mandi 

Natl Seeds Corp meeting underlines quality seed: Aug 6: The importance of producing and distributing affordable quality seed was discussed at a recent meeting of the National Seed Corporation (NSC).  Director Agriculture Kashmir, Chowdhary Mohammad Iqbal, stressed that quality seed is crucial for boosting agricultural production and will be one of the top priorities of the ministry. A draft seed policy is under government consideration that will help ensure farmers receive an adequate supply of quality seeds. Original story here 

Cotton crop productivity drops: July 30: A report from the Committee on Cotton Production and Consumption (CCPC) shows the yield per hectare of Indian cotton has been in decline in the last few years. Despite an increase in the area under cultivation, yield has fallen below 0.5 tonnes per hectare in four out of the last six years. According to M Ramasami, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Rasi Seeds (P) Ltd., the local textile industry consumes at least 5.5 million tonnes of cotton with 1.3 million tonnes exported. However, should demand recover after Covid, the Indian textile industry may face a sharp rise in the price of cotton. Scientists have called for the introduction of new seed technology to keep pace with competing nations. Original story here 

Covid controls prevail throughout: July 22: Most of India is under some level of lockdown, with specific restrictions on movement and business varying state to state, city to city. Generally speaking, business is permitted at a limited capacity, and movement between areas is tightly controlled. Movement for and trade of essential goods and supplies -- including food and agricultural produce -- are permitted but may be subject to “thorough screening” procedures. Following are trends in various states according to various news sources:

  • The Kerala government imposed “complete lockdown” on July 24 and 25, despite a previous announcement to ease restrictions to accommodate vendors’ request for a religious holiday exemption. This followed a challenge by a Justice of India’s Supreme Court, who said that opening up violated the  “Right to Life
  • At the end of July Bihar traders of non-essential items were struggling to make ends meet despite being allowed to open their shops 12 days a month. This follows restrictions being eased earlier in July, including the allowing of restaurants to resume dine-in at 50% capacity, and the permission for government and private offices to operate at full capacity on the condition that “only vaccinated people are given entry.” 
  • A 10pm-6am curfew was extended in Andhra Pradesh in July. Outside of these areas, business activities could resume, but enforcement tof face masks at business establishments and markets would be “vigorously enforced”. 
  • A 10pm-6am curfew was also imposed in Noida, Ghaziabad, Lucknow, and other cities in Uttar Pradesh as the State government extended “Section 144” in Noida till August 30 citing concern that upcoming festivities would fuel a new surge of cases. 
  • The Manipur government announced a “total curfew for 10 days”, starting from July 18.
  • The Pune administration imposed “prohibitory orders” at several tourist spots, including Bhushi dam, various points in Lonavala and Khandala, Sinhgad Fort, Panshet, and Varasgaon dam, among others, prohibiting the assembly of more than five people, as well as barring getting into the water. On July 11, the city in Maharashtra was reported to remain under ‘Level 3’ restrictions, requiring businesses to shut by 4 pm.
  • The Chennai government in Tamil Nadu on July 16 announced extension of the lockdown until July 31, mandating the persisting prohibition and restrictions on a number of activities and businesses, including inter-state public and private transport, as well as barring the operation of leisure, recreational and educational places. 
  • The Assam government in late June issued a directive to all of its districts that for areas with 10 cases detected in a seven-day period would be declared “total containment zones”, where only emergency services could continue uninterrupted, while essential services, including shops dealing with groceries, fruits and vegetables, would be permitted to open until only 5 pm.
  • By the end of June, the Jharkhand government had extended lockdown restrictions for the seventh time since April 22.
  • There was a ban on international commercial flights in India effective until July 31, with conditional exceptions for some countries that India has bilateral “air bubble agreements”.

NSAI & FSII reach a consensus on commercialization framework for superior plant varieties: July 9: The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) have issued a joint statement announcing that they have reached a consensus on trait value and licensing of seed technology that will benefit Indian farmers. The move serves to allay concerns of monopoly or restricted access to the traits by the plant breeders while ensuring breeders receive a reasonable return on investment. 

The framework comes after many years of legal wrangling between companies represented by both organizations, and will also lead to clearer processes for regulatory agencies in approving new traits or plant varieties in future. Mr Prabhakar Rao, President, NSAI said, “This framework ensures that interests of all parties including farmers are taken care of and we are happy that the main concerns of the small and medium companies regarding monopoly of trait leading to excessive trait pricing are fully addressed.” Dr M Ramasami, Chairman, Rasi Seeds and Chairman, FSII said, “Illegal use of unapproved technologies is fraught with dangers to the environment, to the legally operating seed industry and eventually to the farmers themselves. This framework will be very beneficial to the Indian farmers who have been waiting for new technologies for more than 10 years.” 

Highlights of the commercialization framework are:

  • An Industry Governing Body (IGB) to be formed with representatives from both the associations, an independent scientist and an independent expert to chair it. 
  • The Chair and the Scientist will take an impartial view of the matters and ensure that concerns and interests of all parties including farmers are taken care of.
  • The IGB determines trait value within a range of 5 to 20% of the seed value and a gradual reduction in trait value over a defined period. "This ensures that the technology remains affordable for the farmer while the technology developers are provided with adequate returns on their investment," the joint statement said. 

More information on the announcement can be found here and here.

TAAS New publications: The Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS) -- a “vibrant national ‘Think Tank’ under the visionary leadership of Dr Raj S. Paroda” has published and disseminated two new publications of interest to India and the greater regional seed sector as follows: 

  • The first document, titled “Harnessing Genome Editing for Crop Improvement – An Urgency” is a Policy Brief that underlines the promise and potential of new innovations in plant breeding, which will contribute to two sustainable development goals (Zero Hunger and Health and Wellbeing). The 8-page publication’ states that “there is an urgent need to adopt more innovative tools for providing solutions to the new and emerging challenges, particularly climate change and nutritional security. In order to ensure this, science-led disruptive innovations like genome editing have to be scaled faster through enhanced investments, R&D capacities and enabling policy environment.” It goes on to offer six policy-level recommendations, including the drafting of regulatory guidelines, establishing a mission-mode inter-institutions platform; strengthening and reinforcing the Institute Biosafety Committee; promoting, supporting and incentivizing public-private partnerships; carrying out more public outreach and communication efforts; and forming and funding a national platform to bring together concerned institutions and institutes in India. Read full publication here
  • The second document entitled “Accelerating Science-Led Growth in Agriculture: Two Decades of TAAS” is a 260-page publication compiled by Raj Paroda, Bhag Mal and Umesh Srivastava that provides a comprehensive history, account and record of various activities, achievements of the the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences, spanning the two decades since its founding during the Indian Science Congress (88th ISC) at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi on January 3, 2001. Download pdf of the publication here.  


Punjab cropping update: July 9: Kharif (summer) crop sowing is well underway in the state of Punjab with 1.9 million hectares sown at the time of going to press. Cotton sowing has been completed in the state's cotton belt comprising Fazilka, Bathinda, Muktsar, Mansa, Sangrur, Barnala, Faridkot and Moga districts. A total of 304,000 hectares of cotton has been sown compared to the state's target of 325,000 hectares, a 7% shortfall. Around 3 million hectares of rice is expected to be cultivated this season, with 537,00 hectares of basmati rice targeted. Original story here 

Jute bag shortage for crops as plastic alternative mulled: July 1: A shortage of jute bags, necessary for the packaging of food grain under the Jute Packaging Material (JPM) Act, is causing crop distribution issues throughout the country. West Bengal currently supplies 80% of India's jute bags as most of the country's mills are located in the state. However, much of the supply of raw jute was damaged by cyclone Amphan, which ravaged the state of West Bengal during mid-May. A relaxation of the JPM Act to allow the use of 7.7 million bales of high-density polyethylene/polypropylene (HDPE/PP) bags has already been granted for the Rabi (winter) season. It is feared that plastics may be increasingly used, threatening the livelihoods of nearly 250,000 people in the state employed by jute mills. The Standing Advisory Committee (SAC) on jute, which functions under the Union Textile Ministry, has assured the government that mills will be able to supply 34 million bales to the government after the next crop. Original story here 

All about Assam agriculture: June 30: Krishijagram has published an overview of the cropping landscape of Assam State, where mainstay crops cultivated include sugarcane, tea, rice, jute, vegetables and others. According to the article, “To increase productivity, cultivators in these [other regions of India] areas employ more artificial machinery and chemical fertilizers; yet, Assam is a natural center. Assam does not require these items in the same way that these states do.” See full article here


Q2 News

Maharashtra tomato belt sustains renewed attack: June 29: Tomato crops -- in both greenhouses and open-fields across Maharashtra are suffering from a reneed onslaught of biotic infestations. Multiple viruses, including Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV), Groundnut Bud Necrosis Virus (GBNV) and Tomato Chlorosis Virus, had infested crops last June in  Pune, Satara, Ahmednagar and Nashik districts. The Indian Institute of Horticultural Research-Bengaluru has cited climate change and shifting cultivation periods as one factor. The problem reportedly returned for the Rabi (cool, dry season) tomato crop. According to media, about 1,000 acres of crop in the Narayangaon belt of Junnar and Pune was affected. Tests conducted lasts year by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute-Regional Station, Pune (IARI-RS, Pune) in the Kolwadi and Alandi areas of Pune detected CMV, GBNV, Tomato Mosaic Virus, Pepper Mottle Virus and Potato Virus Y while tests this past May have detected CMV, Groundnut Necrosis Virus or GBNC, Capsicum Chlorosis Virus, PVX or Potato Virus Y and the Poty virus group. See original story here

Punjab maize farmers warned to be on lookout for fall armyworm: June 29: Dr Surinder Sandhu, a maize expert at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), has warned farmers to be vigilant against fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), which has the potential to cause significant crop damage. Especially vulnerable are young crops which would have been recently sown in May and June. Although the pest had been detected in Punjab, farmers are advised not to panic as the pest can be controlled by being vigilant and reacting quickly if it is found. Original story here 

