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 Research Activities at TNAU

Land grant- model

TNAU adopted the Land grant model of USA as other SAUs in India. The model is followed with the premise that teaching, research and extension education complement and reinforce each other so as to maximise benefits, in each of three functions. Research in TNAU has been a pivotal activity, which not only strengthens postgraduate teaching as most teachers are also researchers. The students are then taught the latest developments in fundamental and applied research.

The undergraduate students are taught about innovative and viable agricultural production technologies. Research improves the confidence of teachers in real world applications, which in turn help to organise better and useful practical exercises.

This section intends to provide a brief account of research activities in TNAU and how research activities place a strong base for better and quality agricultural education. Tamil Nadu, one of the Southern States of India has seven agro-climatic zones viz., North Eastern Zone, Cauvery Delta Zone, Southern Zone, Western Zone, North Western Zone, High Altitude Zone and High Rainfall Zone spread over in 29 districts. Teaching campuses, research stations and transfer of technology centres are located across all the zones where zonal and location specific problems are addressed through research activities. There are close linkages between teaching campuses and zonal research stations in terms of exchange of knowledge and materials. The location and lead functions of all the research stations are furnished in the following Table.

Location and Lead functions of Research Stations

Research station with location Lead functions (Research on)
Agricultural Research Station, Bhavanisagar Rice, Sugarcane, Turmeric, Banana, Chillies,Tomato, Pulses, Groundnut, sunflower, sorghum, grasses, maize, oilpalm, tapioca, soyabean and jasmine.
Agricultural Research Station, Kovilpatti Cotton, Millets, Small Millets,Pulses, Chillies, and Oil Seeds
Cotton Research Station, Srivilliputhur Cotton and sesame
Regional Research Station, Paiyur Rice, Ragi and Horse gram
Regional Research Station, Aruppukkottai Cotton, Cholam, Cumbu, pulses Sunflower, Coriander, Chillies And horticultural crops.
Agricultural Research Station, Aliyarnagar Groundnut, Coconut, soyabean, pepper.
Rice Research Station, Ambasamudram Rice.
Hybrid Rice Evaluation Centre, Gudalur Rice
Agricultural Research Station, Vaigai Dam Cotton, Pulses, Groundnut, Cholam, Sunflower and Vegetables.
Agricultural Research Station, Paramakudi Semidry paddy, Chillies.
Horticultural Research Station, Pechiparai Fruits, Vegetables, Spices and Plantation and Agroforestry.
Agricultural Research Station, Tirupathisaram, Nagercoil Rice
Agricultural Research Station, Ramanathapuram  Rainfed Rice
Oilseeds Research Station, Tindivanam Oilseeds and pulses
Coconut Research Station, Veppankulam Thanjavur Coconut
Sugarcane Research Station, Cuddalore Sugarcane and pulses
Sugarcane Research Station, Melalathur Gudiyattam Sugarcane.
Sugarcane Research Station, Sirugamani               Sugarcane, Betelvine, Banana and Oil palm.
Soil and Water Management Res. Institute, Kattuthottam, Thanjavur Rice, Sesame, Soyabean, Blackgram and oilseeds
Agricultural Research Station, Virinjipuram Groundnut, Greengram, Banana, Papaya, Cholam and Brinjal.
Rice Research Station, Tirurkuppam Rice
Regional Research Station, Virudhachalam Groundnut, Sesame and Cashew.
National Pulses Research Centre, Vamban Pulses and Agroforestry.
Vegetable Research Station, Palur Vegetables and Sugarcane.
Agricultural Research Station, Pattukottai Rice, Pulses and Groundnut.
Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute, Aduthurai Rice, Blackgram, Greengram, Cotton Oilpalm, Jute and Mesta.
Tapioca and Castor Research Station, Yethapur   Tapioca and Castor.
Horticultural Research Station, Thadiyankudisai Fruits, Vegetables, Plantations and Spices.
Horticultural Research Station, Yarcaud Spices, flowers, fruits and medicinal plants.
Horticultural Research Station, Kodaikanal Fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Horticultural Research Station, Uthagamandalam Fruits and Vegetables

Problem Identification

The problems for research are identified during the discussions in monthly zonal workshops of each district (where researchers and extension workers come into contact), interaction with farmers by workers in Transfer of Technology Centres, Regional Research and Extension Education Council meetings, Farmers Days (organised annually) in various campuses and research stations, Research and Extension Council meetings and State Scientific Workers conferences in Agriculture, Horticulture, Agricultural Engineering, Forestry and Sericulture. In the above mentioned forums, functionaries of the State development departments, leading farmers and scientists of the TNAU participate and exchange views.

