College of Forestry Ranichauri develops the microbial consortium of agriculturally important microorganisms to improve the crop yield of farmers in Uttarakhand.

GG News Bureau
Dehradun, 30th May. The scientists from Biocontrol Laboratory, Plant Pathology Division, College of Forestry, Ranichauri have prepared a well-characterized microbial consortium of agriculturally important microorganisms and its use will help the farmers of Uttarakhand in managing seed and soil-borne diseases, improving plant growth and yield parameters in crops like vegetables, small millets, fruit crops like apple etc.

This microbial consortium of microorganisms consisting of fungal, bacterial biocontrol agents and entomopathogenic fungi has been collected from the mid and high hills of Uttarakhand.
According to Dr Laxmi Rawat Scientist, Plant Pathology College of Forestry, Ranichauri the cultural, morphological and microscopic characterization of all the maintained isolates has been completed and has been screened for various desirable characters viz. Biocontrol activity, plant growth promotion, induced systemic resistance, Root colonization, Cold tolerance and Water stress tolerance, Antibiotic production, Siderophore production and Phosphorous solubilization.

Dr Laxmi Rawat said that the mass production of potent putative candidates is being done in the form of talcum-based bio-formulations at Biocontrol Laboratory, Plant Pathology Division, College of Forestry, Ranichauri. The talc-based formulations (experimental produce) are being supplied to the nearby farmers through different training programmes under various projects along with a complete package of practices for use in various crops under organic farming framework cultivation. The results have been promising in managing seed and soil-borne diseases, improving plant growth and yield parameters in crops like vegetables, small millets, fruit crops like apple etc. Among many preparations, talc preparation of Trichoderma aesperellum (ITCC 7403) has been showing significant effect concerning growth and yield on various crops.

Presently a substantial number of farmers of Uttarakhand are using the above bio-preparations for the management of soil and seed-borne diseases and improvement of crop health under organic farming and Integrated Disease Management /Integrated Pest Management programme. The bio-control unit is also imparting training to the farmers on the use of bioagents as their mode of application is quite different from those of chemicals. The techniques of seed treatment, rhizome treatment, seedling treatment, drenching, and value addition of compost using fungal and bacterial biocontrol agents are now in common practice among the trained farmers said, Dr Laxmi Rawat.
Through the adoption of BCAs under the IPM programme, losses through seed and soil-borne diseases could be severely minimized. Depending on the extent of damage to the soil ecology through indiscriminate use of chemicals, varying degree of success has been achieved till date.
However, continuous adoption of these BCAs success rate can be quite high and the aim of raising healthy crops that can resist /withstand various biotic and abiotic stresses can be achieved. BCAs’ adoption can prove handy to the small and marginal farmers and help predominantly agrarian economy in the state, in years to come.
Rainfed farming and intensive cultivation on small and fragmented lands are characteristic of agriculture in Uttarakhand hills. Producing more out of a meagre land is one of the biggest challenges faced by small and marginal farmers in Uttarakhand hills. Farmers over time have been fighting to save their crops from the onslaught of diseases and pests. In fact, their agricultural practices (Intensive agriculture, extensive monoculture, reduced biodiversity and reduced rotations) are making their crops more vulnerable to the attack of biotic and abiotic agents. The amount of profit from small lands is less and farmers do not have the capacity to bear any amount of losses. Off-season vegetable cultivation may play a unique role in the hill farming system in Uttarakhand. Being low volume, high value crops they are rated to be potential cash earners. However, all these cash crops suffer recurrent chronic losses due to a variety of seed and soil-borne diseases and insects. Most of the recurrent losses in vegetables each season are caused by seed and soil-borne pathogens. The cost of soil-borne pathogens to society and the environment far exceeds the direct costs to growers and consumers. The use of chemical pesticides to control soil-borne pathogens has caused significant changes in air and water quality, altered natural ecosystems resulting in direct and indirect effects on wildlife, and cause human health problems. Long term chemical applications may permanently alter the microbial community structure to an extent that sustainable agriculture may be impossible. The continuous use of pesticides has also resulted in the development of resistance to pests. Therefore, the development of effective formulations of biological agents that are easy to handle, cost-effective and should have a broad action spectrum is an utmost need of time and thereafter large-scale demonstrations of those at farmers’ fields for managing pest and diseases, improving growth and yield parameters in economically important crops under sustainable agriculture is required for their validation. The application of biological control agents and its implementation as a farm–level strategy demands that biocontrol agents (BCAs) be preserved in a viable state associated with transport, storage, and application.
Dr Luxmi Rawat said that the work is going on under the leadership and supervision of Vice-Chancellor of the University Prof. Ajeet Kumar Karnatak as he provided the facilities and moral support for carrying out the work.

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