ICAR to release 21 biofortified crop varieties: June 28: According to the Ministry of Finance, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) will distribute 21 climate-resilient and bio-fortified special varieties of crops as part of the government's Covid-19 relief measures. Crops include rice, peas, millet, maize, soya bean, quinoa, buckwheat, winged bean, pigeon pea and sorghum. The bio-enhanced and climate-resilient varieties are targeted at fighting malnutrition, while also improving the income of farmers as they are tolerant to disease, insects pests, drought, salinity, and flooding, early maturing and amenable to mechanical harvesting. Original story here 

Koraput (Odisha) kharif cropping update: June 28: Sowing is well underway in Koraput district of Odisha state which has experienced steady monsoon rains with an average rainfall of 20mm. The state's Agriculture Department has set a target to cultivate 97,400 hectares of paddy and 1,98,300 hectares of non-paddy crops. Farmers in Upper Kolab irrigation areas will receive water from July to October. Roughly 42,500 hectares will be irrigated in the districts of Jeypore, Kotpad, Borrigumma and Kundura. Original story here

Gujarat sowing update: June 28: According to figures from the Directorate of Agriculture (DAG) in the state of Gujarat, the sowing of Kharif (summer) crop has neem delayed as many districts have experienced less than normal rainfall in June. At the time only 689,000 hectares, or roughly 50%, of the area compared to the same period last year, has been sown. Cotton and groundnut made up the majority of the crop already sown. Original story here 

Maharashtra farmers are struggling to get funds: June 28: Farmers in Maharashtra state report that they have yet to receive their loans for Kharif cultivation from several district cooperative banks. Only 66% of the state government’s target of USD 1.8 billion has been released so far with the delay due to the poor financial health of at least six dozen banks. Original story here 

GM rubber tree planted to withstand cold winter: June 25: The Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) has developed the world's first genetically modified (GM) rubber plant, specifically tailored to the cool climate of northeastern India. The GM plant contains additional copies of the MnSOD (manganese-containing superoxide dismutase) gene, which helps the plants survive cold winters and droughts, and the Indian Rubber Board is optimistic that GM rubber plants will be successfully cultivated in the region. Original story here 

Punjab Ag Uni advises farmers on veg mite pest threat: June 24: Scientists from the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) have warned farmers in the state to be careful of mite pests that may attack summer vegetables such as cucumber, aubergine, okra, and capsicum. Original story here 

ICAR tapping tapioca for biopesticide potential: June 23: The Central Tuber Crops Research Institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR-CTCRI), along with the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE), have received a patent for the development of pesticides extracted from the leaves of tapioca, which are usually discarded as waste, that act as biopesticides. CTCRI has also produced bio-fumigant from tapioca leaves. Original story here

Study points to early Iron age paddy cultivation in arid part of Mahrashtra: June 22: Archaeologists from Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences (BSIP), Archaeological Survey of India and Banaras Hindu University have identified extensive cultivation, dominated by rice, some 3,000 year ago during the early Iron Age in the semi-arid regions of Vidarbha in Maharashtra. The researchers studied over a thousand macro-botanical sample remains from Rithi Ranjana, a site about 37km northwest of Nagpur district including cereals — rice, wheat, barley, pulses as well as lentils and wild berries. Radiocarbon dating was able to show that 56% of the crop during that period was rice, and was prevalent in the area until roughly 2,000 years ago according to researchers. Other commonly cultivated crops were pea (19%), green gram (17%), barley and lentils (4% each) and wheat (about 1%). Original story here 

State govt says wait for more rain before sowing: June 21: Farmers in Maharashtra have been urged to wait until the first week of July to start Kharif sowing. Due to a change in rain patterns over the last few years, the state's Agriculture Department is concerned that farmers may rush to start sowing after a few spells of rain and utilise the entire stock of seeds and fertilisers. If there is a long dry spell after sowing, their efforts will be wasted, and farmers will incur huge financial losses. Original story here 

Himachal Pradesh to cultivate saffron: June 20: Commercial saffron cultivation is being introduced in Himachal Pradesh for the first time. It is hoped that saffron production in the state will not only compete with neighbouring states such as Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory (JKUT), but also make India self-reliant in saffron production. A new state-of-the-art tissue culture facility is being built in Palampur capable of producing 3.5 million high-quality and disease-free corms per year. According to Dr Sanjay Kumar, director of Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research (CSIR) and Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), nearly 3,000 hectares was under saffron cultivation in JKUT which produces around 8 to 10 tonnes of saffron. As Himachal Pradesh has a similar climate, he remarked it would be possible for saffron production in the state to eventually surpass that of JKUT and help make the country self-sufficient. The current demand for saffron in India is around 100 tonnes and the spice is sold for between USD 35,000 to 40,000 per kilogram, with most of the saffron imported from Iran. Original story here

Ambitious target to increase peanut cultivation: June 19: The Government off India has announced an ambitious objective to increase groundnut (Arachis hypogaea or peanut) production to 14.15 million tonnes by 2025-2026. If achieved, this would would represent an increase of about 40 percent from the current annual cultivation of 10.12 million tonnes. See original story here.

Seed associations urge action against illegal HtBt seeds: June 18: The Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) and the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has called for action against a recent surge in illegal herbicide-tolerant (HT) Bt cotton. In a statement, the NSAI urged for strong punitive measures against the sellers of illegal seeds. Expressing concern, NSAI President Prabhakar Rao said: "It will not only decimate small cotton seed companies but also threatens the entire legal cotton seed market in India." According to FSII chairman M Ramasami, production of illegal HT cotton jumped from 3.5 million packets in the previous year to around 7 million packets this year, not only harming farmers and seed producers, but also causing loss of tax revenue to the government. Original story here

Nagaland rice outlook adjusted as rains delayed: June 18: The Agriculture Production Commissioner of Nagaland has revised the forecast for rice production in Nagaland, reducing the previous forecast of 551,000 metric tonnes to just 166,000 metric tonnes. This is due to the delayed monsoon causing drought that has affected the lives of almost 70% of the rural population of the state. Original story here

Paddy MSP raised: June 9: The government has raised the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy rice to USD 260 per tonne for the 2021-22 crop year, up from USD 250 per tonne the previous year, as well as raising the MSP of other summer crops, including as pearl millet, which was raised to USD 300 per tonne from USD 286. 

Original story here 

Two prominent Indian seedsmen taken by Covid: The APSA Executive Committee and Secretariat would like to express our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family, friends and associates of two outspoken and respected Indian seedsmen --  Buta Singh Kanwal and Kollipara Niranjan Kumar -- who recently passed away due to the effects of Covid-19. Niranjan passed away on 8 May at the age of 47 (read tribute here). Buta Singh, who passed away on April 29, was 68 (see tribute here). 

India renews pact with Israel to continue ag development projects: May 24: India and Israel have signed a three-year work program for continued cooperation through “INDO-ISRAEL Agricultural Project Centres of Excellence” and “INDO-ISRAEL Villages of Excellence”. This is the fifth such bilateral project agreement to have been signed by the two governments. According to a govt press release, every year, these COEs produce more than 25 million quality vegetable seedlings, more than 387 thousand quality fruit plants and train more than 120,000 farmers on using the latest horticultural technologies. According to a progress summary, 29 Centres of Excellence (COEs) in 12 States across India have become operational since 2008, and feature “Advanced-Intensive agriculture farms with Israeli Agro-Technology tailored to local conditions … generating knowledge, demonstrating best practices and training farmers”. Of these, five are ‘under progress’ including: a CoE for flower cultivation and seed production at Sondhi, Jhajjar in Haryana (INR 78.7 million); Centre of Excellence for Semi Arid Horticulture, Gignow (Bhiwani), Haryana (INR 82.5mn); CoE for Vegetables at Nurabad, Distt. Morena, Madhya Pradesh (INR 96.9mn); CoE for Citrus at Kuddam, Chhindwara, MP (INR 66.8mn) and the Assam Centre of Excellence for Vegetables (Protected Cultivation) with a budget of INR58.3mn. 

Spurious seeds seized in Telangana: May 23: Some 21 quintals (2.1 tonnes) of illegal Bt-3 cotton seeds, reportedly worth Rs 4.2 million (US$57,935), were seized during  raids of wholesalers in Asifabad’s Chintala Manepally Mandal. The raiding operation, led by police officers, agriculture and TS Seeds Development Corporation officials was initiated after a “special operation team” on May 17 seized over 4 kg of spurious cotton seeds from a vehicle at Thondupally toll gate. The vehicle reportedly had originated from Nandyal. According to the media report farmers have been suffered huge losses from using spurious seeds, which were estimated to have been sown on between 1 to 1.5 million acres in Telangana. See original report here.  

Govt to distribute free soybean, peanut seeds: May 21: According to various news outlets, the Indian government will distribute free soybean and peanut seed kits to farmers across the country. As reported here, 800,000 mini-kits of soybean seed, and 74,000 packets of groundnut seeds will be distributed. According to another source, the plan, which was valued at 233 crore or 2.33 billion rupees ($31.5 million) will commence in June. Soybean varieties that can yield at least 20 quintals per hectare are destined for farmers in in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Telangana Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, while seeds of groundnuts (peanuts) would be distributed in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Crop diversification input subsidies offered to Chhattisgarh farmers: May 20: Input subsidies of between INR 9,000 to 10,000 ($124-138) per acre are being offered to Chhattisgarh farmers who opt on growing a number of target crops in the coming this kharif seasons, including paddy, maize, soyabean and sugarcane, kodo-kutki and pulses. Moreover, farmers who opt to plant trees will also be eligible for subsidies for the next three years. See original article

Kerala veg farmers face double-whammy woes: May 19: As if Covid-19 complications weren’t enough, bad weather has agitated the situation for many vegetable farmers in Kaliyaroad, Elanadu, Kalappara, Pangarappilly, Adakkode, Pulakkode, Thonnoorkkara, Vattully, Panamkutti, Pazhayannur, Pottankode, Pariyaram, Meloor and Kodassery, who face continuous setbacks; despite reporting high yields this season, there reportedly are no buyers of their crops. See original article here.  