On knowing the problems, the scientists in the relevant discipline in research stations / campus identify and define research problems and take up research on applied or basic nature. The project leader and co-leader(s) prepare the research project proposal in specified programme and present the proposal at the station / department / campus levels and get them reshaped and improved by fellow scientists. The proposals are then sent for approval by the Research Project Approval Committee (RPAC) located at the University head quarters.

Research Project Approval Committee (RPAC)

The RPAC is the apex body of the TNAU, consisting of the Director of Research as the Chairman and Director of Extension Education, the Technical Directors, Deans and Lead Scientists as members. On receipt of the research project proposal in the Directorate of Research, it is refereed to the members concerned depending on the area / discipline of research for scrutinising the comments. The comments if any are communicated to the project leader to revise the proposal. The concurred / revised proposals are placed before the RPAC for approval. The approved projects are duly implemented by the project leader or the team. The duration of the projects is normally three to five years. The RPAC approves the extension and mid term correction and modification of the projects based on their merits. RPAC also does the approval of the completion reports of the research projects.

The Directorate of Research maintains computerised information and monitors the research projects carried out in the different disciplines / faculties.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The progress of the on-going research projects is discussed and monitored by the Professor and Head of the Station / Department / Campus in the monthly technical meetings. The Half Yearly Progress Reports of the research projects prepared by the Project leaders are sent to the Directorate of Research and then they are referred to the Technical Directors / Lead Scientists for comments. Suggestions offered by them are communicated to the project leaders in pursuing the research projects.

The Director of Research and Technical Directors during their visits to the Research stations monitor the progress of the research projects and provide appropriate guidelines to the project leaders in their research pursuit.

The Vice-Chancellor, the Director of Research and Technical Directors / Deans monitor and evaluate the progress of the research projects during discussion with the project leaders at the time of Regional Research and Extension Advisory Council Meeting and Crop Scientists’ Meet.

End Use of Research Findings

The project leaders publish the findings from their research projects in various national and international journals, which are valued greatly by the scientific community. They also publish popular articles in journals and newspaper for the benefit of the farming community.

The Directorate of Research publishes the TNAU Annual Reports and Research Highlights and provides copies to national and international institutes / organisations for dissemination of research information.

The research findings are incorporated in crop production guide every year to update the technologies in this basic and reference document which is used in all levels in the State for bettering the agricultural production and productivity. Undergraduate students also use these guides to equip themselves on package of crop production practices. Number of research projects implemented currently by discipline in teaching campuses are shown in Table 2.

Thrust Areas of Research

The shrinking land and water base for agriculture in Tamil Nadu coupled with the increasing demand for agricultural commodities due to increasing population, expanding agro-based industrialisation, and the emerging scenario of vast export potential necessitating attention on post-harvest processing etc., have been taken into account in identifying the future thrust areas for research in the next two decades. The main focus of research is to increase the productivity of crops by devoting more attention on development of hybrid varieties. Since two line breeding work has now come in, it is necessary for development of TGMS lines and hybrids under two line system. To develop alloplasmic and allonuclear lines, diversion of male sterile lines is to be taken up in sorghum and pearl millets. Identification of cytoplasmic sterile lines and development of sterile cytoplasmic male sterile lines with markers is to be carried out in redgram. In cotton, the crucial problem is to reduce the cost of production of hybrid seed. This is aimed through developing new CMS sources and restorer lines. Development of sunflower hybrid of 80 to 100 days duration is planned through development of new cytosteriles of different cytoplasmic male sterile origin. Tamil Nadu is deficit in fodder supply. The full exploitation of the genetic potential of hybrid animals is hampered due to lack of appropriate nutrition management. The future focus on forage grass/legumes is to fix grass-legume species for the various agro-climatic regions of the State by strengthening forage research.

