New Delhi: Dr Trilochan Mohapatra , Secretary, Department of Agriculture Research (DARE) and Director General, Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) launched the India-UK Nitrogen Fixation Centre (IUNFC) at ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal recently. Dr Mohapatra emphasized that a practicable technology of utilizing the biological nitrogen fixation would be helpful in managing the environmental pollution on account of reduced losses of excess fertilizer in the soil. DG suggested to achieve the long term objectives of this challenge programme on genetic engineering of rhizobia, rice endophytes and improving biological nitrogen fixation.
Prof Philip. S. Poole, University of Oxford, UK briefed on the BBSRC initiatives in Agricultural Nitrogen and the development of IUNFC and hoped that such research cooperation would lead to increased scientific collaborations leading to improved understanding of BNF and productivity.
Professor Ray Dixon, FRS, John Innes Centre, Norwich dwelt on the current scenario in biological nitrogen fixation and the future prospects of developing nitrogen fixing cereals and making rice more dependent on nitrogen fixation and reduce the chemical N fertilizer requirement as well as the steps required to achieve progress in such a challenging area.
Dr Mohapatra laid down the ‘Foundation Stone’ of ‘Nanotechnology Laboratory’, and inaugurated the Open Top Chambers and Composting Unit at ICAR-IISS, Bhopal.
Dr S K Chaudhari, Asst. Director General (SWM), ICAR stressed the importance of soil health assessment and briefed on the recent initiatives taken by GOI in the soil health assessment of the farmers’ fields. Earlier, Dr Ashok K. Patra, Director, ICAR-IISS, Bhopal in his welcome address outlined the priorities of ICAR-IISS.
Dr D L N Rao, Network Coordinator (Biofertilizers), the PI and Consortium leader of the project said the project will address the crucial issue of improving rhizobial strains for greater competitiveness and higher potential to fix nitrogen in pigeon pea both by natural selection and genetic engineering as also the ability of rice to benefit from nitrogen fixing endophytes.
The Virtual Joint Centres (VJC) on Agricultural Nitrogen are funded by the Department of Biotechnology, India and Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council, UK (DBT-BBRC) under the Newton- Bhabha Fund. There are 3 VJC’s on Nitrogen Fixation in UK (University of Oxford, UK; John Innes Centre, Norwich; James Hutton Institute, Dundee) and 7 in India (IISS, Bhopal; M.S. University of Baroda; NBAIM, Mau; University of Calcutta, University of Hyderabad; I.A.R.I, New Delhi and TERI, New Delhi.
The outputs of the project in the form of improved rhizobial strains for pigeonpea, improved understanding of how to enhance the ability of rice to obtain N from fixation, strong capacity building to train the next generation of researchers is expected to give strong support to programmes for enhancing BNF and saving chemical fertilizers.