Gujarat summer crops suffer wrath of Cyclone: May 18: Swathes of cropland,  orchards and plantations in Gujarat have been obliterated by Cyclone Tauktae, especially from Gir Somnath to Bhavnagar in Saurashtra, and in South Gujarat. Assessments were ongoing, but initial reports revealed that the cyclone’s path had crossed 11 districts in the Saurashtra region, where summer crops had been sown on 304,000 hectares, which represents about a third of the total of about a million ha of summer crops sown in the state. Cropping there included bajra, sesamum, green gram, groundnut, pearl millet, and black gram. Aside from this, paddy crops had also been damaged in Ahmedabad, Sanand, Bavla and Dholka as well as Surat and adjoining districts. Original report here

Rapid storms lash Kashmir crops: May 17: Hailstorms and thundershowers, which reportedly lasted only 20 minutes, have badly damaged crops in agricultural villages across Kashmir. The extent of loss for farmers in badly affected parts of Handwara and Kulgam was preliminarily reported to be around 40 per cent.  Damage  to orchards, walnut trees and other standing crops in many villages of Handwara was also reported, including in Mawer, Qaziabad, Rajwar and Ramhall, while damage to apple, cherry, apricot and peach crops was also suffered in Shopian and Kulgam districts, including  Kanjiullar, Check Kachdora, Vehil, Wangam, Nehama, Lakhdipora, Bathipora and Chugalpora. Original news here

India is key market for EWS: May 15: East-West Seed Global CEO, Douwe Zijp, in an interview with Hindustan Times, revealed how important the Indian vegetable seed market is for his company, which he noted as “among the top six vegetable seed companies in India and aim to be among the top three by 2022.” See interview here, as well as Asian Seed Magazine’s interview with Douwe on pages 32-33 here

MP ag officers rescind soybean embargo after Maharashtra intervention: May 4: Senior agriculture officers in the districts of Indore and Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh have rescinded their previous order that banned the transport and sale of soybean seeds outside of their respective district borders. The original ban announced in April froze the movement of some 300,000-400,00 quintals of MP soybean seeds bound for Maharashtra farmers, prompting an intervention by the Maharashtra agriculture department. According to an article, Maharashtra is the largest soybean-growing state in India after Madhya Pradesh. Farmers in the former do not save and reuse seeds, and thus require 3.3 million quintals of seed for kharif planting. Original story here.

New high-yielding and pest-resistant soybean variety: 29 APR 2021: Scientists from MACS- Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, have developed a new,  higher yielding, pest-resistant soybean variety. “Using the conventional cross breeding technique they developed MACS 1407 which gives 39 quintals per hectare making it a high yielding variety and is also resistant to major insect-pests like girdle beetle, leaf miner, leaf roller, stem fly, aphids, white fly and defoliators.” reads a news release from the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India. The new variety is reportedly suitable for cultivation in Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and North-Eastern states, while “its seeds will be made available to farmers for sowing during the 2022 Kharif season.” See full press release here.

Seed sector has high hopes for good kharif season: April 26: Prompted by expectations for a good summer monsoon this year, the Indian seed industry, according to Dr Ram Kaundinya, director general of the Federation of Seed Industries of India (FSII), is optimistic about a good sales for a number of key kharif crop seeds, including cotton, soybean and maize, though sales of vegetable seed are expected to lower than usual, citing labor challenges linked to lockdown-induced migration challenges. Original story here.

Timely topics broken down by experts: April 26:  Agriculture economist Dr Sudha Narayan and Godrej Agrovet Ltd Managing Director, Balram Singh Yadav were interviewed by the Indian Express on number of timely topics in Indian agriculture, including the impacts of Covid-19, and three new controversial farm laws and trends with oilseed and maize hybridization covered. See, listen to full interview here.

East-West Seed Wins Best Private Sector Extension Award:  9 Apr: East-West Seed India has been awarded the Best Private Sector Extension Service Award by the India Agri-Extension Awards 2021, instituted by a leading Agri Trade Journal Agriculture Today for exemplary contribution in agricultural extension for farmers empowerment in India & beyond through organizing Knowledge Transfer activities. Instituted by the Agriculture Today Group, the awards salute achievers and role models in the field of agricultural extension.More details on the awards here

Telangana to launch India's First QR Code Seed Tracing System: 6 Apr: Following on from the Ministry of Agriculture's announcement of the adoption of a traceability system in 2019 to help secure the supply of quality seed for farmers, Telangana plans on introducing the country's first system. Utilising a Quick Response (QR) code, the system will be used for seeds that have been certified by Telangana State Seed and Organic Certification Authority (TSSOCA) and TS Seed Development Corporation (TSSDC). The code will contain information about the seed crossing two generations including the location and dates of production and packaging, and also details of the supplier of the breeder seed.  Around 330,000 tonnes of various seed crops were produced in Telangana and certified by the two agencies during 2019-2020.  Original story here

Farmers Continue to Favour Illegal HTBT Cotton Seeds: Apr 6: A farmers' union in Maharashtra has warned that farming of the unapproved HTBt cotton strain will account for over 50% of the cotton farmed in the state this kharif season (starting in July), up from 25-35% in the previous year. The strain is also popular among farmers in Gujarat, Telangana and Andhra despite a potential fine of USD 1,300 and up to 5 years imprisonment for growing, selling, or storing the seeds. The reason for its popularity is due to its strong resistance to herbicides such as Glyphosate herbicide that are used to clear weeds. The increase has caused concern from the Seed Industries Association of Maharashtra (SIAM). “The seed industry is suffering because of the illegal trade of HTBt. We strongly oppose any move to encourage farmers to cultivate banned variety and appeal to the government to act in the matter,” said SB Wankhede, Executive Director of SIAM. Original story here

Supply of cotton seeds might become tight: Apr 3: Due to the rising price of cotton, which is trending higher at USD 8 per kilogram against the minimum support price of USD 7.34 per kilogram, it is expected that farmers may increase production from the previous 12 million hectares. However, the supply of cotton seeds has been affected by a fall in production and quality due to heavy rains last year in Telangana and Tamil Nadu, India’s main cotton seed producing states, where production fell by as much as 20-25%. Despite this, seed industry leaders remain optimistic “we are confident that we can meet the demand for the season,” said M Prabhakahara Rao, President of National Seed Association of India (NSAI). Read original story here

BG 2 Cotton Seed Price Increased by 5%: Apr 1: The price of BG-2 cotton seeds, which are genetically modified seeds produced by Kaveri Seeds and Bayer, has been increased by the government from USD 10.24 per 450-gram packet from last year’s price of USD 9.74, representing a 5% increase. However, the price of BG-1 cotton seed remains unchanged at USD 8.46 per 450-gram pack. The move was welcomed as a step in the right direction by the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSI), who argue that price controls should be removed completely in order to encourage investment in seed breeding and technology. Original story here 


Q1 News

Over 5.6 Million Hectare of Kharif Rice Sown So Far: Mar 26: With 48% of winter crops harvested farmers have slowly begun planting summer (kharif) crops such as rice across the country, rice is slowly picking up and has so far covered 5.65 million hectare across the country according to figures from Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare. According to the data, rice has been sown in 3.69 million hectare this season, up from 3.16 million hectares last year. Original story here 

Government Pushing Direct Rice Seeding Technique in Punjab: Mar 22: The Agriculture Department in the state of Punjab is aiming to double the area of rice planted using the Direct Rice Seeding (DSR) technique. In the 2020-21 season roughly 400,000 hectares of a total 2.5 million hectares was sowed using DSR, which helps to reduce water consumption. This year the target is 800,000 hectares and the government will monitor the areas sown and assist farmers who experience issues using the new technique. Farmers are encouraged to use the PR-126 variety which is ideally suited for DSR. Original story here

Himachal in push to increase production of crop seeds: Mar 12: Himachal Pradesh has launched a pilot project with 12 farms and 130 farmer groups with the aim of promoting the production of seeds for major food crops within the state. Himachal Pradesh had previously relied on mostly imported seeds from other states with only 1% of the total cultivated area in the state under certified seed production. During 2019-20 Himachal had imported between 80 to 100% of high-yielding varieties (HYV), including 100% of maize, millets, barley and vegetables HYV seeds. Original story here

Farmer protests of agriculture liberalization laws: For months farmer groups have been protesting in and around the Indian capital, attracting global media attention. According to various sources, the farmers are demanding the repeal of new laws that deregulate agriculture. There is resistance because it is reported that the new laws would disrupt conventional Indian system for subsidies and price guarantees through what is known as Minimum Support Prices or MSPs. For decades, farmers have been selling their harvested produce locally, in government-sanctioned markets called mandis, where they have been guaranteed MSPs for key commodities. By liberalizing this ‘middlemen’ system, farmers would be free to sell their crops to anyone, anywhere. Some smallholder farmers are protesting that they won’t be able to move their crops to markets and buyers outside their state, and thus would be disadvantaged. Nonetheless, the Indian PM Prime Minister insists the new laws will boost farmers' income and productivity and lure private investment into an agricultural sector. See PBS story here.

Biometric system to facilitate direct digital payments: February 2021: The Central government has asked the State governments of Punjab and Haryana to ensure direct online payment for crops procured at minimum support price (MSP). This is to ensure farmers can get the full benefit of the MSP offered by the government.  Previously, the system in the two main paddy and wheat producing states, middlemen called “arhtiyas” served as a go between through local mandis. The state of Uttar Pradesh has started to implement a biometric authentication system to facilitate such direct digital payments to farmers. It has been reported that three other States -- Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh -- are also planning to adopt the biometric model. See news report here.

MP wheat procurement target on high: February 2021: Madhya Pradesh has increased its wheat procurement target for this rabi season to 12.5 million metric tonnes. Last year, the State recorded the highest wheat procurement of 13 million tonnes. 

India’s central wheat procurement cycle starts on 15 March, with the minimum support price rising by INR 50 per quintal over last year’s INR 1,925. See full report here

To new chickpea varieties tweeted by ICAR: February 2021: To mark World Pulses Day on February 10, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)  announced via tweet the following: 2 Chickpea varieties - “Pusa Chickpea 10216 (drought tolerant)” & “Super Annigeri-1 (Wilt resistant)” developed through genomic intervention in breeding to improve old, popular & adapted varieties of Chickpea. See original tweet here

Hail, thunderstorms lash Maharashtra crops: February 2021: Some 20,000 hectares of crops were lashed by hail and thunderstorms throughout the state Maharashtra , including in the districts of Buldhana, Jalna, Nanded, Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon and Sangli. A total of 5.8 million hectares of rabi crops had been planted in the state. Of the damaged crops include mostly wheat and bajra, while concerns have been expressed over the fate of onion crops in Nashik. See report here.

