Pazhankanji (fermented rice gruel) made with Palakkadan Matta rice is said to be so nourishing and filling that, once upon a time, one bowlful was usually enough to keep farmers going for an entire day in the fields. The traditional agricultural crops were bred to produce not just food for humans, but fodder for animals and organic fertilizer for the soil. These crops did not require the usage of Antibiotics, Fertilizers, Pesticides, and Water in high amounts. Indian agricultural diversity was very high that, India was estimated to have about 200,000 varieties of rice. Present-day agricultural crops are less diverse (lowering ecological stability) and require a high amount of Fertilizers. They deplete micronutrients from the soil and consume more water. Why and what is this change for?
Green Revolution in India
India experienced severe droughts during the mid-1960s receiving one-fifth of the United States wheat exports. The government of India wanted India to be self-dependent in terms of food-grain production. Traditional Indian crops could not meet the population demand. Need has come for improving the production of grains. M.S Swaminathan, a member of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IRAI), has sought the help of Norman Borlaug to receive Bourlaug’s four most promising strains of High Yielding dwarf Varieties. This created the first wave of the Green Revolution in 1965. By 1968, dwarf varieties of wheat were completely circulated in the regions of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. In 1966, “the miracle rice” IR8 variety was tested in the Philippines and in 1967; a 29-year old farmer Subba Rao first sowed 2,000 hectares of this semi-dwarf variety in Andhra Pradesh. The second wave of the Green Revolution in the 1980s encouraged the production of Fruits and Vegetables for the export market. The second wave saw a reduction in the production, and researchers blamed the hotter nights and air pollution for this.
Development of High Yielding varieties in India
Agencies like the Rockefeller froundation, Fortune foundations have looked towards intensification of agriculture and believed that the use of artificial fertilizers as supplementary to organic manures can improve the production. But, the traditional crops having longer leaf blades cannot hold the weight of fertilizer-induced extra grains (lodging). Whereas a dwarf variety with thick stems can sustain but does not yield high. Therefore, breeding a dwarf variety with a high-yield crop can produce the best of both worlds.
Borlaug, therefore, crossed the Japanese dwarf variety (Norin 10) and high-yielding American cultivar (Brevor 14) to produce dwarf wheat varieties which could sustain higher yield by use of excess fertilizers. These varieties were crossed with disease-resistant Mexican Varieties. Swaminathan, the father of the “Green Revolution in India” has crossed these varieties with Native wheat varieties.
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) crossed a dwarf variety from Taiwan (DGWG) and high-yielding variety from Indonesia (PETA) to produce IR8 which was later crossed with the native Rice varieties.
Drawbacks of Green Revolution
- Although the green revolution has effectively solved the food-grain problem in India, it still introduced modern intensive chemical farming.
- Conversion of traditional agriculture into an industrial system with costly machinery.
- Many developing nations had to rely on western agrochemical companies who were anxious to ensure higher fertilizer consumption overseas.
- Most importantly, cultivation of a selected few varieties may lead to the extinction of native varieties which show other important characteristics like disease-resistance.
- According to Debal Deb—who created a living seed bank for 1,420 varieties of native rice—only 20% of cryo-preserved seeds are now viable.
- The emergence of pesticide-resistant pests and a reduction in the natural checks on pest populations.
- Misguided use of Antibiotics and Fungicides, creating Antimicrobial Resistance.
- Water Shortage: Although high-yielding varieties of wheat may yield over 40 per cent more than traditional varieties, they need about three times as much water. In terms of water use, therefore, they are less than half as productive.