Interdisciplinary research key to making India’s Green Revolution sustainable

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Around a hundred scientists from varied disciplines, who gathered to discuss an India-UK joint research program, called for more interdisciplinary research to make Indian agriculture sustainable in a changing world and to ensure food security.

The first General Assembly of TIGR2ESS (Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies), a UK-India research program which began in 2018 and brought over 20 research institutions together, was held at ICRISAT during 20-24 January. Crop scientists, sociologists, biologists, nutrition experts and archeologists, among others, are discussing the way ahead for the program.

“The General Assembly is an important milestone for TIGR2ESS, affording us an opportunity to strengthen the interdisciplinary nature of our research and put in place plans with tangible outcomes for positive agricultural and socio-economic change in India,” said Professor Howard Griffiths, Principal Investigator for the TIGR2ESS program and the University of Cambridge’s advocate in Cambridge-India relations.

The program seeks to address four key research questions: (1) What should a sustainable revolution deliver? (2) Can crop productivity increase, whilst maintaining yield stability? (3) Can water supplies be shared to match community demand? and (4) How can we best engage and educate for local community wellbeing?

These questions are being answered by six distinct, but fully integrated, flagship projects which are heavily reliant on research collaborations, exchanges and women empowerment.

Dr Rajeev Gupta, a co-lead in Flagship Project 2, noted that multidisciplinary approach of TIGR2ESS is crucial for India’s Green Revolution to reach the next level. “Screening of several hundred lines of sorghum and pearl millet for water use efficiency is among the many areas where the project has made progress since its inception,” Dr Gupta, a Principal Scientist at ICRISAT who oversees genomics and crop trait discovery, said.

“India is among the top producers in dairy, rice, wheat and pulses. It has seen around 2% productivity gains per year in crops like pearl millet owing to hybridization and the private sector. In Africa, the productivity is either stable or declining. Why are we lagging so far in Africa?” asked Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT, while emphasizing the need for transferring the learnings and successes from the program to sub-Saharan Africa.

To strengthen collaboration between India and the UK’s scientific institutions and to build research capacity, over 50 early career researchers, from both within and beyond TIGR2ESS, are receiving training in key research skills, from writing research grant applications to deep learning with artificial intelligence during the Assembly.

To further strengthen collaboration, specifically in agriculture research, Prof Griffiths announced that a fellowship program will soon be rolled out with India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR). The fellowship will facilitate 30 Indian researchers to undertake research work at crop science universities in the UK for two years.

Project: Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies (TIGR2ESS)

Funder: Global Challenges Research Fund, UK.

Partners: (In UK and India): University of Cambridge; University of East Anglia; Rothamsted Research; National Institute of Agricultural Botany; Department of Biotechnology, (Govt. of India); Punjab Agricultural University, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, National Institute of Plant Genome Research, ICRISAT and others.See here for complete list of partners

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC)

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