Untimely hail strikes surprise in Karnataka villages: February 2021: Officials from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in Bengaluru were reportedly surprised to learn about unseasonal hailstorms, which destroyed crops in villages in Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru. Affected villages were Nidtha, Mulluru, Gudugalale, Ankanahalli and Dundalli in Shanivarsanthe hobli. Read reports by the New Indian Express and the Indian Express

Sundargarh farmers selling paddy below MSP: February 2021: Farmers in the tribal-dominated Sundargarh district in the State of Odisha, have reportedly been selling their paddy crop at for as low as INR 1,000 ($13.82) per quintal. The minimum support price (MSP) is INR 1,868 ($25.82). Out of a total 309,000 hectare of paddy farms, farms in Sundargarh yield no less than 7.7 million quintals if the benchmark of 25 quintals per ha is realized (2.5 tonnes). Out of 267,000 farmers in the district, only 46,900 were entitled to the MSP quota. Original news here.

Kerala vegetable scarcity plus fuel fluctuations driving inflation: February 2021: The price of vegetables and other perishable items have reportedly been skyrocketing, according to a report from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The price hikes are being linked to fluctuating fuel prices as well as a gap in demand and supply, which has been tight. Specifically the price of tomatoes has doubled at Palayam market. See original report here.

In favor of GM field research: February 2021: An instructor from the Economics at Vellore Institute of Technology has penned a persuasive opinion piece in what is described as the “polarised debate over genetically modified (GM) crops in India” following the approval late last year for confined field trials to new brinjal varieties for biosafety evaluation by Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in seven States. Read the opinion here

Paddy landrace, indigenous varieties preservation:  February 2021: Dr Debal Deb, an Odisha-based scientist, farmer and founder of the largest folk rice seed bank in eastern India — Vrihi Beej Binimoy Kendra -- possesses some 1,400 paddy landraces and as part of the efforts through the Thondaimandalam Foundation, since August 2019, has focused on cultivating, conserving and characterising over 150 indigenous rice varieties. Read more about the efforts here

Record bumper wheat year projected: 17 Feb, 2021:Given favorable weather, wheat production has been projected by the Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (IIWBR)  to reach a record of  115 million tonnes this year. If realized, this would equate to a 7% increase over last year, which according to the fourth advance production estimates for the crop year 2019-20 (July-June), was about 100.76 million tonne. Report here.

Israeli genomics breeding to benefit Indian startup: Hyderabad-based startup, Foragen Seeds, a forage seed startup based in Hyderabad will benefit from the work of Israeli genomics AI firm NRGene in plans to commercialise new products in the coming years. NRGene’s crop breeding programme, which covers maize, rice and chili-pepper in India, will be transferred to Foragen Seeds following the signing of an agreement, which will enable Foragen Seeds to “enhance its domain expertise, consolidate the forage business and expand footprint rapidly.” Read more about the deal here on the Hindu and here in UNI India

New disease-resistant chili varieties: February 2021: Scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (ICAR-IIHR) Hesaraghatta campus have developed five new chilli varieties following 10 years of research. As reported in local media, “whitefly-transmitted virus has been ... destroying chilli cultivation in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country.” Efforts included analyzing, selecting and breeding from a pool of 52 chili varieties to yield hybrid seeds. IIHR plans to distribute the seeds in April through Krishi Vignana Kendras across the country, coupled with extension efforts that focus on integrated disease management technology for hybrid seeds. Read more in the Times of India here. According to another, report one of the varieties is resistant to the leaf curl virus (news here).  

Bengaluru IIHR seed portal seeds booming in Northeast: February 2021: Seeds produced in and around Bengaluru and processed at the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) Hessaraghatta campus are growing in demand for “large-scale vegetable cultivation in the seven Northeast states.” The high quality seeds are marketed through IIHR’s Seed Portal (seed.iihr.res.in) under the ‘Arka’ brand. Since being launched during Covid-19 lockdowns, the seed portal has already sold INR 6 million worth of seeds, including more than 60 different varieties of 20 vegetables “and an equal number of flowers” to farmers in all 26 Indian States, especially Northeastern states, where organic cultivation of vegetables is uptrending. Read more here.

The Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) at the end of January co-organized two online events with research, breeding and seed sector partners. The first one was a webinar on “Research Priorities for Indian Seed Sector” and was jointly hosted by FSII , Delhi and Gubba Cold Storage, Hyderabad on 23rd Jan, 2021. The program consisted of a panel discussion in which some of the best brains from the seed sector and research fraternity participated. The discussion was moderated by Ram Kaundinya, Director General of FSII. The focus of the discussion was on the possible scenarios of seed research in this new decade. See webinar on Youtube here. The second event was a virtual International Conference on the topic ‘Current Scenario & Path forward for GM crops in India’. Held 28th January, 2021, FSII co-organized it with the Alliance for Agri Innovation (AAI), and the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. It saw discussions on new technologies that can address the problems of food insecurity, climate change while reducing expenses on crop inputs. The many hurdles in allowing the commercial release of genetically modified (GM) crops was also discussed. The speakers and audiences during the discussion pointed out that scientific data-based scrutiny of the GM technology is required and there is a need for public awareness to clear speculations about the technology. More than 500 participants who joined the conference included scientists, researchers, biosafety regulators, government officials, students, academicians and general public. See virtual conference on Youtube here. 

For more detailed reports on the two events, see FSII updates on this page here.

Winter crops up by 1.8 million hectares: January 2021: The total area in India sown with Rabi crops was 67. 5 million hectares, which is 1.87 million more than the same period last year. This is according to a tweet by India’s Secretary of Agriculture, Sanjay Agarwal.

Karnataka Minister wants State Seed Corporation to become model: January 2021: B C Patil, the Karnataka Minister for Agriculture was quoted in Indian media on January 14 saying he wanted the State Seed Corporation to become a national model in India. Speaking at a meeting, he cited the ‘many benefits’ farmers can reap from the services of the Seed Corporation regarding production and supply of quality seeds as well as dealing with spurious seeds. Story here

West Bengal State to address expensive seed potato: January 2021: Since potato cultivation in the Indian State of West Bengal is said to be heavily dependent on seed from Punjab and allegations have been rampant of a black market for this seed, the State agriculture department aims to address the situation. According to this report in Bengali, the price of potato seed has increased every year, which has increased cultivation costs. 

Organic scientist remembered through seed selection training: January 2021: Sastra University in Tiruchirappalli recently organised a field day event with delta farmers to commemorate the legacy of organic scientist G Nammalvar. The aim of the event was to relay the significance of traditional rice varieties.Extension activities benefited about 300 delta farmers, who learned about thee systematic procedures of seed selection during harvest. Read more in the Times of India here

TNAU promotes high yielding hybrid sunflower seeds: January 2021: Tamil Nadu Agricultural University recently detailed attributes of its ‘new’ hybrid variety of sunflower. The seeds of the hybrid variety, which were released in 2019, and are intended to be grown in rainfed areas like Namakkal, Erode, Karur, Virudhunagar and Coimbatore and are moderately disease resistant. The new variety of sunflower, named COH3 has a 90-day grow cycle, 42% oil content, and can provide a yield of 716 kg per hectare, which is reportedly between 200 kg to 250 kg higher than traditional varieties. Read story in Times of India here.

Black rice grown in Maharashtra: January 2021: Some farmers in Maharashtra’s Akola taluka have successfully grown a black rice for two successive seasons. The variety that these farmers are growing, called Neela Bhat, acquires a bluish-purple hue when cooked. Read full story on The better India here

Compensation for ‘poor quality seeds’ ordered: January 2021: The Nashik District Consumers Complaints Redressal Commission has reportedly ordered a private seed company to compensate farmers which it had sold seeds to more than four years ago, which failed to germinate. Full details on the Times of India here

Plant quarantine facility to be set up for Jammu, Kashmir: December 2020: A Post-Entry Quarantine facility is planned to be established at the Advanced Centre for Horticulture Development Zainapora Shopian. It will reportedly be developed by the National Seeds Corporation over an area of 22 hectares with funds from the National Horticulture Board, Government of India.The NSC oversees import of walnut and apple planting material for distribution in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Details here

State subsidized wheat seeds fail to germinate: December 2020: Some Bihar farmers have complained that state subsidized wheat seeds failed to germinate during a three wee sowing period. Affected farmers, in the districts of  Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and Nawada had procured seeds from a state government undertaking for seeds. An investigation by the state agriculture department found that out of a total of 19,000 quintals of wheat seeds supplied to farmers in Muzaffarpur district, at least 204 quintals failed to germinate. Moisture issues are suspected as part of the problem. Read full story on Down To Earth here

AI-directed drone wheat, paddy sowing experiments: December 2020: Experiments being carried out in the Khutahan village of Mirzapur by the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, BHU are finding out how drones can excel the rice-wheat cropping system. Integrating artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and remote sensing features drones can be used to shoot pods, seeds, and crucial nutrients in the soil, not only reducing costs, but also increasing consistency and efficiency. Read full story in Times of India here

‘Contaminated’ Indian sesame seeds recalled: December 2020: Swiss authorities have reportedly recalled shipments of sesame seeds, among other food product consignments imported from India, citing the detection of pesticides. According to this article, citing an officer from the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, muesli, sesame sauces and sesame seeds from India were recalled due to the detection of fumigation agent, ethylene oxide, which is considered to be potentially carcinogenic pesticide and thus banned in Switzerland and the European Union. 

