Latest developments in the field of millets were showcased to the visiting Governor-General of Canada David Johnston at the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) here on Wednesday.
In a nearly hour-long demonstration on the UAS campus, researchers took Mr. Johnston, his wife, Sharon, and the Canadian delegation through the research work in the field of millets, technologies and mechanisation developed to enhance productivity and the reduction of drudgery to farmers. Technologies showcased included the clipper harvester that has capability to harvest 3.5 hectares which drastically brings down the labour cost. The UAS, Bangalore and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore, are among the 11 partners in the project aimed at increasing millet production in south India. Funded by Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, it is being implemented in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The UAS-B has a germ plasm of 1,500 varieties of millets.
“This is a human endeavour to establish food security and make it easier for people to feed themselves. I was struck by how this collaboration between the government, agri universities and farmers has brought back something at that has largely disappeared from our diet,” Mr. Johnston said later in his address .
According to M.V. Chennabyre Gowda, Coordinator of Small Millet Improvement Project, the area under cultivation of five small millets — Fox–tailed, Barn Yard, Proso, little and Kodo millets — in India had come down from 5 lakh hectares to 1 lakh hectares in the last 25 years, while finger millet (Ragi) area of cultivation has declined from 2.5 lakh hectares to 1.5 lakh hectares.
“The cultivation has declined because of policy shift that focuses on rice in the PDS system. ,” he told reporters.