A productive seed means everything to farmer: Dr Usha Zehr

Dr Usha Barwale Zehr, chief technical officer, Mahyco in a Facebook Live programme talked about various initiative of the company as well as responded to the questions on latest trends in agri-biotech techniques

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New Delhi: During a recent Facebook Live event held online, Dr Usha Zehr Barwale, Chief Technology Officer, Mahyco India laid stress on the need to adopt latest technologies to increase the agricultural productivity.

She pointed out towards the immense benefits that can be provided to farmers by adaptation of new technologies to increase the crop yield. Explaining she said, “I actually grew up in agricultural family. I have seen farmers being happy about good seeds and enthusiastic about getting good returns. With new hybrid crops, the farmer was able to build a pakka house, get motocycle, send children to better education. Social benefits were immense.” Dr Zehr added further, “Bt cotton gave them this opportunity. Even the shopkeepers used to be excited that farmers would be coming to shop during diwali. The importance of farmers within society grew and their quality of life witnessed visible changes.”

Answering a question from the BioVoice News, Dr Zehr listed five technologies as the ones that could increase the crop production in India. Precision agriculture  The drip irrigation directly to plants, soil fertility improvement, post harvesting technology and storage process.  Improve genetics to address the environment issues, disease tolerant. Science innovation which are yet to be on farm, Science and technology approach include the genome editing which is much talked about. Phenotype technologies, social sensors, robotics. Crop choices Government of Andhra Pradesh is studying climatic change which is telling them which crops and where they must plant it.

The live chat on Facebook that was held by Mahyco on 12th January, received good response from the various stakeholders. The online participants across various locations in India and abroad asked questions to Dr Usha Zehr.

“When we talk about genetics, we should keep in mind the importance of giving a seed to farmer that helps him with productivity. Challenges include the utilization of techniques such as gene editing a non-GM approach. We will have to look at molecular breeding, genome editing, phenotyping, data analytics etc,” she said.

Dr Zehr informed that the Mahyco is working on latest technologies to increase Cotton yield. The company is also showcasing its technologies in African nations. She elaborated in response to a question, “African farmers have not got the benefit especially Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe. Currently, we are set to work in these nations and are excited to showcase our technologies.”

On the current innovations, Dr Zehr mentioned, “We have been working on GM technologies including nitrogen requirement. The challenges of water availability is a major one. We have devised salt tolerant varieties that the need of this hour.” She further emphasized that it is important to understand how the farmer cultivates the crops. “The phenotype and soil nature, water quality is important. We are using various techniques to understand soil health. The PM’s scheme i.e the Soil Health Card is an innovative way to do that.”

At Mahyco, Dr Usha Zehr is responsible for the research on plant biotechnology, technology transfer to farmers, utilization of new technologies and tools, including biotechnology for improving the quality and productivity of seeds and agriculture.