India should woo SAARC seed markets, says NSAI writer: December 2020: If India is to “boost local industry peacefully, we must woo SAARC markets, including Pakistan, and build stronger economic relationships independent of politics,” argues Indra Shekhar Singh of National Seed Association of India in an editorial, pointing out that “ the demand and supply gap for major seeds is 88% in Nepal, 83% in Sri Lanka, 57% in Bangladesh, 53% in Pakistan and 32% in Bhutan. On the other hand, the Indian seed sector is self-sufficient, and seed growth rate in India is 12% compared to the global growth of 6-7%.” Read article in the Financial Express here

Farmer protests in capital affect supply: December 2020: Protests involving farmers in New Delhi are reportedly affecting the supply of vegetables. The protests, which were taking place at three major entry points in the Indian capital have mainly affected the supply of essential items like vegetables, fruits and other articles to the city from neighboring States. Read more on Fresh Plaza here.

 

2020 News

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DECEMBER 2020

UP govt vows to distribute vegetable seeds to farmers: December 2020:
UP State Agriculture Minister Surya Pratap Shahi promised to provide vegetable seeds for free. The announcement was made during a December 11 workshop. The news comes amidst a standoff between farmer union groups and the government, widely reported in Indian media.  Full article by The Times of India here.

Bayer enters India’s home veg garden segment: December 2020:
Bayer has revealed plans to market mini packs of its Seminis vegetable seeds. According to news reports, including this one, “the mini seed packs initially will be launched for vegetables such as bitter gourd, bottle gourd, okra and beans,” and Bayer will gradually extend the mini packs across the entire range of its Seminis hybrid seeds, available from Bayer’s Better Life Farming centres across India. The packs will come in two sizes of 25 seeds and 50 seeds. In related news in November, Bayer CropScience is partnering with agri-input e-commerce platform, BigHaat for delivery of seeds and agri-inputs, to reportedly “enable last-mile delivery of Bayer’s seeds and crop protection products directly to farmers’ doorsteps.” More details here.

Haryana Agricultural University churning out HQ seeds: December 2020:
The  Haryana Agricultural University in Hisar can now produce a large quantity of quality seeds thanks to advancements in knowledge and technology over the past two decades, especially with regard to its Ramdhan Singh Seed Farm, as well as efforts to set up new seed processing plants in recent years. Specifically the seed farm’s seed processing capacity is 30 quintals or 3 tonnes per hour. The plant had enjoyed a capital injection of Rs 5.7 million from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The plant is automated, and equipped with modern seed processing equipment including pre-cleaner, graders, in-line cylinders, gravity separators, elevators and seed treatments. More details here

Government considers hiking import duty oilseeds to bolster domestic production: December 2020:
With the aim of bolstering domestic oilseed production in North India, especially in Punjab and Haryana, the Indian government is considering raising import duties for imported oilseeds. The idea was discussed by senior officials at the end of November. Specifically, an import duty hike of 5% is being considered for Soyabean, Sunflower, and Rapeseed oil by 5%. According to an article here, “India currently levies 37.5% and 45% import tax respectively on crude and refined palm oil. Imports of crude soybean oil, crude sunflower oil and rapeseed oil attract 35% import duty. India annually imports around 15 million tonnes of edible oils, including more than 9 million tonnes of palm oil and about 2.5 million tonnes each of soy oil and sunflower oil.”

Poor germination of seeds cited for farmers going indy: November 2020:
According to an article by The Hindu Business Online “early germination failure of soyabean seeds this July saw … an increasing number of soybean and onion farmers deciding to develop seed plots, so that they don’t have to buy seeds from private seed companies.” Article here.

Maharashtra govt tells firms to disclose hybrid seed production tech on packets: November 2020.
The government of Maharashtra State has reportedly ordered companies selling hybrid cotton seeds to specify on packets details about technology used in production. The order was made on the assumption that such information could increase the value of seeds. However, seed companies and other industry bodies have questioned the order, claiming it would result in higher cost and hinder inter-State movement of seeds.  More details here.

 


AUGUST 2020

PBW Infestation in Maharashtra cotton

An infestation of pink bollworm (PBW) has been detected in Maharashtra’s cotton fields. The infestation in at least 51 villages mainly was in fields that were sown before the first week of June. According to Indian Express article, cotton has been sown on a total of 4.18 million hectares in Maharashtra this season. 

First installment paid for cotton diversification in Haryana  

Just over a million rupees will be dispersed to farmers in 17 districts of Haryana who diversified from paddy to cotton as part of a government incentive. The initial installment of INR 2,000 will be paid for verified land spanning 20,420 hectares in Sirsa, Fatehabad, Jind, Hisar, Kaithal, Jhajjar, Bhiwani, Charkhi Dadri, Sonepat, Rohtak, Faridabad, Palwal, Rewari, Mewat, Gurugram, Panipat and Karnal districts. The outstanding payment of INR 5,000 will be paid once the crop is in maturing stage. Reports the Indian Express here.

Odisha district short on rain in July, which could dry out steep paddy targets

ODISHA: The district of Sambalpur has reported inadequate rainfall in July, despite plentiful rain reported in June. The lack of rain since has particularly affected farmers in non-irrigated belts of the district, which reported getting 261.22 mm of rain in July, where as it usually averages 429.5 mm during the month. In June, it had gotten 321.11 mm, which is 45.29% more than the month’s average of 221 mm. According to the New Indian Express, quoting the district chief agriculture officer and Agriculture department, high yielding, hybrid and local varieties of paddy were planned to be cultivated on some 104,970 hectares, which was expected to yield  427,760 tonnes this kharif season.

Record Kuruvai paddy season

CHENNAI: Kuruvai  -- short-term season for crop cultivation in the cauvery Delta of Tamil Nadu -- cropping season has peaked successfully this year “thanks to the proactive steps taken by the State government”. By August 3, Kuruvai paddy cultivation was confirmed on 387,000 acres, which is reportedly the highest for Kuruvai season during the past three decades -- 106,700 acres than the previous year, when only 280,030 acres were cultivated. This year, 650,000 tonnes tonnes of paddy are expected to be harvested.  Increased cropping is credited to precision farming techniques and direct sowing. New Indian Express reports

Hopes high for record kharif season

Despite some rain deficit in July, it is expected that India will see a record kharif cropping season this year if things continue to go well. Up to August 7, the overall area planted during this kharif cycle is 10% higher than last year, which includes a 17% year-on-year increase in area sown with rie, + 15% for oilseeds, and +44% for groundnuts. Moreover, the area sown with pulses, coarse cereals and cotton increased 4.20%, 3.70% and 4.10%, respectively. More details on the Economic Times India here. According to some perspectives, however, such as in this article with reference figures, increased planting and yields will not necessarily be reflected in farmers incomes. 

Flooding, excess rain and moisture problems in many States

In August there have been many reports of excess rainfall, overflowing waterways and waterlogging conditions causing issues for crops in several Indian States, including in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana and Karnataka. In Andhra Pradesh, according to this video report the Krishna River in Andhra Pradesh has flooded, causing damage to thousands of acres of chilli, cotton and paddy crops. Meanwhile farmers in several districts in Odisha have also suffered. In Kendrapara, a low pressure system in the Bay of Bengal was the source of waterlogging and damaged crops causing prices of vegetable crops like radish, lady finger, beans, brinjal and pointed gourd surged as a result. Farmers there had also been affected by lost crops from a cyclone in May. Likewise, in Jagatsinghpur district, some 25,000 hectares of paddy crops across Balikuda, Erasama, Tirtol, Raghunathpur, Biridi and Jagatsinghpur blocks were inundated by rainwater that would not drain. In Bhubaneswar, District  Collectors in 10 districts were directed by State Government to submit detailed reports on the damage due to the heavy rainfall. In Telangana, downpours inundated fields in Warangal, Bhupalpally, Karimnagar, Siddipet, Nalgonda, Mahbubnagar and Khammam, causingg damage to human life, property an crops, including across thousands of acres of paddy, cotton, green gram, red gram, black gram, papaya, banana, guava, castor, groundnut, red chilli and other vegetable fields.

New Delhi farmers pending compensation

Crops on no less than 500 acres of farmland in southwest Delhi was reportedly damaged by recent rains, and the government had initiated the process to compensate farmers following an initial damage assessment. The farmland flooded after excess rains caused the overflowing of the Nazafgarh drain, reports the New Indian Express.

Onion crops in Karnataka threatened by blotch, bulb rot

Onion crops being cultivated on some 16,500 hectares in the district of Chitradurga risk damage or destruction form purple blotch and bulb rot disease linked to heavy rainfall and moisture in the aiir. According to this report by the New Indian Express, productivity in the district is between 125 -150 quintals per hectare, and the onion price this year has fallen to between INR500-1,000 from INR2,700-45000 last year. 

Odisha govt scraps 6-year-old agri-clinic plans, funds returned

The Odisha State Government has dropped plans to offer “Agri Clinics” following six years of inactivity, citing “improper planning and lack of support from identified primary societies”. According to this article by the New Indian Express, the government had allocated funds in the 2014-15 financial year to establish the clinics in cooperation with 40 identified Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies (PACS) and Large Area Multi-purpose Cooperative Societies (LAMPS), which were intended to “provide expert advice and services to farmers on various technologies including soil health, cropping practices, plant protection, crop insurance, post-harvest technology and clinical services for animals, feed and fodder management, prices of various crops in the market which would enhance productivity of crops/animals and ensure increased income to farmers.” However, the plans were dropped and unused funds ceded. 

Wrong photo-period variety suspected of paddy failure in Tamil Nadu

At least 160 paddy farmers in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvannamalai district have reported crop failure after their crops did not flower despite “growing well”. The farmers in  Mandakolathur, Polur, Kalambur, Santhavasal and Mandakolathur had reportedly purchased seeds produced in Andhra Pradesh. According to an initial diagnosis from inspections, it was believed that the seeds they used were photosynthetic sensitive, which had provided good yields during a previous “Samba” sowing period (long duration variety sown around August), however the variety was now planted in the Sornavari (planting in April / May) which requires a short duration variety. An investigation is ongoing.  The New Indian Express reports.