What is now important is the development of integrated farming system for recycling of farm waste, sustainable agriculture, and to increase the income from unit area of land. Hence the focus is to develop integrated farming system models for the various farming conditions of the State and to fine-tune them to the actual field conditions. In Tamil Nadu, the area under dryland formed 49.0 percent of the geographical area. Further increase in agricultural production has to come by increasing the productivity of dryland agriculture. So the focus is on development of optimal cropping system by analyzing the resource base and climate. Development of bio-fertilizers and integrated nutrient management has been given top priority for cost reduction and soil health management. With growing demand for organic farming products in export market the research on organic farming with optimum yield has been planned. Tamil Nadu has about 12 percent of the geographical area under wasteland. The future thrust is on integrated wasteland development on watershed basis. Hence the research is for development of region specific agro-forestry, agri-horticulture and silvipasture system for insitu soil and moisture conservation and for increasing the productivity of rainfed areas on a sustainable basis. The State has four lakh ha. under problem soil. The aim is to have detailed soil survey of these areas and develop integrated reclamation technologies to improve the productivity of these areas.

Indiscriminate use of chemicals have polluted the land, air, and water resulting in health hazards. Further they also create toxic residues in fruits and vegetables. The need is to evolve eco-friendly, low cost and effective management strategies to control the pests and diseases. The thrust will be more on use of bio-pesticides and bio-control agents for the control of pests and diseases of export potential fruits and vegetables. Since the use of chemicals cannot be stopped at one stroke the immediate focus is on intensification of integrated pest management (IPM). Seed is the crucial and key input for agriculture. The focus is on increasing the shelf life of seeds without a reduction in the vigour. Finger prints / protein footprints of released crop varieties are aimed at to ensure seed quality and purity monitoring.

It has been estimated that the post-harvest loss in fruits and vegetables is about 30 percent and only about 1.5 percent of the production is processed. With globalisation of agriculture, the urgent need is to strengthen the post-harvest research and initiate green house cultivation as the alternate technology for production of vegetables and flowers for export. Protected horticulture cultivation will ensure increased yield and quality product. With the increased emphasis on rainfed agriculture for future agricultural development what is needed is to utilise the available moisture in time and take up cultivation. When the labour is becoming scarce and costly, the research focus will be on development of location/operation specific low cost agricultural implements. The past experience showed the non-availability of extension in agricultural engineering. For promoting the agricultural implements designed in the University the emphasis is laid on agricultural engineering extension. Similar is the need for development of low cost packaging technology and processing for value addition of the agricultural commodities. With increasing scarcity of water, the research focus will be on efficient use of available water and increased adoption of micro irrigation system.

Economic reforms and liberalisation policies have opened up the world market for agricultural commodities. To make use of this opportunity it has aimed to focus the research on feasibility studies on agro-industries with cost-effectiveness. Guiding planners for policies on land use, price and wages is an important area of research. Entrepreneurial development of women and documentation of indigenous technologies is another focussed area for the future. Use of geographical information system for better planning has been initiated in the University and will get greater attention in the future.

Based on the above, the following thrust areas have been identified.

o        Development of hybrids for increasing the productivity.

o        Development and field testing of integrated farming system

o        Organic farming

o        Optimal cropping system for drylands based on climatology

o        Identification of location specific agro-forestry, agri-hort. and silvipasture system for wasteland development

o        Development of bio-pesticides and bio-control agents

o        Minimisation of post-harvest loss

o        Value addition for agricultural commodities

o        Conversion of agricultural waste into wealth

o        Studies on pollutants and remedies

o        Protected cultivation of vegetables, flowers etc

o        Development of agricultural machineries and extension

o        Feasibility studies on agro-industries

o        Infrastructure development for export

o        Entrepreneurial development of rural women

o        Documentation of indigenous knowledge

o        Establishment of herbal gardens

o        Institution-industry linkage

o        Micro-propagation through tissue culture manipulation

o        Gene transformation

o        Marker assisted selection

o        DNA finger printing

o        Technology for low cost nutritive food

o        Promotion of seed village concept.

o        IPM in cotton

o        Bio-control for IPM and Bio-fertilizer for sustainable dry land agriculture.

o        Bio-tech for mass multiplication of disease free seedlings.

o        Post-harvest technology

o        Export management.

o        Multi-media and multi-agency extension approach

            Research findings of the past and present in the above areas are incorporated into the teaching materials.

