The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) on Wednesday suggested a major overhaul in India’s agricultural research and education system amid challenges such as high cultivation costs, low productivity, and climate change impacts.

NAAS president Himanshu Pathak said: “As we move ahead, there is a need to address these challenges. There is a need to transform the way agri-research and education is done in the country.”

Speaking at the NAAS Foundation Day Programme, Pathak, who is also Director-General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), said the vision for Indian agriculture should be globally competitive and sustainable farming.

Stressing on the substantial yield accrued from agricultural research, he said for every one rupee investment, the return is ₹13. “Investment in R&D is profitable. The returns in the livestock sector are even more,” he said.

Several impediments

Pathak outlined several impediments such as limited diversification, low-value addition, soil degradation, natural resource depletion and increasing pest and disease issues in the farm sector.

“We need to have research in high impact areas, diversify agriculture, focus on climate resilient varieties, low carbon, nitrogen and energy footprints to combat climate change, and integration of alternative technologies,” he said. Agriculture’s share in GDP has declined to 19.2 per cent, with fewer people depending on the sector, he said.

He suggested leveraging new tools like ICT, AI, GIS, and genome editing, which may be accepted by the government in the roadmap for next five years. The government has already set a 2047 target for the agri-sector and prepared action points, reflecting its commitment to transform the sector, Pathak said.