100% FDI requested for tobacco 

A multi-party committee of the Indian Parliament has requested for a 1% tax on cigarettes to help tobacco farmers, and also to allow 100% FDI in tobacco production and cigarette manufacturing. According to this article by the Hindustan Times, India is the third leading producer and exporter of tobacco and tobacco products, after Brazil and China, having contributed about INR 227 370,000,000 ($3.1bn) in excise revenue during the last financial year. 100% FDI in India’s agriculture sector currently is permitted for tea, coffee, rubber and cardamom plantation and cultivations. More details here

JUNE AND JULY 2020

Praise for kharif crop boosted MSP 

This article by The Hindu Business Online looks at the reasoning behind revised minimum support price (MSP) for kharif crops for 2020-21 fiscal year, which were boosted in June for various crops, including groundnut, sesamum, sunflower, soybean and niger, jowar, bajra, ragi maize, tur, moong, urad and paddy at an average of 3 to 9%. 

Mixed monsoon weather raises cropping concern

Despite bountiful rains in June, the southwest monsoon had weakened in July according to India Meteorological Department data cited in this report by the Business Standard, which notes that about a third of the 685 districts in the country had not gotten adequate rainfall. Most of the districts that suffered in July were in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The deficit of rain had thus negatively affected kharif season cropping, especially in the districts of Odisha, as this New Indian Express article on July 20 highlights. In contrast, this report in the Financial Express says that “higher than normal monsoon rainfall” of about 5% had resulted in a 19% increase in kharif crop sowing this year, which raises some concerns about crop prices. Bihar has particularly reported excess rains, recording 50% more than normal in June and July, reports the Times of India

Two new weather apps released

Two smartphone apps were launched in late July by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences launched. The Meghdoot app was developed jointly by  the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and the Digital Agriculture & Youth team at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The Mausam app, which provides updates on current weather, forecasts, warnings and Radar images. Both apps are available on the Google Play Store (Mausam/Meghdoot) and App store (Mausam/Meghdoot).

ICAR celebrates 92nd anniversary 

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) celebrated its 92nd foundation day on July 16. To honor the occasion, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, the Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare expressed appreciation for the efforts and contributions of the agricultural scientists of ICAR over the last nine decades. He went  on to congratulate the farming community for record production of crops during the COVID-19 lockdown… India Education Diary reports.

Mustard seed prices surge by 26% in Rajasthan

The Business Standard reports on the trend of rising mustard seed prices, which rose by 26% in four months. The spike is due to short supplies and rising “household demand for mustard oil as an immunity booster” According to the report, rape/mustard seed in the Alwar (Rajasthan) mandi were trading at 5,025 rupees per quintal in July, up from INR4,000 a quintal on April 1. In the Jaipur mandi, seed was selling for INR5,028 a quintal, up from 4,050 rupees.

Pulse sowing on the up in Tamil Nadu

This season, the total area to be sown with pulses in the Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu will likely increase to more than 12,500  hectares, up from about  10,000 previously. New Indian Express reports.

Indian flower market in ‘deep crisis’

Marigold cultivation has declined by as much as 70%, while demand for roses, chrysanthemums, gerbera, and lilies is also suffering as the floriculture industry dips deep into crisis. The Hindu Business Line reports.

FSII director on ‘Made In India’ potential 

A recent editorial by the director-general of the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) Ram Kaundinya makes a strong case for India becoming a major international seed hub. The article, published by the Hindu Business Line (also find full article here) highlights that the Indian seed industry is worth some INR18 billion (about US$2.4 billion) and that the second most populous country is self-sufficient for crop seeds, with most hybrid seed production taking place in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. In related news, Ram was also interviewed by the Economic Times, India in June, in which he made a strong case against unproductive regulation of the seed industry. 

India could be among top five of agro commodity exporters

A wire report hosted on Live Mint makes a case that India could be among the top five exporters in the world of agro commodities. The report, citing the World Trade Centre, says that India was the eighth top exporter of agro commodities in 2019, having exported US$39 billion’s worth — behind the EU, US, Brazil, China, Canada, Indonesia and Thailand. It notes that India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables but only claims 1.8% of the export market, and could claim a larger share “Through focused intervention in capacity-building”

HBBT contamination claims

This article by the Hindu Business Online reports on alleged illegal practices regarding Herbicide Tolerant (HT) Bt cotton, which is a third-generation transgenic variety of cotton developed by Monsanto/Bayer, with a Round-Up (Glyphosate-based herbicides) resistant trait. Today, there are reportedly five million packets (of 450 gm each) in circulation and it is claimed that 10-15% of cotton area has been “contaminated with illegal seeds.” The article goes on to note that the National Seed Association of India has “offered State Governments the option to sample every seed lot before the seeds are sold in the market so as to detect and remove any contaminated lots.”. The NSAI alleges that “illegal operators continue to proliferate, and contamination has reached a tipping point, endangering seed companies, especially in Andhra Pradesh.”

MoU for organic cotton seeds

The Organic and Fair Trade Cotton Secretariat (OFTC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with 11 public and private partners committing to making organic cotton seed more widely available to feed steady demand. According to the news, reported here, initial efforts will focus on the state of Madhya Pradesh and look to expand to other areas. 

MAY 2020

Seeds to be distributed directly to farmers in Andra Pradesh villages

In order to discourage farmers from travelling to urban centers to buy seeds from private traders, officials in Andhra Pradesh plan to distribute seeds directly to farmers in villages from May 18, reports The Hindu. Farmers were requested to enroll in the seed distribution scheme through village agriculture assistants. 

Tamil Nadu model for self-sufficient vegetable supply 

Despite a rough lockdown start throughout India in March and April, which has been characterized by crops rotting in fields and produce supply shortages at local markets, villages are now becoming more self-sufficient in their vegetable supply chain, reports the Times of India. The article cites as a model the state of Tamil Nadu, where the agriculture department has confirmed a daily vegetable supply of 6,000 tonnes per day, produced by some 570 farmer producer organizations, who are supplying directly to consumers. 

Summer gales destroy banana crop, rains submerge paddy crops

Many hundreds of hectares of banana plantations and rice paddy have been damaged by strong winds and rain in Tamil Nadu in April and May. Reports the New Indian Express, the adverse weather particularly affected farmers in the locales of Tiruchy and Pudukai. 

Tobacco farmers, industry in distress

The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) on behalf of millions of tobacco farmers and workers in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat has appealed to the government to ease on lockdown restrictions that have inhibited the auction and trade of tobacco crops and products, while weakening demand at the same time, reports the Siasat Daily.

DAP fertilizer production sinks 38% in April

The production of Diammonium phosphate (DAP) in India experienced an 18-month low in April, reports Argus Media, citing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions since March. According to figures cited, DAP production in India in April reached about 260,000 tonnes, which was the lowest since November 2018, and represented a 38% drop from the same month last year. 

Maharashtra farmers hesitant about Kharif season sowing 

Farmers in the State of Maharashtra are unsure what crops they should plant for the coming Khariff or summer/rainy season. According to the New Indian Express, cotton and corn farmers had suffered from unfavorable market prices for their produce, and many of them can’t access the usual market channels and are without storage options. 

State Govt mulls legal action against tomato virus rumour mongers

After invalidated reports about a new mysterious ‘deadly virus’ targeting  tomato crops and consumers in Maharashtra was broadcast on local TV stations in Maharashtra, farmers were unable to sell their produce, which were left to rot in fields and markets. According to one ‘fact check’ article, broadcasts allegedly claimed that the virus, which has been referred to as “Tiranga Virus” was somehow linked to coronavirus, though no verification or evidence had been provided to support such claims. The Times of India reports that state officials intervened after affected farmers demanded for action. Samples have been sent to Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Bengaluru, for analysis.  

Punjab seed dealer raided, charged

A seed shop in the Punjab city of Ludhiana was raided by officials, who seized seed samples, bill books and other documents, while charging the dealer under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code. As reported by Hindustan Times, the dealer is accused of selling “spurious” paddy seeds at high prices. An investigation is ongoing. 

Nagaland crops devastated by bad weather

Heavy rainfall, thunder squalls and hailstorms in the first few weeks of May have reportedly destroyed crops on no less than 522.45 hectares in 11 districts, with most of the affected crops being maize, tomato, kholar, potato, watermelon, cucumber, cabbage, carrots, beans and yams, reports East Mojo.

Marigolds as an alternative in Tamil Nadu

Plans are in place to mass cultivate marigold (Saamanthi Poo) in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu following a successful pilot planting of 10,000 flowers on one acre in the Kollidam block of Mayiladuthurai district. The crop provides an alternative or complementary crop for farmers who typically plant jasmine flowers, paddy, cotton, pulses and cashew, coconuts and casuarina, reports New Indian Express.

Plant clinics provide virtual diagnosis for farmers 

Some 30 plant clinics — where farmers go to diagnose plant health and disease issues — in four Indian states have now been adapted to be virtual clinics online. Such clinics were started in 2012 by bringing plant health experts to villages on a biweekly basis to examine offer diagnostics services. According to this article, since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns, there have been seven virtual plant clinic sessions, drawing participation from some 350 farmers in the states of Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Assam and Puducherry. Common issues among farmers growing jasmine flowers, groundnut, eggplant, chilli and rice include pests like bud worm, pod borer and thrips. The virtual clinics have been made possible by Chennai-based charity, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, and the nonprofit Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI).

APRIL 2020

Ag operations, workers permitted during Phase 2 of lockdown

The Government of India issued a new set of guidelines for the second phase of India’s lockdown, effective until at least May 3. According to an article by The New Indian Express, the government would continue to permit farming operations and farm workers to be in the field, as well as permitting “agencies engaged in procurement of agri-products, including MSP [Minimum Support Price] operations … mandis operated by the Agriculture Produce Market Committee or as notified by the state government as well as direct marketing operations by the state government or industry directly from farmers or Farmer Producers Organisations.” The article also states that the new guidelines would permit operations of tea, coffee and rubber plantations to operate with maximum 50% of their usual workers

FSII Members pledge INR90 million toward Covid-19 relief

Members of the Federation of Seed Industry of India have made substantial contributions to the Indian government and agricultural sector to support covid-19 relief measures, according to an April 23 Statement. The statement notes that FSII has been constructively engaging with the Central and State Governments in representing needs of the seed industry and in getting the necessary policy support for the processing, packing and transportation of seeds necessary for the Kharif (rainy or summer) season. Specifically, FSII members pledged more than 90 million rupees in donations which will be used towards PM Cares Fund, Chief Minister relief funds and towards other measures like procuring PPE, implementing safety measures, food distribution and awareness programmes. Click here for the full statement. 

