- At the age of 98, M. S. Swaminathan passed away at his home in Chennai on September 28, 2023.
- This article will discuss Swaminathan’s role in the introduction of high-yielding wheat and rice varieties as well as contemporary agricultural techniques and technology, which led to a considerable rise in food production and turned India from a food-deficit country to one with a surplus of food.
Development of New Wheat Varieties
- American agronomist Norman Borlaug received an invitation in March 1963 from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) via the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
- In order to investigate the wheat crop, which was in the grain-filling stage before to harvest, Borlaug traveled to India’s major wheat-growing districts. He was accompanied by MS Swaminathan, the then head of IARI’s Botany division.
- Based on his findings, Borlaug made the decision to introduce four semi-dwarf wheat types (Sonora 63, Sonora 64, Mayo 64, and Lerma Rojo 64A) for testing in Indian circumstances. These varieties were developed as part of a study supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.
- In October 1963, these seeds reached India.
Trials and Beneficial Outcomes:
- Swaminathan set up their sowing in trial fields in several cities throughout India, including Delhi, Ludhiana, Pantnagar, Kanpur, and Pusa, after realizing the potential of these Mexican varieties.
- In multiple locations, the semi-dwarf wheat types had encouraging yield performance, demonstrating the influence of the “new plant type” and its sensitivity to high fertilizer dosages.
Government approval and national demonstrations:
- In order to demonstrate that increased yields had nothing to do with the size of the landholding and instead were a result of the new plant species, Swaminathan recommended “national demonstrations” in the fields of actual farmers, particularly smallholders.
- In August 1964, the scheme was approved by C Subramaniam, the Union minister of agriculture, over the protests of officials and economists who questioned the effectiveness of the semi-dwarf wheat.
Import of Mexican Varieties:
- India experienced back-to-back droughts in 1965–1966 and 1966–1967, which lowered food grain production.
- Swaminathan persuaded Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Subramaniam to support importing 18,250 tonnes of the two Mexican types of seeds.
- The output of food grains surged noticeably when these imported seeds were widely planted, with wheat production more than doubling.
Development of Indigenous Varieties:
- Native wheat strains like Kalyansona and Sonalika were created by Indian scientists, by segregating populations of other wheat strains given by Borlaug.
The Crucial Role of Swaminathan in the Green Revolution
- Despite having a background in potato breeding and genetics, MS Swaminathan was a key figure in India’s Green Revolution.
- He was the driving force behind India’s Green Revolution thanks to his expert planning, prowess in interacting with decision-makers, and knowledge of agricultural trends around the world.
- The contribution that Verghese Kurien made to India’s White Revolution in the dairy industry is comparable to that of Swaminathan.
Efforts to Find Modern Champions in the Face of Challenges
- The “more input, more output” concept of the Green Revolution has demonstrated decreasing returns and is unsustainable.
- Indian agriculture needs contemporary leaders with long-term plans who will prioritize enhancing nutrient and water efficiency, adapting to climate change, and utilizing cutting-edge agricultural biotechnology.
- His persistent dedication to enhancing the livelihoods of farmers, maintaining food security, and promoting agricultural research will forever be a part of MS Swaminathan’s legacy.
- His contributions have had a lasting impact on Indian agriculture, and his vision and guiding principles are still used to address current issues in the industry.