Involvement of Students in Research

Currently schemes funded by various agencies are in operation at TNAU. Most of the schemes funded by private agencies, foreign agencies, certain Central and State government departments (eg.) Dept of Bio-technology, New Delhi, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Tamil Nadu State Council for Science and Technology (TNSCST) and other agencies have provision for Senior Research Fellows to take up the time bound research programmes. In the absence of sufficient manpower, the positions of Senior Research Fellows are converted as Ph.D. Fellowships and the fellowships are awarded on the basis of merit. The Ph.D. students will take up the objectives envisaged in the scheme proposal and approved by the competent authority, as the Ph.D. Research programme for a period of two years. This has been accepted by the funding sources and on completion of the programme the results are communicated to the concerned. As such the PG students both M.Sc and Ph.D., are actively involved in the research programmes carried out at TNAU.

Besides undertaking the research in their respective college campuses, the Post - graduate students and Ph.D. scholars also avail the infrastructural facilities at the different Agricultural Research Stations. The details relating to students research executed at Agricultural Research Stations during the last five years are given in Table

National Agricultural Technology Project

Indian Council of Agricultural Research has initiated a major research programme viz., National Agricultural Technology Project for strengthening the national research system in the country. In this initiative ICAR has included several state universities for improving and expanding some important research areas based on the need for each regions for the growth and development in the agricultural sector. In this venture ICAR has agreed to fund a major project with a budget of Rs.2 crores for establishing a team of excellence on biological fertilizers for rice and rice based cropping systems and named Professor Dr.S.Kannaiyan as the project coordinator for implementation in TNAU. Similarly the projects approved under NATP funding are as follows.

o        Fragile Rice Based Cropping System and Fragile Economy: A multi dimensional approach

o        Development of Hybrid in Vegetables

o        Land Use Planning for Coastal Eco-system

o        Land Use Planning in Rainfed Agro-Ecosystem

Agricultural Research Information System (ARIS)

ARIS is functioning at Coimbatore headquarters and at seven Zonal Research Stations. At each station, ARIS cell has been established and computers and other accessories supplied by ICAR have been housed and effectively utilised. At main campus, Local Area Network is established by connecting computers available in different offices. A provision for 96 nodes was made. Further e-mail facility has been established at Coimbatore and in other stations the work is in progress. ARIS is now being extended to ten colleges of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. ICAR has provided a grant of Rs.40 lakhs, apart from hardware equipments, for establishing ARIS cells in each college. The work is in progress. Internet facility and CABSAC abstracts are also provided under ARIS. A WEB-site of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University have been created for global access.

Community Outreach

Community outreach focuses mainly on communicating the results and findings of the research studies to the clientele group. The primary clientele group is the farmers. The Policy makers and Executives involved in agricultural development form as an important clientele group. Agro-based industries / agri business are also yet another clientele group. The outreach is aimed through the following means.

o        Directorate of Extension Education

o        Scientific Workers’ Conferences

o        Research Councils

o        Extension Councils

o        Policy seminars / workshops

Funding

There are four major sources which contribute funds for the research activities in TNAU, namely, state government (both plan and non-plan expenditure),ICAR (partly and fully financed schemes), Government of India and Private and foreign agencies. In the ICAR partly financed schemes, the ICAR meets 75 per cent and the remaining 25 per cent share is met by the state government. University scientists are getting number of research schemes from national and international agencies.

Strength and scope for improvement

TNAU is a very strong research institution as the research is carried out in about 40 centres.National, state and regional problems are dealt by the centres.

The strong research base and network provide a solid foundation for more useful agricultural educational programmes. It helps to churn out best researchers.

Currently most students take up their research in the teaching campuses. It is possible after the course work, the students may be placed in research stations to take up research. The candidate may be encouraged to move between research station and teaching campus in order they can carry out both field experiments and laboratory experiments. Study Leave is given to the teachers to do their Ph.D. programs.

The university though aims high, and plans to take up research in new areas, the work moves at a slow space due to bureaucratic hurdles and other factors. The buzzword should be the efficiency in research. The Ph.D. students can play an increasing role in carrying research in frontier areas.     

 

 


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