Ag Minister, ICAR reinforces digital platforms during lockdown

The Hitavada has reported on initiatives by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), under direction from Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar to continue to ensure Agriculture institutions are maximizing the use of online communication tools, apps and courses to help farmers overcome problems arising during the continued nation-wide lockdown. Accordingly, ICAR Director General Dr Trilochan Mohapatra has confirmed that the Council is using digital platforms to provide information to farmers, with three ICAR institutes engaged in COVID-19 testing on humans; moreover, ICAR has issued a total of 1,126 national and state-specific advisories, disseminated in 15 regional language through digital platforms to reach some 54.8 million farmers. These include advisories on appropriate crop management technologies for wheat, rice, maize, pulses, millets, oilseeds, sugarcane, fiber crops, mango, citrus, banana, pomegranate, grapes, litchi, spices, flowers, vegetables, melons and plantation crops such as coconut, cocoa and tuber crops. Institutes working under ICAR in Nagpur include the Central Citrus Research Institute (CCRI), Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) and National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Utilisation Planning (NBSS&LUP).

Anticipated wheat setbacks in Madhya Pradesh

There are anticipated delays and increased expenses for the winter wheat harvest this year, extending to shortages of, and increased rental expenses of harvesters. Usually, the state depends on additional harvesters from Punjab, which are not as available due to lockdown conditions. The article notes that this year is anticipated to be a bumper crop year due to increased rainfall last year that prompted increased planting, reports India Today.

Bihar Rabi harvest almost complete thanks to abundant labor 

By the last week of April, it was estimated that 90% of Rabi crops had been harvested, with credit being given to a surplus of labourers, as reported by The New Indian Express here. According to the article, daily wages have also dropped, from 450 rupees previously, to about 300 to 350 rupees, presently. The abundance of labor in the state contrasts shortages reported in Punjab and Haryana, which are related to strict COVID-19 measures. 

High hopes for normal monsoon forecast, planting prospects 

The Register Citizen reports on early optimism for Indian agriculture this year, citing a prediction by the Indian Meteorological Department of a 40% chance for a normal monsoon rain this year, anticipated to commence on schedule between June and September for much of the country. The article notes a record monsoon last year which contributed to a bumper foodgrains year.  

Gujarat summer sowing up by 35%

The Indian Express reports that Gujarat farmers as of April 13 had sown crops for the upcoming kharif season across 891,000 hectares, which represents a 35% increase over the same period in the previous year.  The article notes that onion sowing jumped by 300%; sesame by 200% and urad by 175%. Citing figures from the state agriculture department, the planting was higher than the three-year kharif seasonal sowing average of 758,000 ha. The leading planted crop was bajra , sown acros 251,000 ha, followed by banaskantha (152k ha). 

Jute seeds stuck at Bangladeshi border

The Hindu Business Line on April 24 reported that as many as 50 trucks carrying nearly 1,000 tonnes of jute seeds were stuck at  Petrapol Land Port in Bangoan in North 24 Parganas district, despite the clear directive from the Central government permitting movement of seeds and other planting materials. “Indian exporters whose consignments are stranded at the border since the announcement of the nation-wide lockdown on March 24 are worried because the jute sowing season in Bangladesh is drawing to a close,” reports the article, which states that Bangladesh depends on India jute seeds for 90% of its planting. 

Odisha crops inundated, can’t reach the market and without storage options

Excess rain in many districts across Odisha are compounding hardships farmers are facing related to the coronavirus lockdown. At this time, farmers are concluding harvest of various rabi crops, including summer paddy, pulses and groundnuts, but rains have hampered their efforts, with effects reported in 19 districts, reports The New Indian Express. Likewise, this report details how standing crops over 4200 hectares were damaged following heavy rain and hailstorm in Sambalpur district on April 21. Aside from the bad weather, tomato and pumpkin farmers in Dhenkanal, Hatibari, Sankarpur, Pamal and Kamakshyanagar districts  who are sitting on surplus stocks following bumper harvests in March — are struggling to get their produce to market, as wholesale buyers aren’t able to reach them and the farmers report challenges in obtaining necessary passes to move the produce. To add to their woes, storage in the district is inadequate and much of the crop is starting to rot. 

Telangana papaya farmers at loss from lack of buyers due to covid restrictions

 Papaya farmers in Telangana’s Khammam district are sitting on a surplus of fruit that they cannot sell due to the absence of the usual buyers from Delhi. The New Indian Express reports that as a result of the nationwide lockdown, buyers of the fruit, who use to travel from key market locales such as Delhi, have not shown up. The farmers have reportedly spent around 40,000 rupees per acre, however, without buyers, they are left with a surplus and plummeting prices, which have dropped from already-low prices of 15 rupees per kg, to as low as 5 rupees/kg. 

MARCH 2020

Govt exempts farm workers, agriculture companies in nationwide lockdown

The Indian Economic Times reported on a March 27 order from the government that exempts “farm workers in the fields and farming operations by farmers, agencies engaged in procurement of agriculture products including MSPs, mandis notified by the state governments, inter and intra-state movement of harvesting and sowing related machines and manufacturing, packaging units of fertilisers, pesticides …” from the 21-day lockdown ordered from March 25, with restrictions on movements of people, citing the coronavirus pandemic. The news follows strong advocacy from the Indian seed and farm input sectors: 

Seed industry advocates for hassle-free movement or seeds, inputs 

Representatives of the Indian seed industry have been actively engaging central and state government reps to ensure there are no interruptions in the transport of seeds and other essential farm inputs across state borders during the ongoing lockdown. In India, March and May are crucial for preparing seeds for the upcoming rainy or kharif season sowing, for which around 60 percent of India’s food supply and farmers incomes are dependent.

As a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus, many State governments in India have closed borders, allowing for only the movement of essential commodities. Seeds fall under said essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act, according to an article by the Hindu Business Online; however, a  letter issued by the Cabinet Secretary to all State governments on March 22 did not explicitly mention seeds, prompting reps from the country’s two main national seed associations – the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) —  to each issue statements/letters to the government on March 23, asking for cooperation to ensure the unhindered movement of seeds and farm inputs. 

In its letter, the NSAI asked for the government to allow essential staff and workers at seed companies to continue functioning, while permitting hassle-free movement of seed crops from farmers’ fields to processing centres, between different processing centres, and from processing centres to distributors and retailers so that farmers can get seeds on time for kharif sowing. According to NSAI Program Director for Policy & Outreach, Indra Shekhar Singh in a TV interview with NewsX, seed demand in India is pegged at about 250 lakh quintals, or 2.5 million tonnes. 

In its statement, the FSII also called for unrestricted flow of seeds and other essential farm inputs, proposing the use of special food lanes at national and State toll booths, as well as “check-posts and on highways where food and agricultural input delivery vehicles can pass unhindered and are not subjected to roadblocks which might have been put up to restrict movement of people and other materials to fight the virus”  

More India coronavirus impact, Rabi cropping news:

  • Indian cooperative relieved on government exemption: IndianCooperative.com
  • Farmer labour shortage affects harvesting in Tamil Nadu: New Indian Express
  • Chili harvest affected by labour shortage in Andhra Pradesh: New Indian Express
  • Indian farmers association seeks waiver on loan interest, repayments: The Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA) on March 28 asked the government to issue a moratorium on loan repayments and interest waiver on crop loans, citing losure of shops, non-availability of pesticides and fertilizers and farm labour, reports the Times of India.
  • Crop prices slumping by as much as 50 percent: Prices of crops have slumped by between 16 and 50%, according to farmers accounts in three Indian States: Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. This is despite increased planting of Rabi crops due to high soil moisture content thanks to excess rains June to September 2019, a y-o-y increase of 10% to 165 million acres, reports Producer.com

 

  • Winter crops in wheat-belt damaged by rain: Yahoo Finance: Unseasonal torrential rains and hailstorms have damaged the winter-planted crops of millions of Indian growers, inundating wheat, potato, chickpea and rapeseed farms in large parts of the fertile northern plains. 

 

FEBRUARY 2020

APSA Founding Father, India Seed Mogul Passes Away

Dr. Chopra speaks at the First National Seed Conference in India, during the early years of APSA.

Dr Kuldip Raj Chopra, researcher, entrepreneur, co-founder and honorary lifetime member of APSA, passed away on the 6th February, aged 86. Obsequies were held in Hyderabad. A seed industry giant, Dr. Chapra’s career spanned more than half a century – his influence felt by farmers in their fields, in academia, business and in government.

The founder of Mahendra Hybrid Seed Co. Pvt. Ltd., he graduated in 1953 from Allahabad Agricultural Institute, took his Master’s in Agriculture Botany in 1956 and his PhD in Agronomy from the University of Nebraska. His professional career began as a research assistant with the All India Coordinated Maize Improvement Project wherein the Indian Council on Agricultural Research (ICAR), state agriculture universities and the Rockefeller Foundation cooperated in collecting, characterizing and developing stable, high yielding lines of disease and pest tolerant germplasm for adaptable Maize Hybrids (1957-59) at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi.

To honor his legacy and achievements Asian Seed will feature Dr. Chopra in the upcoming Q1 edition, out March, 2020. Stand by.  

 

10th NSAI Indian Seed Congress in Delhi

L-R: RK Trivedi, Sudhir Kansal, Siddhartha Sen, Dineshbhai Patel, K Praveen, KS Narayanswamy, M Prabhakar Rao, Ashwini Garg, Ch Rambabu

Held 15-17 February t JW Marriot, Aerocity in New Delhi, the 10th NSAI Indian Seed Congress brought together hundreds of seed industry company reps, scientists,agro-specialists and government officials from across India, the region and the globe. The meeting, which is the annual flagship event of the National Seed Association of India, featured a number of lively technical sessions to promote dialogue, discussion and discourse on how to best develop and strengthen the Indian seed sector. Various common topics were covered, including Farmers and Breeders rights; varietal development and innovation, seed certification and registration systems and all related regulations and laws outstanding, including a status update of the 2019 Draft Seed Bill.

