International conference for plant health management: Experts advocate innovation and sustainability in agriculture

Innovation and a sustainable approach to agriculture hold the key to addressing plant health challenges and increasing crop production in the country, experts are of the opinion. Addressing a Conference on Plant Health Management (ICPHM) 2023 in Hyderabad, M Raghunandan Rao, Secretary and APC, Govt of Telangana & VC- Prof. Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) underlined the importance of a sustainable approach to address plant health challenges and increase crop production through innovation and urged the scientific community to intensify efforts in tackling current agricultural challenges amid the growing world population, and diminishing arable land.

Rao was speaking at the inaugural session of the 4-day conference held at Prof. Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) recently.

During his address, he also spoke about the initiatives taken by the Telangana Government such as the Online License Management System (OLMS), and many initiatives for the benefit of farmers like RythuVedikas for making new technologies available to farmers.

Dr. S. C. Dubey, Assistant Director General (Plant Protection & Biosafety), ICAR, New Delhi underscored the importance of biosafety and traceability in facilitating agricultural exports from India.

In a compelling keynote address at the Conference, R G Agarwal, Chairman, Dhanuka Group, shed light on critical industry trends and challenges faced by farmers and the Agri-input sector, particularly in Crop Protection Chemicals. He emphasized on the importance of tackling administrative challenges and facilitating the efficient transfer of new technologies to farmers. Agarwal called for stringent actions against fraudsters exploiting farmers, underlining the necessity to enhance productivity to ensure food security.

While acknowledging India’s achievements in food security due to the hard work of farmers, scientists, and advancements in technology, Agarwal highlighted the dire need to minimize crop losses and cited data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which estimates 20-40% crop losses, equivalent to approximately ₹4 lakh crore for food grains and horticultural commodities.

Agarwal pointed out that controlling these losses could potentially feed an additional 20-25 crore of the population without increasing productivity.

He emphasized the availability of quality Agri-inputs, the adoption of the latest technologies, and urged public institutions to engage in public-private partnerships (PPPs) for better extension services to farmers.

Expressing concern over the infiltration of spurious, smuggled, and counterfeit Agri-inputs in markets across India, Agarwal highlighted a recent raid in Charlapally, Hyderabad, where materials of 24 duplicate brands were seized. He stressed the need for legal action against defaulters, advocating for cases under various sections of IPC, Trademark Act, DRI for evasion of government GST, income tax, custom duty, etc.

Agarwal criticized the repeated sampling of the same companies, labeling it as a waste of taxpayer’s money. He raised suspicions of collusion between private and public stakeholders contributing to the circulation of substandard products in the market. He requested Rao to address the issue by creating raid teams, similar to those by the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizers, to conduct raids on violators of the Insecticides Act 1968 and Rules 1971. This, he argued, would minimize the menace, ensuring farmers receive quality inputs, ultimately contributing to increased income, improved standards of living, and overall economic growth.

The four-day event drew together influential voices from all over the world for achieving UN-SDGs and eradication of hunger and malnutrition which is only possible by increasing our agricultural production.

Participating in the conference, Dr. Sagar Hanuman Singh, DG, the National Institute of Plant Health Management provided a detailed overview of the challenges faced at the administrative level. He emphasized the proper implementation of the Insecticide Act 1968 and Rules 1971, the strengthening of lab infrastructure, and the need for skilled manpower in SPTLs and RPTLs. Dr. Singh also highlighted the role of drones in future spraying technology, revealing that NIPHM is actively providing training for pilot licensing.

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