From Director`s Desk…

Indian agriculture is going through a transition phase as far as Agri-biotech products are concerned. The cultivation of Bt-Cotton in India has created history by covering more than 90% of the total area under cotton cultivation within a span of 10 years. It has been estimated that the income of cotton growing farmers has increased from 14.6 million USD in 2001-02 to 2100 million USD in 2012-13.  It clearly shows the impact of biotech interventions in crop improvement. Many more transgenic products are in pipeline which needs clearance from the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee). I am sure, in future, India will also embrace GM Crops, and like other countries cultivating Biotech derived crop varieties.

In the recent past genomics has been one of the most attractive areas of biotechnology across different species. Arabidopsis thaliana genome was unravelled in 2000 followed by the draft genome of both japonica and indica sub species of rice, the most important staple food of more than half of the world in 2002. Subsequently, the high quality genome sequence of japonica rice was published by the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project in 2005. Later, tomato, a representative species for half of the vegetable crops, was undertaken by the international research community for sequencing. Though tomato was initially sequenced with the traditional Sanger sequencing method, the development of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platforms provided a major thrust to sequencing efforts. Now the NGS method has become an integral part of all the whole genome sequencing projects.  It has also enabled sequencing of bread wheat, the most important cereal crop next to rice, despite having a very huge and complex genome. Till date, more than 90 plant genomes have been sequenced and almost a new genome is being decoded every month. BGI (Beijing Genome Initiative) Research Institute has launched the 3-Million Genomes Project for decoding millions of plant, animal and microbial genomes. Apart from whole genome sequencing, generation of transcriptome data has become a routine exercise, augmenting the resources to more than 75 million ESTs from around 25000 organisms in the NCBI dbEST domain. In spite of mega efforts on genome sequencing of important agricultural species are under way world over, India has yet to start such a mega genome project. Though, ICAR has started an ambitious “Genomics Platform” during the 12th plan to comprehensively consider different plants, animal, fish and microbial species for genome analysis across the domains, it will not be enough to cater to the need of a country like India which is so diverse in nature.  In this context IIAB, which is a multi-commodity   institute, will play a central role in future.

Human resource development in Agricultural Biotechnology would be one of the important mandates of IIAB. The institute will provide post-graduate and post-doctoral education in different areas of Genomics and DNA markers, Genetic Engineering, Nanobiotechnology, Diagnostics and prophylactics, which will help in developing skilled human resource in the country. I am sure   the institute will be able to meet its targets. The foundation stone of the institute was laid by the Honourable Union Minister of Agriculture Sh. Radha Mohan Singh ji on August 25, 2014. The master plan of the institute is also ready to commence building construction work.  With continued support from the council and trained human resources being deployed at IIAB, I am sure the institute will achieve new heights in the years to come and will become a hub of Agri-biotech activities in the Eastern part of India.

 

(Dr T.R. Sharma)
Director (Acting), IIAB, Ranchi