A number of noteworthy highlights were reported by leading national business news outlets. The Hindu Business Line reports that plans were revealed at the Congress by the UP State Agriculture Minister to create special seed zones across UP to make quality seeds available to its farmers; the Agricultural Secretary promised to prioritize the fasttrack of seed certification and export applications; and the NSAI President pushed for government stimulus and for establishing seed hubs across all of India’s Agro-climatic zones.
Another hot topic addressed was the status and update of the 2019 Draft Seed Bill, as Union Minister for Agriculture of India pledged “all possible support to help the seed industry to grow”.

Five technical sessions were held on 16 and 17 February as follows:

  • The opening session on February 16 afternoon, titled “Progress in innovation for harnessing Genetic Gains for Plant variety improvement”, was chaired by Dr Kuldeep Singh, Director, and National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR).
  • The second session, also on February 16, “Trends in seed industry: Potential Drivers for profitable agriculture” was chaired by Dr S K Malhotra, Agriculture Commissioner, MoAF, Govt of India
  • The third session, held on February 17 morning, “Key enablers for the growth of seed business” was chaired by Dr VK Gaur, the Chairman and Managing Director of India’s National Seeds Corporation
  • The fourth session, held on February 17 afternoon, “Seed quality regulation and IPR regime in India” was chaired by Dr KV Prabhu, Chairperson at the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, Govt. of India; and co-chaired by Dr D K Yadava, Assistant Director General (Seeds), ICAR.
  • The fifth and final session of the Congress was NSAI’s CEO forum, which brought together 10 panelists to diliberate on the topic of “Envisioning Indian seed industry in the next decade: Priorities for shaping an action agenda”. It was chaired by Shri S K Pattanayak, Director General, ASCI, Hyderabad/ Joint Secretary (Seeds), MoAF, Govt of India.

The NSAI is working on a comprehensive report of the proceedings. For more information, visit nsai.co.in/isc2020/

Okra virus insurance lauded as Advanta bags two Innovation Awards.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) recognized Advanta for its innovation excellence in two categories:

  • Top 25 Innovative Companies of 2019
  • Top Innovative Company (Special Category) in Manufacturing Agri Products

Advanta’s Okra Assurance Scheme was commended as an innovative solution dedicated to enhancing farmer prosperity. Through the Okra Assurance Scheme, Advanta offers smallholder farmers seed insurance against yellow vein mosaic virus and okra leaf curl virus on its Jaani hybrid, at no extra cost. The scheme is the first of its kind as other insurance schemes only protect against weather anomalies. Seeds represent the most critical investment for farmers. Guaranteeing a virus free crop, especially during the critical early growth stages, gained immense popularity amongst okra farmers propelling Advanta to become the number one okra seed player in India.

The Innovation Award recognition reaffirms Advanta’s vision to sustainably serve farmers with high quality seeds technology and innovative agriculture solutions. Innovation, a core pillar of Advanta, has been instrumental in delivering in-house new products and technology to address farmer’s needs amidst climate change and fast changing consumer demands. Through this cross functional approach, Advanta is driving innovation and synergy across its functions and riding on a steady growth curve. To ensure Advanta’s value added products maximize its outreach to small and marginal farmers, innovative marketing campaigns with value added services has become an integral business process. The Industrial Innovation Award is a boost to Advanta team to further drive and manage innovation across the organization.

The CII Industrial Innovation Awards were instituted in 2014 to identify and celebrate innovative Indian enterprises across industry segments and sectors. In the last five years, these awards have established themselves as one of the most coveted innovation awards in the country. The awards evaluate new processes, products, services, technologies, and other innovations that can fuel growth in the industry. They also assess new ideas and approaches along with tangible results.

The Award ceremony was hosted by CII, the apex industry body, at the Indian R&D Ecosystem Conclave, New Delhi on Dec 18, 2019. Awards were presented by eminent dignitaries, namely Mr. Ratan P Watal, Member Secretary, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, GoI; Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the GoI; and Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Past President, CII, Chairman, CII National Start-up Council and CII AI forum.

Salinity-tolerant paddy successfully trialed in low-lying area o Tamil Nadu

The New Indian Express reports on successful trials with a new salinity- tolerant variety of paddy in low-lying town of Thalainayar, which is in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. The new variety, CSR-36, was produced by ICAR-Central Soil Salinity Research Institute in Karnal in Haryana, and can reportedly be harvested in 135 days after planting. One farmer quoted said he had harvested 2.5 tonnes from his crop planted on one acre. The variety was developed to address challenges of the town which had suffered flooding and salinity issues, forcing farmers there to plant in January/February instead, when farmers elsewhere were harvesting.

Chilies damaged by ‘untimely rain’ in Telangana

Farmers in five mandals of Telengana’s Khammam district blame untimely rain early in February for damages to chili crops that were left exposed to dry. According to the New Indian Express, the farmers in Kusumanchi, Nelakondapalli, Tirumalayapalem, Khammam rural and Mudigonda were mostly asleep when the rain swept through and drenched their drying chillies. 

Summer, winter seed kits provided for Punjab

To promote gardening and self-sufficiency, the Horticulture Department in Punjab has prepared some 25,000 seed kits for locals, reports the Tribune India. The kits, sold for 80 rupees, contain seeds for ten “summer” vegetables. Namely, bottle gourd, sponge gourd, pumpkin, bitter gourd, tinda, long melon, lobia, cluster beans, ladyfinger and muskmelon. The article also notes that winter seed packets had also been distributed previously. They contained seeds for Radish, carrot, turnip, methi, spinach, coriander, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, black carrot and lettuce.

Locals prefer indigenous crops over high yielding govt seeds

Mongbay India reports on the annual seed festival recently held in Nayaghar district, Odisha, where several villagers were interviewed about their preference for indienous seeds over high-yielding varieties (HYV) provided by the government. The villagers claim their indigenous seeds are more resilient to local conditions, and climate change. 

DECEMBER 2019 & JANUARY 2020

Delhi hosts 10th NSAI Indian Seed Congress

The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) is organizing the 10th edition of its flagship annual event: “Indian Seed Congress-2020” is set for 16 and 17 February at the JW Marriott, Aerocity, New Delhi. According to the NSAI, the event will attract delegates from nearly 500 national and global seed companies, allied agri-sector companies in seed processing machinery and seed treatment chemicals, members of public and private sector institutions, farmers, and students. The Congress provides for a multi-disciplinary and a vibrant platform for the seed and agri-input industry to interact closely with multiple stakeholders including, scientific and technology development professionals, commercial and business professionals, farmers, entrepreneurs and policy makers. Apart from inaugural and plenary sessions, exhibition and trading tables, the two-day technical sessions which enable comprehensive deliberations and discussions on scientific, technological, regulatory and business developments have always been the core attraction of ISC. Continuing with the tradition, ISC 2020 has been designed with enriching themes which have significant impact on agriculture sector and seed industry. For various technical sessions, the organizing committee has identified subject matter experts to present their views in alignment with the challenges and prospects of Indian seed industry. More info and registration on the event website.

Industry mulls impacts of Draft Seed Bill 

Seed industry representatives have formally submitted feedback to the Government of India regarding the pending draft Seed Bill 2019, which aims to replace the Seed Bill of 1966. Among the new provisions featured in the draft bill include compulsory registration of seed varieties based on VCU (value for cultivation and use), as well as evaluation and licensing of seed producers and processors. There are also provisions for price controls in the event of an “emergency”,  for example, as well as proposed definitions that differentiate between Seed Producer, Processor and the Dealer for licensing purposes. Comments formally submitted by the National Seed Industry of India (NSAI) and the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) mostly concern harmonizing, rectifying and/or aligning the bill with other relevant legislation and regulations, such as the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act and Consumer Protection Act. A number of international APSA members with operations in India are closely monitoring developments with the drafting process, as the provisions could potentially have significant implications for conducting seed business in the world’s second most populous country, particularly with respect to provisions proposed for price controls and the transparency and clarity of certain terms. The latest draft can be downloaded here. For the latest updates, questions and comments about the draft bill, please address India’s National Seed Associations:

India drafts guidelines for gene-editing regulatory framework

India’s Department of Biotechnology on On 9 Jan released a draft document “Genome Edited Organisms: Regulatory Framework and Guidelines for Risk Assessment”. As shared in an announcement from the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), the draft genome editing guideline is an unprecedented move to regulate genome editing technology under the existing biotech regulatory framework set in rules of the Environment Protection Act.

FSII has summarized the following salient features of the draft regulatory guideline on genome editing technology:

Genome edited products would be regulated under the existing EPA Rules 1989 & other applicable laws, Acts, and procedures governing Genome Editing

A tiered approach for risk assessment of genome-edited organisms and products derived thereof

Genome editing organisms (GEd organism) will be grouped into three regulatory categories: 

  • GEd Group I include GEd cells/organisms harbouring single or few base pair edits or small deletions like SDN-1, ODM, etc (To be regulated at IBSC/RCGM level)
  • GEd Group II include GEd cells/organisms harbouring targeted few/several base pair edits like SDN-2 (to be regulated at RCGM/GEAC level)
  • GEd Group III include GEd cells/organisms harbouring targeted edit(s) synthetic/foreign DNA like in SDN-3 (To be regulated at GEAC level)

Draft genome editing guidelines cover a broad range of Genome edited organisms GEd organisms, products, processes including plant, animal and human somatic cell excluding human germline editing.

Institutional mechanisms for governance & oversight of genome-edited products shall be divided into two layers e.g. Self-Governance (both individual & collaborative projects) and Institutional Governance

 The draft guidelines on genome-edited organisms can be downloaded here

Bountiful sowing of winter crops reported in Gujarat

The Indian Express reports that farmers in the Indian state of Gujarat significantly increased planting of winter season (Rabi) crops this season thanks to a bountiful monsoon. Rabi crops were planted across some 3.96 million hectares (39.66 lakh hectares), which represents an increase of 27 % over the past three years’ average sowing (3.11mn ha).  Citing data from the state agriculture department, the articcle notes the main crops with increased planting this season as: wheat (1.39mn ha), fodder (575,000 ha), cumin or jeera (487,000 ha) and gram (377,000 ha). The article provides detailed statistics on a locale and year-on-year comparison basis.